The Living Dead
“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:17 ESV
Dear Church Family,
I’m not a fan of horror movies, and I’ve never actually seen “Night of the Living Dead.” One movie of that genre, however, that I did watch once was called, “The Others.” It had an interesting premise. A quiet woman lives alone with her two children in a large mansion when strange things start to happen. Doors open on their own, etc., etc. Are there ghosts in the house? Skipping to the end, (spoiler warning) the doors are being opened by the actual family that has moved into the house following the death of a woman and her two children. That’s right, the woman and her kids were actually the ghosts all along. They just didn’t know they were dead.
I don’t like horror movies, but that one was subtle. It lacked the blood and gore that goes with the “slasher” type of horror movies (there were no chainsaws). The movie examined the possibility of people being unaware that they were dead. Now, I would never draw my theology from a horror movie, but it’s an interesting idea, and it reminds me of Revelation 3:17.
Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation have a collection of letters written to various churches, addressing their spiritual status and plight in a world that persecutes Christians. Some of these churches were highly praised, but the last letter to the church in Laodicea (verses 14-22) famously describes that church as “lukewarm.” There’s a lot that has been written about the hot and cold springs around Laodicea, and what that means about being lukewarm, but I’d like to focus on the idea that the church deceived itself about its spiritual condition. Remember, this letter was not written to non-Christians. We tend to think of the “lost” as the spiritually blind, poor, etc. No, this letter describes a congregation of Christians as deluded. Their self-image isn’t even close to reality.
What could make Christians so wrong about their spiritual condition? Well, their actual condition—pitiable, poor, blind, etc.—is described figuratively; they are not literally naked or blind. Nevertheless, it may be that the “riches” are literal. I would suggest that wealth is one of the most deceptive things in human society. It’s easy for rich people to convince themselves that their wealth testifies to their own quality as a person, and sometimes poor people believe them.
Another famous line in this letter is, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (v. 20). Jesus is trying to get back into his own church! It is only in our close relationship with Jesus that we learn who we really are—how we are forgiven, yes, but also how we need to grow to be more like him. No, this church was not dead, but they weren’t fully alive either. I wonder how many churches in our world today fit this description. We must also be on guard that we don’t delude ourselves. Nice facilities and big budgets to not prove that a church has Jesus. Did I just hear a knock?