The Christians of Laodicea lived in what is now southwestern Turkey. Today, their city is merely ruins, but in those days it was a modern, rich, commercial center of banking, industry, and entertainment. The Christians there were well-off and contented, but Jesus knew them and their city well and he was not content with them. In the Book of Revelation He rebukes them, “You say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”
A few decades before, in 60 AD, an earthquake ravaged their city and the Roman emperor offered to send them money to aid in their recovery, but within a year, the wealthy Laodiceans had finished rebuilding using only their own resources. To a people too rich and proud to accept a king’s aid, Jesus says, ‘I advise you to buy from me gold, (good works) refined by fire, so that you may be (truly) rich.’
Laodicea was home to the Marshfield Clinic of its day in the field of eye medicine. There they produced of an ointment for the eye which was used throughout the Roman empire. But Jesus urges the Chrisitians, ‘buy (true) ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see (the truth).’
Laodicea was also known for its fine, soft, black cloth, made from the wool of the region’s excellent dark sheep. But Jesus sees the Christians’ immorality and warns, ‘put on white garments, so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed.’
Laodicea had an aqueduct which carried water to the city from hot springs some five miles away, but by the time this water would get to them, it would be merely lukewarm; neither cold enough to cool in hot weather, nor hot enough to warm-up in cold weather. Jesus likens the Laodicean Christians to their water supply. “I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
Jesus Christ, being divine, knows the Christians of Laodicea perfectly well. By their values, words, and actions, He sees them living not much different than any other Laodiceans. And because He loves them, he corrects them, and warns them that they need to repent and to start getting serious about living true, Christian lives.
Do we live in a Christian nation? Compared to the secularized countries of Europe, or to the Asian or African countries where Christianity is the minority religion, the United States is a very Christian nation. On the other hand, only about one in four Americans went to Church last weekend. [source] Only one in four Americans offered up an hour to God, to thank Him, worship Him, and to fulfill the commandment, “You shall keep holy the Lord’s day.” Of course, being a Christian is about more than just going to Church, but this gives us some indication of our society’s commitment to Christ.
To think of our country as a Christian nation at a 25% level, or to a 25% degree, is both discouraging and encouraging. It is discouraging that our devotion is not greater, but there is encouragement to be found in this: if our society’s half-hearted, or even quarter-hearted commitment to Christ and His Gospel can do as much good as we see now, imagine what things would be like if we were whole-heartedly His disciples.
As G.K. Chesterton said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” The Gospel is supposed to be radical. It’s supposed to change the world. If there is nothing very counter-cultural about your life as a Christian, then you are not yet living out the Gospel like Christ calls you to do. If you are living the same way as everyone else in our present-day Laodicea, then Jesus Christ’s wake-up call from the Book of Revelation through the centuries is addressed to you.
Jesus is looking for people who will go out on a limb for Him, people like Zacchaeus, people who will risk the mockery and judgment of others, people who would give half of their possessions to the poor if that is what Christ wills, people who will rise and open the door for Christ when they hear Him knocking. Jesus is looking for disciples who seek the riches of being a true and whole-hearted Christian. With a person like that, Jesus can change the world.
Go to church every weekend, pray every day, and do not merely learn about our faith but act on it in your life. Jesus Christ pleads to you, through me and your teachers who have witnessed their faith to you, please: go out on the limb for Him.