Revelation 2:1-7 NRSV
The Risen Christ says, “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: 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. I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.”
What a splendid church the Christian community in Ephesus seemed to be! It appeared to be a model church in every way. Its members were busy in their service, patient in their sufferings, and orthodox in their belief. What more could be asked of them? Only one thing was lacking… Love, then, is the first mark of a true and living church. Indeed, it is not a living church at all unless it is a loving church. The Christian life is essentially a love-relationship to Jesus Christ. “Jesus captured me,” wrote Wilson Carlile, founder and “chief” of the Church Army. “For me to know Jesus is a love affair.” – John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3
The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian. ― Brennan Manning
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NRSV
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you.
And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there,
and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made.
You were with me, and I was not with you.
The lovely things kept me far from you,
though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all.
You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness.
You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness.
You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you.
I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you.
You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.
– St. Augustine, Confessions
Deuteronomy 30:6 NRSV
Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.
God of Life, your risen Son has gathered us into the church, nourished us with his body and blood, and poured out upon us your Holy Spirit. Grant that we may receive the blessing of your grace, so that we may love you with all our hearts, and gladly feed your sheep on the name of Christ. Amen. – Steve Garnaas-Holmes
This is the first of seven posts based on themes from Revelation chapters 2-3. In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the timeless message of what His church should look like.
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