I know that Christians can lose the love they had at first. My heart is prone to wander too. But how does a church that is doctrinally sound, faithful in work, and radical to the point of suffering for Christ, lose their love for Jesus and people? Jesus rebuked the church at Ephesus for this and threatened to remove their witness (Revelation 2.1-7). If they can fail so can I. At the root, they were telling and believing a different story. Or better yet, neglecting the bigger one.
The story they may have believed could have went like this:
God is a task oriented General who wants to accomplish the mission and win the war. He understands that there will be casualties but that’s part of the cost. The mission must be accomplished. The best soldiers, then, are the most faithful to the mission of spreading and guarding the truth at the cost of their own lives. They get the medals of honor.
Today, brothers like me understand ourselves to be soldiers in the cause (Ephesians 6.10-17). We want to help win. We want a medal. We want our unit in our area to fulfill our assignment in the overall war. Let’s take Los Angeles!
So I’m tempted to think the main problem is false doctrine, a lack of discernment in churches, and the comfortable, non-sacrificial members who populate them. In response we resolve to be as theologically precise, exegetically careful, and expository in our preaching. We recklessly take risks to be as sacrificial as Paul. Endurance is essential. We embrace suffering and rejoice in persecution. The war is a truth war. We have taken the call to discern, disseminate doctrine, and die for the cause. And we have deeply offended Jesus.
God’s bigger story is the story of love. It’s the story of a Father who loves and gives life to his Son in the fellowship of the Spirit who is in himself love (Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity, 38). In love he sends his Son to redeem us into his family. We are adopted and loved children of the Father sent to love and gather more estranged brothers and sisters to bring us to the coming world of love.
Our problem is we can lose our focus and joy in the Father. False doctrine and worldly comforts hinder that. So does forgetting the mission and the great battle we are in.
So Jesus, our older brother and Lord of the churches, holding us in his hands, comes to guide us in this mission. His plan is for us to teach, love, and suffer in order to disciple the neighbors and nations. The call is to this commission. Success is experiencing victory, restoring family, and entering the joy of the Father forever. Failure is apostasy or loss of reward.
But before we continue this commission he must call us to back from a more fundamental failure: love. We have changed stories. Or, more accurately, we embraced the story of battle while neglecting the larger story of love and adoption. So Jesus tells us to remember the past experience of entering into and being overwhelmed by God’s cross-centered love, repent in the present, and return to the great commission work. The call is to repent now. If not we will be sidelined. Removed. Benched. But if we repent we will conquer, make kingdom advances by his power, and eat from the tree of life.
You are loved and adopted children working for the adoption agency. Remember that your story is a story of a Father’s love that loved you in order to enable and send you to love as well. You were loved. And you are loved in order to love. Never forget again.