Passion is a word with multiple uses. We use it to describe the relationship of those who are romantically involved. There are also instances when passion is used to describe feelings so intense that it is implicated with our behavior, such as a crime of passion. We use passion as a descriptor of Jesus’ suffering and death. But most frequently the word passion is used as an expression of things we embrace with enthusiasm, such as a hobby or a favorite sports team. In this sense, I think of passion as the product of high commitment and high enthusiasm. Put those things together and wah-lah: passion!
Which seems to be the very thing missing from our last church, Laodicea.
Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginninge of God’s new creation: “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches” (Revelation 3:14-22, NLT).
Jesus saw two basic problems in this final church. For one, they were luke warm. They had become acclimatized and assumed the temperature of their culture. When I was in high school I spent many a summer day in the hayfields of northeast Missouri. That was not only hard work, it was hot work. Farmer’s wives would provide ice water in rinsed out milk jugs which was good at the beginning of the day. But by mid afternoon the water had warmed in the afternoon sun and tasted like bath water. We like our drinks hot. We like our drinks cold. But room temperature isn’t very satisfying. What a word picture Jesus provided the church about their spiritual status.
But it wasn’t just that. Jesus noted that they were oblivious to their own spiritual state. Their self assessment was no where close to accurate. They thought they had it all together, but in reality were not unlike a public speaker standing before an audience not knowing his fly is unzipped. No matter how eloquent the speech, all the audience sees is the gaffe.
Jesus gave three wise words to help the church find their center and restore their passion.
1. Buy gold. Gold is an investment. Spiritual passion comes from investing in something worthwhile and lasting.
2. Buy clothes. In the New Testament, clothing is a metaphor for character. Spiritual passion is not sustained by activity, but from within. The Laodiceans were not literally naked. But no amount of external activity can compensate for lack of internal character.
3. Apply ointment to your eyes. Why? So you can look past yourself and see the broken world that Jesus sees.
Indifference is a tricky thing because it never happens all at once. Like a boat adrift at sea, it happens gradually. If we’re not careful we too can become like the Laodiceans and find ourselves in the midst of a church experience where Christ is standing at the door of his own congregation knocking and asking to come in. And worse, being so indifferent that we never knew he was missing.