Today’s reading from the book of Revelation is one of the toughest we can ever read. “I know your works, you are neither cold nor hot, but because you are lukewarm, I will spew you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Rev. 3:14-19) Wow!
In second place for tough passages is probably the words from Matthew 23 …. harsh words that the Lord directed to the Scribes & Pharisees. “calling them hypocrites, blind fools, whitewashed tombs …full of dead men’s bones.” (Mt. 23:1-39)
As you read these passages, they seem like the worst judgement you could ever hear from God. But, it’s not.… because it’s not the final judgement. There’s still time to alter the verdict. The Revelations passage ends with ”those whom I love, I reprove and chasten, so be zealous and repent”. The Lord is speaking these fierce words not as a final word of condemnation, but as a “wakeup call” to those whom he loves. Wake up … listen up !!! STOP !!!! If you don’t change, it’s going to be over…..but it’s not too late.
Boy, he could really bring the “fire” in his words, yet these words were motivated by love…certainly “tough love”, but love. He was trying to penetrate hard hearts. Jesus was a gentle breeze to the “bruised reed”, but he was a tornado to the “hard hearted”. Remember, “those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent.”(Rev. 3:19)
So what about you and me? Does any of this “tough love” apply to us? Where have I lost the “fire of my first love”. Where do I say to myself, “I am rich, I have prospered, I need nothing.” In my conversations, do I find myself saying, “boy oh boy, did you see that report on that priest or bishop or politician. I’m sure glad I’m not like that person, like that humiliated person caught in his sin.” While it’s certainly true that sin is awful, especially when exposed in all its ugliness; nevertheless, there but for the grace of God goes me…. and you.
And you know what ? The person who was reproved by the Lord with blistering language may RESPOND AND REPENT and one day be in heaven. I hope he does repent and the only one humiliated is the devil. As we know, there’s more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than the 99 who have no need of repentance.
So, you and I aren’t off the hook… no one canonized us. We need to listen to all the admonishments of the Lord, including the tough ones. We need to examine ourselves and determine if our love for the Lord and one another has grown cold. If we find it’s true, we can repent, we can change… it’s not too late for us. God is filled with such mercy for us. If God is for us, who can be against us. (Rom. 8:31) And that is very good news.
And let’s pray for the church, for those who have fallen from their first love…. even in public ways. Let’s pray that they repent and return to the Lord. We may be surprised when we see certain people made it to heaven…. and they may be surprised to see us there. Hmmmmmm.