“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16
How would you describe your spiritual state? Jesus addresses the condition of the church in Laodicea in His letter to them in Revelation. And it wasn’t good. He said because they weren’t either hot or cold, but rather lukewarm, He would spit them out. What did He mean by that?
You may have heard it taught that God would rather have you for Him or against Him than sitting on the fence. Really? That doesn’t seem consistent with what I know about God’s character. I can’t imagine God preferring us to be against Him, but I do know He woos us toward Himself - away from our doubts. So if He’s not saying, “rather to be against Me,” then what might He be saying? Let’s look at the city itself for some clues.
Ancient Laodicea was a grand city that became wealthy through banking and trade. They had a great reputation - except for one thing – they had lousy water. Laodicea didn’t have its own natural water supply, but with some impressive engineering they built an aqueduct system that brought it to them. The water came from nearby Colossae and also from Hierapolis.
Colossae was well known for its cool, refreshing water that came from the Lycus River (think Arrowhead), an obvious place to obtain water. Some of the water also came from Hierapolis, several miles away. Hierapolis was essentially a Roman spa town, with naturally occurring hot mineral baths that were used for healing and rest.
With both Hierapolis and Colossae situated at higher elevations than Laodicea, their water intermingled as it ran down to Laodicea. The result was lukewarm water with high mineral content that was unsatisfying to the taste. Some of the aqueduct pipes excavated are almost completely closed due to the hard water buildup.
So, back to the letter – “I wish you were either cold or hot.” If you lived in Laodicea, what was hot water? Your mind would go to those healing, soothing waters of Hierapolis. And what was cold water? It was the refreshing, satisfying water of Colossae. They were both good and both had useful functions. The lukewarm water was not good for much.
Could Jesus have been saying be useful? Offer something? Look at the context. “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.” It’s talking about what they have done. As the hands and feet of Jesus, we are called to join Him in bringing healing and restoration to our broken world. Is our local church the first place our community runs in times of trouble, knowing they will be cared for in a loving way? Or are we so consumed with our own lives, even “religious things,” that we don’t reach out to the world? Lord, keep me outward focused and let me be intentional about being used for Your good.