You have left your first love. Revelation 2:4
Its very often the first things in our lives that shape our identity and the way we live our lives going forward. Our culture places great emphasis on first things…..we often think about or discuss with our peers … our first kiss or our first car. I’ve spent many hours with friends discussing the first holiday, our first job and so many other firsts. There are also lots of firsts that we don’t really want to remember, and some still have a negative impact on our lives. These first things can be such a poor foundation for our lives that so much of what we do, going forward seems to crumble. When we consider the first things that we appreciate, we find ourselves enthusiastic about nostalgia but when that first unwanted sexual encounter comes to mind or some other feared first we can find ourselves running from ourselves and everyone around us. Maybe we will need to drink just a bit more alcohol, barricade ourselves from others with intellectual arguments or try to isolate ourselves from those we love.
The impact of a wonderful first is a connection with others and community but the horror of that fearful first is a breakdown of relationship. That breakdown may not be complete, it can be just a hinderance and the crack in relationship that others can’t see because we try to hide it beneath a false identity.
First things are important and when I read the bible I find a constant call to remember my “first love”. The cry of the bible is actually made to all of us, that we all return to the first love, the One who loved us first and still does.
If your looking from the outside into the church you’ll probably see so many things that you assume are important about being a part of that community, but what’s often important to the people that are part of the community may not be so important to God. In that community you can find a set of ideas that will give you a common bond with others and in many cases exclude you from others who don’t think the way your group does. These differing ideas about God and Bible are not the “first things” and are no real basis for community. They are more of a covering that allows us to hide the reality of who we really are and the reality of the “us” we are trying to hide.
First things are important to God as they form the foundation of a relationship with Him. When we read the first chapters of Genesis we see that God wanted Adam and Eve to walk and talk with Him. That’s why he came to walk in the garden. He didn’t come with a clipboard to test the couples work in the garden but to talk and have relationship. The couple had a choice to maintain that first love with access to the tree of life or set that love aside for the forbidden. The bite of that first forbidden fruit was an act of adultery and the consequences could only be fully experienced after the actual deed was done. That “first thing” was a relationship breaker as adultery so often is in our own relationships. The book of Genesis and all those other bible books tell us that the couples “first thing of adultery” was the foundation for problems in relationship thereafter. The beauty of the bible is that it gives us an account of an amazingly loving God who set out to do all that was needed to bring His creation and especially us back to the very first thing …. His Love. The bible tells us that God is love and that He is the “First” in all things and that in the end all will be summed up in Him.
The biggest obstacle to us finding “The first love” is all the other stuff that we search for and then focus on, that comes after. These things maybe good in themselves but they are not the foundation for a relationship with God. We can concentrate on attending a church meeting, reading the bible, attempting to obey all the rules and so many other good and worthy things but in doing so we miss the “first thing” of a simple and loving relationship with Him. Before everything else God wants to walk and talk with you, it’s the first thing of the Garden of Eden and the “first thing” He has been working to restore from the beginning of the first couple’s failure.
I’ve spent years studying the bible and reading hundreds of books on the subject, there was a time when friends would laugh and say, “Mark has a book on that”. The focus on study was good but not the thing that was first and perfect.
Over the past year I have been reading the works of Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon (commonly known as Madame Guyon) she was imprisoned from 1695 to 1703 after publishing the book, A Short and Very Easy Method of Prayer. Her writings have no depth of theological teaching in the modern sense but have a real depth of focus on the first thing being the love of God and communion with Him.
At the moment I don’t attend a meeting on a Sunday and this has been something that has been outside of my control. Yet it’s been a time for me to consider and search for that “first love” which I remember was so powerful and releasing when I first met Jesus. Those other things that followed in those early days have been set aside and I am effectively stripped of everything but Him. My books are still on the bookshelf, but my focus is on talking with Him and walking a walk of love and friendship. This requires no great intellect or special skills and it within the reach of everyone.
Adultery is taking the love that belonged to someone else and giving it to other things and maybe I’ve been adulterous for too long. Adultery is usually done in secret and away from the one who was our first love. Just like Adam and Eve who hid themselves in shame, our damaged and distorted lives often cause us to hide and then the simple act of talking with our first love becomes near impossible. Jesus spent His life on earth talking and walking, bring people back into relationship with God and ultimately dying to heal all the terrible “first things” that for many, continue to prevent a relationship with Him. Going forward it becomes difficult to commit adultery when you are always walking and talking to the One who you pledged to love. In our own earthly relationships, we hear the cry of one party “if only they would talk to me” and again “we simply don’t communicate anymore”.
The foundation or first thing of a relationship with God is to commune with Him…….. it involves talking and being willing to walk with Him in Love. Anything else is like trying to put up an Ikea flat pack working backwards through the instructions, frustrating and impossible. If I’ve ever presented those backwards instructions to others in an attempt to conform them to my theology …. Forgive me. Seek the foundation of the “First Thing” – that we would seek God, even that we might reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist and He waits for us to seek Him. He waits for us to talk with Him.