Monday, September 24, 2007

Jesus I'm NOT in Love with You

The following is a re-posting of John Stackhouse's article on his blog.

Jesus, I'm NOT in Love with You.

September 16th, 2007

One of the blights upon the hymnological landscape today is the continued presence of what we can fairly call the “love song to Jesus” genre. It’s been around as long as there has been Christian pop music–and even earlier, depending on what you make of sentimental gospel songs in the nineteenth century, eighteenth-century revivalist hymns, and especially a lot of the mystical poetry-cum-lyrics of certain medieval saints.

Today our congregation was asked to sing, “Jesus, I’m in love with you”–a line that shows up, in one permutation or another, in several songs that occur frequently in our worship leaders’ rotation. Well, I didn’t sing it. It’s wrong, and I try not to sing wrong lyrics.

First, I’m not in love with Jesus. The locution “in love with” is one I reserve for one person only: my wife. I love my sons, I love my siblings and parents, I love my friends, I love my country, I love my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I love God. But I’m not “in love” with any of them. And I daresay most of the rest of us use this phrase in exactly the same, highly-restrictive way.

Second, it gives me the homoerotic creeps to declare that I am “in love with” another man. And I don’t apologize for saying so. A gender lens is interesting here, for a lot of men feel as I do (many have told me so), while many (not all) women seem to love telling Jesus that they are in love with him. I saw them, swaying with closed eyes and waving hands in the air this morning, singing exactly that. Maybe, indeed, they are in love with Jesus. But they shouldn’t be.

For the third point to make is a theological one. Jesus is not your boyfriend, not your fiancĂ©, and not your eventual husband. By God’s grace, Christians get to enjoy a wide range of relationships with Jesus. We are described in the New Testament variously as Jesus’ slaves, Jesus’ servants, Jesus co-workers, Jesus’ friends, and even Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Since the plural form of each of these is used, it is correct then for me to say, “I am Jesus’ slave, servant, co-worker,” etc. But the New Testament never calls Christians Jesus’ fiancĂ©es or his brides. Instead, it is the Church collectively, and only the Church as a whole, that relates to Jesus this way–just as individual Israelites did not relate to Yhwh as so many spouses, but only the nation of Israel as nation was his beloved bride.

So I’m not singing to Jesus that I’m in love with him, because I’m not. I love him, and I aspire to loving him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. But I do not aspire to being in love with him, and I’m sure he understands. I wish our worship leaders and songwriters did, too.

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He makes a most excellent point. While thinking of oneself as a member of the corporate bride can be a good thing, bringing one into a closer communion with God, it has been perverted into something it should not be. Christ is so much to us, but not some sort of spiritual lover. (Remember "Jesus, lover of my soul..."?)

Stackhouse makes another good point about women. Lady readers, have you really thought about what this all means? It is good, again, for us to think about Jesus' humanity and how that related to his divinity, its implications, etc.; but if you think of him as a man to be sought after or made love with, it is unbelievable idolatry. Christ will never be a sexual lover, period.

Next, have you ever thought about the implications of your husband singing the same words? Will he be married to Christ and in a sexual relationship with him? You see how quickly this leads to the awful and sick. Chances are that your husband either has not thought about what he is saying, or he has analogized it. Maybe you have too.

I stand with John Stackhouse in crying out for hymns and spiritual songs that honor and glorify the God who is presented in Scripture. The God who created not only women, but strong, masculine men. The God who is honored when he is rightly understood by his people and worshipped for who he really is, not who we would make him. Soli Deo (en veritas) Gloria!

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