David Ker has posted another rant about “Jesus is my boyfriend” type songs, in this case specifically “Let My Words Be Few” by Matt Redman. (Is it something about the Mozambique air that makes David rant? At least he withdrew his one about Tutu.) In a comment in reply I threatened to write a post “Jesus really is my boyfriend!” This is that post, but I have reconsidered the title as I don’t want people to think I am female or gay.
So, is it right for Christians (male and female) to relate to God, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in the same way as a girl relates to her boyfriend, or a boy to his girlfriend? Is it proper to sing in worship “Jesus I am so in love with you”?
I would suggest to start with that if that is not actually an improper statement it is wrong for any Christian to criticise other Christians for choosing to worship in this way. If it is not helpful for you as an individual or for your church to worship with such words, then you are not obliged to do so, and can ask your church’s worship leader not to choose this song. But if the words are proper worship of God, and presuming that at least one person, the songwriter, found them helpful for his worship, then I really don’t think it is right for anyone to criticise or mock.
In the case of this particular song, as Ferg noted in a recent comment on this blog, Matt Redman has stated that he regrets including these particular words because of the misunderstanding they have caused. I think the remark is in this interview (thanks to Eddie for the link) (but I can’t check just at the moment as I have to be quiet after midnight).
So, to get back to the question, is it proper to sing in worship “Jesus I am so in love with you”? The starting point here must be that we are commanded to love God with all our hearts and souls, indeed with our whole beings, not just with our minds. I know that the Greek and Hebrew words used for “heart” didn’t refer to the emotions in quite the same way as “heart” often does in English. But the conclusion is inescapable that our love for God should involve our emotions as well as every other part of us. And as Jesus is God incarnate we are surely called to love him in this same way, that is, with an emotional love and not just a cerebral or a practical love.
The Old Testament image of God as the bridegroom and Israel as his bride is taken up in the New Testament with the church as the bride. In Ephesians 5:25-33 the love of a husband for his wife is seen as a reflection of Jesus’ love for the church, a love which led him to the cross. Paul doesn’t explicitly teach that wives should respond in love to their husbands (rather, he uses the controversial word often translated “submit”), but this is surely the implication of the teaching elsewhere that the church should respond with love to Jesus’ love on the cross.
The Song of Songs is a beautiful love song in which a man and a woman express their love for one another, in emotional language, even showing romanticism although that word is anachronistic. There is a long tradition in the church of applying parts of this to the love which the church should express towards God, effectively turning it into an expression of “God is my boyfriend”. Isaiah 5:1-7 is explicitly called a love song, but is in fact God addressing his people, so this gives biblical justification for using this genre of love between God and humans.
So it seems to me that Christians should feel in their hearts love towards God and Jesus – a love which I feel. Indeed I would suggest that someone who does not have any feelings of love towards God or Jesus has not really grasped what it is to be a Christian. If this is true it is surely right to express our feelings of love in singing to Jesus love songs, mirror images of the song of Isaiah 5. What better words for such a song than “Jesus I am so in love with you”?
And if our song is a love song, it will of course have what David calls “Trance-like melody… ooshy-gooshy lyrics … Repetition”, which are part of the genre of modern and ancient love songs – look at the Song of Songs, but of course we don’t know its original melody. Just as a boy and girl who are truly in love will not time their embraces, no one who has true and deep feelings of love for Jesus will want to ensure that their love song is “only four minutes long”.
I wonder, if we men restricted our expressions of love to our wives and girlfriends to four minute cerebral recitations of their character, how much would they appreciate that? Instead what they want is expression of true love from the heart, in which we indeed “let our words be few”, little more than “I am so in love with you”. And if that is how we please our human loved ones, surely that is a part of how we should show our love to our God.