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The Love You Had At First
“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4, ESV).
I love new Christians! People who have recently received Jesus are so excited to be born again. It’s like they’re seeing the world for the first time. They can’t wait to dig into Scripture, go to church, and figure out how to be a kid in God’s family. They make new friends in the church and enjoy learning about Jesus from and with them. They’re passionate, committed, and hungry. I wonder how long that excitement lasts?
In Revelation 2, Jesus dictates a letter to the church in Ephesus. He pays them some compliments, but then says they have abandoned the love they had at first. Every time I’ve heard this referenced, it’s interpreted as the Ephesians losing their first love for Jesus. They used to be on fire for the Lord, but somewhere along the way they lost their passion. That’s certainly one possible interpretation. But another very intriguing interpretation is that the Ephesians had lost the love they had at first for one another. Their excitement to be in the family of God had waned, their interest in loving and serving one another had flagged, and so Jesus told them to “repent, and do the works you did at first” (v. 5).
I get it. Life is busy—it’s easy to make the church a spare-time gig. If we have time to spare, we’ll check in. But this assumes the church is an address where you go to get a benefit or a service. It’s easy to forget that the church is the congregation—the people who are your family in Christ.
Imagine if your kids decided they would only come to the supper table if and when they were hungry—on their schedule. Your job was simply to have enough food provided that they could come and eat whenever it was convenient for them. If supper was nothing more than the utilitarian practice of getting healthy calories into our bodies, then your kids eating on their time wouldn’t really matter.
But what if supper was about more than getting nutrients into your body? What if supper was about the family being together as a family? What if the meal was as much about enjoying one another as it was about calorie intake? If the purpose of supper is to be together at the table, then your kids deciding to finish their video game and eat later doesn’t fly.
What if the church was more than a building and a service? What if Sunday morning worship was about more than the utilitarian practice of getting spiritual calories into your soul or checking off your “be a good Christian” box for the week? What if Bible studies were about more than consuming biblical knowledge? What if the activities planned by the church were really about being together in the presence of God?
Have we lost the love for Christ and one another that we had at first? Have we slipped into a pragmatic “exchange of time for services rendered” approach to the Lord and his household? Let’s remember why we gather: to love God and one another. And let’s recall the love we had at first.