As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women.
– Song of Solomon 2:2
During my quiet times recently, I’ve been reading the Song of Solomon. This poem, among other things, celebrates erotic love between husband and wife without blushing. But notice I said “among other things”: traditionally, the Church (alongside Judaism) has also interpreted it as a celebration of God’s love for his people. This interpretation is completely in keeping the Bible’s many references to Israel and the Church as “the bride” or wife, with God (or Jesus) as the bridegroom or husband.
This interpretation has fallen out of favor over past hundred years or so as belief in the inspiration of the Bible has waned. Once you accept, however, that God has given us the exact Bible that he wanted us to have (which isn’t hard to do), it’s easy to accept that the Song of Solomon, in addition to describing erotic love between a man and woman, also describes God’s love for his people.
That being the case, think about what this means: God, like the man in the poem, wants you, desires you, is passionately committed to making you his own. For this to be true, we need to throw out that medieval nonsense about God’s impassibility—that God is incapable of feeling emotion—and embrace the full-blooded, biblical belief in God’s passionate love for us. As Roger Olson, among others, has argued, if God doesn’t experience emotion, then entire books of the Bible, like Hosea, make no sense.
At the risk of understatement, God not only loves you, he also likes you. Do you believe it? Or is this so self-evidently true that it doesn’t need to be said?
I don’t think so. In my own life, I fall into this trap in which I believe that God loves me—because of course that’s what God has to do—because of the Cross; thanks to Jesus, God has no choice but to “put up with me,” even though I’m a miserable sinner who fails him time and again.
Does this ring a bell with anyone else?
But suppose the Song of Solomon is true: God loves us like the man loves the woman in that poem. What are our sins compared to that? We all know (I hope) what it’s like to fall in love and have our love returned: in the eyes of our beloved, we are perfect—or at least perfect enough. Theologically speaking, isn’t this what Christ’s imputed righteousness means? There’s a sense in which we Christians are perfect in God’s eyes.
Here’s where this hits home with me: I am an ambitious person, and my ambition has not served me well. In fact, it’s harmed me badly. Since I was a child, I’ve wanted to achieve things, objectively speaking, of which other people will have no choice but to stand up and take notice. They will recognize me, appreciate me, praise me. “If only you accomplish this, Brent, then you will be somebody. Then you will be accepted. Then you will be loved.”
Of course, whenever I get what I think I need, I’m never satisfied.
But suppose the Song of Solomon is true: to say the least, I don’t need anything from anyone other than the One whose love for me is true. I have nothing to prove to him. Whether I succeed or fail, his love for me is undiminished. My value to him isn’t based on what I accomplish.
A thousand love songs other than the Song of Solomon express this truth, but nearly my favorite is “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks. It’s the story of lovers Terry and Julie, who, the narrator observes, need absolutely nothing other than their beloved: “But they don’t need no friends/ As long as they gaze on Waterloo sunset/ They are in Paradise.”
Dear Lord, let me fall in love with you the way you have fallen in love with me.