The Lycus Valley is a fertile stretch of land in western Turkey where three communities of first century Christians once lived - in Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 2:1; 4:13). Of these Colossae was the oldest. It was a city when the Persian king Xerxes and his army passed through this region in 480 B.C. Laodicea was founded by the Seleucid King Antiochus II (261-246 B.C.) while Hierapolis received the constitution of a city from Eumenes II, king of Pergamum (197-160 B.C.). Standing atop the theatre in the scared city of Hierapolis as the afternoon sun sank in the sky provided a beautiful panorama. One can imagine the young church standing outside and surveying this scene as they read Paul's hymn of praise: 'The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.' (Colossians 1:15-16) However in this picturesque valley there were problems. Paul's Colossian colleague Epaphras had planted these churches, laying a foundation for a bright future, praying that they would 'stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured' (Colossians 4:12) And yet just as storm clouds blew into Pamukkale the morning after our arrival bringing with them the first rains of our tour, the apostle Paul foresaw dangers ahead for the young church. People were quickly turning away from Paul's gospel. 'You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me.' (2 Timothy 1:15) A generation later the entire church at Laodicea was sick and sickening to Jesus. What caused this change? Why turn away from the truth? In Laodicea, the richest of the valley churches, believers had taken on the likeness and self-sufficient lifestyle of the city. No longer a kingdom community, the church had become a community of kings - rich, proud, and lazy. The way to tell a lukewarm Christian is to listen to what and who they talk about. '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.' (Revelation 3:17)
All was not lost. Jesus counselled the church to repent and return to living by the vision and passion and in the victory of the Gospel. What are we saying? In whom do we put our trust?