Loving is Doing
Revelation 2:4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
The church in Ephesus had been a prime example of the kingdom of God at work in the world. Paul’s missionary work had resulted in a large and thriving ministry in this previously pagan city. Now, there was praise for the Christians of Ephesus but there was also rebuke. They were good people and they were trying to keep the organization together and functioning but this may have been taking too much of their time.
This church is remembered for having “abandoned the love you had at first.” In Ephesus the church had had forgotten her first love.
Of course we think first and foremost that their love and passion for Jesus had cooled. This does seem to happen with those who come to Christ. There seems to be a time of initial passion and exuberance about following Christ which becomes tempered as time goes on. However, I’m not quite sure that is exactly what is being said here. It’s not just about the passion for Christ which seems to be lacking, but the resultant activity in the name of Christ. Love for God is connected with doing “the works you did at first.” Therefore the loss of love was not just love of Christ, but love of others. “When hate for the practices of those who err becomes hatred of those who err, Christians depart from the redeeming love of God in Christ and pervert the faith.” (New Bible Commentary)
The faith had been perverted by a strong church which may have become focused upon self-preservation instead of ministry. Jesus constantly brings us back to love of God and love of neighbor. These were to be the two identifying characteristics in the lives of his people and they should be the characteristics of a healthy church.
The removal of the lampstand would mean that the church would cease to be effective. When a church becomes more concerned with its organizational survival she will abandon her first love and ultimately will cease to be effective. Loving God must result in doing, in actions which become channels of God’s love in the world.
Love for God and neighbor must characterize our behavior or we, too, will be guilty of having lost our first love. The lampstand will be removed and we will cease to be effective. There can be no ministry, no love for God that does not reach out and love others. This is especially true when it comes to loving those who are not like us.
The church has touted the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin” for a long time. Could it be, however, that we have focused on “hate the sin, love the sinner” and in effect, gotten it wrong for a while. Actually, maybe forgetting about the love part because we have been blinded by the sin? This may very well have happened for the church in Ephesus and they were being protective of their church to the point of becoming ineffective.
Forgetting first love is revealed in our behavior. Loving is doing. Love for God will be revealed by our love for others.
Lord, may love for you overflow into my actions on a daily basis. Amen.
Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.