We are loved, beyond measure, by the greatest force in the world, the Triune God. But how much do we really love Him? Jesus asks Peter this same question before He ascends to heaven, saying, “Peter, do you love me? (John 21:15-19) Song of Solomon 2:3-5 depicts a kind of love similar to the love of Christ. The Shulamite says, “Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down in his shade with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.”
In Revelation 2, we read some instructions given to the church at Ephesus. (See Revelation 2:1-7) While the Ephesian church was a model church outwardly, it had become addicted to order and service and in the process had lost its first love for Christ. John records Jesus’ revelation to him, saying, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” This teaches us that there is nothing more important in the spiritual life of an assembly than to love the Lord with our first love. This means that nothing else can come before or replace our first, whole-hearted love for the Lord Jesus. Jesus identifies the greatest commandment that God had previously given the Israelites in the giving of the Law as: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37) This means that no other love for family, for our spouse or children, or any of the things in life come before our love for Him.
Let us look at two examples of women in Scripture that portray the expression of a first love for Jesus. In Luke 7:36-50, we see the sinful woman, probably guilty of sexual sin, washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiping His feet with her hair. Jesus proclaims, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has washed my feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss my feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but this woman has anointed my feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” (Luke 7:44-47) This woman, despite her obvious sin, shows her first love towards Jesus by her humble service towards Him and her repentant heart, which weeps at the sight of a holy Savior.
The second example appears in John 12, when Mary performs a similar act of anointing Jesus’ feet with oil and wiping them with her hair. Jesus rebukes Judas’ criticism of using the expensive oil rather than trade it for money to be given to the poor. He says, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of my burial. For the poor you have with you always, but me you do not have always.” (John 12:7-8) Mary’s first love was evident in her willingness to use one of her most costly possessions for her Savior, who would not always be with them on the earth. Her first love honors him with her humble heart and sacrificial act.
Jesus identified Himself as both “the door” and “the way” to salvation and eternal life with Him. (See John 10:9 and 14:6) David, as he talked with Nathan, lamented in 1 Samuel 20:3, “There is but a step between me and eternal death.” Beloved, there is also but a step between eternal life and us. As we consider what our first love is, let us remember and reflect on the words of the hymn by Fanny Crosby, Only a Step: “Only a step to Jesus, then why not take it now? Come and thy sins confessing to Him thy Savior bow. Only a step to Jesus, oh why not come and say: ‘Gladly to Thee my Savior I give myself away.’”