You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Revelation 2:3-5
If you were to list the qualities which you aspired to have in your life as a Christian, what would they be? For the Church in Ephesus, Jesus describes some of the characteristics He saw in their lives, and for most of us, these would likely be things we hope to be known for ourselves: hard work, perseverance, speaking out against wickedness, addressing false theology, enduring suffering for the sake of the gospel, not giving up – so far, so good. But Jesus highlights one vital flaw in their lifestyle: they had forsaken something dear to him – their first love.
At one point in time, this group of Christians must have had a love for Jesus which brought Him such joy. They must have had a love for His presence, for intimacy, for His Holy Spirit which was evident to see. Yet they had forsaken it. We aren’t told what had happened, or why, but something had changed. There probably wasn’t an awareness of what had happened on the part of these Christians, but change occurred. Perhaps, over a period of time, it was familiarity with church life and going through the motions that had led them to grow bored and distant, or dependence on works to attain favour, or trials they had encountered which had fostered bitterness in their hearts toward Him. This is purely speculative, but there are many reasons why we might forsake a love for Jesus.
There’s a difference between forsaking something and losing something. We lose something by accident, but we forsake something by choice. Whether intentional or in our subconscious, we are all vulnerable to succumb to the disease that is apathy in our relationship with Jesus. His desire for us is not simply do the things that a church should do, but to have a love for Him which is the root of everything else we do. This is not a minor issue for Jesus. How incredible and humbling that He is so passionate about being close to His people in love. There is no comparison between a life of church activity which is distant to our Saviour, and a life which lives with Jesus as our Mighty King, closest friend, compassionate redeemer, wise counsellor, kind comforter, and loving sustainer in all things.
We can make the choice today to be grounded in closeness, soaked in His incredible grace, revived with love for Him, because He has first loved us. For us as Christians, we may come to a point in our lives where we need to change direction, just as this church did, and ‘consider how far we have fallen’ whenever we walk away from the joy that is loving closeness with Him who has given us everything.
What a victory He has won for us that we can approach His throne of grace with boldness, to find help in our time of need today.
Thank You, Lord Jesus, that Your love for me is eternal. Thank You, that You want to be close to me, and that You have freed me to come close to You. Search my heart, Lord, find anything in me which is straying from closeness to You, and lead me on the path where love for You defines everything else about who I am. Amen