IN THE EARLY 1970s, some of you may remember that Steven Stills released his first solo album and a song entitled “Love the one you’re with.” This single-record became a huge hit, was “covered” by many other groups in the years following – including his own Crosby, STILLS, Nash, and Young – and still plays on the radio today from time-to-time.

As it turns out, Stills was inspired by another popular and gifted musician of that day, Billy ”… nothin’ from nothin’ means nothin’ …” Preston, who used to say in conversations, “Well, if you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with!” Steven Stills grabbed hold of the line, and PRESTO!, a hit was born.

Quite obviously, an Evangelical Christian pastor, committed to fidelity in all of my relationships – first with God, second with my wife, and the Biblical imperative for all born-again believers to do the same, can’t endorse the clear hedonistic message of the song.

Except … for the Christian hedonism endorsed by Pastor John Piper in his book Desiring God and his Desiring God Ministries (www.desiringgod.org).

Piper culls from Scripture, the writings of Jonathan Edwards, the Westminster Confession (“The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever“), and other sources the idea of Christian hedonism, which is stated succinctly and boldly in the declaration:

     “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.

I was reminded of two aspects of this truth, shortly after I arrived at the offfice this AM. And it is good, Biblical, theological truth: God IS most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him!

My wife Shelly and I were lamenting with one of our bright young leaders, Paul Eikelboom, about our impending loss of him and his wife Alexandria from our staff and congregation this summer.

I had the honor and delight of performing Paul and Lexi’s wedding back in August 2010. But more to my point, Lexi has served on our staff as our ministry coordinator since October 2009 and her new-ish husband Paul since January 2010.

Lexi completes her undergraduate studies in April, anticipating graduate studies in theology elsewhere. They just don’t yet know where “elsewhere” will be, or when exactly they will leave.

But because none of the four universities to which Lexi has applied are even in Canada, and only two in North America, we will have to say our sad “so longs” to Paul and Lexi at some point in our not-too-distant future.

     [Pause to recover, as first Lexi and later Paul have been much more like my beloved, adopted kids than my colleagues, and even less my subordinates.]

In this conversation/lament, I commented to Paul and my wife Shelly that I am preparing myself already for their departure, and I have to remind myself that most of our relationships in life are seasonal, especially those associated with ministry.

Very few of our relationships turn out to be deep and lifelong. We celebrate those rarities when they occur, for sure. But most relationships in life and ministry are, in fact, seasonal.

At this point in our conversation, though, Shelly exclaimed, “Then, love the one you’re with!”

     YES! That’s exactly right! Steven Stills’s original meaning aside, good Biblical practice and theology requires just that: We have an obligation to “love the one(s) we’re with!

In addition to the Biblical promise and spiritual reality that God is always with us, and we are to love Him above all others, during the season that we have together – however long or short, according to God’s good and sovereign will, we are to love each other with a good and godly love!

     Jesus had something profound to say on this topic, though it’s not explicit, perhaps: “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. – John 3:7-8

I guess that maybe I shouldn’t lament – at least, not so, so much – the seasonal aspect of most relationships in life and ministry. Perhaps Jesus is just saying that even this is part and parcel to the way God works – keeping us on the move, perhaps, so we are less likely to forget that this life is not all there is, and this world is not our home.

What do you think? (I’m still going to cry when Paul and Lexi leave us. I’m just saying ….)

God’s blessing and peace, from me and mine to you and yours!

Pastor Mark

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