Are you in love with Jesus?
According to the “Jesus is my boyfriend” genre of songs, we are. But using that terminology about Jesus has always seemed a little odd to me. We hear it in songs and sometimes in prayers or sermons — “Jesus, I am so in love with you,” or “Jesus, I want to be more in love with you.”
John Stackhouse is a professor of theology and culture at Regent College in Vancouver. Here’s part of his take on the issue:
Today our congregation was asked to sing, “Jesus, I’m in love with you”–a line that shows up, in one permutation or another, in several songs that occur frequently in our worship leaders’ rotation.
Well, I didn’t sing it. It’s wrong, and I try not to sing wrong lyrics.
First, I’m not in love with Jesus. The locution “in love with” is one I reserve for one person only: my wife. I love my sons, I love my siblings and parents, I love my friends, I love my country, I love my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I love God. But I’m not “in love” with any of them. And I daresay most of the rest of us use this phrase in exactly the same, highly-restrictive way . . .
By God’s grace, Christians get to enjoy a wide range of relationships with Jesus. We are described in the New Testament variously as Jesus’ slaves, Jesus’ servants, Jesus co-workers, Jesus’ friends, and even Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Since the plural form of each of these is used, it is correct then for me to say, “I am Jesus’ slave, servant, co-worker,” etc.
But the New Testament never calls Christians Jesus’ fiancées or his brides. Instead, it is the Church collectively, and only the Church as a whole, that relates to Jesus this way–just as individual Israelites did not relate to Yhwh as so many spouses, but only the nation of Israel as nation was his beloved bride.
So I’m not singing to Jesus that I’m in love with him, because I’m not. I love him, and I aspire to loving him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. But I do not aspire to being in love with him, and I’m sure he understands.
I’m not sure it’s “wrong” to say that you’re in love with Jesus, but otherwise, I agree with him. I’m in love with my wife. I love lots of other people, but not in the same romantic way, and it seems to me that at least in our culture, the phrase “in love” applies directly to that romantic kind of love.
I even hear it fairly often at our church (more so in prayers or maybe a sermon than in our songs), but it just strikes me as a little off and Stackhouse’s point of view explains why. Other points can be made both for and against it, as you’ll see if you check out the comments on Stackhouse’s original post. There’s also some good (and more recent) discussion on Justin Taylor’s post linking to Stackhouse.
One quote from JT: “‘Would you be communicating two different things to your mom if you said ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m in love with you’? The issue is addressing someone with whom you are not romantic.”
(HT: Justin Taylor)