I have this against you,

15-12-2011 10:12 AM

By Pope Shenouda III

(Rev 2: 4)


   Examples of people who left their first love:
   A strange example indeed is Solomon the Wise. These words of St. Paul the Apostle may apply to him: “whom I told you often and now tell you even weeping.” (Phil 3: 18) Solomon started with wonderful love for God, and God appeared twice to him, spoke to him face to face, gave him the gift of wisdom, granted him royal majesty, and permitted him to build His own temple which He did not permit his father David to do. But, in spite of all this, “his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.” (1 Kgs 11: 4) He deviated from God and lost his first love because of his love for women and because of the luxury he enjoyed, for whatever his eyes desired he did not keep from them (Eccl 2: 10). He became more occupied with pleasures than with God!

   The friends of Job and of David are examples of leaving their first love.
   When the three friends of Job saw him in his tribulation they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and “sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven.” Then they began to argue with him and hurt his feelings to the extent that he said to them, “Miserable comforters are you all!” (Job 2: 12; 16: 2)

   And most of David##s friends abandoned him when they saw the success of his son Absalom and joined him in his rebellion against his father. Some of them even criticized him, and others insulted him, forgetting that he was the anointed of the Lord in whom they had prided themselves in the past.

   That was not a sin of the tongue, but of the heart.
   It is a heart that left its love, and this appeared on the tongue, because out of the abundance of the heart the tongue speaks, like a person with a fever which appears as skin eruption. The same when a person blames his friend in a hurting way, it means that he has left his first love by which he was careful for his words and countenance.

   God blames His beloved children, but punishes His enemies.
   He reminds them of their sweet past with Him. He blames only those who can return to their first love. God cares about that love because He wants our heart before anything else or any practices. He blamed those who prayed while their hearts were far away, saying, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” (Mt 15: 8)

   He blames His children who abandon Him or do not know Him.
   He says, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the Lord has spoken: ##I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me.” (Isa 1: 2) And He blames His vineyard of which He took care, saying, “What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?” (Isa 5: 4)

   He blames the person who was fervent in love and ministry, persevered, endured and labored for His name##s sake and did not become weary, but afterwards left his first love and needed to know from where he had fallen and to repent (Rev 2: 3, 5).

   How strange it is that such a loving minister, an angel who is in the Lord##s right hand, falls and leaves his first love!!
   It is lesson for us to hold to God##s love and not slacken, lest we fall and hear the words of the Lord, “Remember from where you have fallen; repent.” (Rev 2: 5)

   How did that angel fall, though love never fails?
   He fell, but his love never failed!! He continued to be an angel, like Peter who fell in swearing and cursing and denial at the time of the Lord##s trial (Mt 26: 70- 74), yet when the Lord said to him after the resurrection, “Do you love Me?” he answered, saying, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” (Jn 21: 15- 17)

   It was an external fall, of the will, not of the heart.
   It was a fall from a high degree of love to a lower degree, not a complete fall, but if compared to the first love it will be a fall that needs repentance!! He was not a beginner in love, for he had experienced it, but love is not mere emotions. It needs to express itself practically, as St. John says, “Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 Jn 3: 18) Therefore the Lord reminds the angel of the church in Ephesus of this fact and that his works no more conform to the fervent love he had in the past which made him labor and not become weary.

   Love was clear in his powerful ministry to the Lord, but afterwards it lost its fervency and power.
   He continued, but not with the same love, like a priest newly ordained. In the first year he is a flame of fervent activity saying with St. Paul the Apostle, “Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?” (2 Cor 11: 29) “I have made myself servant to all, that I might win the more … I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some.” (1 Cor 9: 19, 22) But after some years his ministry will no more have the same spirit or wonderful zeal for the salvation of souls. His ministry seems as if has grown old, or walking on the way but with the help of a staff.

   His love to God, to the Kingdom, and to people has become tepid.
   He has become in danger to have his lamp stand removed quickly by the Lord from its place unless he does the first works (Rev 2: 5).

   What is said about the ministry may apply to repentance.
   At the beginning of repentance a person feels very sorry and contrite, not bearing the thought that he had grieved God##s Spirit he had received in the Holy Chrism Sacrament, and defiled God##s temple as if removing away the Spirit from his heart and cutting his communion with the Lord. Such holy sorrow was accompanied by tears and groaning day and night with deep feelings and words of regret for being unworthy, but now the tears have dried up and repentance became far away. Sometimes such a person may consider repentance a mere step to be left to other positive steps which his contrition led him to. He now ministers and many have become his disciples, but the words of contrition have become mere outward expression of humbleness without depth or conviction!

   The sinful woman who washed the Lord##s feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head had her sins forgiven, for she loved much (Lk 7).
   Simon the Pharisee on the other hand did not feel that he was a sinner like her, nor loved the Lord like her, nor had a contrite heart like her, nor wept like her, but rather judged her for her sins and judged the Lord Christ for allowing her to wash His feet with her tears. Therefore the Lord reminded him that he was a sinner like her, a debtor like her and both had nothing to repay with.

   A main reason for the lack of love is the lack of the feeling of one##s sin.
   “To whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” (Lk 7: 47) The meaning may be who thinks that little is forgiven him, and the worse if he thinks that he has no sin at all. That is why the apostle says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 1: 8)

   The worst still is when a person thinks that he has works of righteousness.
   The Pharisee stood boldly before God boasting of his virtues, saying, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers … I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess …” (Lk 18: 11) Indeed, how can God##s love enter a heart who remembers no sin forgiven him?!

   Reasons for leaving love:
   Preoccupation may easily bring a person away from God##s love.
   A person newly repenting will have a strong feeling of God##s love that forgave him and led him to repentance. And when he prays the Thanksgiving Prayer he will thank God more for accepting him in spite of all his filthiness, disobedience and falling, not remembering or counting for him his sins (Rom 4: 7, 8). His love for God continually increases and likes to sing the Lord##s praise in (Psalm 103).

   On the other hand, a person who thinks that he has served much and labored much for the Lord##s sake, as if doing favor for God by preparing His Kingdom and therefore he deserves much from Him, such a person will be like the elder son who thought his father depriving him of his rights that he deserved for his services. In his pride of heart and lack of love he said to his father, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time, and yet you never gave me a young goat that I might make merry with my friends.” (L 15: 29) God##s love will be a burden to one who has not a contrite heart, or one who is preoccupied with many things and finds no time for prayer. When can such a person speak with God in love? When will he have longing to Him like the thirsty land to water? When will he open his hart to God to fill it with love? This reminds us of the Lord##s words to Martha who complained that her sister sat at the Lord##s feet enjoying His words, “You are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part which will not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10: 41, 42)

   You may have spent all your past years in the ministry, but as an author once said, ##you have spent your life serving the Lord##s house, when then will you serve the Lord of the house?## You should not let the ministry hinder your talk with God, contemplation on His beautiful attributes, and sitting at His feet like Mary listening to His words and seeing wonders of His law. Serve but with love for God, for His Kingdom, and for people. Demas was an effective minister and helper to St. Paul the Apostle who once mentioned him before Luke the Evangelist (Gal 24), but when he left his first love and the love of the world replaced his love for God he was lost and St. Paul said with sorrow, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” (2 Tim 4: 10) Be on your guard then against the love of the world, for it is enmity to God (Jas 4) and as St. John said, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 Jn 2: 15, 16) In this case one will hear the Lord saying, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

   A person may leave his first love if his heart turns to another, as when a father abandons his love for his children or mistreats one of them because of his love for his second wife. That child will perhaps say to him even silently, “I have this against you. You have left your first love.”

   Another reason for leaving one##s first love is slander of defamation. One may leave one##s first love if he believes such slander without making sure, but doubting his beloved and hurting him. But a loving heart whose love never fails cannot bear a word against his beloved but defends him, and may find an excuse for him. Sometimes a person may leave his first love if the other party cannot realize his purposes or differs with him. The same happens with God, for many a time we leave our first love when we do not understand His wisdom behind the trials and tribulations which He permits that we undergo, whereas they may be for our good and benefit.

   Another reason is the diabolic wars if the heart weakens before them and submits to their pressures and temptations. However, a heart full of love can overcome. Even if the devil gives a vision or a dream, some thoughts or doubts, a person can refuse them or not believe them, for not every dream or vision is from God.           


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