Monday, May 12, 2008

Forsaking the First Love

As I listen to the angry couples argue in my office I often wonder - How did they lose that love that first brought them together? Was it a gradual drift from the initial infatuation, settling into the daily routine of work and child-rearing? Or was it personal frustrations and failures projected onto the other partner? The precise answers often elude me, but one thing is clear: they lost sight of that first love in which they pledged their lifelong union.

I though about this as I reflected on our Sunday morning Bible study of Revelation where we read about the Lord's admonition to the church at Ephesus: "You have forsaken your first love" (Rev. 2:4). As the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5), it is clear that this love is the love of the Savior Himself. But how could a church forsake this?

The Ephesian church is commended for its faithfulness in guarding against false doctrine and their perseverance in suffering for the name of Christ. It seems out of character for a church so commended to also be guilty of forsaking the very love of Christ that defines it. Yet, it happened.

But the question that lingers is, how? Using the illustration of marriage again, I suspect that churches, like couples, can lose sight of the love that unites them as they turn in on themselves. For love often means sacrifice and giving, and by nature we are selfish. How many voters' meetings can we all recall that spent precious minutes arguing over relatively minor issues of maintenance and procedure, to the neglect of the primary mission of the church which is proclaiming Christ and Him crucified? How often did personalities and opinions become the focus instead of our Lord? And how often do peripheral and ancillary activities demand more resources and time than the central mission of the church itself?

And even when we are discussing the very event where the love of Christ is proclaimed and shared - Divine Worship - we too often get distracted by issues of convenience and cost. Why was the service so long? Why did we have to sing such difficult hymns? The offerings are down, what can we do to increase them so we can pay all the bills?

Are we guilty of forsaking our first love? From the perspective of a pastor of more than a few years, I see how it can happen. And I see how it occurs in the most innocent of ways. When you scrape away all the rhetoric that too often creates division in the church between its members and between the pastor and his people, the issue at hand is always the same: the love of Christ was left behind.....

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