Listen: Switchfoot, "Love Alone Is Worth the Fight"
The Message to Ephesus
2 “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:
2 “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. 3 I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. ....."
In chapters 2-3 of Revelation, the message to the seven churches, the church of Ephesus is listed. It is the only church in Revelation to which Paul has written a letter in the New Testament canon. Paul writes at one point to the Ephesians:
"3:17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
Being rooted and established in love means our lives are grounded in the teachings of Jesus Christ. We learn patience through love, endurance through love and bearing up and not growing weary. Yet as we see with the Ephesians, it is possible to continue good works whiles love slowly grow cold. It is possible to act "on automatic." On the outside we look great, sound great, act the part. On the inside there is emptiness, even indifference and complacency that takes root.
The Ephesians, like a lot of early Christian congregations, faced persecution and trials. Jesus notices this and commends them: they toiled and endured. They withstood evildoers and false teachers. They faced hardship and were holding up very well. Yet Jesus concerned that the had abandoned the love they had when they first began. Why did they abandon their first love? Did they grow complacent? Did they confuse duty with love? Jesus is alarmed because without out love, what did all these good deeds amount to? Remember Paul's famous opening words about love in 1 Corinthians?
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
We do not know exactly what was the turning point for the Ephesians. Did they stop praying together or meet less frequently? Was it all turning into rote actions? Did they become entirely self-reliant given how well they were holding up?
What makes love grow cold? Matthew 24:12 reminds us that "because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold," Life stresses and difficulties can choke love. Love is action: so we need to be in relationship with God and each other to grow love. We need to take time out to foster connections to keep love alive. We know that committed love relationships require constant care and attention to stay alive. It is the same with God and our faith communities..
The love God shares with us is a love that surpasses knowledge. We can't analyze our way through it. We know it by its affects on us and those around us. It is a love that bears up, but bears up others. It is a love that endures patiently for the well being of others who are struggling -- and in the process conveys to those who are struggling that they are not alone. It is a love that works through us in myriad of ways that witnesses to the depth and wideness of God's eternal love.
Love in Jesus is the most precious gift we possess. Let us not take it for granted. Today let us do the things that keep love alive -- with prayer and caring for others -- and in doing so, experience being rooted and established in love as a way of life.
Prayer: "God Who Loves, help us not take love for granted. Constantly show us how to be loving as we go throughout our day."