1“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:
2“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. 3You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. 4But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! 5Look how far you have fallen from your first love! Turn back to me again and work as you did at first. If you don’t, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. 6But there is this about you that is good: You hate the deeds of the immoral Nicolaitans, just as I do.
7“Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Everyone who is victorious will eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:1-7, NLT)
The Daily DAVEotional
In Revelation 2 and 3, John relates a series of messages the Lord gave him to share with seven different churches that existed at that time. In each case, the message follows a pattern of sharing some positive qualities that the church exhibits while also sharing the areas where the church has deviated from God’s design.
I previously wrote about the message to the church at Pergamum here (Compromise isn’t Always Good), where the Lord’s complaint against this church was that they tolerated the presence and the teaching of a group known as Nicolaitans, who apparently taught a doctrine of compromise that integrated sexually immoral pagan practices with Christian teachings.
In the message to the church at Ephesus, Jesus praises the church for NOT tolerating the immoral Nicolaitans.
The complaint Jesus has for the Ephesians is different. He rebukes them because they “don’t love me or each other as you did at first.”
Here is a case where the New Living Translation (NLT) may not portray the full impact of what Jesus is saying.
For comparison, here is how Revelation 2:4 reads in a few different translations:
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. (NIV)
‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (NASB)
But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. (ESV)
Those words “forsaken”, “left”, and “abandoned” give the impression of a person who has left a relationship for something else. I picture a wife who has left her husband for another man. Or I imagine a dad who has left his wife and family for a younger woman.
The issue is a lack of commitment.
We live in a culture that doesn’t honor or value commitment as much as previous generations did, particularly when it comes to marriage. Divorce is so commonplace that it almost seems strange when you meet someone whose family is still together.
We see celebrities and media personalities moving in and out of relationships and falling in and out of love with such regularity that the idea of love has been reduced to a feeling that can change more rapidly than the weather.
Over and over in the Old Testament, the Israelites are rebuked for being unfaithful and abandoning the Lord. They did this by pursuing foreign gods and neglecting God’s explicit commands.
We have a penchant for wandering. I suppose it’s human nature to always think the grass is always greener somewhere else so we test the limits, we expand the boundaries and before you know it, we’ve completely forsaken the Lord and his teachings while pursuing something or someone else.
This forsaking of Jesus can take many different forms but the one constant is that we no longer value Jesus as king in our lives. Perhaps we still believe in Him and even continue to participate in various religious practices but His priority and importance in our lives begins to wane.
The good news is that no matter where we’re at, or how far we may have strayed, Jesus invites us to return to him. Regardless of our situation, we can renew our commitment to Jesus and experience His presence and purpose in our lives.
If Jesus were to give a message to you today, what would he say? Would he commend you or would he have a complaint to share?
The complaint against the church at Ephesus was that they had left their first love? How would you rate your love for God right now compared to when you first came to know Him?
What is your concept of love? How does the concept of commitment fit with your perception of love?
What are some of the things in our culture and in your life that are most likely to cause you to stray from the Lord and tempt you to “forsake” Him?
What steps can you take to ensure that your commitment to Jesus does not succumb to current cultural challenges.