One of the things that John chides the church for - one of the things he's upset about - is that the church has lost sight of her "first love." By this, he means her desire to worship and to glorify the Lord.
It's something that's too easy for us to lose sight of once human beings start coming into the church, and while the same is true of many churches today that was true of the church at Ephesus to which John wrote, the opposite is also true of many: they haven't lost sight of their first love. And overwhelmingly, the first love of the church has been to worship and to glorify the Lord.
Even churches that break away or that start anew, even churches that start out of hurt feelings and wounded souls, even churches who seem to have a foundation that rests on not being another church or on showing another church how it's done, even churches formed by the Christians who have left other churches...they are formed out of a firm, unwavering conviction about how the Lord should be worshiped and glorified.
In fact, almost every good fight, every good split, every good line drawn in the church has been over this one thing: someone doesn't think the Lord is being properly worshiped and glorified. And that says a lot about the hearts of the men and women who lead our churches and about who we are as communities of God.
It's not true in every case, of course. There have been stories of churches splitting over foolish things, like the color of the carpet in the sanctuary. These are sad, but true. But thankfully, they are few and far between.
And, of course, in the era of the mega-church-as-social-construct, we have a number of Christian communities whose first love is not the Lord, but rather, is programming. Or is structure. Or is the opportunity to provide certain social services that permit someone to live by his or her Christian values, but are not specifically worship-focused or particularly glorifying. These, we must call Christian communities, for they are, but we must not confuse them with the church.
The church is the community that worships and glorifies the Lord. This is her first love, and it always has been.
It's hard to remember this, particularly in an age when politics reigns supreme. When our churches seem to be arguing and fighting over every little thing, when we can't decide who should do what and when and how and inevitably, feelings get hurt and all that stuff about us loving one another? Yeah, that doesn't seem like it's happening.
So we must come back to John, to how he calls this church out for losing her love. Note that when John writes this letter to this church, he doesn't mince words. In fact, he's got a lot to say to them about how to be a better church. And it starts with reclaiming their first love - the Lord.
Here's to all the churches that never lost it.