When my daughter was really young, I would often come home and when I did, she would come running to greet me with a happy, “Daddy!”
But nowadays, I’ll come home, and if I’m lucky, I’ll hear her say, “Okaeri” (which means “welcome home” in Japanese).
But many times, she’ll be so involved in what she’s doing, she won’t even notice me.
It’s pretty sad how excited love can turn into utter indifference.
In a lot of ways, the church in Laodicea was that way. It is the one church among the seven that Jesus talks to that he says nothing good about. At least with the church in Sardis, he mentioned a few people that were excluded from his rebuke. He makes no exceptions here.
What was their problem? Jesus tells them,
I know your deeds, that you are neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (15)
What is Jesus saying here?
Near Laodicea, there were two cities famous for their water. Hierapolis was known for its hot springs that were good for healing. Colosse was known for its cold and refreshing drinking water. Laodicea, on the other hand, had to get its water from some hot springs from the south through a six-mile aqueduct. And by the time the water got to Laodicea, it was tepid, and near undrinkable.
In short, their water was totally useless. It was neither hot enough to relax in as a hot spring, nor was it cold and tasty enough to drink.
The church, when it is functioning right, can be very useful to its Lord. When it touches people, it brings spiritual healing to them, just as the hot springs of Hierapolis brought physical healing to the people that went there. Through the love of Christ, the church can also bring refreshment to those who are weary and tired from being beaten down in this world.
But Laodicea did neither. They were totally useless to the Lord, and because of that, he told them, “You are just like your water. And I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Why had they become this way? They thought they were self-sufficient, and as a result became totally indifferent to their Lord.
Jesus told them,
You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. (16)
This church was filled with people who were totally reliant on themselves. They were part of a city, in fact, that when it had been leveled by an earthquake, refused help from the Roman government, saying, “We’ve got this. We’ll rebuild our city ourselves.”
This church was the same. They were so wealthy, and so self-sufficient, they no longer saw their need for Christ. Church had simply became a social club to them. The result? They became totally useless to Christ when it came to touching this world for him. Worse, they had become so indifferent to him, they had literally pushed him out the door, saying, “We’re good. We don’t need you.”
But the reality was, they were in desperate spiritual straits. And so Jesus told them,
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. (18)
All these were strikes against the Laodicean’s self-sufficiency. They were rich, mostly because of the black wool and eye salve they sold. But Jesus said, “All this is not enough. You are dying without me.”
I know many non-Christians here in Japan that are that way. One of the biggest problems we face is that so many people are “self-sufficient.” They think their lives are good enough, and they are blind to their own spiritual need. They see no need for Christ.
What’s even worse is when Christians become that way. They totally forget their need for Christ.
Oh, maybe in the past they needed him, but now they say, “I’m good,” and push him out the door. They may still go to church. But in every other aspect of their lives, their time, their finances, their work, their relationships, they push him out the door. He is no longer a part of any of these things.
When Christians become this way, they become useless to their Lord. And when the church is filled with people like this like Laodicea was, it’s in real trouble.
And so Jesus told them,
Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. (19)
I like how the NLT translates “repent” in this passage. It says, “Turn from your indifference!”
Then Jesus said,
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me. (20)
The Laodiceans had pushed Jesus out the door. Now he was knocking, and he was saying, “I still love you. I’m offering you a chance to renew our relationship. Won’t you open the door?”
How about you? Have you become indifferent to Jesus? Have you pushed him out the door, basically telling him, “I’m good. I don’t need you anymore.”
Jesus still loves you and he wants to make you a useful part of his kingdom. And if you will turn from your indifference, one day you will reign with him in glory. (21)
But if you don’t, discipline is coming.
How about your church? Has it simply become a social club for the self-satisfied?
If it doesn’t repent, it will be removed from its place as a light to this world.
What is Jesus saying to you and your church today?