You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you. You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen. Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place. ~ Revelations 2:3-5
As I sit and write, a rare, blue-sky-sunny winter afternoon brightens the view outside my window. What a great way to start the New Year! All seems well with the world. And . . . ahead lie new horizons to conquer! As my mind turns towards 2016, I keep thinking about an Oswald Chambers quote, “Keep the main thing the main thing.” We are to always “seek first the kingdom of God.” How? The Revelations passage above steers us in the right direction.
Mature but Passionless
The church of Ephesus did everything right. They persevered, endured hardships for Christ, had not grown weary and hated the practices of the Nicolatians. Their theology and their hard work was commendable. They were as steady as a faithful, mature wife of many years. As Christians we believe in marriage for a lifetime, but we doubt it’s possible to retain the passion we had at first, to continue “being in love.” We expect the hardships of life and a “deeper, more mature love” to replace the ardor we had at first. Yet our Heavenly Bridegroom apparently has higher expectations. He chastised the church of Ephesus because they had lost their first love. They were faithful and mature but passionless. Now isn’t that convicting?
Jesus’ complaint echoes similar grievances between spouses.
You used to have eyes only for me; now you can’t seem to get your eyes off your cell phone.
You used to listen with rapt attention to all I had to say; now I seem to bore you.
You used to make all kinds of sacrifices in order to spend time together, now all you offer is excuses when I ask you to go do something with me.
It’s said that women go into marriage hoping to change their man, while men go into marriage hoping their bride will stay the same. Jesus wants our affections and ardor towards him to stay intensely vibrant and alive. And certainly, because he is a perfect bridegroom, he is entitled to this expectation. He does not wane in his love, so why should we? I am afraid, however, that I resort to typical wife behavior when I try to change my Heavenly Husband into what I want him to be instead of accepting him fully for who he is. For example, I might camp on the scriptures that speak about his love and ignore those that speak of his wrath. Or I might choose to follow the commands that come easily to me and dismiss others that make me uncomfortable.
At the Beginning
If Jesus calls us to return to our first love, what does this mean? Let’s consider what it would look like for a couple to “do the things you did at first”?
Couples in love are affectionate with one another.
They are lavish in their praise and revel in their delight.
They are eager to serve and please the beloved.
When apart, they can’t wait to be together again.
They spend as much time together as possible.
They think about one another continuously.
A High Standard
This, then, is the height from which we fall when Jesus is no longer our first love. But Jesus won’t settle for “parallel lives” or a worn out, wrung out, disillusioned love. I am thankful that he is all about a vibrant love. In John 17:25-26, he prayed, “Father of goodness and truth . . . I have made your self known to them and I will continue to do so that the love which you have had for me may be in their hearts—and that I may be there also” (Phillips).
John 14:21b says, “Every man who knows my commandments and obeys them is the man who really loves me . . . ” Returning to our first love with Jesus is not about trying to conjure up schmaltzy feelings. Instead, it’s about resetting our hearts to right priorities; it’s about being eager to obey his Word, it’s about simply loving our Lord for himself as opposed to being focused on what his power or riches can do for us.
I can’t think of a better New Year’s Resolution than to renew my efforts to put Jesus first.