by Michael J. Klassen
The people from the church in this respectable city in the Roman Empire were good church people. They faithfully contributed money in the offering and attended worship regularly.
Historians tell us the city had been destroyed by an earthquake thirty years earlier and they rebuilt themselves without assistance from Rome—so it was a self-made town.
A self-made church in a self-made town. A sign of God’s favor?
In the book of Revelation, Jesus describes the church in Laodicea with these sobering words: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). The people’s needs were met, they were comfortable, but they didn’t realize their deep need of Jesus
The church in Laodicea was respectable—they didn’t get overly dogmatic about their faith. You could say they were a balanced church. “You are neither hot nor cold,” Jesus told them. They weren’t dead; they were committed to Christ…but they weren’t overly fervent about him either.
Of the seven churches in Turkey that Jesus addresses at the beginning of the book of Revelation, Jesus compliments six of them. But to the church of Laodicea, Jesus had nothing positive to say.
Don’t Live In Laodicea
We live in a society that values balance and shuns anything that appears extreme. As a result, most people—including those claiming to follow Christ—want to be characterized as balanced. We don’t want to get too worked up about anything and we don’t want to be seen as extreme in our faith. The church in Laodicea would have fit in well in today’s society.
And here’s what Jesus said about them: “Because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:17).
You’ve probably heard the adage, “The opposite of love isn’t hate; the opposite of love is indifference.” The balanced (aka indifferent) life isn’t necessarily what God had in mind.
Obviously, balance in some areas of our life is important. I need to work on eating balanced meals containing fruits and vegetables. I need to work on getting more sleep at night. And sometimes I work too much.
But when it comes to our faith, God doesn’t want balance. Jesus didn’t call us to live safe, respectable lives. He calls us to sell out to him.
Incidentally, translators have softened Revelation 3:17. “Spit out” is translated literally “vomit.” The Message probably comes closest to the literal translation of Jesus’ words: “You make me want to vomit.”
Balanced People Rarely Make A Difference
In my study of Scripture and the history of the church, God rarely works through balanced people. But he revels in using imbalanced people who throw caution to the wind and follow Christ irrespective of those around them who feel they are too extreme.
- Scripture tells us King David danced before the Lord when the ark of the covenant was returned to Israel—much to the dismay of his wife Michal. David enjoyed a long reign as Israel’s greatest king. Michal died childless.
- John Wycliff was widely criticized for trying to translate the Bible into the language of the common person.
- Jan Hus was burned at the stake for preaching that Scripture is our sole means of authority for belief.
- Martin Luther, the instigator of the Protestant Reformation, lived his adult life on the run because he was accused of being extreme.
- Anabaptist reformers Menno Simons, Michael Sattler, Conrad Grebel risked their lives because the majority believed they were getting a little too radical in their Christian faith.
But most of all, our greatest model, Jesus, was never accused of being balanced. When he opposed the Pharisees, his disciples pulled him aside and said, “Hey Jesus, did you know you offended them?” He threw the moneychangers out of the temple. Jesus was killed because he was too radical.
Did you know that the term “Christian” was initially a derogatory expression? It means “little Christ”. The early Christians were considered too extreme in their beliefs about in Jesus.
We cannot truly follow Christ and be balanced at the same time.
All too often the church in America is held captive to political correctness. We seek the respect from those who care nothing about our faith or Christ. We’re more interested in a good reputation in the community.
Jesus, on the other hand, made Himself of no reputation (Philippians 2:7 NKJV). He said in Luke 6:26, “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”
Proverbs 11:1 advises us, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight” (ESV italics added). Granted, the idea of a false balance pertained to dishonesty in business dealings, but when we tie our definition of truth to the ever wavering weight of national opinion, we give the impression to those around us of a false balance. A false balance is anchored to public opinion, even the opinions of other well-meaning believers.
A true balance is anchored to Scripture.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
Believe me, I’m preaching to myself. But as I look at the spiritual landscape, I know that something needs to change. I don’t want the culture around me to force me into its mold.
So I invite you to join me by refusing to live the balanced life.