Pastor's Blog

As a traditionalist I try to be as understanding as I can of the perspective of contemporary music, but one of my pet peeves that I struggle to get over is what I call “Jesus Is My Girlfriend” songs.  You know – songs with lyrics about Jesus embracing you and drawing you close, His love for you or your love for Him that could just as easily have been crooned to your girlfriend when you were a teenager and the lyrics still would have made sense.  I have a problem with these kinds of lyrics on several levels.

Advocates of contemporary worship music have explained to me that lyrics like this are justified because erotic or romantic love is used of Christ’s relationship to us, and they usually appeal to Ephesians 5.25-32, which says:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

“Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Is this about erotic or romantic love between Christ and the church?  Is that what we’re supposed to picture?

Or is it about the giving of the self, personal sacrifice, to bless and benefit one’s partner?

It doesn’t say that husbands should love their wives’ bodies as they love their own bodies.  It says a man should love his WIFE the way he loves his own body.  I provide for my body – I feed it, I wash it, I bandage its wounds, I give it rest – I care for myself – and I should care for my wife because she is united with me.  The same is true of Christ and the church.  He provides and cares for His church because He is bound that closely to His Church.

I wouldn’t deny that erotic, romantic, or sexual love is one aspect of the expression of the selflessness of love.  But I think the point of Ephesians is to focus on the selflessness that characterizes true love (the Greek term is agape) and not merely on the romantic/erotic aspect of marital love.

Second, and I think more importantly, Ephesians 5 doesn’t depict the relationship between Jesus and me, but between Christ and the whole churchThis distinction seems to have been lost, despite its being a thick thread woven throughout the fabric of both the Old and New Testaments.

Evangelicalism talks about a personal relationship with Jesus.  Evangelicals introduced that terminology to call people to a personal response to the gospel rather than merely trusting in infant baptism or in having been born into a particular church tradition.  Each person must respond to the gospel message;  each person must make a decision to believe.  That is what makes the relationship to Christ personal.

The Bible depicts God’s relationship to Israel and Christ’s relationship to the church, not as a one-on-one relationship, but as a relationship with an entire body of people as a body

A husband loves his WIFE.  He relates to her as a whole person.  He doesn’t have a personal relationship with her hand or her eye or her cells.  They are loved in the context of her whole person.  Likewise, Christ has a relationship with His Church, and it is a relationship with me only insomuch as I am a part of the body.  That larger love for the entire body of Christ is what is depicted in Ephesians 5.

The notion of Jesus caressing and embracing me personally in a romantic way is not an accurate representation – and may even be a misleading misrepresentation – of the idea intended in Ephesians 5.

I think it better to speak, not of my personal relationship with Jesus, but of the covenant relationship between Christ and His Church – which I will probably need to explain in more detail in my next blog.

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