November 26, 2007 Ration
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
An artist can have a season of genuine love for the Lord. A genuine God-fearing love that seeks and enjoys the communion had with the Lord; a genuine love of and in the Lord that is uniquely known through exercising those particular skills or abilities that the Lord has endowed to them as He created them; a genuine love for justice and mercy and the proclaiming of these themes as they have seen God to be the Definer of both justice and mercy. But like the church in Ephesus, while their current works are full of perseverance and endurance, even opposing those who are evil, and testing those who claim to love God, they themselves have left off loving God. Artist, are you an Ephesian today? Have you left off loving God, your first love, for artistically articulating what you have learned of God, your second? Has your second become your first? Beware....
To the artist who conquers, who does not stray from loving God, who does not leave off loving God for fighting for God in the name of God, but rather, as a result of loving God, leaves a trail and residue of that consummated love of God; to this artist, God will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God (Rev. 2:7).
Artist, leave not God, your first love! Your artistic battle and commission in the Lord cannot be fought and conquered apart from the Lord. The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it ABIDES in the Vine. To abide means that you have not left off. The branch can be of the right bark and leaf, and even have a young bud or two, but when a branch leaves off the abiding love of the Vine's communal sap, he will only wither away, never to eat of the Vine's fruit in Paradise.
Our first perseverance must not be the perfection of our skills. Our first endurance must not be the expansion of our artistic vocabulary. Our first perseverance must not be the proclamation and defense of the truths of God. Our first endurance must not be the construction of the chassis from which we will work. Our first perseverance must not be the garnering of an audience to proclaim before. All of these firsts will find us in opposition to God where they are not the natural effect and result of a present, consummating love we have first with God.
Our first endurance must be to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind. This is the great and first commandment, Jesus says. And then He continues, And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:38-39). Notice that loving your neighbor is second to loving your God. There are reasons for this. How can we truly and most fully love our neighbor if we do not give them the love of God? How can we give them the love of God if we do not have a current love of God in the pocket of our heart to give them? But the reason that most affects the state of our soul is that where we put the second commandment in front of the first commandment, an idol is quietly, and probably unknowingly, being erected, which finds us guilty of neglecting the first commandment. This inversion, God will justly have against us!
Artists, have ears to hear what the Spirit says to the church in Ephesus while you live life in the arts. Where you have abandoned God your first love, repent. The Lord is able and ready to forgive you. Remember God. Love God. Enjoy God. Enjoy loving God. Enjoy loving God among others. God has endowed you with skill in artistic expression for such purposes. So put on perseverance, because the temptation to stray from your first love must be conquered! And know this, it will only be slain with a present love of God.
© 2007 The Gaius Project