The story is told of a woman who cooked wonderful hams for her family. When she cooked a ham, the first thing that she did was cut off one end of the ham and throw it away. Presently it came to pass that someone questioned her about why she always cut the end of her ham off when preparing it. This person was obviously not content with just enjoying good ham, but was probably documenting the mysteries of the universe, one of which was why cutting off the end of a ham prior to cooking would make better tasting ham.
The woman replied that she cut off the end because her mother had always done so. Becoming curious herself, she asked her mother why she cut the end of her hams off before cooking.
The mother replied that she did so because her mother had always done so. They went to the grandmother and asked her why she cut the end of her hams off before cooking them. What was the secret of culinary excellence wrapped up in this ritual? The grandmother replied that she had a short baking pan and that she cut the end of the ham off because that was the only way it would fit in the pan.
The tradition of cutting off the end of the ham by the daughter and granddaughter added nothing to the wonderful flavor of their meals. Rather it was just a waste of another delicious sandwich or two.
Jesus gave the apostle John the instruction to send letters to seven churches in the first century. These churches which are churches that belong to Jesus because He bought them with His own blood were both commended for the things they were doing right, and criticized for the things they were doing wrong.
The first church that had a letter sent to it was the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7). This church with a rich history was commended by Jesus for the many things that they were doing right and well. They worked hard. They were still laboring patiently after 40 years of expecting Jesus to return at any minute. They could not bear evil people. They knew this was Jesus church and should be holy because He is holy. They tested all that taught there and revealed any that were false teachers. Finally, they were commended again for their perseverance. They were still doing all these good things faithfully just as they always had.
Jesus just had one criticism. He told them, “you have left your first love.” They were still doing good things. They had just lost sight of the reason they were to be doing them. They had forgotten what it was like when they first saw that Jesus was the only begotten Son of God, the Creator of the universe, and yet He loved them so much that He offered His body as a sacrifice for their sin. He became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
What otherworldly love He showered on them. Was it any wonder that they joyfully gave themselves into His service out of love for Him? Can you imagine any other response possible if you really behold the unbelievable love that God has bestowed on us?
Their service continued until the present. The reason and motivation for the service had not. Jesus said that this was unacceptable! Unless they remembered that first reason of love, repented, and started doing it for the right reason again, He warned them that they would cease to exist as a church.
Jesus is more interested in our love than any other thing. If we love Him the right actions will follow naturally. Is your love for Jesus such that you are joyfully serving Him, or are you just going through the motions because that is what you and others have always done?