I can say without hesitation that my wife is my best friend in the world. I love listening and sharing with my wife. I love hanging out with her. We share the most intimate of moments and conversations. I believe she echoes the same thoughts.
Our love is quite different today than it was nearly 10 years ago when we “tied the knot”. It is deeper and richer. It is based more on experience than on infatuation. Gone are the lofty ideas of perfect hair, eternal fresh breath, and wanders of youth. Reality is, well, real. Today, we have to fight for our time. We must make a concerted effort to maintain quality of conversation and intimacy. We have four kids, work, school, bills, cell phones, computers, tons of other friends, activities, and, at least, some money.
I share this, because I believe our relationship is better and stronger today than it ever has been; however, this doesn’t just happen. Hundreds of “things” can interrupt our relationship, and at various times have done just that. It is difficult to remember those care fee days of “easy” love we shared in the beginning. But, oh, how I enjoy those moments of seclusion, where we can just be together in silence…
Does this sound too over-the-top? Does this sound like ridiculous romanticism? Do I sound like a sappy, pathetic, emasculated wanna-be-male? Well, I do love my wife, and this is the way I truly feel, but here is what’s cool…
Jesus says the same kind of stuff about His people.
Check this out:
“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.
But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.”
(Revelation 2:2-5a, NLT)
Wow! Jesus is talking to the church in the city of Ephesus. We can look at glimpses in the history of this church by reading Acts 19:8-20:1, 20:16-21:1, the entire letter that Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, Ephesians, and, of course, Revelation 2:1-7. This was one of the churches that Paul planted on his third missionary journey into Southern Europe. Paul spent some 2-3 years in Ephesus teaching people and building many significant relationships. It is evident from his letter to this church, that he loved these people dearly. He had witnessed some incredible events while there.
These people were so serious about their new found faith in the resurrected Jesus, that many people came to faith, and the entire socio-economic structure of the region was forever altered. By reading through the passages above, you can get a glimpse of how deeply their love and devotion for Jesus truly was.
Yet, something had happened. Jesus looks at these people who were once madly in love with Him, and He sees a people who have become distracted. It wasn’t because they were unorthodox in their beliefs or actions. In fact, He boasts of their stance in the truth. They weren’t tolerant of sin and false teaching or teachers. They weren’t giving up on Jesus and walking away from the faith. They were willing to suffer for their beliefs. In fact, it seems like they may have been a little over-bearing with their orthodoxy.
Gone was that first love. That unfettered, simple love that spurned these people to walk away from their former religious superstitions. The love that motivated them to suffer for their belief that Jesus was dead, but now alive. It seems like they remembered the truth, but forgot about loving the Truth-giver or the people they were trying to teach these truths to. This is called legalism.
Unfortunately, I also see this as being a significant problem within much of fundamental Christianity. For the most part, the truth is present, but absent is the love, grace, and mercy that Jesus personified. Just as things get in the way of my passionate love for my wife from time to time, so goes our love for Jesus. Even the ideas, structures, programs, and traditions we have developed to help people understand the truth of God can and does get in our way of simply loving Jesus and others.
You may brush this off as nothing, but I don’t think Jesus does:
“If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.”
(Revelation 2:5b, NLT)
Is it possible to be so focused on believing and doing the right stuff, that we forget this is all about our love for and allegiance to Jesus the King and Savior? Has Christianity in general forgotten their first love? Have you forgotten your first love for Jesus? What will you do about that?