To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: "The words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
'I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for My name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where 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. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’"
Can we remember the love we had at first? When we first fell in love with football or fishing, dancing or dolls, reading or music, we could spend hours doing that thing, but it only felt like a few minutes because we loved it. When we first discovered a passion for teaching, law, medicine, real estate, or marketing, we studied, prepared, and applied ourselves, but it didn’t feel like work because we loved it. When another person first caught our eye, we wrote letters, bought gifts, and spent countless hours together, but it seemed like nothing because we loved that person. When we remember the love we had at first, the natural question is, “What happened to that love?” Where did the playful child, the passionate worker, and the captivated lover go? There are different answers to that question, but one thing’s for sure: We all want to find our way back to the love we had at first.
Can we remember the love we had at first? That’s really the question Jesus asks the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7. In addressing seven churches in the ancient world, Jesus is addressing His Church at that time and at all times. When He speaks to His people in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, He’s also speaking to His people in Dallas, New York, London, and Beijing. If we’re wondering what Jesus might write to His people today, all we need to do is open Revelation 2 and 3 and see what He wrote to His churches nearly 2,000 years ago. The Lord loves us so much that He encourages us, and He challenges and rebukes us. He celebrates our work, our endurance, and our standing up against evil (Revelation 2:2-3). But He has this against us – that we have abandoned the love we had at first (Revelation 2:4). Can we remember when we first came to know Jesus, when a relationship with Him was new and exciting; when we loved Him and loved others out of the overflow of our hearts; when we could spend hours in the Word or in prayer, but it felt like a few minutes; when it was more delight than duty? What happened to that love? Let’s take time this week to ask ourselves that question. How have the world, the flesh, and the devil conspired to dull our love for Jesus?
When we see the loss of love in our lives, we can be discouraged. But Jesus doesn’t cut us open to hurt us; He does it to heal us. He calls us to remember from where we have fallen so that, by His grace, we can get up again and repent (Revelation 2:5). Jesus calls us to change our minds, to turn around, and to walk in a new direction. If our work for Jesus is strong but our love for Him is weak, He invites us to do the works we did at first. We’re not working to earn our salvation. We’re not doing just to do. We’re doing the things that help cultivate a heart of love for the Lord and for people. And if we know how love works, that makes sense. At first, passion can be enough to fan the flame of our love. But as time goes on and passion wanes, it takes work to cultivate love. Will we give ourselves to the labor of love this week, knowing that Jesus Himself has given Himself to us, and He holds us in His hand (Revelation 2:1)? Will we remember the love we had first, and by His grace, enjoy it once again?