We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. (I John 4:16-19)
But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (Revelation 2:4)
In the above scriptures John exposes to us an amazing, heart impacting, life altering truth. God reveals Himself as love and invites us to make Him/His love (they are inseparable) the defining point of our lives (abide in love.. vs16). In the next verse John reveals the power of God’s love as giving us “confidence in the day of judgment”. This no doubt has implications of being confident of a warm accepting “Welcome Home” when we meet Him face to face, but I think it means more. He is perhaps saying that as we allow God’s love to define us we can be confident in the face of a very judgmental world right now! How much energy goes into fending off the voices from Madison Avenue to those closest to us that whisper “you are not enough”?
In verse 18 we can see that the heart chilling fears of rejection, inferiority and abandonment can be ejected as God’s “perfect” love drives them out replacing them with a warm and unalterable acceptance. And the final result? We too can love (verse 19).
Here is my point. It is God’s choice of us, His pursuit of us, His ransoming us (at great cost), His abiding with us – all because of His love for us, that answers the existential questions of life. I exist by His love for me, I have purpose in life because of His love for me, My life is one of worth and value because of His love for me. My core identity is established because of His love for me, and here is further good news – He never changes! This is the FIRST LOVE. The First Love tells me who I am. The first love meets all the basic core needs of my life. But, there are also second loves.
Second loves are all the other legitimate loves of my life. The love of my wife, children, and family. A second love is the love I feel when Oliver laughs and Lucy smiles. There are wonderful second love experiences with deep and accepting friendships. I love the ocean, sunrises and dolphins! I love my ministry and oh so much more. But…..
Here is where we can get into trouble. Sometimes we are tempted to try to have our 1st love needs met by 2nd love relationships. Do you see that? Sometimes we measure our lives by the second loves and actually place a weight on them that they can never sustain. My wife Patty can never meet my 1st love needs. If I demand that she always treats me in such a way that I always feel loved, valued, purposeful, she will become exasperated and I will be sorely disappointed. She was not created to do so. Neither can any of the other 2nd loves of my life, ministry included! And if I try to make them do so – I’ve just created an idol. Ouch!
So, from my perspective the Revelation 2:4 verse (see above) that is calling us back to the First Love, carries no condemnation. By the way, the letter that holds this verse is full of compliments for “good works” or could we say “second loves”? Had this good church (the people) begun to seek their core identity by good works apart from the Lord’s amazing love and not because of it? I think so. I believe the verse is the voice of the Savior wooing them and us back to a safe place, in fact the only place that can truly meet the deepest needs of our hearts. Do you hear His voice today?