"Yet I have this against you: you have forsaken your first love." Rev. 2:4
As I scrolled Facebook's news feed I noticed a familiar recurring theme, Christians bashing other Christians. I didn't bother to click on the links to get all the juicy details. The incident reminded me of comments I'd heard recently from Dr. Ogbanaya, a UMC minister in
While discussing the book of Revelation and the seven angels of the churches
mentioned there, Dr. O focused on the church in Venice CA Ephesus.
The Lord had wonderful things to say about this band of believers. The Ephesians worked hard, persevered and didn't put up with wicked men. They'd become expert heresy hunters and could sniff out a false prophet a mile away.
After an enthusiastic pat on the back, the Lord dropped this bombshell.
"Yet I have this against you: you have forsaken your first love, remember the height from which you have fallen." Rev. 2:4-5.
In their desire to maintain doctrinal correctness, the Ephesians had lost something very precious to God...their first love. Zealous for Him, their attempts to ferret out impostors had turned them into judge, jury and final authority. It cost them their love. According to Dr. O, God's view of heresy hunting is a guaranteed way to lose what He considers more valuable than being right - love.
Sound doctrine is important. It's beneficial to consider viewpoints that challenge our beliefs because we might just learn something new. Perish the thought, we just might be wrong! It's another matter to call people names and to label them as false, heretical and apostate.
Today, there are the usual popular targets. When I see negative remarks I wonder if the authors of these derogatory comments know the subjects personally or if they've ever had any contact with these individuals. Have they spoken first hand to the ones they're castigating? Do they know what's in the heart of those they criticize? Were they present when God called these people into ministry and do they know all the details of this calling?
When it comes to finances and lifestyle, do the authors have access to the subjects' personal financial information? Is it possible that the ones accused give more generously than their accusers (percentage and/or dollar wise)? I knew of a minister years ago who was vilified severely for his alleged lavish lifestyle. He wore fine clothes, drove nice cars and lived in an expensive house. What his critics didn't know was that the value of his home was equal to about a tenth of his personal giving into the work of the Lord yearly. How many believers would willingly live in or could even find a home to live in equal to a tenth of their annual giving? In this man's case his lifestyle was frugal compared to his critics. Are judgments leveled based on outward appearances and not necessarily the facts of the matter or the condition of one's heart?
The church at Colosse had challenges also. In his letter to them Paul touched briefly on the intrusion of Gnosticism. His main emphasis, however, was the truth - Jesus Christ. Paul avoided the pitfall of feeding a critical spirit, never lost his first love and equipped the believers there with what they really needed.
Many of us have failed in the area of discerning who is or isn't really God's anointed, including Samuel. Sent to Jesse's home to anoint the next king of
Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, "That's him! That's the
one!" Fast forward one chapter and you'll find this same Eliab, along
with the rest of Israel's
army cowered in fear before Goliath. He even sharply criticized his younger
brother David's interest in fighting the giant and we know how that turned out.
That day at Jesse's God taught Samuel and all of us a very important lesson. "...man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." 1 Sam. 16:7. Based on his behavior, David would light up Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and the rest of social media. He got it wrong many times and made horrible mistakes. God said this about him.
"I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do." Acts .
I wonder what kind of push back God would have received for a post like that? How many would un-friend Him for that opinion?
How about you? How do you determine what's true and avoid engaging in criticism and slander? What measures will you use to determine the validity of someone's call? How will you assess and judge the thoughts and intents of their hearts? Is being a "Defender of the Faith" worth losing your first love over?