…I’ll post if I want to…
When you read Revelation slowly, you start to notice some stuff.
Like the seven lampstands. The KJV calls them candlesticks. Either way, their purpose is to hold light. To raise it up high enough to cut through the cold, dark night. And isn’t that exactly what a church ought to do – raise Jesus up high enough to cut through the cold, dark night?
Jesus walked among the lampstands. He was the Light in them and He was the Maintenance Man walking among them. Each lampstand was evaluated. Each received a performance report.
And, I noticed, Jesus used the same technique I used to teach to the volunteer counselors at the crisis pregnancy center: the critical feedback sandwich. Basically, it’s a slab of criticism sandwiched between a slice of commendation and a slice of encouragement. Because criticism is a whole lot easier to swallow if you use the right bread.
Jesus told the first church that He saw them. He saw their hard work and perseverance. He saw their discernment and loyalty to the Truth. Good job Ephesians!
BUT. They were taking their discernment a little, no a lot, too far. They were loving their doctrine more than they were loving people, more than they were loving God.
I know exactly what He meant. Several years ago, as I was preparing to speak to a group of middle school students, I mentioned to the youth pastor that I might show Rob Bell’s short video entitled, Fire.
“I wouldn’t show that video here,” he said. “They hate Rob Bell here. In fact, they have a whole committee actively devoted to rooting out heresy.”
Whoa! Hate? This was back when Rob Bell was just starting to fall out of favor with the church at large because he said he doesn’t believe in a literal hell. I don’t agree with Rob, but I don’t hate him. And I don’t think being wrong about one thing negates every true and right thing a person has ever written or said. But they hated him. And they were determined to swiftly and completely cut him out – like a cancer – before he infected everyone.
Except that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. And Jesus suffered life and death on earth for PEOPLE, not doctrine. Even Paul – that great contender for the faith – instructed us to speak the truth in love. Gentle restoration, my friends, gentle.
So, yes, I would say the letter to the Ephesians was also a letter to that committee. And to the guy whose post I read the other day while I was sitting in the waiting room. He was mocking Priscilla Shirer because she hears directly from God and he doesn’t. But that might be another post for another day.
The point is, if your church is working so hard to perfectly dot your doctrinal “i” and perfectly cross your doctrinal “t” that it is forgetting to love, then your church is missing the point of being a lampstand. And it will die. Because Jesus does not make idle threats.
He warned the church in Ephesus, “Consider how far 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.”
According to my Bible study notes, there is now hardly a trace of the Christian church in this region. The lampstand at Ephesus has been removed, the church is gone and the city is in ruins.
Jesus won’t stay in a loveless marriage.
The dim glow of doctrine is not nearly bright enough to illuminate anyone’s path, cut through their darkness or warm their way. In the end it will only cause them to stumble.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m not hating on doctrine here. It just shouldn’t be your first love, your everything. And we all know that sometimes it is.
If you are quoting Paul a whole lot more often than you are quoting Jesus, then you need ears to hear.
If you and/or church lacks love, get it back. Do the things you did when your wick was first lit, back before you got all tied up in the straightjacket of legalism. Quick, before the Holy Spirit leaves the building.
“Love one another,” Jesus said. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Oh and look! “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
The tree of life. The one in Eden from which we’ve been banned. The way to which is guarded by cherubim and a flaming, flashing sword.
We’re gonna’ get to eat from it again.
When we love again.
©2015, Light & life