While living in exile on the island of Patmos, the Apostle John has a vision which he records, as directed to the seven churches in the Roman province of Asia. Sometimes referred to as Asia Minor, this province was located in what we now know as western Turkey. The seven churches were located at Ephesus, Symrna, Pergamum,Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. This letter is known to us as the Book of Revelation.
The second chapter of Revelation opens up with Jesus commending the church at Ephesus. The city of Ephesus was home to the Temple of Artemis which was listed by Antipater of Sidon as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Antipater of Sidon describes the temple in a poem he wrote around 140 B.C.
I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, 'Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.'
- Antipater, Greek Anthology IX.58
They lived at the epicenter of the worship of Artemis, a fertility goddess. They lived in a place that had gained great fame and fortune by promoting that worship, a place where a riot had erupted, led by a silversmith Demetrius who viewed Christianity as a threat to his thriving business. This was the world of the christians at Ephesus and they had remained faithful. In His message to the church at Ephesus, Jesus says:
I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don't tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. Revelation 2:2-3
However Jesus then says...
But I have this complaint against you. You don't love me or each other as you did at first!
The church at Ephesus had done well. They worked hard, endured, did not tolerate sin and carefully examined the claims of people who said their were apostles. They were faithful and yet they lacked one thing-- they did not love God or one another as they did at first.
Jesus then issues a strong warning. They needed to repent and return to their first love or else judgment would fall upon them. (Revelations 2:5)
I do not believe this warning was merely for the church at Ephesus. This warning is for us today. We, the church and as individuals must regain and retain our first love. We must remember that Jesus told us the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and that the second commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. All other law hangs upon these two laws.
It troubles me when love is treated by some Christians as if it is "fluff" and not as important as other things. Like it or not, that's not what Jesus said and Paul emphasizes its importance once again in 1 Corinthians 13. It troubles me when some Christians seem to think that when other Christians talk about love, they are talking about some sort of teenage "crush". It also saddens me because I can't help but wonder if their confusion stems from having never truly experienced... love.
After typing those words, the thought came to me that if there are Christians who have never truly experienced love, it is because we have failed to demonstrate it in our churches. God's warning is clear. We need to repent, regain and retain our first love so that we will love God and love our neighbor or else...
Image courtesy of Ideago at Freedigitalphotos.net
Scripture taken from The Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Great blog, K! Yes, the admonition to the church at Ephesus rings true today.
And, thank you (from my mother and grandmother, whose grammarian blood runs through my veins) for referring to the Book of Revelation correctly! (Sans "s")
Great blog, and a departure from your normal writing style! Both styles work quite well under your "pen"!