By Jackie Morfesis
I was blessed to have a mother, Lucia, memory eternal, who had the boldness to speak scriptural truth to me. She knew exactly what to say that would plant a seed in my heart that took root and would grow for years to come. I vividly remember her looking down at me as a child standing in our kitchen in New Jersey and telling me that God does not want the lukewarm.
“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). Powerful words that every single one of us must take to heart. But what does it mean to be lukewarm? In this scripture, the lukewarm Christians of the church of Laodicea are being referenced, but it speaks directly to a tragedy that can affect all Christians, particularly in our time.
As a lover of God’s holy word, many times I hear one scripture and it brings to mind another. The admonishment to being lukewarm brings to mind: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” 2 Timothy 1:7. The reason this scripture comes to mind is that fear is at the very root of why we are lukewarm. We are lukewarm because we are fearful. Fearful of what others may think of us. Fearful of the whispers behind our backs. Fearful of the stares indicating disapproval. Fearful of the assumptions others may make about us. Fearful of what we might lose or risk by standing in our faith. But what we are also fearful of is our own light. The very Light that we were gifted at our baptism. The Light of the Holy Spirit within.
We have a million excuses why we are lukewarm. We say it is indicative our humility. Indicative of our lack of pride. Of our gentleness. But in truth, it is indicative of our complicity. Lack of faith. Lack of courage and cowardice. It is indicative of our diminishing of God’s power and love over our lives and not believing in His promises. God has no limitation. We are the ones who sinfully put limitations upon God. One day, we will all stand before the awesome judgment seat of God and Christ will have no lukewarmness as He boldly speaks on our behalf telling the Father of our fire or lack thereof.
I’m tired of the excuses. There are a million excuses. Why do we turn a blind eye? Why we shudder to speak. I have even heard from well-meaning Christians that they do not have the required intelligence or knowledge to speak about their faith, or to testify. Imagine being a Child of God, a disciple of Christ, and not feeling that we have the right to testify to our God and to what He has done in our lives and can do in the lives of others.
We must be cautious of absorbing and listening to lukewarm faith. The words and whispers of the darkness. They come to not only personally attack us, but they come to us through the mouths of others. There comes a time when it is not only righteous but holy to move away from whatever and whoever has the intention to speak falsehood and limitation over God’s power, love, and mercy. There is no shame in setting up boundaries for the adverse powers, even the adverse powers that work through the lives and words of others. Those who willingly and consciously choose to watch suffering and not have mercy. Who willingly know of injustice and choose to be silent. Those who choose to speak limitations not abundance.
We must be responsible for our gifts and our talents, using them with truth and compassion, without slander or malice, or the day may come when they are taken from us. This includes the gift of speech. We know very well that God will silence the tongues of the liars and deceivers. “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, But those who deal faithfully are His delight” (Proverbs 12:22).
I am bold. Thank God I am bold. I believe it was my purpose to be bold and my mother, in her maternal wisdom knew that would be my calling. She made sure to plant the seed inside my heart so that I would remember her words the moment I felt insecurity come over me. We all know who plants the seeds of fear and insecurity in our hearts and souls, and it is not Godly but ungodly. The darkness revels at Christians afraid to shine their light. In fact, a fearful Christian is the devil’s playground.
Recently, when His Eminence, Bishop Sebastian of Zela was visiting my parish, I decided to buy lunch for a woman who was sleeping on the concrete bench outside of my church across a small street at the edge of our parking lot. I had befriended her. She has a name. She is a child of God.
This Sunday, I asked her if she would be my guest at the luncheon after church service. She said yes. I then proceeded to walk across the small street to my church. Before I reached the sidewalk on the other side, I stopped in my tracks. I was taken hold by the spirit. I turned around and walked back to my friend. I asked her if she would like to join me for service. She said yes.
I took her with me to the church. It was a warm day, but she was wearing all her clothes. A coat. A hat. Dressed for winter. Of course, everyone knew she was someone in need. But I saw someone in need of God’s mercy.
Bishop Sebastian had a prepared sermon. And I can only say that God has His hand on us that day. The sermon? How as Orthodox Christians we “Miss the Mark” when we do not care for and have mercy for the homeless and the hungry. I knew in that moment, that I was convicted. Convicted because I was moving in the spirit – not moving according to what man or society wanted me to do or expected me to do.
I took her to the luncheon. I also gave her clothes and food items and bedding and made sure she had arrangements to enter a shelter. Here is the truth. The truth is on the surface it may have appeared that I was her blessing. But she was and is my blessing. I told her so. I said thank you for being someone who has gifted me with sharing God’s mercy. She understood.
On another day, I saw another man outside of my church after service. I did not know his name at first but called him brother. I prayed with him. I gave him what I had to give. And for the first time, I was asked a question that I have never been asked before by someone I have ministered to. “Did God send you?” I said: “Yes. God always sends me.”
In truth, God sends us all. Every day. In our every step. God is sending us into the world. To have bold not lukewarm faith. To be fearless of what others may think of us. To have fierce love. Though I mentioned my mother’s words of advice to me, it is also important to mention my father, Peter, memory eternal, as well. He said: “It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of you. If what you do matters to God.” Amen.