EPHESUS: THE STEPS ON THE RETURN JOURNEY
Revelation 2:1—7 (contd)
IN Ephesus, something had gone wrong. The earnest toil was there; the gallant endurance was there; the faultless orthodoxy was there; but the love had gone. So the risen Christ makes his appeal, and it is for the three steps of the return journey.
(1) First, he says Remember. He is not here speaking to someone who has never been inside the church; he is speaking to those who are inside but have somehow lost the way. Memory can often be the first step on the way back. In the distant country, the prodigal son suddenly remembered his home (Luke 15:17).
The American writer O. Henry has a short story. There was a young boy who had been brought up in a village; and in the village school he had sat beside a village girl, innocent and sweet. The boy found his way to the city, fell into bad company and became an expert pickpocket. He was on the street one day; he had just picked a pocket–a neat job, well done–and he was pleased with himself. Suddenly he saw the girl he used to sit beside at school. She was still the same–innocent and sweet. She did not see him; he took care of that. But suddenly he remembered what he had been, and realized what he was. He leaned his burning head against the cool iron of a lamppost. ‘God,’ he said, ‘how I hate myself.’ Memory was offering him the way back.
William Cowper wrote:
Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and his word?
A verse like that may sound like nothing but tragedy and sorrow; but in fact it can be the first step of the way back, for the first step to putting things right is to realize that something has gone wrong.
(2) Second, he says Repent. When we discover that something has gone wrong, there is more than one possible reaction. We may feel that nothing can sustain its first brightness, and so accept what we consider inevitable. We may be filled with a feeling of resentment, and blame life instead of facing ourselves. We may decide that the old thrill is to be found along forbidden pathways and try to find spice for life in sin. But the risen Christ says: ‘Repent!’ Repentance is the admission that the fault is ours and the expression of sorrow that it is so. The prodigal’s reaction is: ‘I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him “Father, I have sinned”Â ’ (Luke 15:18). It is Saul’s cry of the heart when he realizes his folly: ‘I have been a fool, and have made a great mistake’ (1 Samuel 26:21). The hardest thing about repentance is the acceptance of personal responsibility for our failure, for once the responsibility is accepted the godly sorrow will surely follow.
(3) Third, he says Do. The sorrow of repentance is meant to drive people to two things. First, it is meant to drive them to fling themselves on the grace of God, saying only: ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ Second, it is meant to drive them to action in order to bring forth fruits meant for repentance. No one has truly repented if he or she does the same things again. The American Baptist, Harry Emerson Fosdick, said that the great truth of Christianity is that ‘no man need stay the way he is’. The proof of repentance is a changed life, a life changed by our effort in co-operation with the grace of God.
Barclay, W. (2004). The Revelation of John (3rd ed. fully rev. and updated., Vol. 1, pp. 72—74). Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press.