Response: a reaction to something
Responsibility: a duty or obligation to do or be something.
The words sound so similar, and yet there’s a profound difference between the two.
Think about it.
A sense of responsibility can come out of response. For example, I love my wife, so I choose to take responsibility for the dishes; that way she doesn’t have to worry about it. Response.
But here’s the thing. That sense of responsibility can continue long after the initial response has been forgotten: “Urgh, why do I always have to do the dishes, why can’t she do it for a change.” Responsibility.
I don’t resent doing the dishes really. Honestly.
In Revelation 2:1-7, Jesus addresses the Ephesian church. They’d been around for about 35 years by this point, and in their earlier days had been known for their love (Eph. 1:15-16). It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty epic. Where were things at now?
The passage tells us that the Ephesian church was working hard, bravely enduring persecution, and knew its theology well enough to root out false teachers and prophets.
Pause. That’s the dream in the 21st-century church! Isn’t it?
A hard-working, patiently enduring, studious and theologically minded, Bible-believing, false-teacher spotting church, proclaiming the name of Jesus.
It sounds incredible. It’s not so straightforward.
Verse 4: “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”
This is pivotal. They were doing all the right things, but they’d forgotten why. They’d lost their foundational motivation: Jesus, their first love.
Is Jesus your first love? Your priority? Or has doing church taken over? If you are a believer, Jesus was your priority at some point. He had to have been. Right?
In a world that is obsessed with doing, our first love commands us to put love first.
Our actions should be a response, not a responsibility.
The Ephesian church wasn’t wrong in its actions, but it was missing the big picture. A true, deep, foundational love for Jesus causes a response. We stop doing ministry out of responsibility and instead are moved to action in response to the wonderful Saviour we serve!
If you ever feel like doing this Christian life is an obligation, remind yourself of the Gospel. Of Jesus. Of His sacrifice on the cross and victory over death.
How could we do anything but respond to that incredible love?