Enduring, But Eroding
By Anthony Casperson
In the second season of the Teen Titans cartoon show from the early 2000s, there’s an episode revolving around the super hero team’s strong guy, Cyborg, called “Only Human.” Early in the episode, we see Cyborg trying to exceed his limits. He desires to endure more strain, push himself physically, like he used to be able to when he was fully human. But it appears that the robot part of him is incapable of doing this.
As the story proceeds, an enemy named Atlas shows up. He’s an ultra powerful robot who challenges Cyborg to a fight in order to prove the hero is lesser for being part human. The brawl ensues, but once Cyborg’s tech reads that it’s at 100%, he fails. And Atlas launches the hero far away. Following that, the villain handily defeats the rest of the team, taking them prisoner.
Desiring to free his friends, Cyborg finds Atlas’s lair and challenges the robot to another fight. It doesn’t go well for the hero, as this occasion ends similarly to the previous one. Though, Cyborg has to walk away with his proverbial tail between his legs.
Alone and feeling like a failure, the hero realizes that it’ll take more than his robot half to defeat Atlas. It’ll take his human half. The part that once was all he was. The original life.
He charges toward the villain again. And as another battle transpires, that meter once again reaches 100%. But then it rises. 110%. 120%. 130%. And Cyborg defeats the villain.
It was only in returning to embrace what he originally was, who he was, that Cyborg was able to endure well the situation against him.
This concept of returning to the first, of acting similarly to how we once did, in order to endure and find victory is the overarching idea of Jesus’ words to the church in Ephesus as recorded in Revelation 2:1-8. The first of seven churches as we continue the series called, “Summer Revelation.”
Jesus reminds this church of his image as one who holds the 7 stars (or angels watching over the cities) and walks among the 7 golden lampstands (the churches). He is the being of immense cosmic power who stands near his creation. Right there alongside them in everything they do.
It’s important for them to understand this because they’ve been dealing with a lot of animosity from those who preach a false gospel. Time and again they’ve had to endure the lies by combating it with truth. And it might seem like Jesus is far from them because the truth seems so weak amid the deluge of lies.
Their Savior commends their endurance through the difficulty. But all of the fighting has caused them to lose their first love, their “human part.” The ecstatic joy of true life. The amazing realization of what it means to have joined with the God of the universe in such an intimate relationship.
Fighting for doctrinal purity is a commendable thing. Something that we should do. But it should never be divorced from the intimacy of living with the imminent God of the universe. And so, Jesus calls them to repent by remembering the things they did at first and do them.
Don’t endure only to find you’ve eroded away. Lost what is of most importance. Because as we move further from what it means to be in a relationship with Jesus, we come to realize that life has left us behind. The lampstand might just be moved from its position as well.
One interesting thing to think about when it comes to Ephesus and erosion is that the city itself was in a similar place at the time of John’s writing. The once-prominent port city had a problem with silt buildup. Loose and undesired dirt began to clog its original use. And the business that once flowed easily slowly eroded away, along with its prominence.
The people of Ephesus understood what it was to have their first self erode away. And now, at the time of John’s writing, the followers of Jesus in the city began to follow the same trajectory.
But victory was not fully lost.
Jesus promises them, and us, that those who stand victorious at the end of the fight will eat of the tree of life in paradise. The very tree which stood in Eden that would grant unending, undying, enduring, and un-eroded life.
We are not alone in the fight to combat lies concerning our Savior. He’s with us. Among us. And though we may endure the onslaught of lies, let us not lose sight of the one who makes it worth fighting for. Seek him. Hold onto the true Jesus. If we do, we won’t miss out on the abundant and enduring life he offers.
The church in Ephesus found themselves with eroding endurance. Let the words of Jesus to them cleanse out the silt that has begun to build in our first love. The original spiritual life that we followers of Jesus begin with is needed for the fight just as much as doctrinal purity. Both parts work together to make the person we were made to be.