“You have left your first love,” Jesus tells the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:4). That’s a serious charge, and if we said it, it would be quickly followed by denunciations and charges of apostasy. But Jesus also knows that the same people persevere, that they test false apostles, that they hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans (vv. 2-3, 6), all of which is commendable. Jesus is the judge of His church, but He is a discriminating judge.

And that pattern continues throughout nearly all the seven letters. Pergamum has had a martyr in its midst (2:13), but they need to deal with Balaam and his followers (v. 14). Thyatira has love, faith, service, and perseverance, but tolerates Jezebel (vv. 19-20). Sardis is dead (3:1), but even there there are some who walk with Jesus in white garments (3:4). Laodicea is lukewarm, but Jesus reproves them out of love. Only Smyrna and Philadelphia escape criticism. But in every case, the criticism discriminates.

In this as in everything, Jesus is to be followed: If the Lord of the church is a discriminating judge, out we not to do the same with one another?