Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Unexpected Kindness

I would not have wanted to be a member of the church of Laodicea when the Apostle John sent to it this message from Jesus:

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 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. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see
(Revelation 3:15-18).

How embarrassing! How terrifying to know that this was their evaluation by Jesus himself!

But notice what immediately follows:

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:19-20).

To our thinking, it might seem as if Jesus switched gears. First, it seems, he was fed up with them. Then, his heart softened a bit. But, no--Jesus states that the whole message was prompted by love.

First, love compelled him to set them free from the deception that was alienating them from him and thus causing them to become increasingly ungodly. Secondly, he quickly assured them that he loved them as much as ever. (Didn’t he initially make a way for them to come to him when they were still sinners? Rom. 5:8.) Then, lest they were still reeling with shame, maybe even ready to run away and quit trying to be a Christian, he stepped close and said, “I’m right here at the door of your heart. Not to condemn, but to bring you right back to where you were before, in loving and obedient fellowship.”

When I worked in the church nursery, I was given instructions on what to do if a child was hurt. The final instruction was to ask for the parent to come in and hold the child for a bit, to establish the child’s emotions again. This passage shows Jesus’ tender concern that we not become overwhelmed by the revelation of our faults. He wants us to be strengthened by the knowledge that he is rooting for us all the way as we set out to do better. And, in the light of such acceptance, support, and affection, who wouldn’t do anything to please him?

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