Reflecting on Jesus’s commendation and rebuke of the loveless church at Ephesus, in Revelation 2:1-7, John Crotts gently admonishes all of us in his little book, Graciousness: Tempering Truth with Love.
Churches are the Lord’s lights shining out in the dark world. Jesus is saying it would be better to have no church in the massive, thriving city of Ephesus than to have an unloving church, even if it preaches the truth and opposes people who oppose the truth. Being gracious in the way we speak truth to others forms a vital part of what Jesus requires from His people. We might think Jesus would be accommodating to a church committed to so many right things. He is not. He says that He is going to personally come and snuff out their candle. Their church would be eliminated; it would not shine out in Ephesus any longer. Speaking God’s truth in a loving and gracious way is that important.
A beautiful new sports car parked in front of a crowded restaurant grabs the attention of many people who eat there or walk anywhere close to it. Silent admiration and longings bubble up into all kinds of excited exclamations. Many spectators would be tempted to compare the beautiful machine before them to their adequate but less impressive vehicle. But what if the hood of the sports car suddenly opened up to reveal an empty shell? The engine and everything else are completely absent. After the initial surprise wears off, spectators might make a different comparison between the sports car that cannot move without a tow truck and their own vehicles, but this time with completely different results. Without the guts of the sports car, it cannot even be called a car. In the same way, a church may look like a church on the surface, even being passionately committed to God’s truth, but if it has no love for people, it cannot rightly be called a church. The Lord Jesus said love is such a vital part of a church that He would eliminate such loveless churches from existence if they do not repent.
These are sobering thoughts for each of us to ponder. Let’s ask ourselves some questions:
- Is my love for others in balanced proportion to my passion for biblical truth?
- Is the exterior of my Christian life in order, while my life “under the hood” is empty and powerless?
- Is my local church family growing in love because I am part of it?
- Is my heart humble and willing to grow in love, while at the same time not compromise true doctrine?
- If Jesus were to visit my church, would He rebuke me and others for lovelessness?
- Or would Jesus commend us for having the kind of love that shows the power and hope of the gospel, and is a witness of God’s grace?
Remember what Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).