While we read the Bible, we have to remember to keep what we are reading in context. But when I say context, I do not just mean the surrounding pericope. When we read the Bible, we have to consider some other kinds of context: Historical and geographical. Sometimes we do not understand Scripture because we are not considering the context surrounding what we are reading. However, once we consider the context, we can gain a better understanding of the Text.
"'Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea: Thus says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God's creation: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:14-16, CSB).
If we look at this verse at face value, you might get the idea that God wants us to either be in or out. We can get this idea with these two phrases: "On fire for God" and "Giving them the cold shoulder". To be on fire for God is to be ecstatic about serving Him (what we all should be every day). But to give someone the cold shoulder means to reject them harshly. Jesus says He wishes the church of Laodicea would be either hot or cold, but does that mean God either wants us to serve Him or not?
Some might look at this verse at face value and wonder, Is it not better for me to try and fail than to give up and turn my back on God? Would He not want me to at least try to live for Him? Does He just want me to give up outright because I am not on fire for Him?
We need to consider the context when reading this Scripture: Jesus is speaking directly to the church of Laodicea, and He knows they will understand what He is saying. Think of an inside joke you may have with a friend; you do not have to explain the context when you mention it to them, because you are both aware of the context. In this situation, both Jesus and the church are aware of the context, so no explanation is needed in their conversation.
However, allow me to explain in the context of their conversation: Laodicea is between two cities, Colossae and Hierapolis, as seen on the map above.
Colossae was known for their cold streams, while Hierapolis was known for their hot springs. Now, both cold and hot water are useful: Cold water refreshes, while hot water relaxes.
Seeing the benefits of both kinds of water, Laodicea attempted to tunnel both kinds of water to their own city. However, as the cold water made its way to Laodicea, it started to get warm, and as the warm water made its way, it started to cool down. By the time both the cold and hot waters got to Laodicea, they were lukewarm.
Unlike hot and cold water, lukewarm water has no purpose. After running a marathon, would you choose lukewarm water or cold water? On a cold winter night, who likes to sit next to a fire drinking a cup of lukewarm cocoa? Who enjoys sitting in a lukewarm jacuzzi? Or who chooses to take lukewarm showers? Maybe you get the point.
Jesus is not advocating the church of Laodicea, or subsequently us, to be either hot or cold, He wants us to be either, because both have a use. He wants us to be useful, because if we are useless...well, that is just it -- we are useless.
God put us on this earth to make Him known to all peoples and all nations. He wants us to be useful, and if we chose to not be useful, well, perhaps you should read Revelation 3:16 again.
Whether you are a college student, a parent, an NSU alumni or just some person who randomly found this blog post, I urge you: Be useful. God wants to use you! He wants to include you in His work here on earth. He wants to use you to make Himself known. So we have a choice today, tomorrow and every day of the rest of our lives: Am I going to be useful to God?