In commenting on the letters of Revelation, Craig Koester has this to say about the Ephesians’ cooling love:
The problem seems to be that their opposition to false teaching has led to a loss of love for other believers (p. 269).
Could it be, that in ‘defending the truth’ these folks have alienated their siblings in Christ? That they gave so much time and energy to maintaining strict adherence to what was right that they had nothing left for what was good?
The questions are loaded, to be sure–and part of unpacking them requires clarity with respect to the terms (defending, truth, right, good) being used. But the idea Koester proposes is startling for its implications, largely because he is saying that the problem at Ephesus was not too much false teaching but rather too much judgment.
As someone who struggles with rushing to judgment, I get this. I understand how easy it is to look at or hear about a situation and reach a determination; with hindsight (and too much experience), I get how a desire for justice leads to a quickness to judge.
I wonder if part of this inclination stems from the ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ mantra–a phrase that appears to cover the waterfront. Trouble is, it expects that ‘sin’ can be easily discerned; it also opens space for hate to enter the picture (funny, what these sayings encourage…)–hate, which has a way of expanding to fill the frame, to the point that it can crowd God out. God, the One best suited to judge.
When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he commended their “faith in the Lord Jesus and love for all God’s people” (Eph 1:15). That juxtaposition of faith and love is interesting; it shows up again in 1 Corinthians 13, where this pair is joined by hope. Which makes me wonder if he’s saying what Jesus later calls attention to in Revelation’s letter–that if love is going to stay strong, it needs to be accompanied by faith and hope, rather than an urge to judge.