Return to our First Love – Jesus
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen; Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. Revelations 2:1-5 (Emphasis added)
As a Follow of Jesus guided by the Holy Spirit, I realize that I am a member of the Church Universal. I am also a member of a small country church that is affiliated with a mainstream protestant denomination. However, having attended a regional conference of this denomination, I experienced what I fear is pervasive across the globe in church organizations: namely people claiming to be Christians but not acting as if they are followers of Jesus Christ.
What is happening? Apparently nothing new for the Universal Church. From the beginning of the Church’s formation after Christ died, there have been divisions due to theological differences and political maneuverings. The Church Universal is fragmented, theologically divided and politically splintered.
There are thousands of different types of Christian Churches. There are churches that claim they are the only “true” Christian church; churches that claim that their “way” of baptizing or “performing “ communion is the only way it can be done. Churches who ostracize those who have a different view of a theological point or a “behavior” that is not permitted by their theology.
There are news reports everyday that lump certain churches together to claim that the “religious right” voted this way or that way on political issues. We are bombarded by news ad nauseam about conflicts and disagreements between churches and between groups within the same church.
Individuals judge other individuals based on church affiliation. Christians judge other Christians based on their “Christian” church affiliation. Christian churches judge other Christian Churches based on their differences rather than their similarities. Let me just say – there is a lot of judging going on.
I wonder what Jesus thinks about the current state of His Church? He is probably smiling about the differences in worship music and all the different ways we can worship God in meaningful ways. However, I sense that He weeps over the controversies, atrocities and politics of His Church – over how far we have strayed from our first love – Him.
So what do we do as followers of Jesus? How do we return to our first love? Here is my list in no particular order. I am sure you can add to it!
- Love Jesus right now – in this moment – praising him continually – seeking him for wisdom and encouragement – in other words being in constant communion with him. (Mark 12:30)
- Love our neighbor as ourselves – these are the people that are placed in our lives on a daily basis. Treating them with respect and dignity – assisting them in their hour of need; loving them in small ways – a kind word – a container of soup – a listening ear. (Mark 12:31)
- Love our neighbors across the globe as ourselves – give as we are moved by the Holy Spirit. (Luke 10:33-36)
- Recognize that God is in control and we are not. Cooperate with God – humble yourself – seek His counsel. (Job 37:14-; Psalm 46:10; Matt 18:1-9)
- Agree to disagree with others about theology and even when we “know” they are wrong, love them anyway. (1 Peter 4:8)
- Stop being so sensitive about what others say and do as if we are the center of the universe. Practice giving people the benefit of the doubt. Let perceived hurts roll off and let grace abound. If another Christian sins against you, don’t gossip and create a cloud of drama, go to them yourself and try to work it out. (Matt 18:15-18).
- Remember, we can’t expect “Christian” behavior from those who don’t know who Christ is. Be prayerful and grace-filled in responding to non-Christians in hopes of pointing them in the direction of Christ. God works in mysterious ways and our job is to cooperate with the leading of the Holy Spirit. We never know what small act will draw people to God.
- Start cooperating with the Holy Spirit and practice religion that God accepts – “to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted “– (James 1:27)
- Remember church “traditions” are just that – traditions or teachings created by man and carried on through generations – they should not be used to divide us as Christians. Look to Scripture for guidance. (Matt 15:1-20)
- Recognize that “church” is not a building or a program but people gathered in the name of Jesus Christ to worship God and to love each other. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt 18:20)
- Remember we are stewards of the Blessings we have received from God – we need to seek the Holy Spirit’s direction in order to use those resources in God’s way – not our own. This is true of individuals and churches. Why do we hoard our blessings? Why do we fail to seek direction? Why can’t we trust that the God who gave us the Blessings can certainly guide us in using them? (Acts 4:32-5:11)
- Remember Jesus’ parting words to his disciples “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28)
My prayer for us this week is that we refocus our eyes on Jesus, rebuild our relationship with Him and remember that He is our first love.
R. H. Loy