Recently I had the opportunity to lead worship at my church. Going through the process of selecting songs gave me the opportunity to think about what makes for a good worship song. There are many excellent recent worship songs, but there is one particular kind of song that I would not recommend for public worship.
Romance with Jesus?
Some worship songs use romantic language and imagery to describe our relationship with God. Let me give a few examples.
Draw Me Close to You
You are my desire
And no one else will do
‘Cause nothing else can take Your place
To feel the warmth of Your embrace
Help me find the way
Bring me back to you
Drawing close to God is a biblical concept. But the line “to feel the warmth of your embrace” moves the song into an image of romantic love. There is nothing in this song that could not be sung to a lover instead of to Jesus (Lyrics).
How He Loves (Dave Crowder Band)
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
when I think about the way. . .
Have you ever felt uncomfortable singing these lyrics? A modified version of the song has “unforeseen kiss,” which is almost worse. We might welcome an unforeseen kiss from a spouse, a parent, or a child. From anyone else it would probably qualify as sexual harassment. A kiss that causes your heart to “turn violently” in your chest does not sound like a chaste kiss.
The More I Seek You (Kari Job)
The more I seek you
The more I find you
The more I find you, the more I love you
I wanna sit at your feet
Drink from the cup in your hand
Lay back against you and breath, feel your heart beat
This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand
I melt in your peace, it’s overwhelming
What does it mean to “lay back against you” and to “feel your heart beat”? I suppose that this could refer to a child lying on the chest of a parent. But in context it sound more like two lovers in an embrace.
There are quite a few songs that describe our relationship with God in romantic terms. Phil Wickham even has a song titled “Divine Romance.” There is another song with the same title that is even worse. It talks about us as being “courted” by God and kissed by him.
Most of these songs include nothing about Christ’s sacrifice for us, nothing about forgiveness from sin, nothing about surrender to Christ, and nothing about following Jesus. If you change a word or two they could be love songs.
Have you ever felt a vague sense of discomfort when singing words like this? I know that I have. Watching single young people passionately sing these words can be a strange experience. It makes me wonder what they’re thinking and how they visualize their relationship with God. You see the passion on their faces as they sing lyrics that sound like they are describing a torrid love affair. Does anyone else find that strange? I wonder what sort of impression that makes on non-Christians in our midst. It’s not surprising that a Christian satire site posted an article making fun of these types of songs.
What does the Bible say about the “Jesus as my boyfriend” type of worship?
The Bride of Christ
At this point someone might object, “But isn’t the church the bride of Christ?” There are a few places in the NT in which the church is called the bride of Christ (Rev. 19:7-9; Rev. 21:2; 22:17). The church is also called Christ’s body, a building/temple, and God’s field. Each of those metaphors teach us something important about Christ’s relationship with the church. In the OT Israel is frequently portrayed as God’s wife, usually in the context of her unfaithfulness to her covenant with God (e.g. Jer. 31:31-32; Hosea 2:2).
As with all metaphors, there are both similarities and differences between the image and the reality depicted. In some ways the church is like a bride, a building, or a field. In other ways it is not. The church is not like any of those things in every way. So it is important to understand how the Bible uses each of those images.
When the church is described as the bride of Christ, it is only used in a corporate sense. Christ has only one bride, which is the church. There aren’t any passages in which we are individually called brides of Christ. Jesus is the bridegroom of the church, but he is not your personal boyfriend or husband. That is an important distinction.
There are about 1 billion Christians in the world. If each one of them is a bride of Christ, that would make him the worst polygamist ever! It is especially strange for men. How can a heterosexual man see Jesus as his “husband”? That’s why one blog article on this topic is titled “Don’t be Gay for Jesus.” This type of worship might be one reason that many churches have a difficult time attracting men.
The Four Loves
One of the problems is that the word “love” has many different meanings. In Greek there are four different words that are translated “love” in English. C.S. Lewis wrote a book titled The Four Loves which describes these different types of love:
- Storge: Affectionate Love
- Philia: Friendship Love
- Eros: Romantic /Sexual Love
- Agape: Divine Love
Unfortunately, in English we have only one word for “love” which needs to cover all these types of love. In the Bible the word agape is the one most often used of God’s love for us and our love for him. Sometimes philia is used. But eros is never used to describe our relationship with God. We can see this in our human relationships as well. We love our parents, siblings, and children, but it would be creepy and immoral to have an erotic love for them.
“Jesus as my boyfriend” theology has been around much longer than you might think. Next time I will get into the origins of this theology. We will also look at the interpretation of the Song of Solomon, which is an important part of that history.
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.