Confronting Mediocrity (Rev. 3:14-18)
She was sentenced to 100 lashes and death by hanging for her faith in Christ. Hours before the lashes were to be administered, Mariam Yehya Ibrahim’s sentence was revoked. She, along with her toddler son and newborn daughter, were free to return home where her husband waited. Hours later, authorities again detained Ibrahim as she and her family attempted to leave the country. That was three days ago.
There is nothing passive, lukewarm or mediocre about Ibrahim’s faith. She is willing to die for it, be tortured for it, or leave her home and land for it.
Jesus’ letter to the last of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation is a handbook on this kind of faith — and the lack of it. Have we read it?
“These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 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.”
That’s it. No consolation. No pats on the back. No excuses for passivity and mediocrity. Jesus is appalled at the juvenile attitude and behaviors His people in the church of Laodicea are displaying. They are happily complacent with material wealth, social acceptability, and various other sorts of immediate gratification. Like drinking tepid coffee or warm iced-tea, there is no pleasure for God in communing with laissez-faire followers.
Fortunately, Jesus offers counsel to remediate the problem, because the problem sounds strangely familiar. It’s not familiar to people like Mariam Yehya Ibrahim who is willing to give up everything she holds precious to stand up for Jesus, but maybe it’s familiar to us in the West. We are not likely to admit it aloud, but most of us have slipped into a level of mediocrity, haven’t we? It is so comfortable to be a Christian in these parts. We have our own schools, our own radio stations and music, even our own political party (at least the atheists think so).
Let’s be honest for a moment and ask ourselves if we are maybe even a little bit lukewarm in our faith. Would the Sudanese government consider us Christians if we lived where Ibrahim lives? Or have we become so adept at camouflaging our faith that we’ve evolved to become more like the culture around us than like Christ?
These are the clues: Are we poor in daily relationship with God, more comfortable on social media than in prayer? Are we blind to the unseen spiritual kingdom of God our lives are designed to promote? Are we naked of the love of Christ He longs to pour out on those with whom we come into contact?
His solution confronts the miserable mediocrity of our lives and replaces it with robust vitality: Admit that Jesus can do more for you than wealth can (“…assign your nuggets to the dust…then the Almighty will be your gold.” Job 22:25). Apply the salve of meditating on His Word to the eyes of your worldview (“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Col.3:2). Dress each day in the garb that gives you His identity (“…faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I Cor. 13:13).
A loved one recently cautioned, “Don’t be a self-righteous fool!” While the words sting, we who are truly followers of Jesus must be willing to accept the diagnosis, fill the prescription, and apply it daily. The flame of the Spirit is ready to heat up our lives to a temperature none could call mediocre, if we let Him.
Come, Holy Spirit. Revive us.