The love of Jesus functions on selflessness, sacrifice, and generosity. In Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul commissions believers to imitate Jesus’ example and walk in love. He says, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”
Love is more than something you feel; it is something you choose. But what if you don’t feel love for God or others? As our culture promotes feelings-driven love, believers must keep their eyes and hearts focused on Jesus’ example.
The Love of Jesus
Jesus’ definition of love is sacrifice. To imitate Christ and live sacrificially, we must know Him intimately and constantly communicate with Him. The Bible describes four Greek words for love, one of which is agape, which means divine and unconditional love. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” This is the ultimate example of God’s agape love toward His people.
As believers, we should love with agape love. However, our circumstances and feelings can easily influence our love for Jesus and others. That is what happened to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2. They forgot Jesus’ sacrificial example and left their first love.
How Do You Know You Have Left Your First Love?
Love is not something you lose. It’s something you leave. The church at Ephesus was a light burning bright with their love for Jesus. They refused to bow a knee to idolatry and kept a pure theology, but they started doing all the right things for the wrong reasons. They had lost their first love, and Jesus warned them in Revelation 2:4-5 that their light would soon die if they didn’t repent.
You know you’ve left your first love when you experience these things:
You’re driven more for knowledge about God than the knowledge of God.
If your study of theology does not lead to deeper intimacy spiritually, it is just academic and a wasted intellectual pursuit.
You love for the temporal more than the eternal.
Christians can fall into a trap where they love the people of God more than God Himself. This happens when we idolize relationships and replace God with them.
You make allowances for “small” sins in your life.
God does not want to share your attention with sin. He wants to be your only lover. Even “minor” sins distract you from His love and take your focus off the mission.
You’re going through the motions rather than truly living on a mission.
Relationships die because of neglect, and marriages primarily fail when two people choose to be alive. Distraction slowly brings destruction. Being distracted from the mission of living as a Christian will breed a life of disappointment and discontent.
What Do You Do When You’ve Left Your First Love?
You don’t simply serve that which you love; you love that which you serve! Love means dying to self to live for another. It is more than an emotion. It is something you put in motion. In Revelation, Jesus commands the Ephesian church to do three things to find the road back to love.
1. Remember where you were when you started.
We need to remember times when we were desperate for God in the early days of our relationship with Him. When we become selfish and self-centered, recalling the early days will help us realign our focus on Him.
2. Repent of anything you've loved more than your “first love.”
As you say yes to God, you will begin to say no to sin. Let Him work in your heart to reveal and replace your idols with Him.
3. Return and do the “first works” from when you love began.
To Jesus, the only definition of love is sacrifice. Love means dying to self to live for another. You may not feel love for God, but as you serve Him, read His Word, and talk to Him, the emotion of love will follow.
The Calling for Christians
You will only experience true love once you know the Author of love. As Christians, we should be living proof of a loving God to a watching world by imitating the love of Jesus.
1. Love selflessly.
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Jesus loved selflessly by pouring into others and serving them. We must die to our selfish spirit and live to put others’ needs above our own.
2. Love sacrificially.
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”—John 15:13
Jesus sacrificed His life for us. If we want to be imitators of the love of Jesus, we must be willing to lay down our lives for others, whether physically or metaphorically.
3. Love generously.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?”—Matthew 5:43-44, 46a
You love differently when you love God. Your mind is focused outwardly on the needs of others, and you are willing to share your time, talents, and resources to help them because that is what Jesus called you to do.
We are the light shining for Christ in our modern-day culture. One of our most potent ways to witness is how we love those around us. There is nothing wrong with you if you don’t feel love like you did when you first met Jesus. When you struggle to feel love, remind yourself of the love of Jesus and how He demonstrated it toward us. We must remember our calling to share the love of Jesus through our words and actions with the world around us.