Jesus is my boyfriend

I just read an article that jogged my memory of a conversation I had with one of my good friends the other day centered on the phrase above. I not only think the phrase carries a dripping, overly emotional and sentimental Francine Rivers or Danielle Steele feel to it, I personally am repelled as a heterosexual guy by its connotations. And though my friend disagreed with me on this point, I think the reality that the church is the “bride of Christ” should only be employed in speaking of the church as a whole, not me as an individual. At any rate, I don’t want to comment too much on this article, but it’s the first real solid, even-handed look I’ve seen at the emotionally-charged, erotic relationship with Jesus stuff. It’s not like this is new (see: Teresa of Avila), but it is rapidly gaining steam in the more conservative, Max Lucado-addicted crowd…and some of the examples the author of the article highlights seriously made my jaw drop to the ground.

There are two main dangerous effects (in my mind) of this overly sentimentalized emotional love towards our relationship with Jesus if engaged in uncritically:


1) It reduces Jesus to a subjective “friend” (buddy Jesus) without the equally true reality that he is Lord of the Universe. Jesus is not just some smarmy “I looooooove you” concept without serious expectations for our lives that demand we subordinate his friend status to his Lordship status. A simple look at what Jesus represents on the white horse in Revelation (as well as a couple conversations with Pharisees or the times he dresses down his disciples) wouldn’t really fly in a Danielle Steele novel. Instead of asking “What is Jesus to YOU?” I think we should ask “Do we carry an understanding of Jesus that reveals ALL of who he was and is?” (because I’m accountable for the picture of Jesus I portray through my thoughts and actions). That way, we can see that Jesus not only is merciful and willing to help when we screw up, but also has eyes that flash with his commitment to righteousness and expectations for his followers. One without the other could lead to some twisted conclusions about Jesus.


2) Focusing on our emotional “feelings” of love towards Jesus without integrating other elements of love (consistency, commitment no matter what, trust, sticking it out through the hard times as well as the good) can create a situation where a girl (or guy I guess) can be terribly confused and feel terribly unloved when the highly charged emotions aren’t there. Or, any challenge to their lives and their relationship with God becomes a personal attack on their private relationship with Jesus; and they reject out of hand anything that might ask of them commitment in the midst of a hard situation.

Just a couple thoughts. Here’s the beginning of the article.

Dating Jesus: When ‘lover of my soul’ language goes too far. Agnieszka Tennant

“God loved the world with an extravagant tenderness. He spun into our genes a strand of divine DNA. Imago dei, this God with us—it’s an astonishing intimacy…”

Read the rest of the article here.

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7 thoughts on “Jesus is my boyfriend

  1. I agree with you on this, and yeah, I’ve heard strong Christian women use the “Jesus is my boyfriend” and it was something I never understood. I think one reason I almost shudder at it is because in Jesus saving me from my sins, I really more equate Him with a father or older brother type. Yeah, God is my Heavenly Father, and Jesus is his son, but I have never separated Jesus from that same type of father figure. He leads me, guides, forgives, challenges, etc, and those to me are all things I strive to better myself with and hope to be an instrument in for the kingdom.

    I guess though, I ultimately cannot judge others when they use this analogy to bring themselves closer to Christ, because if it is bettering them then awesome. I just know for me I don’t relate to it at all.

    This on the heels of Francine River’s “Redeeming Love” where I found myself cringing a few times because clearly Michael Hosea (the hubby) is representative of Christ’s unending love for us, but yeah, sometimes graphically in the book, it went too far when I am continuously metaphorically relating it (and not at that point keeping it at a love story during the love scenes). ewww.

  2. also, I wonder if it is an excuse for some women so they don’t enter into a relationship with a man. because…relationships with another human are hard work and sometimes no fun. and sometimes the longer you are away from it (and maybe in one with Jesus), the harder it is to enter in, make yourself vulnerable, communicate, etc. therefore you protect yourself and don’t take a risk.

  3. hey rebecca!

    One thing I found helpful from the conversation I had with a housemate today was her suggestion that it’s ok for women to pursue knowing their beauty is found in who they are in Christ, and that this may look more “lovey-dovey” (for lack of a better term) than a male approach. I can see that.

    Plus, she agreed with me, but added that a pursuit of a more complete picture will bring some of the other images (God as mother hen,as lover, etc) into our vision more prominently…a place where God as “father or older brother type” has been the predominate image to the exclusion of others. She said she sees this because some women (and men) have had abusive or impotent father, and this image may bring significant pain to them and skew their image of God.

    I can see that on some level too…though I think we need to do some serious thinking about the difference between flawed humanity and God’s perfection and consistency. Just because I’ve had a bad experience with someone or something doesn’t give me the right to toss out part of the picture or run away from it because it hurts, I think.

    In response to your suggestion that “I ultimately cannot judge others when they use this analogy to bring themselves closer to Christ,” I might disagree a bit. I think we can judge whether a person’s approach to God is unhealthily skewed in one direction or another (and speak to them about it)…as long as we recognize that we can (either potentially or in reality) be as skewed in our perspective as they may be.

    A commitment to holding others accountable, then, would lead to others doing the same for us; which is always a good thing in my book (as long as its not done in a nasty, rigid way).

    And I think your second comment is dead-on accurate. Do you think avoiding deep relationship is more of a temptation for a female or male or equally tempting for both?

    Thanks for your thoughtful response.

  4. I remember singing a song back in the day: “I fell in love with the King”. I really enjoyed that one (and it pops out on occassion). I have read a few posts regarding this concern you express here. I have not found it to be an issue. So many who profess to be Jesus followers withhold their affections from God. My thought: go for it – fall in love with the King.

    Later,
    Rob

  5. Nate,

    I think it might be beneficial for us to slow down on this “holding others accountable” thing. We don’t know people’s motives. Might it be more helpful to take more of an approach in which we let people discover truth – and not be so quick to convince them of the areas that we think they are off a bit.

    These are just some thoughts I am processing and they came to mind as I read your comments to rebecca and thought of some of your efforts in the past to “hold me accountable”.

    I appreaciate your heart to be helpful to your siblings in God’s kingdom family. I think you and I have that in common.

    Just some thoughts,
    Rob

  6. Rob,

    Thanks for your comment…you identify one side of the spectrum some folks probably occupy where their following of Jesus is all duty-bound and obedience by rote. And in that case, I’d definitely agree with you…we shouldn’t withhold our affections from God (and, in fact, should pursue that relationship).

    But too often in embracing that intimate reality, we live in reaction against the old duty-bound system of empty obedience, and it turns into a purely emotional concept of love founded on the feeling of closeness…and when we don’t feel close to God, we get ALLL kinds of messed up.

    What I’m seeking here is a balanced perspective of what the love of God means. Jesus called us his friends. Ok. But that’s not divorced from our necessity to follow his commands. He’s not just our buddy that doesn’t have any real expectations for us. And the “Jesus is my boyfriend” thing, I think, is a reflection more of the buddy Jesus concept than a full concept of Jesus that shows both his deep compassion and his deep commitment to righteousness.

    I’m just suggesting that the feelings of intimacy should be consciously subordinated to the reality that we are called (created!) to be obedient; and through that obedience, reveal the glory of God.

    I think we need to trade in our present definition of love (which in our society is really more emotional and looks more like infatuation), for a more full definition of love (feelings? yes. but commitment, consistency, trustworthiness, etc are a part of that too).

    And your admonition to slow down on the accountability thing, quite honestly, rings a bit hollow Rob…for two main reasons:

    1) Most of your blogging is devoted to the “twisted” motives of those in the organized, institutional church, and you often make sweeping statements in those posts about the concerns and desires of those in said institution. You’re certainly not shying away from your concept of holding the church accountable there, and you’re often not addressing specifics…just lacing into the church at large.

    2) This point has two sub-points.
    a. I don’t think it’s too terribly hard to read someone’s motives from their words and actions. Sure, we shouldn’t go all drug-store psychology on them and try to find something in their words that reveals a hidden agenda under the surface (that may or may not exist). I agree that that’s unhealthy. But if someone’s honestly talking or honestly taking a position, I think it’s completely within the realm of reason that they can and should be held accountable for their position. Which leads me to the second subpoint.

    b) It’s less about motive and more about the fact that one’s motives inevitably come out through words and action. So knowing someone over the long haul would give one a more complete picture of who they are; thus freeing someone else to speak with more accuracy into the person’s life; but even if you don’t have that depth of relationship with someone, you can respond to their comments or lifestyle as they come across to you. You just might need to hold back a bit on how critical you are of a certain position of theirs (because you don’t have a deep enough relationship for them to trust YOUR motive).

    Perfect case in point: your admonition for me to “slow down on this holding others accountable thing” is an attempt on your part to hold me accountable, is it not?

    Should we be slow to find fault and quick to listen? Yes, I think so…but that doesn’t exclude out of hand the reality that honesty demands challenge from time to time.

  7. Nate,

    Thanks for taking the time, energy, and thought to respond to my comments.

    I am hoping we can see our relationship shaped into something more positive in the future.

    God is doing a work in my heart and I have repented of much of the negative energy I had rolling as I was sorting out some of these matters regarding ecclesiology.

    Take Care,
    Rob

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