by Alastair Sterne
June 28, 2016
6 min read
When it comes to being crazy in love, Queen Bey and Jay Z have set the cultural norm. But as of late their love story has become lemons for lemonade (or so we speculate). But there is something deeply compelling about a good love story — we want crazy love. We might not think we can dial our own love stories up to the intensity of Beyoncé and Z, but we want a love that grips us and defines us and endures. But can we have it? Or is the hope just lemons for lemonade? Is it better to just brace for let down?
There is a book in the canon of Scripture that is so provocative and sexual, that young Jewish boys weren’t even allowed to read it until they came of age. It’s tucked away between Ecclesiastes and Isaiah. It’s sandwiched between the vanity of life and the prophetic book known as the “fifth” gospel. What book am I talking about? I’m talking about Song of Solomon. The canon is saying that a healthy expression and vision for sex fits somewhere between lament and a vision of the kingdom of God that is to come.
But first we must lament. Especially today. When we read the Song of Solomon it hardly strikes us as scandalous. It’s pretty tame. Why is that?
First, it’s because we live among the most sexualized cultures in history. We have been exposed to sexuality from a young age. Have you ever read Beyoncé’s lyrics closely? They’re exactly what I would expect from icon of Millennialism. We have been saturated in vivid images of sex on billboards, magazines, films and screens that can fit in our pockets. We live in a culture that recently released a movie about a BDSM love story on Valentines. What’s the effect? There is nothing scandalous about being exposed to sex, because our culture has removed almost all that is sacred about it. The sort of intimacy that makes sex healthy requires the privacy and longevity found only in covenant. But culture has made sex public, communal, and tailored to individualistic preferences. For this reason, the Song of Solomon is the equivalent of a Disney movie to most of us.
Second, the song of Solomon uses language that doesn’t immediately resonate with our imaginations. I’ve tried to appropriate some of the language from time to time. “Julia, your hair is like a flock of goats. Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes. Your neck is like the tower of David.” (cf Song of Solomon 4:1-16).
While some of the compliments are a metaphorical stretch for us, there is plenty of language that we can comprehend:
“My beloved is mine, and I am his.”
“Behold, you are beautiful, my love.”
“You have captivated my heart.”
“I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me”
The other night I sat down to read Scripture. Julia had already gone to bed, and I couldn’t find my Bible. I saw hers on the desk, so I grabbed it. It was open to the Song of Solomon. You can imagine my surprise. Scandalous! But when I glanced down, I read the following:
“How is your beloved better than others, most beautiful of women? How is your beloved better than others, that you so charge us?” (Song of Solomon 5:9).
The Song calls us to fidelity and commitment. Jesus is stirring our love for him. He desires our love, our affections, our fidelity and commitment, because healthy, strong, enduring, real love requires mutual fidelity and commitment.
This question is posed to the woman of the Song by other women in the village. We could get into the context, but that’s not the point of this article. The Song of Solomon is a love story, but it has also been read as a love story between Christ and his bride, the Church. I heard the question posed this way:
“How is your beloved (Jesus) better than others (other options in the world), most beautiful of women (the church)?” Have you ever struggles with what makes Jesus more than any other option out there? Have you ever been asked this? As I considered this, my heart was stirred.
What makes Jesus more than another beloved?
Have you ever met someone with more wisdom and understanding about what it means to be human and to have a relationship with God? Have you ever met someone more compassionate? A person who shows no partiality in offering care, who cleans the sores of beggars, and meets the needs of the rich? Have you ever met someone more merciful? A person who shows grace to those who reject him? A person who forgives those who persecute him? A person who loves his enemies?
What makes Jesus more than another beloved?
This question should stir our affections. We should shout, “Everything!” As the people we love deeply can capture our hearts, so Christ captures our hearts – moving us to say “None can compare!” The Song calls us to fidelity and commitment. Jesus is stirring our love for him. He desires our love, our affections, our fidelity and commitment, because healthy, strong, enduring, real love requires mutual fidelity and commitment. Does Jesus capture your heart in this way? Jesus offers us a crazy love that never ceases to shine.
There’s one more thing to consider. The woman of the Song is called “O most beautiful of women.”
We spend so much time staring in the mirror that often we can only see our own imperfections. Most of us can’t live up to the hyped up beauty of Beyoncé or Jay Z. We can name all that we want to change about ourselves far more easily than we can come up with anything positive. But the bride of Christ, the church, is the most beautiful woman in the world. Jesus says to his bride “Behold, you are beautiful, my love.” There is none like her. She is the only one worthy of her beloved, because her beloved has made her worthy.
Do you see the church this way? It’s easy to focus on the messiness, the broken group of people that we are — the shortcomings that we each contribute. It’s all there. But that doesn’t take away from our beauty, it just highlights the beauty of our beloved who accepts us, washes us, and makes us whole. We can truly say “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.” God is inviting you into a pretty epic love story, because God is crazy in love with you. I can’t guarantee you’ll have a crazy love story with any person on earth, but I can guarantee you that the love God has for you will never cease, and that in Christ you’ll spend eternity exploring the unending depths and heights of God’s love for you. And if you belong to Christ, you are a part of the most beautiful presence on earth; so let your beauty shine into the world so that all might come to know our Beloved and his crazy love.