Right Theology and Cold Hearts. Part 1, Gaius Columbus asks some questions
Some time ago, one of us asked the question: What are we to do when we find ourselves going cold spiritually? I don’t think we ever completely addressed this important query. Recently, however, this statement came back to as I read a commentary on the book of Revelations titled “Breaking the code: understanding the book of revelation” by the theologian Bruce M. Metzger. It is a short book and very good; I recommend it. In this book, reference is made to the well known charge that Christ addresses to the Church at Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2:
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lamp stands: 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. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 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. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Similarly in Mathew 24 v 12, Christ says, Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.
What do these scriptures mean? Specifically, what does it mean to say one’s love has grown cold? Even more importantly, for me, is the obvious corollary: how do we fix this problem? What is the remedy? The passage from Revelations tells us what is wrong but only indirectly what to do about it, “Repent and do the things you did at first”. What are these things that they did first?
We know what these things were not, because the passage indicates that these Ephesian brothers/sisters had continued to have the right theology, strong perseverance, and good work ethic. What then had they lost? By love, is the Lord asking them (and us) to have more of an emotional response to Him, to one another, or is He talking about something else? Is the malaise we occasionally feel, included? Or is it something else, something deeper or even something more straightforward? Incidentally, to many readers, the preamble in I Corinthians 13 to Paul’s extremely popular text on demonstrating love in our relationships with one another is equally perplexing.
When Paul states in verse 3, If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing, what is he saying? For an outside observer, it appears glaringly obvious that one who surrenders his body to the flames or gives all he possesses to the poor is showing love. Indeed is this not what James teaches when he writes about “practical” Christian love? Apparently not, if we accept that these letters although written by different apostles have coherence, because Paul does not equate these acts with love. Instead, his passage appears to indicate that it is possible to sacrifice oneself and have no love. It is possible to give all one possesses and not have love. So how about the converse?
Is it possible to have love, yet refuse to surrender one’s body to the flames? Is it possible to have love, yet refuse to give to the poor?I guess what I am asking, Brothers, is what does it mean to love Christ, if it does not mean ensuring one has right theology, or that one perseveres in the face of persecution for His name’s sake, or that one does not grow weary, or that one is careful not to tolerate of the acts/teachings of wicked men, or that one gives to the poor, and hates the things He hates (in the case of the Ephesians, the practices of the Nicolaitans)? This is an important question that we should ponder over. The Lord felt strongly enough about this issue that He called the Ephesians to repent. – Gaius Columbus