“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’" (Revelation 2:1-7)
It is amazing how easily love can turn into duty if we are not careful to keep the fires of romance alive deep in our hearts. Not that duty is a bad thing mind you, but if that’s all we’ve got, it is far from the passionate love that is what our hearts most deeply long for in relationship; particularly in our relationship with God.
I wonder if that’s what happened to the church at Ephesus? I wonder if over time their relationship with God had turned from loving romance to routine duty. I wonder where, when, and why they just started going through the motions rather than allowing themselves to be seized by the power of the Great Affection. Don’t get me wrong, duty is very definitely a significant part of the commitment of love, but if our affections are not engaged as well, it will quickly digress into something not resembling love at all.
It seems like that’s what God was asking of the church at Ephesus. He wanted not only their actions, but their affections. He wanted their hearts, not just their behavior. For he knew if he had their hearts, their behavior would follow. He wanted the attention and affection and passion and intensity with them that he had “at first.” He wanted them to return to the days when all they could do was think about him and long for him and yearn to be with him in an intimate embrace. So he called upon them to repent—which does not seem like a particularly romantic word, but is—and return to their Lover of their souls, who continually longs for intimate union with his creation.