I’m very excited about our sermon series for August and September where we will take a look at Revelation 2-3. In these chapters, Jesus dictates seven letters to seven of the early churches in the ancient world. We often forget that parts of Revelation have already happened–particularly these letters to historical churches!
Church tradition holds that either the apostle John or another fellow named John the Elder were possible authors of Revelation. It is somewhat difficult to discern and early church theologians and historians have different viewpoints on this matter. As you might guess, the apostle John was the disciple of Jesus and has a gospel attributed to his name. On the other hand, John the Elder was another early Christian, but lived after Jesus’ ascension and served as a bishop in the 100s AD.
Regardless of authorship, many church historians believe that this John character was exiled to Patmos during the persecution of Christians by Emperor Domitian of the Roman Empire.
On Sunday, we explored the first of these letters to the church in Ephesus. The Ephesian church was doing alright except for one thing. Jesus noted that they had forgotten their first love:
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (Revelation 2:4-5)
Showing love in any relationship shouldn’t be something that we forget how to do, much less our relationship with Christ. When Jesus told the church to return to their starting point, he meant that the church must remember that “doing church” should be about one thing: loving God. Apparently in Ephesus, the community of believers needed to push the “reset” button, so to speak, in order to reorient their discipleship around what matters most.
We forget our first love so many times in life. We make our day-to-day about chasing after worldly dreams. We might deceive ourselves into thinking that money or fame will truly make us happy. Even in the church world, we often don’t make our life truly about Jesus–perhaps we want to serve our own needs, instead of doing outreach in the community! We make following Jesus about church buildings rather than true discipleship (and in worst case scenarios, we even divide over the color of choir robes or sanctuary carpet!). We can even make following Jesus all about what we want, rather than pouring out God’s love to outsiders who need it most.
Ideally, in my own life, I would hope that Jesus doesn’t have to remind me about forsaking my love for him! I hope to live in such a way as to never forget that he ought to be number one in my life.
Revelation 2-3 is filled with several letters Jesus spoke to early believers. I think it would be helpful for us to ask ourselves this in light of the sermon this week: what kind of letter would Jesus write to you? Would Jesus commend you for steadfast faith? Would he recognize that you’ve always loved him no matter what?
Or would Jesus offer up the gentle reminder that you have forgotten your first love? Would Jesus write that you’ve forgotten what God’s love is all about?
The good news is that regardless of whether we’ve forgotten God’s love or not, Jesus is always willing to welcome us back with open arms. Sure, we might forget our first love for Christ, but he will never forget or stop loving us.