Wouldn’t you love to hear Christ say,
“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. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name and have not grown weary…” (Revelation 2:2-3).
You probably wouldn’t find a more zealous group of Christians than those Ephesians. The Ephesian culture was awash in emperor worship and all sorts of pagan practices. The temple to Artemis in Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and emperor worship was in its prime there when Revelation was written. Standing up for the truth was no easy task for Ephesian Christians. It takes zeal to stand up for the truth, especially when it is an unpopular point of view. But what might be even more difficult is to have the discretion to balance zeal and love all at the same time. That is where they were lacking.
Christ continues…”Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love.” (Rev 2:4). Ben Witherington, in his commentary on Revelation, believes the this agape love they have forsaken is love for one another (Revelation, 96). In all their zeal for the truth and stamping out false teaching love was kicked to the curb.
The two extremes:
It is easy to go to either extreme. One one end of the spectrum you have a and undiscerning love that doesn’t care about the truth and is accepting of any and everything. That isn’t godly. Notice that Christ commends the Ephesian Christians for their discernment and discretion in their ability to weed out wickedness and false teaching. The truth is still important and love alone does not supplant our need to be zealous.
On the other end of the spectrum you have Christians who are so zealous for the truth that they have lost sight of love. Some Christians today suffer from apathy but I wonder how many suffer from a loveless zeal? In standing up for the truth we must always maintain our love for one another, never neglecting the two greatest commandments. So while we may disagree on some issues and be zealous for the truth it should never come at the expense of love.
What makes it so hard to lovingly disagree or be zealous and loving at the same time?