“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 gold 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.'”Revelation 2:1-5a
Do you remember your first love? Perhaps it was your first boyfriend or girlfriend in middle school or high school. Maybe it was the first person you had a crush on, even the first teacher you had a crush on as a little child! Or maybe your first love wasn’t a person but something you were passionate about, like music, or art, reading books, and so on. Do you remember abandoning this first love, or your first love abandoning you?
I had a lot of crushes as a kid growing up, but the first one I always remember is my freshman and sophomore years in high school. There was a girl in marching band I had an enormous crush on, and for a while her feelings were mutual, until they suddenly weren’t. I went from having a crush to being crushed, and it took me a long time to move past it—to abandon my first love. Now that I’m married, my wife may not have been my first love chronologically, but she is my only love, and I therefore treat her as my first love.
Figuratively speaking, however, my first love would be music (even before I crushed on that one girl!). I grew up watching my dad play music in his Christian rock bands. As he rocked out on the keyboard and saxophone, I wanted to be just like him, so I asked if he could teach me how to play the sax. At this point, I was in 4th grade playing the recorder, and the saxophone fingerings are almost entirely the same. So, my dad showed me how to put it together, the purpose of wetting the reed, and how to blow into the instrument (a couple years later I would learn how to articulate with my tongue rather than my throat). Ever since then, I’ve been playing the sax. Two years later, I would play in the middle school band for all four years (including solo & ensemble competitions, orchestra, pit orchestra, and a sax quartet called Parafidy), and then I would play professionally in the Army Bands for three years. Even though I don’t get to play as much as I’d like to with my pastoral duties, I cannot imagine abandoning this first love. I’d be incomplete without it. In fact, just recently, I performed at my dad’s new music business that just opened last weekend, The Starlight Room, that’s all about supporting local musicians as rising stars. You should like their Facebook page and if you’re in the Muskegon, Michigan area, and you’re a lover of music, you should definitely check them out (shameless plug).
Okay, I’ve spouted enough exposition. What does this have to do with Jesus? Jesus scolds the church in Ephesus for abandoning their first love, urging them to repent. What was their first love? It is most likely Jesus’ command to love one another just as He has loved us, since Jesus had given this command in John’s Gospel (John 13:34-35) and John had written more about it in his epistles (1 John 4:7-12; 2 John 4-6). Sure, they were commended for calling out false teachers and false apostles, but apparently, they were not loving one another. Whatever the specifics of these were, they were clanging cymbals (1 Corinthians 13:1).
Much as we have other things in our lives that we love, our first love must be to love one another just as Christ has loved us, that others may know we are His disciples (John 13:34-35). That means loving my wife as Christ has loved me (Ephesians 5:25), as well as my other neighbours as Christ has loved me (1 John 4:7 ff.). We can even use the things we are passionate about to love one another. How might I use music to love my neighbour? (Seriously, check out The Starlight Room!) As a former professional saxophonist, I did this by playing music for soldiers and their families to boost morale. If I weren’t a pastor, maybe I could’ve gone into the church music profession. I also love to write, so as a writer, I started this blog, I use my talents to write good sermons (by the grace of God), and even poetry to teach the Scriptures. As an artist, my wonderful wife paints amazing images to inspire our faith in Christ. Perhaps God has given you skills to love others as a police officer, or a janitor, a grocer, an accountant, a farmer, musician, and so forth. Let us not abandon our first love of loving one another in Christ, lest we end up being like the rest of the world and only feign loving one another for our own selfish benefit.