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.