In the Panoplia.org Soft Skills and Tactics (SST) online course we address the concept of complacency. In the topic on Risk and Contingency (SST 01.01.04) we share an account of an individual who learned a horrible lesson about complacency in terms of security. While travelling he was asked whether a mass shooting could ever take place at his workplace back home. He answered that it could not because he and so many of his colleagues were always armed. Ironically, less than 24 hours later his daughter and several others were killed by an active shooter at the very place he had suggested was so secure.
About two years after the shooting this man shared some of what he’d learned with myself and others at a meeting. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his words and the pain with which he shared them. The core of his message was that, “Complacency is our enemy.”
To be complacent means to be pleased with one’s present situation or condition. Some suggest it can include a degree of smugness, yet that’s not really necessary. The core of the concept means that one thinks that he or she is fine as is, and needs nothing else.
Those who serve in security roles often deal with the consequences of complacency in the physical realm. Post-incident investigations involving break-ins, attacks, kidnappings, or killings often reveal a surprising degree of complacency on the part of victims. It’s not unusual in debriefing sessions to hear statements such as, “I never thought this could happen here, or to us.” Lessons learned in trauma have a way of changing one’s outlook on the world.
As I was praying one morning this week, I recalled the words of Revelation 3:20. We’ll share the verse in just a bit. It speaks of Jesus wanting to have a deeper relationship with us. This made me think about the concept of complacency in spiritual terms. How many of us are satisfied with our relationship with God, and don’t sense any need to draw closer or to grow in our knowledge and understanding of biblical faith? How many of us are so preoccupied with the things of this world that we starve ourselves spiritually?
Jesus speaks directly to this issue when he sends a message to the church in Laodicea. He does so in harsh terms because there’s nothing more important in our lives than our nearness to God. Everything else is temporary, whereas our relationship with God is eternal. What’s more, the closer we are to God the more we love and serve our spouse, our children, the members of our extended family, fellow believers, and those who don’t yet believe. Having a deeper relationship with Jesus results in our having more profound and meaningful relationships with everyone else in our lives.
Slowly and carefully consider the words Jesus shares with those in Laodicea, an area that’s now part of Turkey. Revelation 3:14-20 (ESV) states:
And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
Consider for a moment that Jesus is speaking here to believers, to the members of the church in Laodicea. Jesus says that they have come to a place where they are self-satisfied, and “need nothing.” In fact, they are quite distant from the Lord, and very much need to draw near to him. Since the stakes are so high, Jesus does not sugar-coat the situation. He tells them the truth because he loves them and longs to be near to them.
I mentioned above about verse 20. This is the portion in which Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” While I was praying earlier this week these words came to mind. I long to be closer to Jesus than I am, and to have any door between us fully open. In fact, I wish I could take it off its hinges and destroy the door altogether. And yet, nearness to God is not based on a one-time decision or longing. Our relationship to God is in some ways like any other relationship in the sense that it takes time, attention, and the continuing desire to go deeper.
It was noted above that the man who lost his daughter to an active shooter came to the difficult conclusion that complacency is our enemy. This is true in the spiritual realm as well. The distinction is that we may not come to the realization that God seeks a deeper and closer relationship with us until it’s too late. Those who surround us may never know the depth of love that could have resulted from us being nearer to God. Moreover, think of the joy and peace that we ourselves give up when we prioritize the world and only relate to God from a distance.
Jesus is standing at the door of my heart, and at the door of your heart as well. He longs to come in and to be with us through the joys and the pains of this life. Let’s commit to opening wide that door on a regular basis. Let’s experience all we can of the love God offers to us, and then let that love impact our relationship with others.