There are many scriptures that are routinely misused to make people feel guilty. In religion, guilt can be an effective (albeit temporary) tool to motivate people to do something seemingly good. Here is a scripture that I routinely used against people:
I know your deeds, 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 will spit you out of My mouth.… (Rev. 3:15-16, NASB)
In the professional ministry world, I would regularly use this scripture to negatively motivate people to do whatever activity I wanted them to do. During worship services, this scripture would also be used to help ‘motivate’ people to get out of their lethargic state and into a greater state of emotional fervor. Because nobody wanted to be ‘spit out of the mouth’ of Jesus, folks were eager to show that they were hot for the Lord.
If you are reading this and you recognize that I used this tactic against you in the past, please accept my apology. I am deeply sorry.
Nevertheless, I would like to examine the Lord’s heart when it comes to being hot or cold. What did he really mean when He said that he wished the believers in the church community at Laodicea would be either hot or cold? What ‘deeds’ was He talking about? Why would He spit them out of His mouth? These questions have been on my mind a lot recently.
The more that I relationally know the Lord through His indwelling life with a group of brothers and sisters, the more I realize how important love is. Love, and the deeds of love, are everything. Because Christ is love personified, the indwelling life of Christ is the indwelling life of love. We can memorize a set of encyclopedias, feed the poor, sing songs and shed a bucket of tears during moving worship services, but if we don’t have love, we have nothing. In light of this, here is my next question:
How do you know if you are living by the indwelling life of love?
Since we were created in the likeness of a relational God, it may have something to do with relationships and the way we relate to one another. As a matter of fact, I’m convinced it does! Our Lord is obsessed with love and how love is expressed relationally with one another.
Jesus gave us a radically NEW commandment to love one another in the exact SAME way He loved us. He gave us the ability to fulfill this new commandment by putting divine love (Himself) within our inner being. He also said the world will know that we belong to Him by the way we express love toward one another in relational community. In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he expresses his desire and prayer that the Lord would allow their love for one another to increase and thrive. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.
If love had a temperature, it would be hot.
People naturally describe the way people relate to one another in a similar manner. People are described as being either warm, or cold in their relational dealings. When we’re living by indwelling love, we’re warm (hot) in the way we relate to one another.
Last Saturday, a couple in the church community that I am a part of got married. Many of the brothers and sisters from the church were there, along with others who were extended friends and family of the bride and groom. One of the extended friends / family were watching how the church community was interacting with one another. The person made the comment that this community of people seemed to be strikingly warm in the way they interacted with one another. When I heard this, it melted my heart.
Later that same day, I was having an unrelated conversation with one of the sisters from the church here. During the conversation, she told me something that greatly blessed me. She shared that she was often overwhelmed with a tremendous love in her heart for all the brothers and sisters that she has been built with in community over the last couple of years.
When she said this to me, I carefully noticed the look on her face. It was a look of incredible satisfaction and also pain. It was a new expression, one that I had not seen in her before. She went on to say that the love she experiences for us all is so great that it literally hurts inside of her. I knew exactly how she felt. I have experienced that same love as well.
Her love for the saints is definitely hot in nature, not cold.
The way we love our brothers and sisters is the way we love Christ Himself. The head and the body cannot be separated. Our love is not always hot for one another, however. Speaking from experience, things can often get in the way of our love for one another. It’s a scary thing to fully give ourselves to love and be loved.
Fear is the opposite of love. Many times fear keeps me saying the right things on the surface, while at the same time keeping me in my cold relational boxes. The result is lukewarmness. Every time I experience this, I want to be sick to my stomach. I think this is what our Lord was experiencing when He was speaking to the church community at Laodicea.
When our fear erected walls fall, however, the way we relate with one another is truly a sight to behold. Yesterday, a friend and brother in Christ named Jim Putney (thank you Jim) shared a stunning video from CBS news with me. The story is about a photographer who has been working on a project for the last six years to capture moments of intimacy with complete strangers. What he has discovered is incredible.
When these strangers get past their fear and awkwardness, what they experience is truly beautiful; even if it is only for a moment. Because we live in Christ and the source of our life is from Him, this moment described in the video can be our way of life. Please take a couple of minutes to watch this video, and may we experience the warmth of His love through one another today: