The first church John is directed to write to is the church at Ephesus. The beginning of the letter seems wonderful. God has seen their hard work. He likes that they do not tolerate evil. These are what one would call "good people." They stand up for their beliefs. They follow the rules and insist on those within the church having right doctrine and proper actions.
This letter reminds me of a rule I follow when editing someone else's writing. Always talk about what you like before pointing out areas that need improvement. Soften the blow, so to speak. The people of Ephesus are "good" people, but they are missing the point. John is to write, "But you walked away from your first love—why? What's going on with you, anyway? Do you have any idea how far you've fallen? A Lucifer fall!" WOW! A Lucifer fall... that is pretty heavy stuff. So, they weren't always this way. They, at one time, were not only hard workers who knew right from wrong and behaved accordingly, but also they used to be in love with Christ. Somewhere along the line, the heart left their actions. And what use are actions without pure motive?
For me, this is a reminder to run away from legalism. Not that it isn't important to do the right thing. It is very important. God praised Ephesus for how they hated evil and kept their people from it. Hard work is important. Your hard work furthers the kingdom. It is needed. But if you do not love God, eventually, the hard work will wear you down. If you didn't love your husband and continue in an intimate relationship with him, you would get pretty sick of the housework and the bills and the family gatherings. You would think, 'What is the point?'
And that is God's letter to Ephesus, in my own words. Come on Church, what is the point? You do good and act right, but you don't love me at all. I am losing you.
Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing
through the churches. I'm about to call each conqueror to dinner. I'm spreading
a banquet of Tree-of-Life fruit, a supper plucked from God's orchard. (Rev