What Valentine’s Day and Missions Have in Common

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In case you didn’t already know, Valentine’s Day is this week — Friday to be more specific!

PSA out of the way, let’s get down to business. What does Valentine’s Day have to do with missions? Here are a couple of thoughts…

the driving force for missions

Why do we go? Why do we place such an emphasis on missions? In 2 Corinthians 5:14, Paul writes, “The love of Christ compels us…” If our missionary activity is compelled by guilt, sympathy or some other emotion, it will be easy to give up.

To be clear, we are not saying that our missionary passion is driven by how much we love others. Our love can be fickle. Missionary work is not glamorous or painless. Those we seek to reach are often uninterested or unkind. If we only engage in missions because of how we feel, we will quit.

Again, Paul says it is the love of Christ that compels us. So what exactly does this mean?

First, Christ’s love for the world is the driving force for missions. Christ came into the world to seek and save sinners. He did not come grudgingly or with dread. In fact, the writer of Hebrews tells us that he faced the cross with joy. Love was the motivating factor of the incarnation. The most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, tells us, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…”

We are compelled to reach the nations because we understand that Christ, out of his love, died for them.

Second, our love for Christ drives us into missions. One of the best demonstrations of our love for someone is our doing what pleases them. I show my love for my wife when I do something that she loves. This is even more true for my love of Christ. He loved us when we were unlovely, and his love saved us.

When we appreciate the depth of his love, we are compelled into his mission. We cannot see anyone as beyond hope or unworthy because we are driven by our love for Christ and His example.

Third, we love others and want the best for them. While our love for others cannot be the primary driving force for missions, it certainly is an important one. As I mentioned above, it is a mistake to anchor our missionary drive and passion in our feelings for others. However, we do love others, and we know that the message we proclaim results in their blessing. The gospel is good news for a broken world. We go to the nations because our love for fellow humans compels us.

when symbols replace loving behavior

One of the most annoying aspects of Valentine’s Day is the way we buy into the lie that trinkets substitute for action. Around my house, we love chocolate. Well, at least my wife does. She loves chocolate so much that she steals my chocolate and then substitutes some other snack in its place. So, when it is Valentine’s Day, I usually end up getting her chocolate (Don’t tell her — it might mess up this year’s surprise). However, if I gave her a box of chocolates and then ignored her for the rest of the year, that gift would not be a symbol of love. It would be manipulation or something worse.

We can make a similar mistake with missions. We can feel deeply about missions. We can applaud missionaries and their commitment. We can cry at testimonies or sermons. But if we never do anything, then we aren’t really acting in love. We need to go. We need to tell. We need to give. We need to pray. We need to shape our lives according to God’s mission because “the love of Christ compels us.”

*A version of this article was originally published on February 12, 2018.

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Scott Hildreth

Director of the CGCS

Dr. Scott Hildreth is the Associate Professor of Missiology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes and speaks on issues related to missions, spiritual formation, contextualization, and theology.

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