“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”(Revelation 2:4)
September 1, 2011
we continue Alison's series "the labour of love"...
The story of the Ephesian church was one of perseverance and purity in belief and behaviour (Revelation 2:2-3). But, tragically, 40 years after the Ephesian church had been established, Christ says they’ve lost their first love;
They were passionless.
The believer’s first and primary love is for God, pre-eminently focused on love for the Son, Jesus Christ (Matthew 22:37; John 14:21; 16:27). And that love for Christ overflows in love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, and love for those who are lost from Christ.
Jesus had warned that the love of many would grow cold, in the labour of the last days (Matthew 24:12). And, the Ephesian’s love had indeed grown cold! Truth reigned, but love was in exile. This is a chilling rebuke to them from Jesus.
It is also a warning to all churches (including ours) who may have abandoned their love for him.
The Ephesian church had read Paul’s first letter to them and taken seriously the instruction not to be carried about by every wind of doctrine - but not the instruction to speak the truth in love and build themselves up in love (Ephesians 4:14-16).
I’m guessing they were no longer praying Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3.
The Ephesian church’s relationship with Christ was like a marriage gone cold – there was commitment, but no love. The bride of Christ was no longer "passionate lover" but a "dutiful wife”.*
How could a Christian church become so loveless ?
It’s probably a gradual slide. Perhaps they became proud of their heritage or the quality of their Bible teaching. When you’ve laboured for years to guard the gospel and you’ve hung on to holiness, I’m guessing it’s not hard to develop a misplaced confidence in your own spiritual stamina and worthiness. Maybe it’s only a short step from that point, to our love for God and others becoming lukewarm, and then cold.
Perhaps it’s something you relate to more than you ought. What might be some warning lights that your labour, or your church's, is becoming loveless? Perhaps an unwillingness to pray for, or show hospitality to, those who annoy or disappoint you? Maybe not wanting to engage with particular people after Sunday gatherings? Possibly a critical spirit towards others creeping into your thoughts, if not in spoken words? And what does a loveless church look like?
Having assessed the health of the Ephesian church, Christ moves on to deliver a warning that is as chilling as their love. And we’ll consider that warning next week.
* R. Piper, Ephesus And The New Humanity, Aquila, 2010, p6