Jesus, I'm NOT in Love with You

One of the blights upon the hymnological landscape today is the continued presence of what we can fairly call the “love song to Jesus” genre. It’s been around as long as there has been Christian pop music–and even earlier, depending on what you make of sentimental gospel songs in the nineteenth century, eighteenth-century revivalist hymns, and especially a lot of the mystical poetry-cum-lyrics of certain medieval saints.

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.

Second, it gives me the homoerotic creeps to declare that I am “in love with” another man. And I don’t apologize for saying so. A gender lens is interesting here, for a lot of men feel as I do (many have told me so), while many (not all) women seem to love telling Jesus that they are in love with him. I saw them, swaying with closed eyes and waving hands in the air this morning, singing exactly that. Maybe, indeed, they are in love with Jesus. But they shouldn’t be.

For the third point to make is a theological one. Jesus is not your boyfriend, not your fiancé, and not your eventual husband.

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 wish our worship leaders and songwriters did, too.

0 Responses to “Jesus, I'm NOT in Love with You”

  1. Carrie

    I understand your aversion to sappy love songs, but I think you are definitely glossing over the whole husband/wife, bride/groom, lover aspect of our relationship to Christ. Reread Song of Songs. It sure seems to me that God is using very sexual metaphors for his relationship with us.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m sick to death of the sappy songs and repetitious choruses…but it might be the quality of the songwriting more than the content.

  2. ajt

    Thank you.

    I usually use “the boyfriend songs” as times of silence mixed with times of confession of my disdain and contempt.

    Preach on, brother John, preach on.

  3. John Stackhouse

    Carrie, you’re missing the point. If you want to allegorize the Song of Songs to make it about God and Israel or Christ and the Church (and you certainly have lots of company in doing so), fine. My point is that all such Biblical imagery is about God and a people (Israel or the Church) as a people, not God and an individual. God isn’t marrying you or me, so to speak, he’s marrying all of us together. We have to keep this kind of imagery corporate, not individual, as the Bible does–or it just gets weird, as the history of mysticism clearly shows.

  4. Dan Wilt

    John, I appreciate your analysis of the concept, and your irenic approach in general to that with which you disagree.

    As a contemporary worship songwriter, questing to write more biblically and theologically rich songs for today’s blossoming Church (see: http://www.ssu.ca/theinstitute/section/songs) I might suggest that the Song of Solomonic tradition, especially as understood by the early Church (wrong as it may be in many scholars’ eyes), does not preclude addressing God, nor His Son, with the type of lyrics or (culturally-locked) evocative phrases you mention above.

    I understand why it would be difficult for you to sing, and I can appreciate your stance. While on one level I would agree (and look forward to shifts as the contemporary worship movement matures from its adolescence in our day), I would not limit such phrases from finding their way into the community worship of the saints.

    I’m sure St. John of the Cross’s work strikes you with a similar awkwardness in his Dark Night of the Soul, and certainly the female mystics took this kind of expressed intimacy to its height (yet we allow them this because they had no husbands).

    I would suggest we place the phrase and the approach it embodies in the category of “permissible, maybe beneficial in some cases, maybe not always beneficial in others or as our main, steady diet,” rather than relegating the phrase or its theme to either the theological or extra-biblical trash heap.

  5. DanWilt.com :: Conversations On Emerging Worship

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  6. mlm

    I found your blog through another blog and have had fun reading through some posts. However, the font size on your blog is hard to read, especially the print size of the comment section. Have you heard that from others? If not, maybe it’s just my computer, but it’s giving me a headache and I’ve much more of your posts to read! :o)

  7. mlm

    Ooops. I meant to ask something in my first comment. As a follow-up to what Carrie said (and your reply to her), would it be okay then for us to corporately sing, “WE are in love with You, Jesus?”

    I mean, aren’t there many things in the Bible that apply to a people as whole (Israel and the Church for two examples)? But it’s impossible to join simultaneously & physically with all the Body of Christ (not only those on earth today, but the ones who’ve gone before), so it seems there are many things in the Bible that we have to “break down” to a local level and even to an individual level.

  8. Mark

    well, the good thing about a contentious post of this sort is that it at least proves you have a lot of regular readers. Um, but that wasn’t the only good thing about it . . . I found it most enjoyable, thanks 🙂

  9. John Stackhouse

    mlm regarding font size: Just select a larger font size for viewing on your browser menus.

    mlm re “we”: Yes, that’s the point. “We” is much more theologically appropriate. And then if it seems weird to use “in love with you” with “we,” then we might see that the “love song” genre is just not appropriate for corporate worship, since the genre itself is about “you and me,” not “you and all of us.”

  10. John Stackhouse

    Dan, I appreciate the tone and intelligence of your response. I’m not yet convinced, however, that this sort of thing can be justified! It’s just flat wrong–as I do think some of the medieval mystics simply were, and as I think the entire tradition of nuns wearing wedding rings as “wedded to Jesus” is. I am related to Jesus in the Bride of Christ, not as a bride of Christ.

  11. Chris Stiles

    Hi John —

    I agree with you, and I believe that this sort of thing fosters an environment in which men frequently end up feeling like second class citizens in the church. Dan Edelen has written on this topic over here:

    http://ceruleansanctum.com/2007/09/nowhere-men.html

    As he concludes: “Who is Jesus? And are we exalting a graven image of Him that drives men away from the Church?”

  12. SursumCorda

    I’m not qualified to speak to the music, since I have my own struggles with the entire Contemporary Christian Music genre — for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that most churches with “contemporary” services seem to prefer having the sound level set at something greater than the Threshold of Pain. But it is true that I don’t much like sappy hymns, at whatever volume.

    As to the main issue, I suspect you (and perhaps most men) give the phrase “in love with” much more of a sexual connotation than many of us do. For a single woman (or anyone) to recognize God as a companion, defender, protector, supporter, supplier of all needs and the one who understands her completely and loves her the most — well, who wouldn’t fall in love with someone like that? But as I said, it may be a matter of usage.

    I always saw the wearing of rings by nuns as a highly practical matter. For a nun who is not wearing a habit, a “wedding ring” could save her a great deal of unwanted and unhelpful male attention — and save the man wasted effort and needless embarrassment.

    At least for those of us whose eyes aren’t as young as they once were, mlm is right about the font size for comments. Yes, one can increase the size via ones’ browser, but at least in mine (Firefox) that increases the size of all fonts, which is not necessarily a great solution. Not that I’m really complaining, mind you — the comments are generally worth the effort to read. 🙂

  13. Kris MacQueen

    John, I think can appreciate where you’re coming from in your comments. There can be a certain awkwardness that exists in relating to God with romantic language, and the lines become murky when associating the exclusive nature of spousal relationship with a community of believers singing to God. “Wrong” is a very strong word here, though. I think there’s a biblical subtext that perhaps you’re overlooking, and I wonder if you’re oversimplifying this just a little.

    I think there is a strong argument to be made that any and all human relationships are a kind of allegory for our complex relationship with God. As you’ve mentioned, God is clearly referred to in scripture as Father, Friend, Master, Brother, and even in some more obscure texts, the traits of Mother are assigned. As you’ve noted, there is definitely mention of Him as spouse to the people of Israel. I believe that the deep elements of a marital relationship are essential to our own relationship with Him. Issues of fidelity, devotion, partnering (to some extent), and a deep celebration of intimacy (the desire to know and be known), transcend the physical sex of marriage. These are issues primarily understood through the outworking of marriage. I think it is a mistake to write that off because of the sexual component that exists (thankfully) in marriage.

    As a final comment here, and this may strike up the ire of some but here goes anyway, God is not, in fact, a man. Or a woman. He is Spirit. Gender issues deeply oversimplify His nature. It is solely for the purposes of relating to God that we assign any gender at all. Unfortunately, there is no better word that denotes “person” that is not gender specific. It would be a pity to let that simple failing of language get in the way of a deeper knowledge of God.

  14. John Stackhouse

    SursumCorda actually makes my point, I think. I would ask you, given those wonderful traits you describe, if your father had them, would you say you had “fallen in love with him”? Or your sister? I doubt it! (And I take your point about fonts: Alas, I can’t increase them myself without paying a fee to WordPress that I can’t easily afford.)

    Despite the many helpful things he writes, Kris MacQueen is missing my point, I think, and runs into the same problem as SursumCorda. The phrases “falling in love” or “being in love” are irreducibly romantic (not just sexual, ahem!). All the other positive things you predicate of marriage you rightly predicate of other intimate, strong relationships. Well and good. So let’s use the right language for that. The language of Jesus and me in a romantic relationship–which is also, in our experience and Christian teaching, irreducibly a single man and a single woman joined in marriage that “forsakes all others.”

    That works wonderfully for the God and Israel or Jesus and the Church. It doesn’t work for Jesus and me or you.

    So of course let’s celebrate all the proper traits of our relationship with God. And let’s not celebrate what isn’t.

  15. mlm

    Pardon my ignornance, but I simply don’t understand the difference you are trying to prove when you say, “That works wonderfully for the God and Israel or Jesus and the Church. It doesn’t work for Jesus and me or you.”

    Aren’t you a member of the Church? Aren’t I an individual member of the Body-at-large? And doesn’t Paul speak of the Body and then each member?

    Just because we are members of a whole doesn’t mean what applies to the whole doesn’t also apply to each member. I would think it would mean just the opposite! Can you clarify why something that belongs to the whole doesn’t belong to the individuals who make up the whole?

  16. In Love with Jesus? at PastorBlog

    […] should Christians be in love with Jesus? In a blog post entitled “Jesus, I’m NOT in Love with You,” Professor John Stackhouse answers considers expressions like these inappropriate and […]

  17. SursumCorda

    It must be a language thing. I may be using the phrase “in love” inappropriately. But to me the meaning is not at all exclusively romantic. I’m madly in love with my grandchildren, and believe me, there’s nothing romantic about diapers.

    Not that Internet sources are definitive authorities, but a quick check of two gives these definitions of “in love”:

    Merriam-Webster (http://mw1.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/in%20love):
    in love – inspired by affection

    Answers.com (http://www.answers.com/main/ntquery?s=%22in+love%22&gwp=13)
    in love
    1. Deeply or passionately enamored: a young couple in love.
    2. Highly or immoderately fond: in love with Japanese painting; in love with the sound of her own voice.

    I only belabour the point because I doubt I’m the only one who uses the term in an unromantic sense, and I fear you may be misjudging people.

    However, I probably wouldn’t have sung the song myself. Romantic or not, such lyrics are highly personal, and for the most part I prefer corporate sentiments in corporate worship.

  18. Brandon Blake

    John,

    Why has recent Christian theology elevated agape of the four loves-agape, storge, philia and eros, front and center? Is it not in part due to the contemporary connotations that we have applied to such thinking (as you seem to have done here)? Part of the problem arises, as you say, with regard to the mystics who did some pretty whacked stuff living out of a eros type love, but that seems more like a guilt by association argument. Sure, we tread on thinner ice because of it, but that shouldn’t mean we denude a our thinking of God of all implications of “eros” type love. Also, it doesn’t help to say that we have to keep this imagery corporate instead of individual as if “eros” love on a corporate level improves upon things if you already have a negative disposition toward this. A “spiritual orgy?” Hmmm…maybe there is something in there that God wants to convey to his bride the Church. Maybe we should try to work out the implications of such a meaning for the Christian life instead of a whole-sale condemnation of it.

  19. Brandon Blake

    By the way, for those who don’t want to use their browsers but want to increase the size of their font, I use the “Microsoft Optical Mouse 3000” with it’s magnifying glass function. It allows you to highlight just the portions you want.

  20. Wonders for Oyarsa

    Let me start off by saying that I hate the “Jesus is my Boyfriend” songs as much as anyone (and more than most). This lark news satire item depicts my feelings towards them rather well. But feelings, however strong, are not enough to condemn something outright. So let’s analyze the reasons.

    I can certainly understand the importance of distinguishing from how we relate to God in a corporate and individual sense. I mean, I am married to my wife. It would be a little weird to say that I’m married to her esophagus or her little finger. Once could imagine all sorts of freakiness that could be conjured up as a result of taking that to it’s logical conclusion – “here honey (I say, staring at her toenail) I want to take you out to dinner – just you and me (and sweetly slip little chocolate pieces under the toenail).”

    So of course the safest thing theologically to do would be to look at scripture, and try to model the way we look at God as individuals and as a body after scripture itself.

    But that still doesn’t really answer the question – “why?” “The Bible doesn’t say it, so I don’t do it” isn’t particularly compelling. There are many ways in which God interacts with Man/Israel/Church which he also does on an individual level. So why not this particular type of interaction?

    One possible answer is that we are not taking the full humanity of Christ seriously enough. Jesus, for all his fully-Godness, is still fully human – the son of man exalted to the right hand of the Father. Though resurrected and in glory unspeakable, and with power unimaginable, he is still a human being. He is a human being as they were always meant to be, and a template of the human beings he is going to make us into.

    As such, it makes sense that we, individually, can be his friends, slaves, subjects, and brothers. However, unless Jesus is going to be putting Solomon to shame as well as being a homosexual, we simply can’t actually all be his wives. There is a mystical and symbolic sense in which he can be a husband to us all as the church, just as Elizabeth I was “married to England”. But as a human being, Jesus just can’t be my husband.

  21. Wonders for Oyarsa

    And yet…and yet…do I really want to condemn everything in the “I come to the garden alone” line? Is it really totally off-limits for women to feel towards Christ like they do towards their husbands? Granted this is totally abused at the moments, but is it completely out of line in all circumstances/cultures? It’s a tough question.

  22. Jamie Arpin-Ricci

    John,

    I agree (in general) with the heart of your post, as it is something I have seen on occasion myself. However, while you have already said you make no apology for the statement, I find you comment on getting the “homoerotic creep” wildly inappropriate and insensitive in such a public forum. As someone who lives daily with the struggle of same-sex attraction, this only further drives a wedge of alienation and fear that so often keeps people in my situation from trusting Christian leaders.

    Sure, this may have been a accurate representation of how you felt, but just because it is accurate doesn’t mean it is appropriate for a wider audience in such a forum. Would it not have been far more effective and pastorally sensitive to avoid the phrase and find a more appropriate way to express your feelings?

    Peace,
    Jamie Arpin-Ricci

  23. Scot McKnight

    John,

    Overall, I agree. In particular, I don’t.

    1. I think the whole can be reduced to the inappropriateness of using “in” with love to form “in love” — for you that connotes a special kind of relationship.

    In general, fine; however, not all agree that this is the only connotation.

    2. Love of God — Father, Son (Jesus), Spirit — is the highest level of worship. Worship doesn’t transcend love (as if the latter is something at a lower level); worship finds its ultimate meaning in pure love of God in which we are in total union with God.

    3. We are to love God (Jesus). Use of love language for God is entirely appropriate and it is wrong not to have that kind of language.

    4. I’m not so sure it is that easy to distinguish the group from the individual; to me it is this logic: if in this case (group), so also in the individual case (you and I). If the Church is the Bride, I am “bridal” to the degree that I am in the Bride.

    Well, a thought provoking post for me.

  24. John Stackhouse

    Jamie,

    I have no idea what the problem is with what I wrote. I honestly and colloquially described what I and other (most? all?) straight men feel about homoeroticism in the context of how it is elicited by the phrase “in love with Jesus.” Such a feeling is doubtless not intended by the songwriters, but it is elicited in the nature of the case and is one of the reasons I therefore oppose this kind of language in Christian songs. These feelings, that is to say, are exactly to the point of the blog.

    Moreover, surely it is no surprise to you that some/many/all straight men feel discomfited by homoeroticism. How does my straightforwardly acknowledging that reality make for increased “alienation and fear”?

    Should I have used euphemisms? How would that have helped? And would I then have been open to the charge of condescending to the over-delicate sensibilities of certain homosexual brothers?

    Furthermore, those feelings of discomfiture I described say nothing at all about how I might deal pastorally with homosexuals. For the record, I have been getting some grief of late from certain conservative readers of my book, Finally Feminist, precisely for my pastoral considerations of those engaged in homosexual relations–considerations that these conservatives feel is far too accommodating and welcoming.

    So what gives? I don’t think putting a chill on straight talk about our differences is the way forward. But a chill is precisely what happens when we insist that other people must be so worried about hurting our feelings that they mustn’t even express their own feelings about our differences.

    And one last thing, brother: You certainly felt free to criticize me–me personally–in the very same “public forum,” calling me pastorally insensitive and “wildly inappropriate.” So am I to take it that it’s bad for me to express a general feeling you find troubling, but okay for you to dress me down?

    I myself think it is entirely okay for you to criticize what I wrote. But the criticism needs to be in terms of actually arguing how what I wrote was, indeed, “insensitive” or “inappropriate.” Simply recording your feelings of offense about my recording my feelings of discomfiture doesn’t make your case, does it? It’s just a statement about your feelings.

    So I’m genuinely sorry your feelings were hurt: such hurt was never my intention. But I maintain that I needed to say what I did to make the point I wanted to make, and if you insist on being offended by this sort of thing, well, I don’t know what else I can do.

  25. John Stackhouse

    Scot,

    Thanks for your post. Some quick rejoinders:

    1. I’m all for love-language for us and God–and all legitimate sorts of love-language, including eros, phileo, etc., etc. Of course I am!

    2. I resist the individualism that elides the important differences between me and the Church. The marriage language of the Bible is entirely restricted to the corporate, and it makes perfect sense metaphorically that way. As soon as this metaphor is reduced to the individual level, all kinds of weird things happen. So we shouldn’t reduce it that way.

    3. Being “in love” is a locution that I suggest most of us do associate with romantic love. But if it doesn’t for you, fine. Funny, though, how many people have the same response I do to these songs, calling them “boyfriend songs” and the like. And I did briefly gesture at their genesis in contemporary pop love songs, a genre that I suggest simply cannot be baptized into Christian praise music.

    4. My son tells me that his clever friends at Wheaton College call these songs “Susie songs.” You can spot a “Susie song” if you can substitute “Susie” for “Jesus” and both the lyrics and mood of the song stay pretty much the same…!

  26. Jamie Arpin-Ricci

    John,

    I might have respected a discussion where we discussed our differences and you made a clear attempt to understand, at least in part, what I am getting at, but when you say that you have no idea what the problem is, it is hard for me to see you making any such attempt.

    I am in no way saying that you don’t truly experience these feelings or even have a right to feel them but that doesn’t (in my opinion) make itappropriate to express that discomfort in the way you did. Of course I am not surprised that you (and others) feel discomfited by homoeroticism, that wasn’t the point I was trying to make.

    How does this “honest” language increase alienation and fear? You can’t deny that the Evangelical church does not have a great track record in their relationships with either homosexuals or those who live with the orientation, but choose not to identify with or practice the lifestyle. It is especially terrifying for Christians in this situation to come forward for understanding, prayer, etc. To hear (or read) someone express open disgust for what is so deeply connected to their identity (even if that is a false perception) can be devastating. I am very secure in where I am in my own journey, but even I felt the sting of your words.

    As for the alternatives, such as using euphemisms as you suggested, you are a smart enough man and a good enough communicator that to rewrite this without the reference could still have been effective without any issue or condescension.

    I recognize that you would respond differently in a personal pastoral context, but in the context of the blogosphere, where your writing could come up to anyone who happens to do the right word search, our pastoral sensitivities must extend beyond the face to face. Blogs are not like magazines or journals, where only the informed come to read. With a word like “homoeroticism” you have a fair chance of draw a very diverse crowd.

    I applaud your position on the issues you mentioned, but no amount flack or strong conviction makes this mistake any less inappropriate. You know very well that the impact of our actions and words are strengthen or weakened on a scale, one again the other.

    I am not suggesting that we sacrifice straight talk for fear of “hurting someones feelings”. It isn’t a binary option of either being honest and inappropriate or sensitive and compromised. Trust me that there are few things more painful than the rejection, judgment and disgust that are so often the response the church presents to homosexuality. “Hurt feelings” underplays the real impact this has on peoples lives.

    Yes, I did respond to you in a public forum. If you feel I was inappropriate in doing so, I apologize. My reason for doing so was two-fold: first, you posted this in a public forum with open comments, which (IMO) means it is open to critique. Second, the follow up comment “And I don’t apologize for saying so” seemed to indicate that you had thought about the gravity of that statement and even guessed at how some would react, but printed it anyway. If I am wrong in that assumption, I apologize. My decision was based on the conviction that the potential consequences of your words out weighed the alternative.

    Let me also be clear that my feelings weren’t really at issue. Your words were clearly not designed to hurt, but rather seemed to reflect (to me) an insensitivity. However, if I had read this 10 years ago, it most certainly would have.

    For you to say that you “needed” to say it to make your point disappoints me. You clearly have a far wider grasp on the English language for that to be true. And if you think that being offended by such statements simply a matter of choice, then we see the world and our responsibility to represent Christ to it in very different ways.

    John, please know that I do not intend to make this a war against you. If that was the result of my words, I apologize. Rather, my hope was you would fairly consider the possibility that there would have been a better way to do this without resorting to the approach you used. Perhaps after reading this you will. Perhaps not.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  27. Jamie Arpin-Ricci

    P.S. The sentence should have been:

    “You know very well that the impact of our actions and words are NOT strengthened or weakened on a scale, one again the other.”

  28. John Stackhouse

    Thanks, Jamie, for this courteous reply. I also do not want to alienate you. These are difficult times in which to discuss such things, I agree, and I certainly take your point that many evangelical churches have been very slow to demonstrate love to those who are wrestling with same-sex issues. I’m glad that has changed a lot in some quarters, as in my own church, but it grieves me to agree that it has not in many others.

    My point in the original blog was to state clearly what the issues were, as I saw them, in the lyrics I was criticizing. I felt it was important to say that among those issues–but certainly not the main one, which is why I didn’t dwell on it–was the issue of homoeroticism. And I wanted to convey that in a vivid way.

    Surely I am only naming what everyone knows is the case: many/most/all heterosexual men find homosexuality to be repellent, not just “different” or “unintelligible.” And I don’t think we should apologize for that feeling, just as we shouldn’t apologize for feeling similarly about other sexual deviations. In our concern to be kind to each other and to bear with each other’s difficulties, we don’t have to pretend that “I’m OK and you’re OK.”

    Indeed, to pick on other kinds of personal problems, if I am self-righteous (as I sometimes am, alas) or unkind (ditto) or insensitive (ditto encore), then I think it’s appropriate for someone to upbraid me for it and say, “I find that behaviour really upsetting, even disgusting.” Fair enough, I think. If that’s what you think I’m doing, then of course you’ll feel that way.

    I do want to hear you, Jamie, especially when you have taken pains to continue a conversation that pained you in the first place. And I will certainly keep thinking about how to express myself in a way that causes as little needless offense as possible. In particular, I do not want to make homosexual neighbours feel that we heteros cannot love them, respect them, and treat them well. We can, and we should.

    At the same time, however, I hope you will allow that if I am trying to convey something strong, such as strong emotion, I need to use strong language, as I did. Yes, I could have softened this expression, but I wanted to convey to songwriters and worship leaders that this feeling is indeed a strong one, strong enough for them to have to take note of. Euphemism would have been contrary to my rhetorical intention in this case.

    I note that you don’t actually tell me how you think I should have written it differently, but you assume that I could have and chose not to. Well, brother, I am saying that I’m not as good a writer as you think I am, and I’d be glad for an example of how I should have conveyed what I wanted to convey without offending you.

    And please be assured that I am glad for this kind of thoughtful and passionate engagement. I do not feel that we are at war: not at all. We’re just arguing about things that matter!

  29. Jamie Arpin-Ricci

    Thanks John. Again, it was not that I was against you having the feelings or your failure to apologize for the feelings, but rather that I question expressing them in this context to this end. I think we understand each others positions, which is helpful. I will say that many men who express finding the idea repellent do so as much out of unhealthy masculinity issues as they do for the reasons you express here. Note, I am not saying that is the case with you. Don’t know you well enough to say so one way or another. However, that is another issue altogether. In the end, I still disagree, but fair enough.

    As for the rewrite, I actually wrote and deleted several appropriate options, but in the end felt that to do so would only feed the fire. While I think my rewrites would have been adequate, you probably would not have- again, fair enough. Let’s just leave it at that.

    Sorry for hijacking the thread on this side issue.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  30. tim ellison

    i cannot more heartily agree with your comments about songs that sing of being in love..i too am in love with my wife and i reserve that type of language to that relationship only. i love to sing worship songs to jesus and about jesus and it is really not that hard to seek out words that do not confuse the appropriate language needed to convey how i feel…thanks john for clearly articulating what i have often thought!

  31. on the walk » theological lyrics

    […] His initial post is worded more strongly than I would frame the issue, but it has sparked a good conversation, and that is was is needed. We need good and serious conversations about worship lyrics. His blog is worth reading in general so check it out. […]

  32. JRS

    I have a suggestion on this.
    Is it true that our songs or hymns in worship of God should be expressing our love for God, how much we love God, etc., OR should they express a confession of what God has done FOR US in Jesus Christ – in other words, that He has died for us, risen from the dead for us, lives and reigns and gives us faith all as a free gift (Ephesians 2.8)??? Should music and songs be used to bring us to emotional highs, and to affect our emotions (in Church, in worship), or should our songs and hymns and music clearly confess the objective faith we have been given??? Having studied much hymnody, the answer to those questions in the church catholic until very recent times has been to say that hymns and songs should express the faith, express the confession of what God has done and is doing for us in Jesus Christ. Thus, the Church developed her own style that does not get in the way of that proclamation, rather the music aids that proclamation and confession.

    Yet, today, we are answering the question by saying it is more important to tug at heartstrings. I think pop music has not got the ability to do more than be “boyfriend and Jesus” songs (Amy Grant’s quote), and has not because of its inherent style got the ability to carry the weight of being a truly Biblical witness. I think the article gets at that, and the following discussion seems to confirm that. One man above was saying that he is trying to write more Biblical, more “mature” pop style songs – but I would propose that no one has yet been able to do it. And when one wants to write a mature set of lyrics that actually truthfully carries the weight of a truthful, sound Biblical witness of the work of God in Jesus Christ, then I propose one is going to end up writing a HYMN, and a “traditional” one at that.

    So – find a good traditional hymn and liturgy based Christian worship service, where Law and Gospel are rightly preached, where the hymns confess the Biblical witness rightly – if you are unhappy with the boyfriend/in love with Jesus songs.

  33. dan

    Personally, I’ve always taken a certain amount of (twisted?) pleasure in watching a bunch of straight and rather ‘phobic Christian men sing love songs to Jesus (with obvious discomfort). To be honest, I had hoped that such songs would actually help to foster dialogue between Christians and the members (Christian or otherwise) of the LGBTQ community, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead, it seems to have resulted in a (regrettable) pendulum swing toward especially “macho” expressions of Christianity, embodied in the likes of Mark Driscoll.

  34. Corey Reynolds

    Thanks, John, my sentiments exactly. I love David Murrow’s chapter on worship music in his “Why Men Hate Going to Church” book. We need a little more transcendance thrown into the mix, I think – not to distance ourselves from him, but to see ourselves in the proper perspective. I don’t make out with God, nor do I want to.

  35. fromagetoage

    Prof Stackhouse,

    While I agree with the point about the theology of contemporary praise songs, I’m wrestling with understanding the love of God in (what seems to me) a purely corporate way. Some questions:

    1. Is the love of God purely corporate?

    2. Is it inappropriate to express love to Jesus?

    3. Is love language in the Bible purely corporate?

    4. Can what is said of the church ever be appropriately applied to an individual of the church?

    Just some clarifying questions lingering in my own mind. Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Sammy Rhodes

  36. carissa

    hello! i looked around your blog and i enjoy your writings. thanks for posting them.

    as for this particular topic – as a young unmarried female, i can tell you that i still feel much the same way you do. “in love with,” at least in my mind, is for romantic (and i suppose this includes erotic) love. i don’t even like saying i’m “in love with” a movie, food, or other non-human things that girls my age and younger like to ascribe the term to. the thought of a romantic or sexual connotation in my relationship to Christ is just creepy. plus, i would even venture that God’s love for us is the perfect realization of love, and romantic love is just one earthly shadow or reflection of love… to turn the analogy around and say instead that love for Christ is a kind of romantic love is to miss the point.

  37. Casey Lanning

    Hello John, I could be missing something, but I have posted my response on my blog and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Thank you for offering a thought-provoking topic for discussion.

  38. Zach

    Yes, it would be good to change those songs to, “Jesus, WE’re in love with you”, and even better to sing more of, “Thank you Jesus for YOUR love for US”, since our love is so fickle but His is so solid. It would also be good if our emphasis on a “personal relationship with God/Jesus” was balanced out with more Biblical language and imagery, which generally is in terms of covenant community, such as “the kingdom of God”, and “the body of Christ”. The kingdom of God is a huge Biblical theme which was central to the preaching of Jesus and His apostles, but we so rarely hear about it today.

    Having said that, I also want to say as a fully heterosexual man, that I want every drop of testosterone flowing through my body to be dedicated to falling more and more in love with Jesus with all of my strength. No, I wouldn’t, and never plan to, say that “I am in love” with any other man. But we are not talking about any other man, we are talking about Jesus! There are some good and important points in your post Brother John. But for me, I’ll continue to say,
    JESUS, I AM IN LOVE WITH YOU! Why? Because I mean it.

  39. Brandon Blake

    Forgive the crudeness, (though I don’t think it is any more crude than John’s homoerotic aversions) but like my buddy said, “If he prefers the whole body to be the Bride, what is he imagining on the corporate level that helps him make sense of the metaphor, gang banging? Come on. A whole group of men (take just the men in the church, for example) “being in love with” a man is OK, but an individual man being in love with a man makes him feel weird? Gosh.”

    All John has done is move the “homoerotic creeps” to the corporate level but still creepy nonetheless.

    Come on John, who is the bride of Christ? The local church? The whole global body of Christ? Could Promise Keepers be considered the bride?

  40. Darby Livingston

    “The marriage language of the Bible is entirely restricted to the corporate, and it makes perfect sense metaphorically that way. As soon as this metaphor is reduced to the individual level, all kinds of weird things happen. So we shouldn’t reduce it that way.”

    I disagree with this notion. This corporate/individual distinction is precisely the argument of many against individual election to salvation. The corporate church consists of individual members. Take away the individuals, and the corporate is lost. While I don’t sing “in love with” lines along with Brother John because it makes me uncomfortable, I think we need a stronger case against it to call it wrong than just personal jitters.

  41. John Stackhouse

    Hmm. I’ve dealt with many more important topics than this one on this blog, but BOOM–has this one ever resonated, not only here, but on lots of other blogs as well (some of which, to be sure, wrote about this topic long before I did).

    I trust readers will understand that I can’t keep trying to make the following sorts of distinctions:

    > between homophobia (whatever that is–and it certainly means different things to different people) and mere heterosexual discomfiture about homoeroticism;

    > between what can be predicated of a corporation and what can then be predicated of its constituents (e.g., Canada as a nation versus me as a Canadian; the Church as a whole versus me as a Christian); and

    > between the locution “in love with” and all other expressions of all other kinds of love.

    You might agree with me on all of these distinctions and still disagree with my post, as some have. But at least we’re disagreeing about the same things. Other comments seem to fail to make these distinctions and so are arguing about something else.

    So thanks again for your engagement, friends, and I’ll come up with something new soon. I doubt it will be this widely interesting, but perhaps it will be more important…

  42. eric sparks

    Since this seems to be such a rampant problem in the church today (according to Dr. Stackhouse and many of the commenters here), could some of you give us some examples of this sort of “in love with Jesus” language (i.e. song titles)? I took a quick look at the CCLI top 100 and found only 1 song that used that phrase and it was a corporate “we” in the song “Shout to the North.” I would love to hear some examples since this seems to be such an issue.

  43. dan

    Dr. Stackhouse,

    One point of clarification: it was not my intention, in my previous comment (#38), to suggest that you, personally, are “homophobic” (a word that does deserve some careful definition). Rather, I was simply making a general observation, inspired by your post. Sorry for not being more clear.

    As a general observation, I feel that it is quite accurate to describe many (most?) Christian men as “homophobic.” For example, a survey in Toronto found that, next to violence in the home, sexual orientation was the second highest cause of homelessness for street youth (the respective precentages were 75% [homeless due to violence] and 40% [homeless due to sexual orientation]). Sadly, the vast majority of the LGBTQ youth that I spoke with, who were kicked onto the street by their parents, were kicked out of Christian homes. Hence the tone of my prior comment.

    For this reason, I do think that we, and especially those in Christian leadership, owe it to these youth to get a little more comfortable with “homoeroticism” so that we can model another way of interacting with our children when they “come out” to us.

    Thoughts?

  44. connie r.

    If females can be sons of God, then males can be brides of Christ as well.

    Nothing gay about any of this at all.

    How can something be corporately true if not individually true as well?

  45. John Stackhouse

    Thanks, dan, for the clarification. And I agree that we must be careful that any revulsion we may feel toward someone’s attitudes or behaviours must be framed and informed by truth and love: truth about what’s really going on (and too often we summarily condemn without understanding why someone might be or do such a thing) and love (too often we fail to see another person as beloved by God and as our human neighbour whom we are to love as we love ourselves).

    I appreciate hearing your testimony from the street. It hurts to hear of these young people being tossed out of the one place they should literally feel at home because of their sexual difference. Church should be another place they should feel at home–not in a sentimental and confusing “we affirm everything about you” but in a strong, secure “we love you no matter what”–and I will redouble my efforts to make sure I help, not hurt, in that cause.

  46. bryce palmer

    i didn’t read all of the comments so i don’t know if someone else said this, but, thanks. i’m glad someone has said it again. i’ve heard it before; but it seems to get lost in today’s sappy, evangelically light, post-modern, love affair with singing to a pseudo-god that people have created in their minds but is definitetly not the GOD of the Bible. GOD is not a man that HE should lie, nor is HE a man that we should sing to HIM like one. so amen.

  47. holmegm

    I will say that many men who express finding the idea repellent do so as much out of unhealthy masculinity issues as they do for the reasons you express here. Note, I am not saying that is the case with you. Don’t know you well enough to say so one way or another.

    And you know this how?

    It’s something that homosexual men seem to want to believe about those who find the behavior repellent – and it is understandable, I guess. Who would want to think that others are genuinely repelled by my behavior? It must be much easier to assume some sort of reverse psychology sort of thing.

  48. corriganclay

    Well, being that you are going to grade my papers this semester, I hesitate to raise theological issue with your post, but I’ll stick my neck out for this one…

    As an artist I read the “I’m in love with you” lyrics quite differently than anything I’ve seen posted here, I think. If I didn’t I would not raise my club at the dead horse…

    Art comes (in part) from a different place than our theology. While both our thought and our expression, our systemization and reflection engage the world and God as revealed to us, theological conviction and proclamation come from a place usually reasoned and amicable to a propositional account. The arts exist partially because there are some responses to our world that are not well expressed in propositions. I don’t give flowers to my wife because she needs them, and while I can explain that I give them to her because I love her, it doesn’t really make sense… it is a sharing of beauty with her, but why do flowers communicate this sharing better than giving her a colorful piece of wrapping paper? There is some kind of association with affection, be it culturally produced or instinctual, that renders flowers appropriate to a confession of love. To try to explain this to my wife as I give her the flowers kind of misses the point and cheapens the exchange, “Honey I bought you flowers because they are somehow assigned as a symbol of love, and I love you… do you get the association?” Pull that kind of talk out and the romance dies quickly.
    Similarly, any such critique of the theology involved in an artistic expression, whether it be a painting, film, or corporate worship songs must confess that it is not dealing with the express purpose of the arts. A painting may, for example, be packed with theological relevance and meaning, but this is not necessarily the intention of the artist. Think of Picasso’s Guernica or Francis Bacon’s images of Pope Innocent X… These are deeply theological reflections with no direct theological motivation… They are responses to war and angst… and they are sheerly authentic. They may not necessarily reflect a theological position that is accurate, but they authentically reflect that position and can be engaged with positively from an orthodox position. We can agree, for example, with Bacon that a reality without a benevolent God is totally a nightmare in which nothing makes sense, worth is sapped out of everything, and the only proper response is terror and frustration. That Bacon believes this to be how reality actually is is beside the point… we can look at his art and say that from his vantage point this was a very authentic response. And ultimately his painting is at best a metaphor, as all symbolic or expressive representation is bound to be.

    The same goes for our worship songs… our critiques of worship music often flow from expecting worship tunes to be the kind of airtight theology we would hope would be expressed by a thinking church OR we lambast the worship tune writer for being a crappy poet. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, either write theology or write poetry. Now obviously worship is the MOST theologically charged poetry we may encounter, but we can’t demand the kind of theological precision of a poet that we would of a proper theologian when their currency is metaphor. Nor can we restrict them to Biblical metaphor… as if there are any dishonest associations available within poetry. If a worship writer has had a sense of a deepening and more and more intimate love for Jesus, why can’t they say they are falling in love with him? I highly doubt that any of these popular writers, Matt Redman, Martin Smith, Brian Doerksen et al have any pretensions of having a sexual relationship with Jesus… but do we demand this level of metaphorical precision with the arts in other circumstances? “No, sir Shakespeare, ‘outrageous fortune’ is not quite the same thing as ‘slings and arrows’ nor is ‘shuffling off a mortal coil’ really appropriate to what is actually happening in death, you see when we die the oxygen depletion to our circulatory system operates not in a spatially progressive permutation, but in a more locally traumatic dimension…” Do you see what I’m getting at? To force art into our more careful everyday categories misses both its power and its purpose. So you don’t like “in love with You” language for Jesus for some very well reasoned and theologically appropriate reasons… the question to me is not whether you are theologically right, but whether you are dealing with somebody’s gutteral, artistic response to God as authentic and whether you can make the same confession authentically. The metaphor doesn’t work for you, but it does for others, and I suspect not because they want to hop in bed with Jesus, but because they feel known by him, loved by him, and covenanted to him in a way that has far too few linguistic signifiers that can be sung in one line. Semantically, they may take issue with your own use of the phrase, “I’m not in love with Jesus”, thinking your own use of language would be better off if drawing clearly the distinction you are asserting, that you are not erotically, romantically in love with Jesus though you love Jesus very very much. But you used the title creatively, to be provocative. Surely you weren’t trying to say that you don’t love Jesus, rather you are making a distinction about the nature of our love for Jesus. For me this distinction is a no-brainer and yet I personally resonate with the “in love with” language because while I distinguish my romantic love for my wife this way, there are metaphorical senses of romantic commital love that speak descriptively of my relationship with God. Like any metaphor they break down at many points, but where they don’t, the image is useful (That God attracts me, that my love for Him grows, that I want to change my schedule so that I can be around Him more, that I want to give good gifts of affection to him, that I am infatuated with him) These are dimensions of my relationship with God that are best symbolized by the language of being “in love”. They do by no means exhaust or fully depict the love I have for God, and in some senses, yes, the metaphor is not useful… particularly if it is the only metaphor we use… then indeed we have a far too privatized sense of our relationship with God and can fall into thinking that our relationship with jesus must also be somehow sexually charged… which gives me the willies as well, but I am quite in love with Jesus in those other senses.
    This whole conversation reminds me of the first time I heard a song based on Psalm 42:1. When I heard the words, “deer pants” I thought immediately of an awkward pair of trowsers being kicked off by a white tail buck. After I realized that the poetic language was referring to thirst I still did not get it. Thirsting for God? At that point of my life thirst had very little to do with church (which was what I thought God was all about). The metaphor irritated me. I still have never seen a deer pant, but the cognitive dissonance of the metaphor worked its magic in me over time and eventually convicted me that I too wanted at least to understand the place that this longing for God was written from. I don’t think I’ll ever be physically thirsty for God, but that image of panting says something that could not be said without the metaphor. I figure if I can pant for Jesus I can be in love with him too.

  49. Jamie Arpin-Ricci

    Holmegm,

    First, I am not a homosexual man, but rather a man who has lived with homosexual orientation for many years, but have never acted on it. Just so we are clear.

    Let me also say that, unrepresented in your quote, I did say that I understand the feeling and do not necessarily condemn it, EXCEPT when in the very common scenario I point out.

    How do I know what I said is true? After years of ministry to people in and outside of the church in respect to gender issues, family dynamics, etc. I have seen this many time. It is no secret that so expressions of masculinity are unduly harsh towards anything perceived as “unmanly”. Ironically, this kind of masculinity can be directly linked to the occurrence of homosexual orientation of those raised in that context.

    Again, I am not condemning the expected repulsion, but rather saying that there are some instances where these feelings are exaggerated to extremes from this issue. It is NOT, as you say, an “easy” dismissal through reverse psychology, but the product of years of study, ministry and personal experience.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  50. John Stackhouse

    Corrigan,

    Just to be clear: I’m all for metaphors, images, allusions, you name it. But some devices work better than others because they depict things better than others. “Jesus, I’m so in love with you” simply fails, in my view, because it uses an expression that doesn’t match the thing to be depicted, namely, the quality of love that is appropriate for an individual (please note: male OR female individual!) to have for Jesus.

    “In love with you” I take to be a colloquial expression for romantic love. If you don’t, as some don’t, then fine. If you’re “in love with” your grandchildren or “in love with” someone or something other than your lover, then sure, sing it.

    But many/most of us don’t use that expression that way, and none of us should be relating to Jesus as an individual fiancée or bride of Christ, because we’re simply not.

    So this post isn’t a dispute about technical theological language versus poetic license. I’m all for poetry, and have even published a bit myself. The point instead is good poetry versus bad poetry, and in this case, I think it’s bad poetry.

  51. Brendt

    The second issue (“it gives me the homoerotic creeps”) is disappointing, and (IMHO) a bit trivializing of God. I wrote the following some time ago in a slightly different context, but it’s just as applicable to my point:

    God’s ways are foolishness to the natural (unsaved) person — he cannot comprehend them. Surely we don’t dispute that. So why do we balk at an image of God — Who is most often described as male — as loving men, simply because of the connotations that fall within the bounds of the understanding of the natural man? Is it not enough that God’s love for us is unfathomable, that we have to further complicate the matter by confusing the issue of a God-man relationship with that of a man-man relationship?

  52. shawnanderson

    Hi Mr. Stackhouse,

    I came here through Challies.com, and enjoyed your comments here. Thanks for being honest and sharing your thoughts.

    Seems to me that if the Church would simply return to singing the Book of Psalms, we wouldn’t have to wrestle with what we are singing, but instead could be instructed, and admonished by the Spirit of God speaking through His Praises.

    The Psalms express all of the genuine and sincere experiences of the Christian, and show forth much of Christ’s life and thoughts predictively.

    Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

    Eph 5:19 — Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonID=2210572827
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exclusive_psalmody

  53. Lisa

    Fantastic post, Was saying something similar on my site about the state of lyrics too!

    Anyway I don’t think simply returning to the Psalms Shawn is the way to go, simply using one book and ignoring the rest is blindly ignoring the beauty of many of the images and theology present in many of the other books and I think brings in another issue altogether. For example if we just use the Psalms how are people ever going to know anything about Jesus and his redemption etc

  54. Heather Jamison

    I always wondered how men felt about singing those songs/words. I don’t find it uncomfortable myself because I’m just not that tied down to formalized definitions, etc, hey — I life in Africa now — I have learned flexibility (form doesn’t always mean the meaning, etc.) . . .but I did wonder how men felt to sing that.

  55. gavin brown

    Dr. Stackhouse,

    I am the worship leader at my church, and I wholeheartedly agree with your views on this issue. I have often made changes in the lyrics of otherwise good songs simply to avoid the sort of sensual, romantic “feel” that is in so many songs being churned out by the major publishers.

    I would also recommend that worship leaders check out Sovereign Grace music…I’ve gotten alot of fresh, Christ-honoring, well-written songs from them for congregational use.

    Finally, my rule of thumb: If you insert your girlfriend or wife’s name for God’s name in a song, and the song still sounds okay, then it needs to be thrown in the garbage.

    Thanks for a good post that I’ll be passing along to others.

  56. eric sparks

    Gavin (and all),

    Not to be a jerk, but even Sovereign Grace Ministries music uses this “wrong” phrase in one of their songs. In the song “Your Beauty and Your Majesty” off of the All We Long To See album, the chorus is simply, “And I will always be in love with You.” Just thought I would point that out. I would be interested to hear Sov Grace’s Bob Kauflin weigh in on this.

    I agree with much of what is being said in regards to this issue and personally don’t like using that particular phrase in worship. However, some of these broad generalizations are just wrong. This trend, as I listen to the contemporary worship music coming out, was a brief problem that is on it’s way out. Let’s stop comparing the best hymns to the worst of the contemporary stuff. There are some wonderfully, Christ-centered, God-exalting, Word-saturated modern songs being written and sung in churches today (such as Sovereign Grace’s stuff).

    My main concern in all of this is that much of what is being said specifically about the phrase “in love with you” in worship music is simply not true and based more on preference than on fact. If it’s a problem in your local church, fine, deal with it there, but don’t paint everything coming out in modern worship as bad because of your local experience with it. Like I said earlier, only 1 song of the CCLI top 100 has the phrase “in love with you” (or variations of that) and it’s used in a corporate sense with a “we.” Even Dr. Stackhouse said that that would be okay. And of the others, I would say only a handful (maybe 6-8) would fall into the “Jesus is my boyfriend” category. That means more than 90% of what’s being sung today (not including public domain stuff which would make that percentage higher) is NOT in this romantic, sensual, “Jesus is my boyfriend” category. Maybe it gets the radio airplay, or maybe your music leader needs a little more guidance, but it’s not this huge problem it’s being made out to be.

    So, if you have a problem with contemporary, modern, whatever-you-want-to-call-it music, just say so, and don’t make these broad, sweeping generalizations/stereotypes which just aren’t true.

    Thanks for the discussion.

    SDG,

    eric sparks

  57. Rev Pete

    I don’t think that just because I am in love jesus that means I am going to try and fuck him.

    Ever heard of a book called the Divine Romance?

    God is a parent and and bridegroom.

    the patriarchy of God as father pisses me off more than the “i am in love with jesus crowd” it is just as biblical as a romance with god and just as problematic for theology and praxis.

    who did ruth love more, nonsexually, than she ever loved a man? Naomi
    who did david love more than any woman, *probably* nonsexually? Jonathan

    Abraham was not in love with god.
    I think that King David was not in love with god but was passionate about his father in heaven.

    John, however, the gospel writer, was more in love with jesus than he ever was with anything else ever.

    c.s. Lewis writes that the gospel of john is not a romantic tale. I agree. but it has elements of a romantic yearning.

    c.s. lewis says that we are all feminine to god’s masculinity. i think that proves why he took so long to get married as not so charming sexist.

    God is my father, mother, brother, my bridegroom, my guide, my comfort, etc.

    maybe YOU are the one is not in touch with your masculinity in a healthy way.

    when my best friend died I literally wished that I could have held him and kissed him and caressed him before he died. I am not gay, not that gay is bad thing. could I be aroused by a man? sure, if I wanted to “explore” my sexuality in non healthy ways. because for all that unchristlike sexplay, I would still be straight and wanting a wife. bad thing!

    You white bread rich folk need to realize that some of the world is not afraid of physical tenderness and love between friends.

    I would not mind jesus as my boyfriend, if it was the nonsexual boyfriends people had when I was 11.

    the church is married to god you nit!

    the PROBLEM with the “jesus is my boyfriend” music is that sometimes he is not.

    singing in ways that sound like a crush on jesus are not wrong due to sexualized content or super-invidualization
    but they are problematic. due to the indidualization and more importantly, the transitory nature of those feelings.

    jesus as my HUSBAND is more approprate.
    beacuse I have, when I was evangelical mode, felt a “sappy love” for god.

    guess what? lately, I feel the same thing as a postmodern emergent divinity student.

    but “feelings” cannot be the basis for my hermeneutical grid.

    If, god forbid, I enter another paul ricourean “desert of criticism” or just a dark night of the soul, I will think back to this day, today, when I literally wept with joy due to the presence of jesus and will say. “even though I do not see him now, and EVEN though I have no joy…I believe”

    Jesus will be my bridegroom if I am mad at him, if I doubt him. I can break up with a boyfriend when the thrill is gone.

    Thank God, please really thank God, that we are “stuck” with jesus.

  58. lewsta

    Spot on, this–even if I do come in at the end of the day. Same pay, right? I loved (though am not “in love with”) the crack about Susie Songs—-I’ve detested these for years. I do have a problem with such songs used in corporate worship–and one not mentioned here yet. During this part of our gatherings, we need to be singing about God Himself—His goodness, power, compassion and faithfulness toward os, His majesty, and, yse, even His wrath. “Susie sings” comprise that dreary, sick note—mi mi mi. Yes, they concentrate on how it is all abouut ME, what I am doing, will do, have done, cor, ain’t I so great, lookit ME and what I do for God…see, I am even “in love with” Him. Leave these sorts for singing round the campfire, at the park or seashore…NOT appropriate for corporate worship, what should be the focus during the Believers Meeting Lord’s Day.

    Now, as to the homoerotic bit…I have to agree, the offense taken by some at this valid reason for rejecting such songs may well be a reverse accusation. Funny how I, as a follower of Jesus, also abhor things like drunkenness, swindling, inveterate lying (far too common in politicians, why I abhor most of them as well), adulterors, satanism…..and few (other than those given over to these things and looking to justify themselves) ever take offense at my abhorrence of these behaviours. HOWEVER, include homosexuality in this list, and we’ve instantly got a rabid tiger on our hands…and the government (those politicians at it once more) trying to intervene. I can’t refuse to hire a homosexual living with his cohort in immorality, but I have full liberty to refuse to hire a drunk, or a thief, or a dishonest person. Go figure. NOW–all that said, I DO relate to people afflicted with these things, honour them as fellow travellers, and live as a good witness of God’s ways. I do not avoid them as a matter of course. Why the special treatment when I abhor one of these behaviours? It can ONLY be a reverse reaction by those within that group.

    One more detail—I use a Mac, and when the font is too small to conveniently read, I simply hit the Apple and the plus keys together—instantly the font grows one size. Hit Apple-zero and it returns to normal. Simple.

  59. John E.

    Semantics people, semantics. Don’t sing the song if it bothers you. That’s what my grandma does when the beat gets faster than her heartrate.

    Now, let’s talk about tattoos.

  60. mac

    uh…wow. Being a white bread rich folk, I did not no that grimacing at bad hymnody meant I was afraid of tenderness. I guess that is what broad brushes are for?

    Anyhow, amen Dr. Stackhouse. I tend to read the bulletin during these songs or ask the Lord if I am some cretin for not wanting to sing these tunes with the rest of the congregation.

  61. shawnanderson

    Hi Lisa,

    You said: Anyway I don’t think simply returning to the Psalms Shawn is the way to go, simply using one book and ignoring the rest is blindly ignoring the beauty of many of the images and theology present in many of the other books and I think brings in another issue altogether. For example if we just use the Psalms how are people ever going to know anything about Jesus and his redemption etc

    You’d have to check out those links I posted, they deal with your comment in detail, but let me briefly say that Christ is in the Psalms. In fact He is the main subject of the Psalms. In the Psalms you will see reference to all of the content of the Church Creeds, ie. His divinity, mission, birth, ministry, suffering, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, his present seat at the Right Hand, his future coming, judgment, consummation of history, glory, and everything in between.

    One of the deficiencies in the Church today is their lack of familiarity with the inspired Hymnbook of the Church. However, you will find that the Church historically sang only the Psalms for about 1800 years (apart from other songs pulled from other places in the Scriptures).

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  62. Wayne

    Countless Christian men throughout time have struggled with same-sex attraction, and valiantly deny their natural inclinations, in order to honor God with their mind, bodies, and sexuality. I include myself in this group.

    Meanwhile, it takes just a distant concept to give you the homosexual creeps, and you have no apologies for your position.

    While I am in sync with the overall direction of your arguments, even the one I am mentioning here, the kind of person you are framing yourself to be in the second argument is simply a nightmare for those of us who yearn to have Godly relationships with men who express a safe and mature masculinity that is strong enough to be relationally available to a broad range of persons. It doesn’t take much searching in the church to find the average detached man who is so absorbed in the opposite sex, he has no room in his life for anything else. Why would I want to be like him?

    I am reminded of the playground taunts in grade school so many years ago, where my peers, obviously troubled by the homosexual creeps, liberally used the f-word toward me. You weren’t one of those bullies, were you?

    I struggle with the idea of loving Jesus for many of the same reasons you do, but your other arguments are enough for me.

  63. Brian D. Smith

    Thanks for having the courage to say what a lot of Christian men have been feeling for years. I couldn’t agree with you more on all of your points.

    Peace,
    Brian

  64. Bob Kauflin

    A friend referred me to this post.

    Thanks, Prof. Stackhouse for your insightful thoughts. If being “in love” with Jesus is always understood to mean a sensual, romantic kind of love, I think your conclusion is accurate. I wrote a post on this theme a while back at worshipmatters.com on April 7, 2006.

    Since Eric, in comment #76, asked me to weigh in on this discussion, I thought I’d oblige.

    I oversee the music that Sovereign Grace Ministries puts out and had questions about the lyric that Eric references in the song “Your Beauty and Majesty.” I let it go for a few reasons. The rest of the song speaks of God’s wisdom and majesty, standing in awe of God, my life revolving around the gospel, etc. The phrase in the chorus is “I will ALWAYS be in love with you,” implying more than a fleeting emotion. Finally, other parts of the song are sung in first person plural. I think context matters, both in terms of the individual song, as well as the way a song is led, and the songs placed around it. But for the reasons Prof. Stackhouse cites, I don’t think it’s the most helpful way of expressing our love to God.

    At the end of the day, I think we’re better served as individuals and as a church when we focus on the immeasurable love God displayed for us when he gave his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. That produces the appropriate combination of awe, reverence, passion, and joy in our response to God.

  65. Lynn

    Thank you so much for posting this! For so long I’ve felt something must be wrong with me because I couldn’t stand the worship music of today. I think songs like U2 writes about the reality we all face are far more “spiritual” in nature than the sappy love songs where everyone who used to do drugs has now replaced their addiction to chemical substances with “worship high.” THANK YOU!!!!

  66. Ryan McDermott

    It would be interesting to see how this discussion would play out with actual texts on the table. If “in love” is the objectionable phrase, is “my Jesus, I love thee” exempt from Stackhouse’s criticism? What if when it was written, “I love thee” had its own erotic charge (Eros broadly construed)? Here’s the text:

    My Jesus, I love Thee

    My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
    For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
    My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

    I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
    And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
    I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

    I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
    And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
    And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

    In mansions of glory and endless delight,
    I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
    I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

    William Ralph Featherston, 1864

    Also, in current language, “I adore you” is much more romantically than religiously charged. What do we do, then, with something like Thomas Aquinas’s “Humbly I adore thee?”

    Humbly I adore thee, Verity unseen,
    who thy glory hiddest ‘neath these shadows mean;
    low, to thee surrendered, my whole heart is bowed,
    tranced as it beholds thee, shrined within the cloud.

    Taste and touch and vision to discern thee fail;
    faith, that comes by hearing, pierces through the veil.
    I believe whate’re the Son of God hath told;
    what the Truth hath spoken, that for truth I hold.

    O memorial wondrous of the Lord’s own death;
    living Bread that givest all thy creatures breath,
    grant my spirit ever by thy life may live,
    to my taste thy sweetness neverfailing give.

    Jesus, whom now hidden, I by faith behold,
    what my soul doth long for, that thy word foretold:
    face to face thy splendor, I at last shall see,
    in the glorious vision, blessed Lord, of thee.

  67. Sue

    The problem isn’t the phrase “in love with”. The problem is that in our culture the whole concept of love has become whatever any individual wants. Yes, “in love with” generally denotes a man-woman relationship. On the other hand, if I say “I love Jesus”, it doesn’t necessarily mean any more than saying “I love chocolate.” Wouldn’t it be nice to have one word or one phrase signifying our adoration of God that the whole culture could really comprehend?

  68. John Stackhouse

    Ryan, Thanks for visiting, but you’re a little late to a party that has gotten out of hand a few times! Furthermore, I’m not really sure what you’re asking. But I’m pretty sure what I’m saying: If a song is expressing a “Jesus & me” relationship that is romantic and reminiscent of Jesus as my boyfriend/fiancée/spouse, then I’m saying it is incorrect theologically and unhelpful for piety.

    I’m not impressed by the invocation of medieval mystics. I’m not writing them all off, of course! But I also don’t think everything written or experienced by St. So-and-so is validated by a patina of age and veneration. So, yes, erotic stuff written about “Jesus & me” back then is just as wrong as it would be now, I’m saying.

    At the same time, celebrating God’s love for Israel and Jesus’ love for the Church in terms of betrothal and marriage is not only correct, but a helpful addition to the church’s repertoire–especially in churches that tend toward rationalism or moralism. Just make it corporate, as the Bible does.

    But I’m repeating myself, as others have repeated various points, and I’m two blog entries ahead, now! So I’ll have to sign off this conversation, and I hope later commenters will understand if I don’t reply to any more.

    And Sue, I think that “worship” might be the word we can reserve for God alone that others might also understand as we do. But I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s not the only verb to describe how we relate to God, and “love” is a pretty important word not to lose!

  69. Janie Mock

    John,

    You are so right on. Just this past Sunday, I found myself looking in the hymnal for some meaningful lyrics to old hymns, maybe even something scriptural, while the congregation droned on more miserable, sappy songs. I detest that song about “Jesus, I am so in love with you.”

    This Sunday we sang a song that described God: “…You are my strong melody; You are my dancing rhythm. You are my perfect rhyme….” As the teenage girls say…”Ewww”! As a Lutheran, I think of God more as a “Mighty Fortress” than as “my dancing rhythm”….!

    Also, I know your sister here in Texas. She is a delightful person and was a great help to me.

    Janie

  70. John Stackhouse

    I’ll reply just once more, to Janie who mentions my beloved sister, Jayne, who lives far away in Austin, TX. I’m glad you enjoyed meeting her, Janie, and I appreciate your hilarious comment!

  71. Joshua Koh

    oh gosh…it’s funny to see this hailstorm…given…I was the actual person leading the Matt Redman (Let My Words Be Few) song at 10th Avenue Alliance the weekend before this post originated…

    funnier to think I go to John’s school…taken his classes…gotten my degree there…and have even been complimented on occasion by him for worship sets that i’ve led :P.

    haha…the humor of it all…

    it’s good to see people wanting to engage with their music they sing in church and not just go through the motions and nod your head to everything that happens without processing it.

    i kind of wish john had come up to me and engaged me personally rather than me having heard of this several weeks later through several second-hand sources…but i know he’s not being mean to me… 😛 (we had a good laugh just a moment ago).

    but still…as a lead worshipper…i’d appreciate it SO MUCH if members of MY community would approach me directly to give feedback about the theology and anything else they thought about what I offered to my community.

    I don’t mind being wrong…or admitting there are songs I do that don’t fully capture the fullness of our theological tradition.

    I will say I am passionate about what I say and do and care deeply about the theological accuracy and life-giving-ness of each and every worship set I prepare.

    I have even tried to talk to Matt about “Let My Words Be Few” regarding another issue I had with it…it was nice to be able to directly ask him (i ended up chatting with Pilavachi…his pastor instead)

    my two cents…take care everyone!

    josh

  72. John Stackhouse

    Josh,

    Thanks for writing. Just for the record, though, this isn’t an issue between you and me, so I didn’t approach you. It’s a much bigger issue in our church and,indeed, well beyond.

    Furthermore, you’ll be encouraged to know that I have previously addressed this kind of issue and related ones directly with three other people charged with the leading of worship in our church, including senior staff. Alas, I haven’t gotten the sense that my viewpoint was entirely agreeable to them, and the songs continue in our “rotation”….

    And I will continue to compliment what I like about your worship leading, which is quite a lot!

  73. Craig Ginn

    Human beings experience love in a myriad of ways and probably fall short of understanding it fully. Therefore, articulating love is not without its challenges in language, sentiment and intention. Who in evangelical churches has not been browbeaten by the three words for ‘love’ in John 21? (Sorry, already I digress).

    Gratefully, we love because God first loved us. The greatest love has been demonstrated in and through the person and work of Christ. The greatest commandment is to love God. God considers idolatry – oddly, but consistently enough – as prostitution. Perhaps some folks will be ‘creeped out’ but such language. Yet, should we sanitize spiritual harlotry from God’s speech?

    I’m not sure that it is good judgment to categorize Matt and Beth Redman’s lyrical expression as ‘wrong.’ It may not sit right with certain temperaments or fit certain cultural contexts, but it certainly isn’t mistaken, erroneous or even heretical. If Matt and Beth are ‘in love’ with Jesus, who has the right to say they shouldn’t be? The greater issue may be the arena in which the expression is used. I agree with SursumCorda, i.e. worship leaders should select lyrics that express (for the most part) ‘corporate sentiments in corporate worship.’ (By the way Josh, I admire the way that you have handled this situation).

    Re. Christian mystics. Their works are easily misunderstood or misapplied. Before we seek to validate or disqualify them (or lump them all together – sigh), perhaps we should mull over the terminology we’d use to express our experiential relationship with God. What would we find? Do our hearts overflow with love for God?

    I’ve been impacted by the words of Jesus in John’s Gospel:

    ‘You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.’

    I sincerely need and want the love of God in my heart.

    Re. Psalms. There’s a lot of war motif in them. War was, and still is, an institution in Israel. For this reason, Isaac Watts felt required to omit some texts (e.g. Psalm 137) and edit the rest in the ‘imitation of Christian language’ (in which the enemies of Israel were spiritualized). Whether one agrees with Watts’ operant hermeneutic or not, one can learn from his exercise of due diligence in the writing, editing and selecting of doxological sources for use in a corporate Christian context.

    John, you are absolutely right in flagging the larger issue: The textual content of worship songs needs to be evaluated. Indeed, the Christian hymnic tradition is rife with emotional idealism, exegetical malpractice, theological recklessness, typological mischief, etc., etc. Problematic lyrics are especially rampant in the current ‘worship industry.’ The solution? Songwriters, recording artists, publishers, copyright brokers and record companies need to be held accountable to theological integrity and encouraged in the prudent use of language. A lesson or two in ethics wouldn’t hurt either. I’m not holding my breath, but I’d consider co-writing a book with you:)

  74. Ken

    For the third point to make is a theological one. Jesus is not your boyfriend, not your fiancé, and not your eventual husband.

    This is one of the reasons I’m still single at 52, despite blowing well over a grand on Christian dating services before I wised up.

    The women at Christian Dating Services already have the Perfect Boyfriend, Perfect Lover, and Perfect Husband. His name is Jesus. Compared to Him, what can mere mortals like me offer that she doesn’t already have? (Except maybe a live-in ATM to support her while she pursues her Relationship with her Real Husband Jesus. My Church has a career path for those women who want to spend their whole life 24/7/365 in devotions. It’s called a Contemplative Nun, and includes a community of other Contemplatives, not a paper marriage to a mortal pseudo-husband.) It’s like Christ is the ultimate Alpha Male who has claimed all the females for His harem, and us Beta-to-Omega males had better learn to do without.

    (Then there are the Christian Dating Service women who put the long list of non-negotiable qualities they are looking for in a boyfriend/husband — a Spiritual Giant so Uber-Uber-Christian even Christ Himself couldn’t measure up! I saw the same thing so many times, they should have it pre-printed on the dating service forms. Sorry, I’m just a man, and one who’s not wrapped all that tight to start with.)

    P.S. Anybody seen the South Park episode where Cartman starts a bogus Christian Praise Band on a bet? “Christian songs are easy to write; just take 20-year-old love songs and substitute “Jesus” for “Oooooo Baby!” The episode goes on with some really outrageous examples…

  75. No

    I’m so sorry I ever found this weblog. You are so intellectually superior to everyone else and have it all figured out, huh? You have absolutely nothing to say to help or instruct anyone. This isn’t truth. “In love” as applied to Christ is a metaphor, just as we’re His “bride” is a metaphor. You’re so bent on word usage, snob. What an arrogant ass.

    Your relationship(?) with God must really be sad, dull, cerebral, and uninviting.

    In love with Jesus regardless of your self-exalted opinions,
    tdpiano

  76. John Stackhouse

    Tempting (in the most serious sense) as it is to reply to comment #99, as the 100th comment on this particular topic, I thank, instead, everyone who has read and commented on it. May we all love and praise Jesus better for all the attention we have paid to this issue.

    And now let’s move on to the weightier matters of the law…and the gospel.

  77. DESTINIQ

    I’m in love with Jesus ONLY because he is madly in love with me!

    If the church was nonexistent and I was the only one deciding to run after His heart, he would still call me son, bride, friend, servant, co-inheritor, the object of ALL HIS LOVE. WOOT! Isn’t He amazing!!

  78. hj mac

    theologically speaking Jesus is not “your friend” Rather it is you who are called to be HIS friend.

  79. Drew

    Greetings… Nice to find your blog here. I totally agree with this. My wife and I have discussed of late how strange it is to love that which is not tangible. When we love Jesus are we not saying that we love our idea of who that person is rather than actually loving Jesus as Jesus is as an other separate from us?

    I think the kind of hymnology you are discussing, if we can even designate such a romantic title to the kind of song writing it is indicative of, emphasizes the issue.

    I would say that I am not in love with Jesus because Jesus has not presented himself to me as a physical other. This is where my love of the effect of Jesus on my person diverges from my love of the person who is Jesus. The distinction is an important one, but alas I tend towards pragmatism rather than what is dogmatically consistent.

  80. Jana

    Dear Sir, I’m sorry the stigma of the phrase “in love with” shuns you from using it in reference to your God and Savior. Certainly, followers of Christ are not “in love with” Jesus Christ in a marital, sexual, worldly sort of way. And if one chooses to interpret that phrase in that frame of mind, by all means, don’t use it when you’re speaking about your relationship with the Almighty. However, if you look at that phrase to mean experiencing an intense, deeply spiritual, HOLY emotion between an individual and his/her Redeemer, I find no fault in using the phrase “in love with.” I am in love with Jesus Christ, but I don’t want to sleep with Him. Sorry to disappoint the masses, but it seems to me that the World interprets a lot of what we–as Christians–say and do in whatever way seems fit for them, and the World’s way does NOT coincide with God’s way. The World hates and tries to destroy our faith because it will not, cannot understand it. Does Christ understand when I say I’m in love with Him? Yes. Does Christ understand when you say you love Him but aren’t in love with Him? Yes. Does lingo honestly matter? No. What lies in your heart, what lies in the relationship between you and the One and Only is all that matters in that conversation. God’s opinion is the only one that counts! 🙂

  81. Fundamentalism « drink me

    […] if you can interpret “jesus” in a metaphoric sort of way, that’s one thing, but Prof Stackhouse seems to be a conservative christian in most ways, just with openness to variation on women’s […]

  82. Claudette

    As I read the comments I am amazed how many christian men out there who are on an ego trip. That’s the main reason why most men do not attend church services….nothing to do with the songs/chorus- contemporary or otherwise. The bible says when someone does as he likes and not what he should do he is led away by his own lust. Perhaps these men need to ask what it is they are lusting after when they choose not to attend church services or they attend because its expected.
    Also, as a worship leader I just don’t choose songs for their ‘feelings’ value. I take the time out for specific prayer and guidance. In fact one of the choruses for this week is I Keep Falling In Love with him over and over and over and over again and I know that our men will sing it with meaning – bearing in mind that God is a spirit and not the guy next door.
    Sadly, we’ve become so picky picky over everything little thing that no wonder it is so easy for satan to bring instruments of confusion among the body of Christ.
    I will get sappy over Jesus and am not ashamed of it because I know there’s nothing sexual or amoral about my action. What’s wrong with crying and wanting to feel the comforting arms of my Jesus when he gives me a song in my heart. You don’t know where I’ve been or what am going through so don’t ‘despise’ me for doing what comes spiritual to me.
    Grace be to you.

  83. Tastentier

    You say that this special form of love, being ‘in love’, is reserved for your wife. But the bible character Jesus makes it quite clear that his followers are not supposed to love anyone more than him.

    You are even supposed to love him that much that the love you feel for your wife, your children or your relatives appears like hate in comparison. See Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”

    So you can’t be his disciple if you don’t love Jesus more than anything in your life, more than your wife and children. Very few people can claim that they love an invisible person on the level that Jesus requires. Therefore, most christians will end up in hell. Jesus knows this pretty well, see Matthew 7:13-14. And in Matthew 13:41-42 he describes what he will do to those who don’t love him enough… it’s not pretty. He and his angels will personally burn them in a “furnace of fire”, a Third Reich practice. That could be your wife who ends up in Jesus’ furnace, if she loves you more than him. Or your children, if they love their parents more than biblegod.

    Can you really love such a person at all? Someone who will throw people who love him – but just not enough – into an eternal fire? Someone who says that the vast majority of mankind will end up this way? Personally, I couldn’t. Good that he’s imaginary anyway, isn’t it? But even if he wasn’t, I could not love such a creature, not to talk of being in love with him.

  84. John Stackhouse

    Let’s keep our eyes on the ball here, friends. My point has to do with the locution “in love with,” which I take as commonly understood to be a romantic locution, and thus not appropriate for love for God–except in a metaphorical sense of the Church (collectively) as the Bride of Christ. Thus it is not appropriate in the singular “Jesus, I am so in love with you”–whether by a male or a female worshipper. Nor are other “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs, because they are confusing forms of love that are better kept clear.

    Thus I am not saying I love Jesus less than my wife. I am saying that I love Jesus in the way that is appropriate to loving God, and my wife in the way that is appropriate to loving one’s spouse.

    It would be a strange God indeed who did not expect to be loved as one ought to love the Supreme Being–namely, supremely. That’s what Jesus expects.

    Tastentier is right, therefore, to be repelled by a God who wants to be worshipped as God, if Tastentier would prefer a god who wants to be–well, what? Petitioned and thanked from time to time? Kept around for good luck? Enjoyed as a decorative focus for holy days?

    But these deep matters are not the point of this blog. Perhaps I should write something separate on them.

    Thanks for engaging with these ideas, friends!

  85. Tastentier

    If there was a benevolent supreme being, an omnibenevolent being even, I would think that this being loved all his/her/its creation unconditionally. Human parents are capable of doing that, of loving children who eventually leave the house and go their own way without ever writing or calling home. The desire to punish these children, an eternal punishment even, is a strange and tyrannical concept that conflicts quite a bit with the notion of (omni)benevolence and the forgiveness preached by prophet/demigod Jesus… but you’re right, that’s indeed beyond the topic of this blog. Just food for thoughts 🙂

  86. Noone important

    don’t forget, we are the “brides of Christ.”

  87. brandon

    Indeed homosexuality is a perversion. However, it is sad to think that you are not in love with King Christ Jesus because he is in love for you. Enough so, to have himself beaten beyond recognition of human form. Has your earthly wife done such a thing for you? If you were a devout disciple of Christ, then you would understand John 14. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust in me also. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have to you. I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you unto myself so that where I am you maybe also. You know the way to the place where I am going.” If you had understanding of Jewish weddings you would know this is the custom. You see, a man would find a woman he wants to make his bride and then he would arrange to have his father meet her. If the man’s father approved, then that man would go and build a room in his father’s house so that when the man and the woman are untied in marriage, they would live together in that room; the room built in his father’s house. So, it is clear to see that King Christ Jesus loves you enough to go and prepare a place for you in his father’s house. If it bothers you to call yourself a partner of Christ, then you do not know Jesus or his Father. For they are not of fleshly desire but of Holy Spirit. Therefore, the acknowledgment of sexual orientation is null for the truth that spirit is not sexual but of Godly descent. Therefore, if you will not be in love with Jesus, then you are not in love with the Holy Soul that ransomed your very life. It is his Kingdom that you will be treading in for eternity, it would be wise to indeed be in love with the King that you will be with forever and the only one ever to have made such an incomprehensible sacrifice for you. You must learn to understand and distinguish the difference between Godly love and fleshly, worldly, love. It brings me joy to know that you are questioning such things. It means that you are searching for the real truth and that you seek to be perfect, error-less, in God’s eyes. May your faith, knowledge, and wisdom increase through the Lord our God’s Grace and Mercy. May revelation be bestowed upon your mind like a golden crown of righteousness. You are my brother and I love you as a brother in the superior Godly Love and I will pray that you be truly perfected before judgment so that you be exalted by God’s right hand and that you be placed over 100,000s of thousands in Heaven. May your journey be inspiring to many others. Grace, Peace, and God our Father be with you.

  88. Andrew

    OH my. I would not want to be “placed over 100,000 of 100,000 in Heaven. Just to be at the back of the Most High dining room at the supper of the Lamb is enough. As for being “in Love” I agree with John here entirely. “in love” is a human term. I suspect most musicians see it that way too.

  89. Randy Jones

    You should read the Song of Solomon with a spiritual mindset – not fleshly or carnal. Jesus is the Heavenly Bridegroom – our love for Him as our Bridegroom is not fleshly, sensual, carnal, or sexual – but spiritual. “Oh Thou whom my soul loveth!”

    Download Cora MacIlravey’s Book – Christ and His Bride. Very spiritual book.

    God Bless!

    Randy Jones

  90. mamazee

    my mom sent me this link as part of a conversation we’ve been having about “Christian” music – i love the new sounds, but i agree with her that these boyfriend songs are uncomfortable for men but also for women… the thing is, a lot of women that i know (i’m 34) have been married to men who sorely disappoint, who cheat, who leave, who abuse… and Jesus has promised in His word to be “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows” (ps 68:5) and sometimes that in itself brings up uncomfortable conclusions and outpourings. Cindy Jacobs has talked in her book on intercessory prayer about the inappropriate fixations of some women during prayer… it’s not just a male problem. I think (as a mom with six littles, currently “doing homechurch” with my husband leading)that maybe music in church isn’t just about expressing myself, but should fulfill a more didactic purpose – Martin Luther certainly thought so and wrote some great meaty hymns, expressing to the people through these easy to memorize pieces of poetry, basic theology. This is what i want to do with my children. Memorizing “It’s not about me, Jesus,”etc – may be fine, but it’s not planting anything lasting and beautiful in their minds, which i think A Mighty Fortress Is Our God does…
    That said, i think there is a time and place for the expression of our personal relationship with God, and an honesty there – but i doubt it’s in corporate worship at 9 a.m. on Sundays.

  91. Megan

    In my oppinion (granted, this is just my oppinion) I don’t think you’re taking the phrase “in love” the right way. When you are in love with someone, you’ll do anything for them, right? Like, you’d give your life for them…anything!! This should be how your love is for Jesus and God. You should love God so much that you’d do absolutely anything for Him, yes? And assuming that you do love Him this much, you’d technically be “in love” with Him. That obviously doesn’t mean you want to have a sexual relationship with Him. It’s just that you love Him intimately and completely because of what He’s done for you.
    Now to reserve a special phrase (“in love”) for your wife, but exclude God from that? You just group Him in with all the other things you love?? It just doesn’t make sense to me…because He should be much more important that ANYTHING you love, including your wife!

  92. Tim A.

    Since obviously this is for everyone to share their opinion, here is mine…

    I stumbled on this blog searching for the lyrics for a misty edwards song…i found this blog interesting…

    I’m a young guy…21…and I don’t see what the big deal is about the prase “in love with”. Obviously I haven’t studied all the words and read the years and years of history behind them but my gosh…why waste time talking about it? All I know is when it comes down to it… God is not going to care one bit how we tell him we love him. In love with or love him…however you feel like saying it…at the end of the day…who cares! God wants us to love him…so lets just do it…and seek his face and his heart and go after the lost so that we don’t waste our lives…especially with non-important stuff…such as figuring out the best way to tell God we love him…like he won’t know what we mean unless we use the right phrase…

  93. Tony

    Brilliant! I have been saying this for years. It’s just wrong.
    Also all of the songs that out right lie, “you are all I have ever wanted”, or “you are all I think about”, it just isn’t true.
    Also, I can’t understand the people who not only sit while singing “I stand in awe of you” but drop to their knees for those lines. I end up not singing about 30-40% of the songs during service.

  94. Alan Cossey

    In a recent “Christianity” magazine article here in the UK, Matt Redman said that he wished he had not used the “Jesus, I’m so in love with you” words in his song, but rather something like “Jesus, I’m so in awe of you”. His reasoning was the same as given in this post, i.e. that it is a turn-off for men. If you get a chance to read it, you will be pleased to see that he is now very much on board with what you are saying. He is an excellent song writer and I am looking forward to his next set of songs.

    Anyway, the reason I came to this blog is that we sang this song on Sunday and I missed those words off at the end.

  95. Lingo Girl

    Thanks for that! I referenced you in a blog on the same subject. I couldn’t possibly agree more, and it’s refreshing and comforting to hear that others feel this way.

  96. anotomous

    For one, God is not necessarily man or woman as (assuming you take the bible literally as well as a genesis creation) he made both man and woman in his image. Is not the church called the bride of christ?

    In-love depends on interpretation. You seem to interpret it on a physical level. Not all would. Some would consider in-love to be “so far loving another person that we lose sight of everything else around us” which we do when we resist sin for his name.

  97. David

    Maybe I am a little late coming into this topic but… I’m sure you’ve quite familar with the psalms. How often does the psalmist use phrases like “I yearn for you”, “My flesh longs for you”. These aren’t exactly things I would say to another man, nor should I say to any woman who… I am not in a convanent relationship with!

    Some things some Christian mystics say can seem strange, but… just to toss it away because it makes you feel funny? How can we grow emotionally, and grow in love of God with our heart if we do this?

    Plus, “in love with” is used all the time to discrible a non-romantic love. Get with the times!!

  98. John Stackhouse

    Um, guys: read the post. Read it all. Then comment. Otherwise you just look silly, arguing with things I didn’t say and missing what I did.

  99. Joe

    I found a link to this blog on the pastor’s blog (that I will never read again for having referenced you). And I would just like to say that you are a moron and you need to find better things to do. If you are a professor somewhere, every student should get a refund. When you meet Jesus face to face, why don’t you tell Him then that you are not in love with Him. Do the world a favor, and throw your computer away, you technology pharisee.

  100. Amanda

    I come back and re-read this blog every once in a while when I’m feeling particularly discouraged about modern worship music. My husband and others in our church are really into music coming out of IHOP (much of which is along the “I’m in love with you” lines), and I find so much of it just creepy.

    I am striving to love God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength.

    I will never be “in love” with Him. I don’t want to be “lovesick” about Him.

    I just can’t agree more with what you’ve written, and it’s refreshing for me to see that there are sane people who think about these things.

  101. Rose

    I agree! Too often the church sings songs that are not based on scripture. I love Jesus!

  102. Kenny

    Well I must say that Im in love with jesus. His love saved me from hell.Love the god with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul. It dosn’t matter how you say it. As long as you love him as he loves you.

  103. Skyfort

    Ooy, couldn’t finish reading all the comments in my limited amount of time, but I wanted to say that I googled for “Jesus is not your boyfriend” (because I want to write that book someday) and I ended up here, and it made me glad to read it. =) Thanks for saying what you’ve said, John Stackhouse!

  104. Hedy S.

    As we are called to be the “Bride of Christ”, should we not be in love with the BrideGroom ?

  105. Melissa Hyatt

    Wow, why wouldn’t you want to be in Love with your creator? Jesus said, You seen me you seen the Father. Jesus is everything the Father is and everthing else of what we do not know of. Lean not in your own understanding of this love for your savior. When you experience God and His love you can not help but fall in love with both of them. And I am in love with Jesus and my Heavenly Father. This love did not come from me, it was given to me because of lack within myself and enhanced my desire for them. An expression of deep sincere gratitude of love in every kind of form. The in love with Jesus that I feel inside that comes from every part of my being is about my emotions, heart and soul and body. His love has consumed me beyond words that expresses the very essence that envelopes me within. I had such an encounter with God when God found me that I couldv’e have riped the skin off my own bones to get to Him or to have more of HIm. He was that good and that’s how crazy His love will make you. It has everything to do with your emotions, heart and mind when you are in Love with Him. Just like falling in love with someone on earth, but this is the relationship that you have always dreamed of. Everything you have ever wanted in a relationship and custom made just for you. ANd the relationship with God will never fail you, He will never hurt you, or leave you, in any way. I didn’t expect to fall in Love with Jesus and my Heavenly Father, it was part of my inheritance of how I learned that I could while He pursued me. And it doesn’t have anything to do with male or female, or anything sexual. God is both.I am not only in Love with Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Father, I am in love with Righteousness, His Goodness, His giving, the way He loves. So, if you aren’t in love with Jesus CHrist, try seeking out the love of your life with your Heavenly Father. It has nothing to do with male or female anything, it’s about who He is, love and every part of love that goes with it and even heavenly things you don’t even know about. Jesus said if you love anyone else more than me than your not worthy of Him…(in so many words), because He wants all of you and that means your whole heart. You will never know what riches you will find when you seek HIm out with your whole heart, mind, soul and spirit. I can’t tell you the treasures I have in Christ Jesus that totally has to so with us communicating with one another because we are In love with one another. It is like finding a pearl in a field and you wonder how in the world was I ever blessed with such love and devotion from my creator openly. It is literally walking with God without a flesh body that you can touch. And believe me, I will never stop desiring more of Him until the day that I can put my lips to His…..Praise Be to God in the Highest!!! Thank you Father!

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