You Have Left Your First Love

In the book of Revelation, Jesus takes the opportunity to address seven churches and talk about their good and bad characteristics. Recently, something happened that made me think of one of these letters, the letter to church at Ephesus.

To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, “These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: ‘I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. … But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'”

Revelation 2:1-3, 6-7 NKJV

This part of what Jesus had to say to the church at Ephesus seems very positive and encouraging. The Ephesians had not fallen prey to false doctrine. This would be particularly encouraging considering Paul’s warning and admonition to the elders in Ephesus on his third preaching journey (Acts 20:28-32). He also says they had labored without “becoming weary.” How many of us would be thrilled to receive such commendations directly from Jesus?

Yet, in one of the verses that was not included above, Jesus threatened, “Or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place…” (Revelation 2:5 NKJV) Considering the other positive statements about this church, what could they have done that jeopardized their relationship with Christ? Jesus accuses, ” I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4 NKJV) The indication, then, is that while they had maintained certain outward attributes of their relationship with Christ, their love for Him had, in fact, faded.

How is a “faded love” displayed. This is often reflected in a reduced level of zeal and excitement for the object of one’s love. How might this be reflected in our relationship with Christ?

  • To help us understand, I want to present another example of a fading of a certain kind of love. Consider a relationship between a man and a woman:
    • When they first meet, there is generally a lot of excitement to be together. They don’t want to spend time apart.
    • Additionally, in most cases, whenever they are going to be together there is a high level of willingness to be at their best when when they are together. This includes physical appearance, how they conduct themselves, how they spend every moment together talking to each other and being close to each other.
    • Then they get married. And, at first, during the “honeymoon phase,” they continue to try to please one another and spend time together.
    • Unfortunately, in most cases, in time there becomes a sense of “we have the relationship, we don’t really have to work on it.” Work, children, hobbies, and other activities began to take away their time together and erode the emotions of love between the couple. There is no longer the strong desire to spend every available moment together.
    • This relationship may not in an affair or a divorce, but they are together while not necessarily “in love” any more. It’s just not the same relationship it once was.
  • Compare this with what happens with many Christians:
    • Many new Christians are full of zeal and enthusiasm.
    • They are in love with Christ and His word. They spend time studying and growing in the knowledge of His word.
    • Maybe their enthusiasm and love for Christ is exhibited in talking to others about Christ.
    • They may strive to increase their ability to serve: Men wanting to lead in worship; Women wanting to learn to teach.
    • But then, time passes. The relationship becomes stale. Family, children, work, hobbies began to take their time away from Christ and His Word.
    • Maybe they never “fall away” in the sense of stopping assembling with the saints. Maybe they never accept false doctrine.
    • But, they no longer have the zeal to study the word of God. They may feel that they no longer need to serve because the have “served enough.” They believe they have a relationship with Christ, but they no longer have a love for the relationship.

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that something happened to me recently that sparked these thoughts. I was cleaning out an old file cabinet trying to get everything to fit in a smaller storage unit. I came across some old notes I had made when studying 1 Corinthians when I was a younger man. What I saw made me ashamed of recent attempts to study God’s word. I saw detailed notes and in depth research trying to understand the meaning of God’s word. I saw study that took time and effort. I saw study that reflected a deep love for God and His word. And, I realized that I haven’t studied the Bible that way in a long time. I have a lot of “reasons” why I haven’t studied like that in long time, but I believe the underlying root cause is failure to love Christ and His word like I should.

So, how do we correct a loss of our “first love?” Jesus tells the Ephesians the answer: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first work.” (Revelation 2:5 NKJV) The answer is two-fold:

  • Repent: Change your heart. This love for Christ and His work is not optional to be Christian. Christ requires not just our rote service, but our heart.
  • Do the first work: Apply that love to our lives. It will change how we act. It’s not possible to love Christ as we should and not behave differently.

What motivates us to this love? One motivation is provided in this text: “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7 NKJV)

Dan Fontenot

(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)