1b These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 “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. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 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.”
In the Book of Revelation, there are seven letters, one to each of the seven historical churches (“seven golden lampstands”) of the day; the above verses are from the first letter, to the Church of Ephesus. John, the writer of Revelation, dictates the words of Christ (“[he] who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands”) in each of these letters.
In this first letter, Christ says that the Ephesians have done well, doing their Christian work unrelentingly, and making sure that all the people who want to serve the church are truly worthy of their posts. Yet there is a problem; in doing all this hard work, and in checking people for their “fitness” in serving God, the Ephesians have actually forgotten Christian love–the first and most important commandment Jesus ever gave us. They have forgotten how to reach out to the world with compassion and love, rather than judging the outside world “righteously” (actually pridefully).
It seems silly, perhaps, to think that a group of people who is so obviously “doing work for God” could have forgotten how to love like God loves. But I think more Christians (and more churches) today suffer from the “Ephesians Syndrome” than we would like to admit. Too many times, I’ve heard Christians speak ill of others who have made mistakes, judging them harshly, saying they were “no longer fit to serve the church” because of their mistake. Or I’ve heard churchgoing people say that “so-and-so just doesn’t fit in our church. He/she’s not our kind of people.”
We are all guilty of judging each other too harshly like this in the secular world. What is sad is that we don’t realize how much that same judgmental nature can carry over into our church lives, tainting our relationships with nonbelievers and believers alike. God loved us despite our mistakes, despite our flaws and sins, and yet sometimes we deem others “unworthy” to serve Christ because of similar mistakes.
In this light, “Remember the height from which you have fallen!” is an admonition not only to the Ephesians, but to us. We should remember how much God loves us, and extend that unconditional love to others, as we did when we were first saved. If we don’t, Christ warns us that He will remove our lampstand (our beacon of Christian influence) from its esteemed place. If we aren’t shining the light of Christ’s compassionate love out into the world, but instead spewing pride and judgment everywhere, what good works are we doing for Jesus, anyway?