Valentine Day is an annual commemoration held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions. For many people it is merely a time to exchange cards, and if a guy is especially smart he gets flowers for his girl or lady. The practice began in the 6th century and continues to this day. We hope everyone has a special Valentine’s Day.

But I want to do a different take on the celebration. I want to turn a secular celebration into a special gift to the One with whom we are suppose to have the most intimate relationship of all- Jesus.

I want each of us to ask this question “Is there any more powerful love to celebrate between intimate companions than that between God and myself?” Think about it- we are privileged to have an intimate relationship with the creator of all there is.  And what’s so crazy, it’s God who made this intimate relationship possible when He sent Jesus into our midst. Truly love came to town and to each of our houses on the day Jesus was conceived, born, and walked among us. This intimate relationship is all the more sweet when we realize we didn’t pursue this love- it pursued us in spite of our resistance. Doesn’t that just make the hair on the back of your head stand straight up?

When we decided to make “Love” the theme of this month’s On Track I did a search for “Love” in my database.  Guess what? I only found it referenced as a header in only four articles. I’m kind of ashamed of that.  Of course, those who know me know my gift of mercy is almost non-existent.  Still that’s no excuse. I need to work on my love gift. So I’m finding this article a bit challenging especially since I read in the Scriptures “Now abide faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.” So. Here we go.

When I think of love my mind immediately goes to John 3:16. So I searched for the very best version of the text.  Here are the ones that sort of spoke to me.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (New International version).

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life (The Message).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (King James).

Not being really content with any of the best translations, I dusted off my Greek lexicon and here is what I came up with……

“For in this way God loved the world: that he gave the unique and only son, so that anyone trusting in him would not perish, but have eternal life.”

I like this version better for one simple reason- “trusting” is a better word than “believes.” Belief implies too much of a one-time assent to some great truth.  God’s love is more than just a fact. I prefer “trusting” because it implies an on-going relationship in which we have to continually rely on God.

So we are back to the phrase I asked us to focus on in the beginning of this essay –“intimate companion.”  Jesus is our intimate companion on whom we trust for our eternity (I’ve always believed that eternity includes the here and now). That is probably the reason the early Christians were first referred to as “followers of the Way (Acts 19:9; 19:23; 22:4).” That’s also why Jesus said of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the Life (john 14:6).”  Jesus is our way of life just as much as our closest friend or spouse.  He is our “intimate companion” who we trust for our very existence.

But there is much, much more in this text.

The next thing that grabs me in this text is the “anyone.”  This love was not randomly given nor did it have an exclusive club who would receive it. This love was poured out to anyone who will trust and become an intimate companion.  That means you and me.

But wait- there’s more.

This love was poured out specifically to anyone who needs saving.   Church do you hear that? The primary object of God’s love is those who need saving- not those who have already heard.

Now we’re to the best definition of love to be found anywhere- Love is giving oneself on behalf of people we don’t know and who may even hate us.  Love is becoming a companion not only with the hurting but also with the Samaritan. 

Maybe we’re losing ground because we aren’t intimately in love with the world as God is and was when he sent Jesus to save us.  Perhaps we need to be the church before we try to transform the world.   Does the world know we are Christians by our love? Church do you hear that? Do you want to reach more people because you want an intimate relationship with them or because you need them to meet your budget or because you think it is something you should do? Maybe we need to examine our motives?

Now, what has this to do with Church Growth? Everything! God’s mission in Christ was one of love.  Because He so loved He gave us Jesus to rescue us. Then you read Jesus saying “As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” Jesus has sent us on a mission of love.

I still am captivated by the image of Jesus looking over Jerusalem and weeping for the city.  That’s love personified.  When was the last time your church wept for the city?

I’ve seen a lot of churches start contemporary worship services and wonder why it doesn’t pay off. Could it be that it’s because people don’t want a contemporary service- they want a place to be loved and acknowledged as being of worth in a contemporary setting?

God expects us to love the world just as He does, including the pagan or may I say it the Muslim bomber. Yes, even the person who hates us and wishes us dead is the object of our love.  Are we willing to consider them as a possible part of our intimate companions? Or how about Loughner- who killed six people including Congresswoman Gifford- can we include him in our circle of love?

Church who is the object of your love? Have you reached the point where you are a living example of a love that is best described as giving love to those who you don’t know or don’t like you, or maybe don’t even deserve it?

The Judds came out with a song that had the lyrics “give a little love.” Maybe it’s time to give a little love to our neighbor and our city.

Causes one to pause and question why we do things, doesn’t it?