The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls . . . So wrote Simon and Garfunkel in their 1966 hit song, The Sound of Silence. If we pay close attention, we will find that the secular artists (poets, musicians, authors, etc.) of a culture often speak kingdom values and insights to the people of God with a clarity not found among the people of God.
Recently, I had the privilege of spending an hour and a half in the manifest presence of God. What made the experience so unique is all the things that many of those reading this have been conditioned to believe are necessary for such a thing to occur in a meeting (a good crowd, prolonged praise and worship, sermon/ministry of the “word,” prayer, altar call, heart wrenching repentance, whatever, were all absent. How can that be possible?
Building a culture of honor is a much bandied-about phrase these days in many non-denominational and “apostolic and prophetic” groups. On the one hand, you have our civic culture of rabid individualism and egalitarianism. It’s in the ditch of disregard and disdain for any concept of honor or respect. In the opposite ditch is a reactionary response to this cultural slide: honor that is non-relational, coerced, demanded, and required because of ungodly measures of rank and status. Both ditches are at work in the body of Christ, and both are wrong. The issue is not the legitimacy of honor. The problem is the values and ideals of what constitutes honor in a kingdom context, and why, how, and to whom it is due.
Recently I have been blessed with the expansion of relationship with brothers and sisters outside my direct church family. Like the gospel will do, and like Jesus will do, those lines become blurred and the family just becomes, well, more family: still the church–still the body–just more connected. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that doctrine can be a relational stumbling block in the “extended” family.
Is there a better way to express a culture of giving and receiving than blindly throwing ten percent into the mouth of a voracious, impersonal, non-relational, religious machine that consumes resources like the Borg assimilating the universe?[i] I think there is.
But there as many opinions on this topic as there are believers!
The city of Laodicea was founded around 260 BC, in the Lycus River valley in what is now Turkey. It was a bustling city known for its great wealth from medicine, textiles/wool and finance. Laodicea was so wealthy that when it suffered a major earthquake in 60 AD, they refused the support of the Empire and financed their own rebuild.
Laodicea had it all – except water. So they constructed two aqueducts. One sourced from the cold mountain water of Colossae, and the other flowed from the hot springs of Hierapolis. However, by the time the cold fresh mountain water from Colossae and the hot, healing waters from Hierapolis flowed through the aqueducts, the water had become lukewarm. This provides some context for the images that John writes concerning the Laodicean Church in Revelation 3:14-22.
The Spirit of the Lord challenges the citizens of Laodicea on their self-sufficiency stemming from their wealth. They think they are rich because of their finance, textile and eye medicine, but the Lord sees them as blind, bankrupt, and threadbare. We also find this strong statement: I wish you were hot or cold but because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth!
The image of cold speaks of the refreshing that cold mountain water brings. Likewise, hot speaks of the healing, therapeutic aspect of the hot springs. They are neither refreshing or therapeutic – they are lukewarm. The religious elite of Jesus’ day had some lofty thoughts about God, they knew the scriptures well and lived with moral excellence. They had become comfortable, all about their traditions, interpretations, practices and knowledge but missed the very Messiah they had been anticipating. In spite of their religious prosperity, they were neither refreshing to others (cold) nor were they healing and comforting (hot).
Laodicea: What could this mean for us as a church today?
What if lukewarm is where we are no longer refreshing to others, or no longer healing and a comfort to folks? Is this the same as salt losing its saltiness? Could it be that sometimes despite all our great doctrines, practices and traditions we have subtly lost sight of Jesus and His mission? The place where to love God and love others as Jesus loves us becomes a mere platitude or a sappy sentiment? To do so is to be lukewarm.
I am not diminishing the importance of healthy theology or healthy practice, but they are not an end unto themselves. They posture us towards Someone and something greater – Jesus and His mission. This posture helps free us from the trap of self-righteousness that is often so darn intoxicating and yet makes us so lukewarm. Like the Church in Laodicea, we are invited deeper into a relationship with King Jesus. It is here that we discover what it means to buy gold refined in the fire, to be clothed in the garment of Heaven, and to buy medicine for our eyes so that we might see, really see! This is to be hot and therapeutic or cold and refreshing for a world that longs for good news that is actually Good News!
Copyright 2014, Michael Rose. Michael is a spiritual director and the author of Becoming Love, Avoiding Common Forms of Christian Insanity.
His passion is to help others to learn to live loved and live lives of love. He blogs at IamSignificant.ca
I have been a lifelong charismatic believer. This is declarative, confessional, repentant, and pejorative all at once. I have given my life for the issue of continuation of all the gifts of the Spirit, and the Eph. 4:11 ministries. However, the adjective “charismatic” has a lot of unfortunate baggage because of the debris it has accumulated over forty years of use.
To my fellows: There is a reason 1 Cor. 13 is between 12 and 14. Love without power is impotent piety. Jehovah’s Witnesses can be “loving” after a sort. We are supposed to be able to deliver something of a foretaste of a quality of existence that others cannot. Power without love is utilitarian. People become commodities for an expression of a phenomenon, rather than the phenomenon serving people. It does not have to be an either or matter, rather, both and: power contextualized and administered in, through, and by love.
In Matthew 18, the people asking the questions (and Jesus) were Semites/Jews. Their background, worldview, and psychology (self and other awareness) were not the same as ours. The backdrop for trespass and “aught against” was the Mosaic Law, and their psychology was corporate/others-centered, not individualistic. If we import our western values and sensibilities into the text, we will misunderstand, and misapply it, with resulting great negative consequences.
Have you ever wondered why hundreds and thousands joined the early communities when it would cost them everything? Great grace, power, and fear were upon the ekklesia (church). We’re not too crazy about #3 these days-it’s not church growth seeker friendly. “None dared to join them,” doesn’t fit our “church growth strategies.” Yet even with great fear, people joined themselves. Why?
Balaam gave the only accurate Messianic prophecy in the Pentateuch and he was a false prophet! There’s more to the issue of who is or isn’t a “false prophet” than an accurate/inaccurate prediction of a future event.