The Love You Had at First
by Berry Kercheville
Have you ever known a couple who were once madly in love but are now distant and cold? When I do premarital counseling and see the starry-eyed love of a new couple, I often think of what this marriage will be in ten years. When the wedding vows are said, life is full of hope, but too often something tragic happens, and people who once couldn’t imagine being apart are now living a marriage that is stale, mechanical, and routine. Facades are erected, pleasantries exchanged, public appearances made, but the passion is gone.
As terrible as that is, even more tragic is when the same thing happens with our love for Christ. Hopefully, when you came to Christ, it was truly exciting. Bible study was life-changing, prayer was deep and intimate, and worship was special. What has happened since that time? For many, the love for Christ began to fluctuate. Cares of the world pressed in, and soon, the intensity, fervor, and passion was gone, and the love for Christ grew stale, mechanical, and routine. Can you relate? That is a picture of the church at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7).
Ephesus: An Extraordinary Church
Do you believe you would have noticed anything amiss at the Ephesus church? Before you answer, consider that Ephesus was an active church. People didn’t just “go to church.” Jesus said, “I know your labor…” The Greek word means they labored to the point of exhaustion. They had endurance. They did not tolerate false teaching and would not allow those who were evil into the church. They even endured patiently for his name’s sake, which would imply they steadfastly stood up for the cause of Christ and did not grow weary in doing so. Doesn’t that sound like everything a church ought to be? Would anyone today level a complaint against the Ephesus church? Jesus did, but not just a complaint, a reason for him to divorce the Ephesus church: “I will remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent.”
Look at it this way. Husbands, suppose your wife said to you, “I respect you, but I certainly do not love you like I did when we were married. So, for the sake of the children and the community, I’m going to stay with you. I will cook, raise the kids, and keep the house. I will talk to you as a friend, but since I do not love you “like that” any more, please just keep our relationship as friends.” Would you accept that?
When you look at your relationship with Christ from the point of view of being married to him, have you left the love you had at first? Loving God is the greatest commandment. God does not accept loving him a little, loving him mostly, or loving him almost as must as you love something else. It is loving with all…
Falling in Love Again: Remember
In verses 5-6, Jesus gave the prescription for falling in love with the Lord again. The first step is to remember from where you have fallen. What was it like when you first came to Christ? I remember it well. It was such a joy and peace to know I was forgiven, that I had a whole new life to live, and that I was released from the former bondage of sin. At the time I worked an evening shift. I loved it because I could get up around 8:00 am and study until 3:00 pm before I had to get ready for work. The hours seemed like minutes. I couldn’t wait to talk to others about the scriptures. When I was at gatherings with other Christians, I was always hoping we could talk about the Bible instead of football and politics.
Even if your experience was not the same as mine, it is still important to remember what love is really about. Just like when you were dating and first married, you did not put a clock on how much time you would spend with each other. So with loving the Lord, you don’t notice how much time you spend in study and prayer and discussing the word. You are so swallowed up in it that you hate it when you have to stop and you wait eagerly with anticipation for when you can go back to God’s presence. You have a hunger and thirst for him that cannot be quenched.
Falling in Love Again: Repent
Repent was Jesus’ second admonition. To repent we must realize that something or someone has replaced our first love. It is not that we do not have a first love, it is that we have a new first love. There is something we enjoy more than God. If this were marriage, what would your spouse say about your new love? It’s got to go! How do you kick the new love out? (1) Motivation: the Lord is going to divorce you. It is critical you understand how serious your sin is. (2) Pray and confess your sin of putting the Lord in second place. (3) Change your schedule so you have time to pursue the Lord and learn to love him all over again.
Do you remember Paul’s instructions concerning marriage in Ephesians 5:22-33? “Wives submit to your husbands…husbands love your wives,” etc. Actually, those aren’t primarily instructions about marriage. In verse 32, Paul tells us that he is speaking of Christ and the church. Therefore, it is primarily a picture of love between us and Jesus based on what we understand about marriage. So, here is how I understand marriage, and I’m assuming everyone understands it the same way:
Every night before I go to bed, I say, “Teresa, here is how I want tomorrow to go. You will get up 30 minutes before me, fix my breakfast and make my lunch. After I leave, you will clean the kitchen and the floors, do the laundry and have it all folded neatly in my drawer exactly the way you know I like it. Then I want you to go to the store and buy food for tonight – here is a list and here is how I want it made. When I come home, I expect dinner to be ready no later than 15 minutes after I arrive. After dinner, I want you to sit on the couch with me and tell me how much you love me.”
That’s the way marriage ought to go, right? If you think the above is silly (and I hope you do), then you ought to know how silly it is to think that is the kind of relationship the Lord desires of us. Here is the key: do not read the scriptures to simply know commands and the correct position on issues. Read the scriptures primarily to know God. The better you know God, the more you will love him. And the more you love him, the more you will want to please him and experience the joy of being in love with your eternal Husband.