By some bizarre coincidence my husband’s birthday is the day after mine, however, he is four years older than me (not one day younger, which is the story he likes to tell)! This year we are celebrating our birthdays with a well-needed break at Center Parcs. On my birthday morning I took my new fancy-pants birthday bubble bath into the ensuite and started to run what I thought was going to be a piping hot, deep bath, full of luxurious bubbles. I grabbed my book, banished all family members to the lounge and plunged my foot into the lovely….lukewarm water! My long, leisurely soak in the bath became a five minute dip as I couldn’t work out how to get the tap water hot enough to rescue the situation. Yes, I know, #firstworldproblems!
Later that day I had a stinking headache and asked my son if he would mind getting me some water so that I could take some soluble paracetamol. It wasn’t until the tablet had completely dissolved and I took a swig that l realised the water was, yet again, lukewarm. It tasted vile.
As a general rule, whether it be custard, soup or ice-cream, lukewarm things are pretty unpleasant!
One of my very good friends always asks for her coffee “extra-hot” when she is in Costa. Now, I have googled the advantages and disadvantages of ordering an “extra-hot” coffee and I need to say, without any judgement, that some people have far too much time on their hands! My friend isn’t the sort of coffee snob to trawl the internet finding the optimum temperature for an Americano, she just likes her coffee hot rather than lukewarm.
As a black coffee drinker I often have the opposite problem. Every Sunday at our church coffee time, it’s usually my mug that they are waiting for so that they can set off the dishwasher. Milk free coffee is extremely hot and that’s usually why I’m last man standing on a Sunday morning. I have seen other black coffee drinkers put a dash of cold water in their cup, just to take the edge off the heat, and to ensure that the roof of their mouth remains in tact. However, this technique brings with it the risk of ending up with a lukewarm coffee and nobody wants that.
There is a very well-known passage in Scripture that talks about the idea of being lukewarm. The church at Laodicea came in for some pretty serious criticism from Jesus with regards to their spiritual temperature.
“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.”
Revelation 3:15-16 (NLT)
The city of Laodicea was wealthy, specialising in the manufacture of wool and was well known for its medical school. It was a successful, thriving city, but it had one problem. An aqueduct had been built to bring water from hot springs into the city. The water was rich in calcium which clogged the pipes. To help with cleaning, engineers had designed vents that could be easily removed, however, they also allowed air into the pipes which cooled the water. By the time it reached the city it was lukewarm and tasted horrible.
Now, this is where I tread carefully! Just like the Christians of Laodicea we have a personal responsibility to keep our spiritual water piping hot through prayer, studying God’s word, and trusting the faithfulness of God. We should learn from the experience of this church and avoid the complacency of modern life. However, during that six mile journey, the waters of Laodicea were exposed to clogged pipes that slowed down their progress and air vents that provided a cold draft. It is also clear that, although the city had a great reputation for wealth and facilities, it was known for its vile tasting water. We often live up to the reputations that others place on us and with the best will in the world it can be difficult to break away from the labels others place on us.
There is much focus on Jesus rebuking the church in this letter, but you hear less about what He says next. He encourages them to turn from their indifference so that he can reignite their passion for Him, and says, “I correct and discipline everyone I love.” In many ways this is a letter of encouragement. At this point Jesus could have continued splashing cold water into their already lukewarm spiritual lives, labouring the point and harping on about their indifference. Instead he chooses a different route.
“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.”
Taking a fresh look at the letter to Laodicea I was challenged by this question:
In what ways can I provide the “extra-hot” shot in the spiritual lives of others and in what ways have I been the dash of cold water that has lead to spiritual indifference?
I’ve seen many comments on various Facebook feeds suggesting that Christianity is for the weak but I’m not sure anyone who is truly trying to follow what Jesus taught would agree. There are times when it feels like our faith is being dragged through clogged pipes and the cold words of others make that journey all the more difficult.
So, the next time I have the opportunity, l intend to find a way to be the “extra-hot” shot of encouragement to help someone on their journey from lukewarm to piping hot.
"And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works."
Hebrews 10:24 (CSB)