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Indifference: Lukewarmness

By Basilea Schlink


      "Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth" (Rev. 3: I6). This terrible word of judgment applies to an indifferent, lazy person. Scarcely anything makes an impression on him. If problems are created, if others come into difficulties due to his fault, an indifferent person will scarcely take notice of it. He goes back to his normal routine without noticing what he has done. If everything depends upon doing something on behalf of the Lord's work and giving a testimony, he does not realize what is going on and so he misses his chance. If a brother next to him is sinning or is about to fall away from the Church, he is not stirred at all. He does not plead for the salvation of others in prayer. His whole prayer life is lukewarm. His heart is scarcely moved when God has to judge the Church or when the name of the Lord is slandered. He hardly perceives it. He does not really care what happens around him.

      Indifference is spiritual death. But we seldom recognize this. We go to church or to Christian meetings, we faithfully take our part, but the Lord pronounces His verdict, "You have the name of being alive, and you are dead" (Rev. 3: 1). Love, the sign of spiritual life, the only thing that matters in God's sight, is missing. An indifferent person is usually deaf to Jesus' concerns and requests, because only a loving heart could perceive such concerns. He is not aglow with love, nor on fire for His kingdom, nor does he spend himself in sacrifice for the Lord's work.

      If we are indifferent, we are just going along for the ride in Christian groups, and this grieves our Lord very deeply. We can hear Him lamenting over the indifferent, "Would that you were cold or hot!" Jesus laments so deeply, because He cannot find the one thing His heart longs for so much, love, which is warm and aglow, and which cannot do enough for Him, even if it costs a great deal. Yes, love is zealous; it presses forth. Love is full of life; love sacrifices lavishly. Without this love for Jesus we are not true disciples.

      But Jesus is not only lamenting about the indifferent and the lukewarm; no, He is also threatening to spew them out of His mouth (Rev. 3: 16). A terrible judgment is awaiting the indifferent. Jesus wants to have nothing to do with them. They will be like the five foolish virgins who stood before the closed door and had to hear Jesus say to them: "I do not know you!" For the indifferent, although they have not committed any sinful acts, have sinned against God Himself. They have denied Him their love. We can only serve God with burning love, with complete devotion of time and energy, with willingness to sacrifice and with a fervent heart. Otherwise we would be disgracing Him, the Lord and King of all kings. If we work for someone who is highly respected, we would not dare to be lazy about our work. Therefore, woe unto us, if we try to do this to God. The indifferent will be struck by God's terrible words, "Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord with slackness" (Jer. 48: 10). Is there anyone who wants to be cursed by God when he knows that this can bring him continuous misfortune here on earth and dreadful judgment in eternity when he is cast into Satan's kingdom? And who wants to increase Jesus' sorrow about a world full of rebellion through his indifference? For long ago it was the indifference of His disciples, who did not understand His suffering and react in love-and today it is our indifference which wounds Jesus' heart more than does open opposition.

      We must get rid of our indifference. It is such a serious sin in God's eyes. We have to regard it as our worst enemy, which will bring us into destruction, into the kingdom of darkness, full of torment and horror. We have to fight against it. We have to beseech Jesus and call to Him who has abolished death, and believe that He, Life Himself, can and will awaken us to divine life. But at the same time we must commit ourselves to being "shaken up" by God's chastening hand, which will arouse us from our indifference.

      Often we can only be aroused from our indifference by thunder and lightning. Then we begin to move; then we begin to come alive. Being "shaken up" by blows of judgment is often the only treatment that works in the fight against indifference. But we have to reach for treatment. Therefore, the indifferent and lazy person has to affirm wholeheartedly God's thunder and lightning when they strike him. Judgment is the best cure. It will make us wake up from our lukewarmness and indifference. When we are judged, we will be frightened by our sin and will learn to weep over it and lament. As pardoned sinners we can do nothing else but love Jesus and spend ourselves for Him.

      Sinners who lie prostrate at the cross of Jesus and receive His gifts of divine life and forgiveness, are those who love Jesus and give Him their thanksgiving and commitment.

      God's judgments and chastening are the best medicine for our indifference, for they can make us contrite sinners, who cry over their sins. They can make us come alive. Therefore, let us thank Jesus for abolishing death, even the spiritual death of indifference, and for giving us release and life in such ways. Let us surrender ourselves to Him and His chastening love so that He can save us from the terrible curse that awaits the indifferent. And let us believe Jesus. He sets us free from bondage!

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