This past Lord's Day, I visited Mosaic Cincinnati as my wife sang in the band during the service. The pastor, as is typical in churches of this sort, preached topically (though exegetically at times) on a theme especially pertinent to fathers: discipline. It was a good word, and timely for a culture that not only belittles fatherhood, but in which fathers themselves eschew their fatherly responsibilities. At one point, the issue of unity among parents, husband and wife, was unpacked. It got me thinking about unity in marriages in general, about first loves, about long marriages, and about the church (because, unlike many evangelical churches, I am a "churchy" guy. Or, put differently, "He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the church for his mother.").
If your spouse were to confess to you that he/she feels as though you're competing for his or her love with . . . [fill in the blank], how would you respond? "That's just in your imagination"? Or, seeing some truth in it, would you then scroll through in your mind all the various ways that your spouse deserves such treatment? Perhaps you'd step back and think critically and deeply about your actions and strive to make sure that your spouse knew that he or she were first in line for your love?
That last response would make the most sense in a relationship of mutual love and respect. In this, I'm reminded of the letter Christ Jesus had John the Elder send to the church of Ephesus (Rev. 2:1–7).
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:On the one hand, it's unfortunate that we don't know how these letters were received in those various churches back then. It'd be interesting to know—and it would satiate some serious historical curiosity. On the other hand, it's probably better that we don't know how they responded: each church had before them a call to action. And each church's call was free, contingent, and integral to their destiny (blessing or judgment, as described in the letter itself).
This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands. I know what you have done; I know how hard you have worked and how patient you have been. I know that you cannot tolerate evil people and that you have tested those who say they are apostles but are not, and have found out that they are liars. You are patient, you have suffered for my sake, and you have not given up. But this is what I have against you: you do not love me now as you did at first. Think how far you have fallen! Turn from your sins and do what you did at first. If you don't turn from your sins, I will come to you and take your lampstand from its place. But this is what you have in your favor: you hate what the Nicolaitans do, as much as I do.
If you have ears, then, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches!
To those who win the victory I will give the right to eat the fruit of the tree of life that grows in the Garden of God.
Like many commentators note, the entire book of Revelation was a circular letter, to make its rounds to the seven churches listed in chapters 2–3. Each of these letters serve as introductions to Revelation, and "in a sense the whole book is about the way the Christians of the seven churches may, by being victorious within the specific situations of their own churches, enter the new Jerusalem" (Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 14). The same holds true for us.
So, then, the call to respond with repentance—undivided love to Christ—faces us all, just as poignantly and jarring as it would be if expressed to our face by the one whom we chose to devote our lives with a wedding vow.