Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus: “The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says: I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary.
But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent” (Revelation 2:1-5 HCSB).
We often read John’s letter to the community in Ephesus and think that they had lost their love for the Lord. But that doesn’t make sense within the context. John commends the Ephesian community for testing those who call themselves apostles, not tolerating evil-doers, and enduring patiently for the sake of Jesus’ name. They hadn’t lost their love for the Lord.
Rather, they had lost their love for one another. In their ardor for testing, not tolerating evil, and enduring in their faith, they had abandoned their love for others. It’s easy to do. Throughout the New Testament, we are reminded to love one another and not judge, for in the manner we judge others, God will judge us (see Luke 6:37-38). We can become so focused on truth that we forget to love. It’s not an either-or, but as Paul says, without love, we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13).
The threat posed to the Ephesians is that if they do not change, they will eventually be removed. How we treat others is weighed seriously within the New Testament. In our zeal for truth, we can be both right and wrong. The Ephesians had lost the love for others that they’d had at first.
Maintaining love is one of the hardest actions we do as humans. The gravity of life can tend to pull us in the opposite direction, and we can all too easily find our love gradually growing cold. Whether in marriages, families, friendships, or other relationships, we have to work and cultivate our love for others. In our fervor for the truth, we must guard against becoming cold and callous.
Let’s remember this powerful statement by Jesus to His disciples on the night He was arrested. “This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13 HCSB).
Jesus’ warning to the community in Ephesus serves as a sober reminder to us today in how we are to treat others. We must pursue loving rightly as much as we pursue doing right. May we follow the command of Jesus to love one another as He has loved us.
Father, we repent of those times that we have not loved others. We have judged when we should have been merciful. Forgive us, and may we be merciful as You are merciful. Amen.