I know about your activities: how you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other,
but since you are neither hot nor cold, but only lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth.
A friend of mine recently remarked to me that he could consider becoming a Catholic if he could be a “nominal Catholic”. Apparently, he knows many such “nominal Catholics”, and finds them to be very nice people. He says he can’t commit wholeheartedly to everything that the Church teaches, but since it seems to frown on such nominalistic practices of faith, he just couldn’t sign up.
I pointed out to him that the Church “doesn’t approve” of such a nominal approach to faith, precisely because Jesus Himself doesn’t approve. When He instructed St. John to write to the Laodicaean Church in Revelation, He warned the people there that their halfhearted commitment to the faith would cost them their relationship with Him: He would spit them out of His mouth! My friend replied that he thinks this passage must be “a matter of interpretation”, because the “traditional” interpretation that he has heard is that either Jesus wants us to be “a raging uncompromising fundamentalist or a merciless expression of unholiness.” He claimed that according to the interpretation of Reveation 3:16 that he’s heard, Jesus doesn’t like lukewarm Christians because they are “boring”.
Now, I’m not entirely sure for whom this interpretation is “traditional” (I suppose the “raging, uncompromising fundamentalist[s]”). Perhaps I can offer a more balanced approach (which, I think, squares nicely with a tradition older than Fundamentalist Christianity):
Jesus wants commitment. In the Gospels, He speaks of being willing to forsake everything, to take up our crosses, in order to follow Him (Matt. 10:38; 16:24). He tells those who ask to wait to follow Him until after they finish with their own personal business, to essentially not bother following Him at all (cf. Luke 9:57-62). He calls us to a single-minded love and devotion to Him, which manifests in sacrificial and total love for others. We cannot help but act.
On the other hand, the cold are those who have rejected that divine love. They aren’t necessarily a “merciless expression of unholiness,” but they are living a life outside of grace. Jesus shockingly says that He prefers this to the lukewarmness of the Laodicaeans. Why? Because the Laodicaeans are guilty of the deadly sin of sloth. Sloth is weariness with striving for holiness. It is the neglect of the spiritual practices that keep our souls aflame with love for God. The reason that it’s so deadly, is that those caught in its snare don’t even realise that they have cooled. When we are in love with God, there is no guarantee that we’ll always be perfect and never sin. But when we become cold through mortal sin, we know it. We recognise it. With the Psalmist, we can say, “My sin is ever before my eyes” (Psalm 51:3). But the slothful have cooled so gradually, that their tepidity feels warm enough. They feel that they are still “good enough.”
No Saint was ever “good enough.” The common trait among the Saints was their awareness of their own sinfulness. They were hard on their own sin, but compassionate towards the weaknesses of others. We, too, can live that life, so long as we don’t settle for “good enough”. God calls and empowers us to live heroically. Be a saint. What else is there?
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