Friday, July 05, 2013

Commentary: Spiritual Attrition

Spiritual Attrition

The word attrition is typically used to explain why certain programs start with a certain amount of participants and end with less.  Literally the attrition is the act of rubbing together (As in friction).  It is also used to name what the result of the things rubbing together or the act of wearing or grinding down by friction.  Think of a soul of a shoe: in time the sole loses thickness.  As you walk in the shoes the soles gradually wastes away and they rub against the ground.  Particles of the soul are left behind.  Again, you end with less than what you started. 

Although, not necessarily caused by friction, the same phenomenon of gradual decrease can be observed in the temperature of beverages.  On the one hand, there are those who like hot tea.  But in time the tea will cool down to room temperature.  The taste of cooled down tea to these is typically disgusting.  On the other hand, there are those who like iced tea.  In time the ice melts, not only lowering the temperature of the tea, but also diluting it.  The melted ice adds more water, making the tea less strong.  Needless to say, those who like ice tea find this disgusting.  How disgusting? In both cases do not be surprised if the drinkers spit it out.  In either case, lukewarm tea is revolting to the drinkers. 

We will find that this was a problem with the water of Laodicea.  (The name means "a people judged.")  Laodicea was located in an open valley in southwestern Turkey. It was an important financial capital, a fashion mecca, and an educational and medical center. Its inhabitants were independent, self-confident, and rich.  The Romans had a postal service.  Laodicea was the last city in that postal route.  Hence, it was used to represent the last day church.  The one vital natural resource that the city lacked, however, was water.  The water was piped in via Roman aqueducts from a spring that was five miles south of the city.  By the time water from the hot springs of Hieropolis, distributed through the Roman pipes made of terra cotta, came to Laodicea it was lukewarm and contained harmful bacteria. To drink this water would cause a person to gag and tended to make him sick. This illustrates vividly how Jesus feels about Laodicea's half-heartedness.  He uses the water's lukewarm state as a symbol to represent the condition of His last-day church, described as self-confident, complacent, apathetic, and spiritually indifferent.

How did Christ describe their lukewarm state?  Let us read from Revelation 3,

Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

Revelation 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:


The Lord is saying that in the first era of the church the water – if to drink - was cold and pure; it was refreshing, delightful and easy to swallow.  Let us read about the first church from revelation 2: .  Although with some faults, the following texts reveal how God was pleased with them. 

Rev 2:2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

Rev 2:3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted


Just like the water gradually cooled off and became more impure, each of the churches also was less pleasing to God.  So, in the last era of the church the water is disgusting and very hard to swallow.  The translation "I will spit you out of my mouth" (Rev 3:16) is not an accurate translation of the text. The verb "will" is translated "about to" 22 times in the New Testament with 4 of them in the book of Revelation – 2:10; 8:13; 10:4; 10:7. The word translated "spit" should be "vomit," "throw up," or "be sick." A literal translation would be, "you make me so sick that I am about to throw up." This is the kind of reaction that occurred in the city of Laodicea of old.  Just because you feel like doing something, it does not mean you do it.  If, the Lord feels like vomiting Laodicea, it means Laodicea is in His mouth.  If the Lord feels like vomiting, it means He feels nauseated, and is probably gagging.  If you have ever seen someone vomiting or vomited yourself, you get the picture. 


But, Laodicea has a deeper problem.  Laodicea is so used to being lukewarm, that Laodicea thinks it is fine.  There is no need to change.  But, the Lord disagrees.  The Lord gives them a diagnosis – judges them; and, gives them a prescription. 


Revelation 3:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.


There is a lot already said of the meaning of these things.  However, there is an implication seldom mentioned.  If I choose to buy from God, then I have believed His diagnosis.  I am accepting that I had been lying to myself.  I have accepted that I was lacking something that only the Lord can supply.  I have had a change of mind, in other words: I have repented.  And, this beloved, is our greatest need.  For although Ellen White does state that revival is our greatest need, she also says that repentance is the first step (Selected Messages, book 1, page 121; Conflict and Courage, p. 145).  

Raul Diaz