This morning I read My Utmost for His Highest as I do every morning. “Beware of anything that competes with your loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of true devotion to Jesus is the service we do for Him.”It occurred to me that for the first time in nearly a decade, I was reading those words while not being in paid ministry. When your full-time job is sharing Jesus, it can be a real temptation to put service ahead of Jesus. To read the Bible looking only for your next lesson. To lose the joy and yes, the love, while trying to bring light into darkness.
Now that my paid job is not ministry, my ‘greatest competitor’ has shifted. But, the ‘beware’ is still needed. There is still much that competes for my affection and true devotion.“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love…” The wandering is not exclusive to one vocation or another. To one country or set of circumstances. It’s not even a ‘modern’ problem that the church in the ‘good old days’ didn’t face.
Nearly 2000 years ago the church in Ephesus was praised for all its hard work, for its tireless holding onto the truth. “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4).It all comes back to that first love. The love given to us by God, intended to be given back to Him as our best offering.
First love has a component of joy, butterflies in the stomach, giddiness. That rush of emotion just thinking about the other. Some people want to hold onto it in that stage. They flit from relationship to relationship when it gets ‘routine’ or boring.
I think we sometimes feel that, over time, our relationship with Jesus is destined to lose that early passion and settle into the ‘Oh hey, it’s you’ of an old married couple. If that’s all it becomes, no wonder we start to look for thrills elsewhere.As the Trinity, God has been in perfect communion for all eternity. Father, Son, Holy Spirit, each giving love and glory to the others. I think we sometimes picture the Trinity as this ethereal floating light. Our minds cannot comprehend Three-in-One and so we leave it in the abstract.
But, love in the abstract isn’t really love. The love we see demonstrated in the Bible is dynamic. It is active and engaged. It sings plants and planets into existence. It breathes life into mud. It bursts out in pulsating, radiant beauty. It is joyous and dancing, and yes, passionate.Love also becomes angry and jealous when its beloved seeks another lover. It is righteous and just, unable to tolerate wickedness and sin. Love weeps and bleeds. Love even dies.
This is the love we are invited into. Love that is sometimes glorious, sometimes inconvenient and even painful. But, love that always points back to the perfect love of God.Whether or not I am in ‘formal’ ministry, I know that keeping my eyes fixed on my first love is the only way to safeguard against the baubles and bling of false idols like comfort and doing my own thing.
Because this ‘first love’ is not the pale, broken version we humans manage to achieve. Infused with the Holy Spirit, this love is powered by the eons’ strong love of God. Creative, wonderful, all-encompassing, love.I want to learn to love with this ‘Trinity’ love. Love that seeks the glory and good of the other, while graciously accepting the same. Love that sacrifices all, confident that I will be filled again.
“We love because God first loved us” (I John 4:19). That is ‘first love’. Love that created the world, love that created a way back to Himself after that same world rejected Him. Love that will bring us Home, to experience first love, for all eternity.