Stimulatingly Hot, Refreshingly Cold
UNFEELING, apathetic, indifferent. Seemingly, some people just cannot be moved. The early Christian congregation at Laodicea was plagued by such a problem, giving rise to these words of censure from the glorified Jesus Christ: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or else hot. So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15, 16) Why was the congregation in this deplorable spiritual state?
The Phrygian city of Laodicea was situated inland from Ephesus in Asia Minor. An important trade route passed through Laodicea and then forked. One branch of the road led to Ephesus; the other crossed the mountains to Philadelphia, Sardis, Thyatira and, finally, Pergamum. Wealthy Laodicea became famous for its financial transactions. Its exports included fine, soft, black wool obtained from the local sheep. A medical school was established nearby, and Phrygian eye powder, held to be specially curative, was produced in the area. Laodicea became well known for its Phrygian carpets. The art of embroidery is thought to have originated there, and the Latin word for “embroiderer” (phrygio) seems to lend support to this view. Laodicea also became a center for music and the noted Phrygian art form that is characterized by geometric designs—swastikas, meanders and lozenges.
In view of Laodicea’s prosperity, could it be that some of the Christians there had allowed themselves to become involved in commercial activities to such an extent that they had little time left to share the good news with others? Had some of them begun putting a worldly career first in life because they wanted ‘something more interesting’ than the sound principles of Christianity?
There is no doubt that such attitudes could have caused a cooling off in the Laodiceans’ love for Jehovah, the Master Jesus Christ and their neighbors. (Matthew 24:12; 22:37-39) Likewise, if we today permit materialism to make inroads into our time and put the pursuit of a worldly career first in our lives, we are in danger of becoming “lukewarm” in our devotion, merely going through the motions as a form of “insurance,” ‘just in case the “great tribulation” does come in our lifetime.’—Revelation 7:14.
How much better to be stimulatingly hot toward those who feel that the world is a “cold” place because others fail to show real interest in their problems! How much better to appear refreshingly cold toward those for whom things are made “hot” by injustices!
Fellow Christians, too, can be stimulated by a zealous example in putting Kingdom interests first. (Matthew 6:33) They can be cooled or refreshed by comforting words and loving deeds when they are sick or face other trialsome circumstances. Especially will young Christians do well to meditate upon making the best use of their time and energies.
How to Avoid Lukewarmness
Why did the resurrected Jesus use the wording he did when addressing the Laodicean congregation? He could well have been alluding to the city’s water supply. Unlike nearby Hierapolis and Colossae, Laodicea did not have its own water source. Hierapolis was known for its hot springs, so stimulating to the tired winter traveler. Colossae had cold water, which was very refreshing in the heat of summer. But the water of Laodicea had to be conveyed some distance into the city, first on an open aqueduct and then through bored cubical stone blocks that had been cemented together. Very likely the water was lukewarm when it reached the city’s inhabitants.
Jesus Christ also referred to other matters that would have been familiar to Christians at Laodicea. (Revelation 3:17, 18) Rather than the soft, glossy, black woolen garments that were so highly prized in the area, the Laodiceans needed to obtain white outer garments of identification as Christian servants of Jehovah. (Revelation 16:15) Instead of the “gold” of Laodicea’s monetary transactions, they were admonished to demonstrate such qualities as faith and endurance that could be strengthened by testing and were far more valuable and lasting than any material riches. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 1 Peter 1:6, 7) Spiritual “eyesalve” would prove far more effective than the Phrygian eye powder. The Laodiceans needed to discern the hope of eternal life and to be planning their lives with that in mind.—Romans 12:12; 1 Timothy 4:7; Philippians 3:13, 14.
There is a lesson here for the Christian today. Rather than trying to satisfy his desires for the latest styles in clothes and the best in food, home and transportation, he wisely seeks to “buy” from Jesus spiritual “outer garments,” “gold” and “eyesalve.” Yes, “buy” them, said Jesus. It will cost something—time to associate with God’s people; time to study God’s Word and Bible study aids; time to meditate on what we learn and relate new points to what we already know, making adjustments in our thinking; time and effort to share what we learn with others. This may mean managing with less materially to devote more time in study of the Scriptures and helping others spiritually. Such a course is bound to keep alive the Christian’s hope.
Snares From Entertainment and Immorality
Other snares menaced Christians at Laodicea and could have contributed to their becoming “lukewarm.” Archaeological diggings have revealed ruins of a stadium, theaters and gymnasiums. Could some Christians have allowed a love for pleasure to creep into their lives? God’s servants today have to be on guard against the desire for the wrong type or an inordinate amount of entertainment. Young Christians especially may feel that there is something wrong with them if they are not going out to see a movie or a show, or having a party every week, particularly on Saturday nights when others seem to be enjoying themselves. These younger Christians may feel embarrassed if they cannot discuss worldly entertainment with their schoolmates or workmates on the following Monday morning. But why not arrange entertainment with other spiritually strong young people and also older ones? How much better it is to experience refreshment by being with “those who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart”!—2 Timothy 2:22.
Immorality and reveling posed additional threats to the spiritual welfare of Laodicean Christians. The populace worshiped Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. His worshipers sought to become assimilated into him by wild dancing. The phallus was prominent in his rituals.
Today we are surrounded by a world of ever-declining moral standards. Immorality is the norm in many places. Much of modern-day disco dancing is similar to the orgiastic “raging” in honor of Dionysus or Bacchus. Jehovah’s people must resist pressure to participate in such things if they are to avoid being ‘vomited out of Jesus’ mouth.’ It is indeed vital that we conduct our lives in harmony with Jehovah’s holiness or purity.—1 Peter 1:16.
Remaining “Hot” or “Cold” Today
Jesus Christ reminded the Laodiceans that his reproof and discipline were evidence of his love for them. (Revelation 3:19) He urged them to continue to gain spiritual strength. As they contemplated the manner in which Jesus introduced himself as the “Amen,” “the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation by God,” early Christians could have been assured of the dependability of God’s Son and the sureness of what he had promised them. (Revelation 3:14) Just as Jesus is the “beginning” of intelligent creation, so he is the “beginning” of the creation of “new heavens and a new earth,” which Christians awaited. (2 Peter 3:13) The gaining of the reward was just a matter of time for them.
Likewise today, it is just a matter of time, and all the evidence indicates that a short time is involved. (Revelation 12:12) Therefore, avoid allowing the influence of the world to cause you to become “lukewarm.” Be careful about involvement in materialistic pursuits. Think searchingly about the wisdom of centering your life around a worldly career. Watch the amount and type of entertainment in which you engage, as well as your associations. Keep yourself spiritually strong and alert by wise use of your time in Bible study, in meetings with Jehovah’s people and in zealous service to your God.—1 Corinthians 15:58.
Jesus Christ had a manner and a personality that were both stimulatingly hot in the eyes of those who loved Jehovah and refreshingly cold, soothing, to those wearied by sin and the burdens of life. (Matthew 11:28, 29; John 2:17) Christians today can follow Christ’s example by acting in harmony with the import of his message to the Laodicean congregation.
[Picture on page 13]
A Roman aqueduct carried water to Laodicea