Rachel doesn’t like Valentine’s Day.
She didn’t always object to it. In fact, she thought Valentine’s Day was romantic when she was a kid. She couldn’t wait to celebrate it with “someone special” in a picture-perfect, dreamy sort of way.
Then she grew up.
“As I got older, I felt lonely when I didn’t get the gifts and attention I learned to expect,” she says.
Social media, television and movies fed her growing expectations. Flowers and candy and cards, visions of romantic dinners by candlelight, the relentless advertising – it’s easy to understand how her hopes grew until they burst. Some guy stomped on her heart when she was 23, and her disappointment turned to bitterness.
I’m sure you know many Rachels. Perhaps you are one yourself.
More than a Valentine
When we planted our church in 2014, I met people in the neighborhood like Rachel. Jaded, cynical people looking for love. Some had been abused. Others divorced. All of them disappointed in love.
To them, Valentine’s Day is just another reminder of failed relationships and the absence of genuine love. Like Rachel, they did’t like the holiday either.
We talked to anyone who would listen. We’d tell them about the love of God, which changes everything. We captured the narrative and changed the story, explored what it means to exchange your life for His, and made the story about what God has done for us, not the changes we need to make for him. We put grace first, where it belongs.
As an adult child of an alcoholic, I have encountered many of the same obstacles as my new neighbors. My mother died an alcoholic when I was in high school. My father was absent for much of my childhood and that added yet another dimension to my dysfunctional identity.
When I heard Jesus explaining his role as the Good Shepherd of the sheep, I sat up and leaned in. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, ESV). I think abundant life is the longing of every heart.
A true love that changes everything
In our newly planted Send Network church, it became our passion to help people acquire a new, Gospel-shaped identity through faith in Jesus. Only this will give us victory over the feelings of inadequacy, failure, insecurity and lack of love. The gospel changes everything.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come,” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).
One by one, our neighbors and friends stepped across the line of faith and trusted in Jesus. They stepped into a new identity, a new family of God expressed through our local body of Christ.
They witnessed for themselves a love that was so authentic and tangible that it transformed everything. It was a love that gave a new, refreshed meaning and purpose to the life. It is a love we as believers rest in as we revel in the generosity of the Father’s love for us.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are” (1 John 3:1 NIV).
We are more than a valentine. We are wholly known and fully loved by the good and beautiful God who created us.
This is who we are
Eight years after the planting of our church, we continue to help people understand that adoption into the family of God also means they are:
- The salt of the earth (Matt 5:13)
- The light of the world (Matt 5:14)
- Children of God (Jn 1:12)
- Chosen and appointed by Jesus (Jn 15:16)
- Joint heirs with Jesus (Rom 8:17)
- Reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:18-19)
- God’s workmanship (Eph 2:10)
- Citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20; Eph 2:6)
- Hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3)
- One of God’s living stones (1 Pet 2:5)
- Part of God’s own possession (1 Pet 2:9-10)
This is who we are! This is the biblical identity of every born-again, blood-bought, Spirit-filled believer in Jesus Christ.
We are so much more than a valentine, right?
This is what the people coming to our churches need to hear because the messages they have heard until now are full of misinformation, fake news and made-in-China replacements for real love.
God knew the dilemma of our sin was such a deep personal moral disaster that it was not enough just to forgive us. He knew after our forgiveness and acceptance, we would need daily help. So, he came to live in us. He came to abide in us and make us his temple and now God’s Spirit dwells in us (1 Corinthians 3:16). “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV).
This awesomely beautiful, eternally satisfying, grace-saturated, gospel-infused life to which we have been introduced in Christ is the only life worth living.
This February, let’s major on the gospel story and rebrand Valentine’s Day!
Let’s invite God’s Spirit to fill our new churches with strong songs of salvation and joy. There’s nothing wrong with Valentine’s Day cards, red roses or chocolates, if that’s what you do. But make sure you also tell the old, old story again and again and again.
Jesus loves you. You are a new person. You are more than a Valentine.
Let’s major on the gospel story and rebrand Valentine’s Day.
Published February 8, 2022