Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Showing divine love to the unmarried on Valentine's Day, part of Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Ministries, asked me to write an article on what clergy can do to bring a divine perspective to Valentine's Day — especially for unmarried churchgoers. An anecdote left by a Dawn Patrol commenter (whose name I'm sorry to say has slipped my mind) helped get the article going:

If there's one place where unmarried people should feel most welcome, you would think it would be where they come to worship God. After all, we are all equal before the Lord.

All too often, however, single people in church are reminded that they are lacking a partner. A friend of mine recalls visiting a church for the first time where a married female congregant came up to her afterward to welcome her. After some pleasantries, the woman asked, "Are you married?"

"No," my friend responded.

"Oh," the woman replied. "Are you dating someone?"

"No," my friend said again.

"Oh," the woman said awkwardly. "I'm sorry."

The congregant had ascertained and identified my friend's single status before even getting a feel for who she was and why she was in the church. What could have been an opportunity for my friend to feel welcomed and learn more about the church community instead only made her feel more isolated.

Valentine's Day offers a special opportunity not only to show your church's singles how valuable they are to God and to your congregation, but also to foster fellowship between them and married couples.

Your sermon on Sunday, Feb. 11, can put Valentine's Day in a godly perspective. It's important to note that, while couples will already have Valentine's Day romance on their minds, singles who will be dateless on the 14th will already be looking to that night with disillusionment, bitterness, or even dread. There are few things more depressing for a lonely single person, than to have to walk past the hearts-and-chocolates aisle of the drugstore for weeks on end, and then, on Valentine's Day, stay home rather than be surrounded by canoodling couples. The way you frame your sermon can help couples take their attraction to a more sanctified plane, while at the same time reminding singles that they too are conduits of divine love.

One text that illustrates the universal nature of God's love is 1 John 3:19: "We love him, because he first loved us." (KJV) The original Greek is actually, "We love, because he first loved us." Every kind of love that binds us together – from love of neighbor to love of family and love of one's spouse – is an expression of God's divine love. He gives it to us so that we may give it to one another and back to him.

Moreover, one of the ways that we can show our love for God is through loving one another. For couples, this means that the love they show one another should not stop at mere romantic love (eros). To grow closer to one another, they need to grow in faith as well, cultivating the kind of divine agape love that Jesus asked of Peter (John 21:15). Only with God's help can we attain this divine love, which is universal, extending to those close to us as well as strangers, enabling us to love people as the unique individuals that they are.

For singles, the message that "we love, because he loves us" should bring hope. It means that God has a plan for each of us to share in his love. If unmarried congregants wish to share divine love with a spouse, they can start to grow their ability to love right now – through opening their hearts to those around them. The more one learns divine love before one marries, the better prepared one will be to share that love in a lasting and fruitful marriage.

With your congregation's hearts and minds prepared to share divine love on Valentine's Day, you can engage them in activities that will both acknowledge the day's romantic import and encourage other expressions of divine love, particularly charity and fellowship. Here are two possibilities:
To find out what those possibilities are, read the full article on

Buy The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On at