First Love

first love

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are 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. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary.

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.“ (Revelation 2:2-4, NRSV)

Lord, help me remember my first love.

I‘ve prayed this prayer many times. I’ve prayed it when I’ve felt far from God, when I am struggling with sin, when I don’t know what to do. I’ve prayed this prayer for other people who are struggling with faith, uncertainty, life. I’ve prayed this prayer for church staffs, leadership, and whole congregations. It is both a confession and a cry for help.

God in your mercy: Lord, hear our prayer.

On Sundays (though I confess that too often I neglect these prayers), my focus of prayer is on the Church. I pray specifically for the community of which I am a part, the one I once belonged to, for leadership, for pastors, for other churches. I pray that the Word is proclaimed and that God is worshipped. I pray that hearts and lives are transformed, that relationships are restored, that burdens are set down.

A couple of weeks ago, I prayed for a former community to remember their first love. This prayer was not conceived from judgment or condemnation but was born from hope – and rooted in God’s faithfulness.

God in your mercy: Lord, hear our prayer.

This morning as I was writing for this blog (chastising myself for not having done it yesterday), a friend stopped by and asked how our new worshipping community was going. His specific question: “Have you brought anyone to Christ?”

Well, the answer is “no.”

I could talk about how Christ has been brought to us in worship and in prayer. Or how we’ve encountered Christ in serving dinner and eating with the homeless. But this isn’t what he was asking. I did respond that the first step for our small group is creating space for those who know Christ but are feeling far away or disconnected. As those who don’t know Christ participate in our community, we should have people who can walk beside and disciple.

He responded that this is our call as Christians – the reason why we remain here on earth once we believe. We are responsible to not just lead others to Christ but to walk with them as they find out and live out what that means. And then he said, “This is the job of the Church. But I think the Church today has forgotten its first love.”

God in your mercy: Lord, hear our prayer.

After he left, I no longer could write on the topic I had started. I began to think about what our “first love” is – individually, in worshipping communities, as the Body of Christ. Where is it that we find ourselves in the abandonment of our first love? Is it faith without works? Is it works without faith? Is it more love for ourselves than our neighbor? Is it pride and self-sufficiency? Is it show more than substance? Is it revenge rather than forgiveness?

I don’t know. This love Jesus talks about is agape love. Selfless love encompasses a lot. I have spent time in the Greek and I think it provides some help in finding the answer. But I don’t think the answer is really that easy, and we all need to pray this prayer – and sit in it for a while – to find the answer that Jesus wants us to know. But I’ll offer this Greek lesson:

“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” (John 14:18, NRSV)

The word “leave” here is the same word for our “abandonment” of our first love in Revelation. Jesus promises not to abandon us. This wasn’t a condition of our action, but a promise. As with the church at Ephesus, Jesus wants us to find our first love again. And Jesus promises not to abandon us as we make the journey.

God in your mercy: Lord, hear our prayer.

From Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. – Ephesians 2:8-10 (NRSV)

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:16-19 (NRSV)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2 (NRSV)

One response to “First Love

  1. I thank God that you and He walks with us, shows us His mercies, and remembers us when we feel orphaned….

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