“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” -Revelation 3:17-20 (NIV)
Many of us heard the last verse of this passage as children; we can picture in our minds the handsome Anglo-Saxon portrayal of Jesus from our Sunday school reader, featuring his long brown hair in a wave of L’Oreal shine, his eyes shimmering in the glow cast around his white face. Jesus’ hand was in midair, knocking on an arched wooden English cottage door from circa 1800. It was all so incredibly charming, and all so incredibly out of context.
The verse, I was told as a child, was Jesus’ invitation to us to come be with him, spend time with him, and make him the Lord of our lives. But just as the accompanying image was a gross mischaracterization of the zero-A.D. Israelite Jesus, so the verse has been lifted from its context and portrayed as a warm welcome, instead of the stern warning that the passage relays.
Revelation 3:20 is part of the letter to the church of Laodicea, a church founded by the apostle Paul that had been just going through the motions of nominal Christian living. The Laodiceans were rich in wealth, but the passage refers to them as wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. How could this be? How could the wealthy be poor? They were being rebuked not because they had wealth, but because their wealth had tainted their attitudes, leading them to the sin of complacency. Jesus is calling them to be rich of heart, to be rich in mercy, to be a strong statement to the world of his love and Grace.
About the Author
Sue Gilmore, author, activist, business woman and church worker, graduated from Bible College in the early 1980’s with a degree in Biblical Studies. Her original intent was to follow her schooling with a career in full-time Christian work, but she soon realized that her sexual orientation would not allow her to pursue her lifelong goals. Being true to herself and her sexual identity, she chose instead to pursue a business career in real estate. From the beginning of her career, Sue found that her newly chosen path suited her God-given talents, and proved to be rewarding and satisfying. Now almost thirty years later, she is the Vice President and Regional Manager for one of the largest Title Insurance companies in the nation.