“You have left your first love”
Jesus, through the Apostle John, wrote a letter to the leader of the church in Ephesus. He said to him:
“I know what you do, how you work hard and never give up. I know you do not put up with the false teachings of evil people. You have tested those who say they are apostles but really are not, and you found they are liars. You have patience and have suffered troubles for my name and have not given up. But I have this against you: You have left the love you had in the beginning.” Revelation 2:2-4 (NCV).
Even though he had many good works, they were not enough, because he had left the love he had in the beginning, his “first love”, as it is written in some other Bible translations – that love for Jesus that had been born in his heart when he first believed.
What is “first love?”
A first love means a love that comes before all others: the greatest love.
Greater than our love for:
· Our family
· Our friends
Even when we love and serve and give our time for others, our love for Jesus has to come before any of that, so that we can love our family and friends with a godly, not a human, love. That’s why Jesus said:
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26.
To love Jesus is to keep His commandments. (John 14:15.) So if anything, our own desires, or our relationships with others, would tempt us to break any of His commandments - if we have a first love, we will put Jesus before all else and choose to do His will. That is why Jesus uses such a strong word as hate. It’s a hate for anything that would cause us to sin against Him.
When we have this first love, then we do everything for Jesus’ sake. We don’t do the good and choose the right things only because we think we should, and neither do we do it to get honour for ourselves. We do it for one reason only, and that is for Jesus.
Also read: Is Christ really the ruler of your heart?
First love: Doing things for the right reasons
We can easily be enthusiastic and zealous to do good works, especially when it has to do with things that others can see, for the wrong reasons. We have to judge ourselves continually and get rid of any desire to get honour for ourselves, any desire to have a good name before people. Then we can remain in our first love for Jesus, and all that we do will be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14.)
We can easily do things according to what our friends and family say and think. We are worried about what they might think if we do this or that, or our human reasoning and opinions keep us away from doing the commandments of Christ. To remain in a first love means that our actions are only based on the Word of God, and on nothing else.
The first love for Christ makes us want to become like Him, so that we learn to act and react as He would. (Romans 8:29.) Then we get love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23.) Then our actions are a blessing and an example, and we can have godly love for people . When we think of Jesus first, then we have good relationships because everything we do is free from sin and selfishness. We must first think of our relationship with the Father and the Son, and then our relationships on earth.
A letter from Jesus
What would Jesus say if He wrote a letter to you? Would He be able to praise your love for Him or would you, like the leader of the church of Ephesus, need to be told to “… remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works”? (Revelation 2:5.) To have this first love and to be enthusiastic to do all things for His sake when we first give our heart to Jesus is great. But to stay in that love in all situations of life, throughout our whole lives, without giving up and without seeking our own benefit, that leads to eternal life.
“But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith. Pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God while you are waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, which leads to eternal life.” Jude 20-21 (MEV).