As temperatures plummet and the news is filled with reports of fierce winter storms up north, I find myself humming the old song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” And I can’t stop thinking about a simple but profound truth I heard many years ago:
In life, we will either be a THERMOMETER or a THERMOSTAT.
Thermometers merely reflect the temperatures around them. If it’s cold outside, a thermometer will let you know.
It’s not hard to be a thermometer. You just have to report and reflect the conditions around you.
Lots of people are like that. When you ask them how things are going, they simply give you a weather report concerning their present circumstances. Allowing themselves to be controlled by external situations, their mood goes up and down according to what’s happening around them.
However, some people have learned to be a thermostat instead. Rather than just accepting and reflecting the temperature around them, they have a way of changing the temperature in every situation they are in. When it’s cold outside, they warm things up. When conflicts arise and relationships get uncomfortably hot, they know how to generate cooling breezes.
Jesus was a thermostat. Although He continually faced icy reactions from the religious establishment, He never allowed His heart to become cold.
Yes, Jesus sometimes gave a weather report about the conditions He saw around Him. But He never left things like He found them. Instead of reflecting the animosity and unbelief He encountered, He brought compassion, faith, and healing.
But Jesus warned about the temptation we would face to become mere thermometers, reflecting the surrounding culture rather than transforming it. “Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold,” He told us (Matthew 24:12).
What a tragic outcome Jesus is describing here. In a day of lawlessness, many people will become calloused and cynical. Surrounded by growing narcissism and self-centeredness, many will allow their love to become cold. Instead of being change agents, people will be like thermometers, swayed up and down by the changing world around them.
Jesus used the Greek word agape for love, so there’s a good chance He had believers in mind here. He was warning that we’ll surely face times when it’s “cold outside,” but we can’t let that change our disposition or ruin our day. Instead, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit, bringing His kindness and warmth into even the harshest weather around us.
The good news is that we don’t have to be helpless victims as the cultural weather changes around us. As salt and light, we can be a positive force in setting the temperature, not just reflecting it.