Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands:

“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what 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. Yet this is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.

—Revelation 2:1-7

We often laud critical thinking abilities, but they do have a dark side. When we are convinced that “we’re” right and “they’re” wrong, bad things can happen. People are ridiculed. Relationships have litmus tests. Sidewalks are scattered with eggshells. Ostracism becomes a sport, and words become weapons rather than gifts. And something dangerous happens. In pursuing the art of being right, we lose our love.

Could that be what happened to the church at Ephesus? They were uncompromising, a bastion of doctrinal purity. There was no sloppy thinking or false preaching for them. They were precise, rigorous, and right. And Jesus says, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (v. 4).

Do you know any Christians who have drifted in this direction? They would never mess up an explanation of the Trinity or holiness, but they’re three quarts low on love. They argue in black and white but don’t care in flesh and blood. They dispense doctrine like an ATM but fail to converse in the language of compassion. They are dogmatically correct about creation, politics, and homosexuality but write you off their love list if you disagree. They talk further than they’re willing to live.

I can almost hear a new paraphrase of 1 Cor. 13:

If I think like Barth and Brunner but have not love,
If I fight social evil with tenacity but have not love,
If I write Second Coming thrillers with flair but have not love,
If I finance God’s work to the tune of millions but have not love,
If I enter the political arena with the vigor of Hillary Clinton but have not love,
If I raise my children with the disciplinary resolve of Attila the Hun but have not love,
If I preach with the eloquence and conviction of Bill Hybels but have not love,
If I can argue faith with the best of them but have not love,
then I am not like Jesus.

The thing that identifies us as His followers is our love for each other. After 41 years of marriage, I am ready to declare that love will lead you to do things you never thought you would do. The inward grip of being loved by another is compelling. When the love of God compels us, we do radical things—like teach a kindergarten class, visit a jail, give a car to a poor person, cross a cultural barrier, forgive an enemy, go last, say thanks, or tell the truth.

John addressed this letter to the church in Ephesus, but he could just as certainly have sent it to all critical-thinking Christians everywhere.

Today’s post is an excerpt from my book, Answers for Chicken Little: A No-Nonsense Look at the Book of Revelation.

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