You can read this article or not. Do what you want. I really don’t care. Whatever. Perhaps, this apathetic attitude is one of the greatest threats against the church of God. An English teacher asked the following question on an exam, “What is the difference between ignorance and apathy?” Much to his disdain he had to give an A+ to a student who said, “I don’t know and I don’t care!” We can escape ignorance by studying and learning, but how do you escape apathy if you just don’t care? We must find a way if we want to be acceptable to God.
In Revelation 3:14-15, Jesus tells the Laodiceans, in very descriptive words, that He had seen their works and they made Him want to vomit. They were lukewarm, unpalatable, unsatisfying and apathetic. How had they become this way? Jesus explains this to them in verse 17 where He basically says, “You don’t feel you need Me anymore.” It can be very easy to take God’s gifts for granted and think that we are doing everything ourselves. We start to become apathetic towards God and the body of Christ because we lose sight of how desperately we need Him and each other. But how can we possibly be apathetic towards our Savior? Have we so soon forgot what He did to remove us from the depths of our sin and the punishment that was sure to come?
The town of Laodicea was originally called Diospolis and then rebuilt as Rhodas. Finally, around 260 B.C., Antiochus II Theos rebuilt the city and named it after his wife Laodice. The town was located approximately 6 miles south of Hierapolis and 10 miles west of Colossae on a major thoroughfare and therefore became a seat of great wealth. These three cities were known as the “tri-city” area and was the home stomping ground of Epaphras as we read from Paul’s letter to the Colossians in 4:13. “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.” The “tri-city” area was located on a fault zone and in 60 A.D. an earthquake wiped out all three towns. Tacitus writes about this event and gives us some great insight into the Laodicean people. He writes, “One of the most famous cities of Asia, Laodicea, was in that same year overthrown by an earthquake and without any relief from us recovered itself with its own resources.” Laodicea had been so blessed with wealth that they thought they could do everything themselves and had no need of the Roman government and apparently no more need for God. Hosea 13:6 says, “When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.” We become spiritually apathetic when we lose sight of the riches of which God has provided. Apathy is a state of deception resulting in inaction. We deceive ourselves that we have no need of God and therefore show very few works of the Spirit. James 1:22 says, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” God cannot stomach complacency in His kingdom as we read in Zephaniah 1:12, “At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, ‘The LORD will do nothing, either good or bad.”
Ancient ruins from Laodicea show large stone aqueducts that were built to pipe in water from long distances. By the time water reached Laodicea, it was very unpalatable or as Jesus describes in Revelation, lukewarm and sickening. A lukewarm drink is never palatable in any circumstances whereas a hot cocoa in the winter or a cool refreshing water in the summer can be very satisfying. Many times, we associate hot with being in the Lord and cold with being dead to the Lord and so we can get confused in this passage about how it could possibly be better to be cold than lukewarm. However, that’s not what Jesus says. He says he wishes that they were either hot or cold because both can be satisfying whereas their lukewarm apathy has made him sick. As we said earlier, the “tri-city” area is in an earthquake prone area and so consists of many springs. Hierapolis was famous for its many hot springs whereas Colossae was known for its cold springs. So when Jesus says that He wishes they were either hot or cold, He’s saying that perhaps they aren’t the crown jewel of the “tri-city” area that they think they are. Perhaps they should humble themselves and be more like their sister cities of Hierapolis and Colossae and realize their need for God.
When my daughter was younger, softball was her sport but she wanted to go out for basketball even though she wasn’t very talented at it. One day I asked her how she was doing and she said it was going well and she thought she was getting good. I asked her how her team was going to be and she said, “Oh, they’re going to be terrible!” Apathy is so easy to see in others but not so much in ourselves. For years, I’ve seen young people not wanting to go home from a two-week meeting or Eminence campout because “my congregation is so full of apathy.” Well, guess what? You are part of that congregation. Try not to be part of the problem. If you don’t help others escape from their apathy, you can very easily slip in right beside them. Both zeal and apathy are contagious. The problem is, to spread apathy you don’t need to do anything. To spread zeal, you need to act. Hebrews 10:25-26 says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
I like to think of baptism as when you get your faucet from God. You can turn it on all the way to hot Hierapolis and be on fire with fervent zeal for the Lord or you can turn it on all the way to cool Colossae and be a refreshing encouragement to those around you. We need to avoid turning our faucet down to being lukewarm Laodicean or worse yet turning the faucet off altogether and thereby quenching the Spirit. In 2 Chronicles 25:2 it says, “Amaziah the king, did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, but not wholeheartedly.” Let us consider daily what we can do to avoid apathy and complacency regarding our Lord and each other.
~ Marc Hermon