God hates lukewarmness because it leads to the paralysis of the will and apathy of the heart. No ideology or state of mind communicates this moral and spiritual malaise better in modern times than secular-liberalism.
Under this worldview there are no extremes of goodness and evil. In other words, great Saints and heroes as well as evil men who are bent on destroying others are discredited. That's right! Goodness and evil, winning and losing, sin and virtue, salvation and damnation, are truths that are muddled in the middle.
The people of God in the New Testament were certainly not exempt from this kind of mediocre middle. The Risen Christ issued the following warning to the church in Laodicea about its dangers: “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, 'I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,' and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:15-17)
The fact is human beings can rise above themselves in heroic sanctity and become like angels. On the other hand, we also have the human ability to descend into an animal-like existence. Yes, people can become something beneath their human dignity. But those who are morally and spiritually lukewarm deny the heights of holiness and the depths of evil. Indeed, they are blinded to the existence of Saints and sinners. But even more harmful is their denial of heaven and hell. Yet, if we are to take Scripture seriously, these two worlds are mightily engaged in a contest over each and every soul. As such, resting contently in the middle can last only so long. Sooner or later we will be forced to choose between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of darkness.
In the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel we are introduced to the two kings who happen to represent the two worlds of heaven and hell: Christ, the newborn King and King Herod. In the middle, if you will, stands the Three Kings from the Orient, the Magi. They represent all the political rulers of future ages who would have the choice to pattern their governance in the likeness of the tyrant, King Herod or in the likeness of the servant-leader, Christ the King.
If you peruse through the pages of the Old Testament, you will find that Israel knew firsthand that slavery to sin translated into political slavery. Catholics too would have to learn this painful lesson from time to time throughout Church history. Like the prophets of old, many Saints warned the Church of this reality.
Few know that the Church is the hope and despair of mankind. When she is spiritually strong, society is lifted up. When her members fall into worldiness and lukewarmness, a moral and spiritual malaise spreads throughout the land. As one political commentator said, what happens to the Catholic Church happens to America. Perhaps the twenty-first century Catholic Church can bequeath her wealth of historic and spiritual lessons from her own past so that America can be spared of political slavery.
King Herod was a good politician. He had religion on his lips but his heart was far from honoring God. He pretended as though he wanted to pay homage to the newborn Messiah. However, what he said and what he did were two entirely different things. Every power-hungry ruler must speak about peace if he wants to lord over his subjects. When King Herod found out that the Magi did not return to Jerusalem in order to give a report as to the location of the Messiah’s birthplace, he became irate and then launched a campaign to exterminate the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem, that is, the newborn children who served as the first martyrs of the Catholic Church.
Political power is seductive. It appeals to so many human vices which lurk within the human soul: pride, vanity, lust, just to name a few. But when political rulers throw off the laws of God and say to themselves, “Mine!” then there is no limit to their power. There is no human right or legal precedent that will stand in the way of implementing their political agenda. This is how dictators operate. “Herod’s inordinate ambition for retaining and augmenting the kingdom of Judea drove him to this horrible infanticide…And he himself was ambitious of the title, and told the Jews that he was their promised Messiah.”
Just as nations in moral decline dispense with pre-born children through abortion, political tyrants historically have dealt with their enemy by killing their babies through forced infanticide. Such was the case with the Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramses, who ordered the killing of Hebrew infants during the time of Moses. Such was the case with King Herod when the birth of Christ threatened his reign.
Not much has changed, has it? Today’s political leaders are a bit more subtle and refined when it comes to the murder of pre-born children. But if the advancement of their political agenda requires it, then they will certainly favor its practice; of course, on the condition that such inhumane acts are conducted behind closed doors. Keep in mind that during the first century, infanticide was not only engineered by tyrants but in many cases it was a socially acceptable practice among the people. Indeed, citizens quite often trigger the growth of sin and vice, but their rulers perfect its practice. The truth is- and herein lies the point -the culture of death and political tyranny is made possible with the spiritual and moral lukewarmness of believers.
The decline of nations begins here!
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.