Intentional Love

We look down our noses at people who show up at a drug store or grocery store on Valentine’s Day to buy a gift for their loved one. Why? Because it shows a lack of preparation and a lack of concern. If you are the type who likes to hear stories about big elaborate gifts, amazing proposals or romantic surprises I would guess that what you appreciate most is not actually the gift or the event but the sacrifice required to make those things happen. There is the sacrifice of spending money, spending time, and of course thought and planning. We love the idea of time spent in planning and preparation because we assume this is fueled by deep and selfless love. While that is a nice idea, it is not always the case. There are some people who make things elaborate for their significant other because wrath will ensue if expectations are not met. Also, with social media, if you know that whatever you do is going to get posted online for the world to see, you’re probably going to try a little harder just so you wont look bad compared to your friends. Finally, sometimes elaborate gifts can make the person who receives them feel indebted and eventually you will get in proportion to what you gave. Ultimately, we are imperfect people trying to express an imperfect love. Yet there is one relationship and one gift where preparation and planning is directly proportionate to deep and selfless love. Paul explains to us in the book of Ephesians that God chose His children before the creation of the world in love. To take that a step further, God planned to sacrifice Jesus on our behalf before creating the world, before Adam and Eve disobeyed and before our sin problem began because He knew what was going to happen. His perfect gift to us is the gift of salvation and this gift came with the sacrifice of His only and faultless Son. The following passage is very meaningful to me. It’s one of those passages that actually makes me emotional when I spend time thinking about it.

I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. John 10:14-16

Jesus was a Jew, and for a Jew there are two types of people in the world. First, as you would guess, there are the Jews. This is a nation of people descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob singled out by God Himself as His chosen people. He promised to be with them for eternity and although He has allowed them to suffer consequences for their sin, He promised them that He would ultimately save them and make them the most powerful nation in the world. Then there is everyone else who is not a Jew, and they were called Gentiles. I am a Gentile and chances are you are too. Although Old Testament prophecy hinted that the Gentile nations would be blessed through the Jewish nation, they were by no means the treasure that the Jewish nation was in God’s eyes.

In the passage I referenced above, Jesus was speaking of Himself. He is the good shepherd and His sheep is the Jewish nation. To be more specific, they are members of the Jewish nation who accept Him as their Savior. Then He goes on to say, and other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd. The other sheep in this passage are people from the Gentile nations. What strikes me in these words is not only His intention to offer salvation to the Gentile nations but He used the word must. He says, them also I must bring. As a human being, limited in resources, time and abilities, there are a lot of things I must do. I must eat, I must drink, and I must sleep. My life literally stops if I don’t do those things. But what about Jesus? Jesus is self sufficient, He is eternal and He is omniscient. Yet He said He must bring the other sheep into the fold. It’s not that they had earned it or that they could pay Him back for it. His desire to do this was driven solely by His love for them. More specifically He was driven by His love for me, Sherry Thomas, and His love for you, *insert your name here.* I have been on the outside more times than I would like to admit. I have felt unloved and unwanted. I have also felt used and used up. However, these verses so clearly remind me that God’s plan was always for me to be His child and to be in His family. This same reminder applies to you if you have accepted His gift.

I don’t think Valentine’s Day is a bad holiday but I don’t know that it is a particularly useful one. Real love must be expressed constantly and continuously; if it only manifests itself on a scheduled day once a year it’s probably not real love. Clearly, God was specific and intentional in His love for you. What about your love for God? Is your love for God expressed a few times a year or are you continuously showing it to Him through prayer, reading His Word and loving His people? What are your musts when it comes to God?

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