Jesus, I’m NOT in Love with You

Wow, I just discovered John Stackhouse, an author whom I admire greatly, has a blog over at http://stackblog.wordpress.com. I think this will soon be on my favourites list.

I was searching for the lyrics of a worship love song that I got a bee in my bonnet about over the weekend when I found his critique of worship love songs and realized he had already done a superb job of it. Here it is:

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 fiance, 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’ fiancees 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.

Although for shear impact you just can’t go past Southpark’s take on this with the “Faith + 1” album. I think every worship leader and song writer should be forced to watch it and wince.

And if that wasn’t enough of an inditement, it seems even Matt Redman is beginning to doubt the wisdom of whole worship love song thing.

Ah, now I remember, the song was “Arms of Love”. I was sitting there thinking, yuck, if I substituted “Saviour” and “Jesus” for “Baby” and played it on Mix FM who would have known it was supposed to be Christian? I will demonstrate with some simple substitution:

I sing a simple song of love
To my [Baby], to my [Baby].
I’m grateful for the things You’ve done,
My loving [Baby], my precious [Baby].

My heart is glad that [y]ou’ve called me [y]our own.
There’s no place I’d rather be than

In [y]our arms of love,
In [y]our arms of love.
Holding me still, holding me near,
In [y]our arms of love.

Homoerotic creeps … and theological shudders. It was ironic that the sermon was about food offered to idols. That’s food I definitely can’t touch.

17 thoughts on “Jesus, I’m NOT in Love with You

  1. sonja says:

    hehehe … yeah … this post made the rounds of US blogs a few months ago. There are actually quite a number of women that these songs give the creeps to as well. Jesus is not my boyfriend/lover either. He’s the king of the universe … not my teeny-bopper boyfriend. Ewwww … it’s just sort of nasty. I’m often listening to regular pop/top 40 radio and wonder about the lyrics to myself. Gee, I think, this could be about God if a “Christian” were singing it. Then I have a good giggle. When the music is that close, then you have to say that it’s nothing really special at all.

    Like

  2. Dana Ames says:

    I used to like those JIMB songs, because at the time they afforded me a way to be honest about my love for him in the company of the church. With exposure to theology that makes better sense to me, I’ve changed my tune 🙂
    But I think it would be good to think about why the preponderance of such songs. I think, in part at least, it’s because we are generally confused about what love is; we often do not have a maturely loving male in our lives; we also have not had a lot of teaching about what Jesus as king means, other than “king of my individual life disconnected from anything else”; nor do we grapple with the ramifications of being his “co-worker”…
    Dana

    Like

  3. Matt Stone says:

    “I’m often listening to regular pop/top 40 radio and wonder about the lyrics to myself. Gee, I think, this could be about God if a “Christian” were singing it.”
    Yes, and you know the truth of it, while I was sitting there in the service Salt N Pepa’s “Push it” came into my head spontaneously and I found myself wondering, hmmm, if we started singing “Oooh, Jesus, Jesus”….? Eeeew, this drivel screws with me something horrid.

    Like

  4. Celtic Son says:

    Funny… that espiritu_paz raise the issue of the “individualization of the world.” It seems to me that most of those who are writing critiques of the “Jesus is my boyfriend – worship” variety, are often just as guilty of elevating their personal experience of “worship” over those writing the songs… There’s no consideration given to the people who are expressing their love of God through those songs – as inadequate as they may be – planks and splinters come to mind!
    I’ve just posted a comment on Alan Hirsch’s The Forgotten Ways blog tackling some of these issues… from a whole different perspective than is raised by Stackhouse Hirschy etc
    Perhpas rather than food offered to idols it might give you some food for thought…
    Slainte
    A Celtic Son

    Like

  5. Nathan R. Hale says:

    I agree with many of the sentiments expressed here, though I think it really depends on the song…Third Day’s “Love Song” for instance, doesn’t really have many romantic ideas…the song “Love Song for a Savior” by Jars of Clay is another one I think is good and doesn’t go overboard with the romance, even the the main lyric is “I want to fall in love with you.” I feel it’s meant in a different way.
    Other kind a give me the creeps as well, though, like “Your Love is Extravagant,” which uses a lot of sensual imagery.

    Like

  6. Matt Stone says:

    Another song which fails the “baby” test
    “I Love Your Love”
    Chorus 1
    I love your love
    Gonna shout it out aloud
    I love your love
    Wanna tell the world about it
    I love your love
    ‘Cause I’ve found it to be true
    And I live to love you too
    Verse 1
    Sometimes when I feel your love
    As I walk along the busy street
    I whisper your name under my breath
    And sometimes when I feel your touch
    In the quiet place of my room
    I sing your name in adoration
    And there are times
    When I feel like I’m bursting with your love
    So strong and so true
    And in my heart I feel such a yearning
    And I want all the world
    To know you love them too
    There wasn’t even a name to change needed there. Is the only thing which makes this Christian the context in which it is sung?
    ———————-
    And here’s another example
    “So in love with you”
    [Baby] I’ve found in you
    Everything I was searching for
    And you’ve given me
    What I needed and so much more
    So I’m giving every part of me to you
    Won’t you take my life I’m living it for you
    [Baby] I’ll live for you
    In everything I do
    And when you call my name
    I just can’t help but sing your praises
    I’ll give you all my praise
    I’ll serve you all my days
    Gonna let the whole world know
    [Baby] I am so in love with you
    Every day it’s you I live for
    Gonna serve you all my days
    Every step I take you’re with me
    [Baby] you’re the only way
    Maybe we should start a top 10?
    —————————
    How does this strike you?
    “Falling in love with [my Babe]
    (Verse 1)
    Falling in love with [my Babe]
    Falling in love with [my Babe]
    Falling in love with [my Babe]
    Was the best thing I ever, ever done
    (Repeat)
    (Verse 2)
    In his arms I feel protected
    In his arms never disconnected (no no)
    In his arms I feel protected
    There’s no place I’d rather rather be
    Had enough yet?
    —————————
    Here are some quality lyrical snippets from over at Tim Abbot’s blog
    http://timabbott.typepad.com/timabbott/2007/01/jesus_is_my_boy.html
    It’s a love I can’t contain when
    you touch me with your heart,
    It’s a feeling I can’t explain when
    you kiss me with the kisses of your mouth.
    Come and kiss me with the kisses of your mouth.
    and
    “here I am your laid down lover”
    and
    “You have raised our fallen manhood…”
    Oh dear…

    Like

  7. Steve Hayes says:

    When I was at school I used to cringe when we had to sing a Christmas carol that called him a “darling, darling little man”.
    The chorus was “We will rock you”, but Queen it wasn’t.

    Like

  8. Kalessin says:

    My oft-planned worship song parody presently has the working title “Like a fire needs a friend” … but I digress…
    Here’s something topical for those in Sydney…
    Mark Evans, author of “Open Up The
    Doors: Music In the Modern Church” will be speaking at Sticky, the oh-so-trendily-titled Sunday night meeting of 2010. the oh-so-trendily-titled church plant in Darlinghurst.
    Sunday 6pm at 182 Campbell street.
    Macquarie Uni profile:
    http://www.dcms.mq.edu.au/main/staff-evans.html
    (A ‘doctorate in contemporary Christian music’?!)
    Recent ABC Radio Interview:
    http://www.abc.net.au/sundaynights/stories/s2072584.htm

    Like

  9. Heather says:

    Try this one on for size: – Jesus is a love song (http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Jesus-Is-A-Love-Song-lyrics-Karen-Clark-Sheard/689269195C1A329D48256EA300065D34). Not quite sure which parable that comes from…
    How about I’m In Love With Jesus (http://www.lyricstime.com/new-direction-i-m-in-love-with-jesus-lyrics.html), with the gritty chorus: “I’m in love with Jesus – and He’s in love with me.” With all the “Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes” stuff happening at the end it slightly resembles a When Harry Met Sally diner moment. Sheesh.
    I completely agree with you on this, it’s a cheapening of God. Yes, we are to worship. No, being “in love” with Jesus isn’t worship. It’s a cheap replica of the real thing.

    Like

  10. Bruce says:

    While I agree with the overall argument being made here, that of the church buying in to an overly romantisized version of love that often treats Jesus as a boyfriend, which I am very uncomfortable with, there is another side to the coin, so to speak. First let me point out that the phrase “I’m in love with you Jesus,” is not literally used in the first set of lyrics we examined. It could be argued using the parable of the prodical son with the father passionately hugging his pig smelling son that the phrase “in the arms of love,” has this picture in mind having nothing to do with homoerotism. We need to be careful of the other end of the spectrum that those of us from a Northern European heritage often fall in to, that is a very cerebral form of worship that can be cold and seemingly afraid of any emotional involvement. Unfortunately in english we have only the one word love to depict so many things as opposed to the greek language.

    Like

  11. Matt Stone says:

    Bruce, yes, I have gone further that John Stackhouse and critiqued some songs that do not specifically speak of being “in love” with Jesus. But if you look more carefully you’ll see there were two that did so, explicitly, and if that’s not enough I’ll offer some lyrics from another song sung frequently in services I attend:
    The simplest of all love songs
    I want to bring to you
    So let my words be few –
    Jesus, I am so in love with you
    As for the Greek language, and our only having one word for love, I have heard that argument many times and I just see no validity in it. Firstly, we do have alternative words like “romance” and “compassion” at our disposal which can be used to clarify between “eros” and “agape”. Secondly, even where the word “love” is most appropriate, that complaint, that we have only one word, does not address the above argument one iota. For the thrust of the argument is that there IS a difference in English between saying “I love you” and “I am in love with you” which has nothing to do with the word “love” itself and everything to do with the words that surround it.
    If you doubt there’s a difference between these statements, answer this simple question, as a Christian have you ever said, “I am in love with you” to a person you weren’t romantically involved with?
    This is precisely the crux of it: it is the words that surround the word “love” that give the word “love” different meanings in English, so attention to the words around it is paramount if you don’t want to be heard saying things that you are not. In my last example, the phrase “love song” carries very romantic connotations in English. To use the phrase so casually in a worship song is to court such connotations. It speaks of careless or naivite on the part of songwriters at best. Now, if there are people out there who don’t see the romantic connotations, fine, feel free to use these songs to your personal edification in private. Just think twice before assuming that all songs are equal for corporate edification, that’s all I’m saying.

    Like

  12. megan says:

    ummm, exscuse me Alan Hirsch,
    “I’ll give you all my praise
    I’ll serve you all my days”
    “Every day it’s you I live for
    Gonna serve you all my days”
    I don’t know how many girlfriends would sing that they’re gonna “serve” their boyfriends everyday…
    these songs are talking about serving Jesus, as in telling people about him and the LOVE he has for us.
    And the Love the way you’re making it out to be is in a completely different context.
    Jesus is our friend, our saviour, our Father. there is completely and absolutely nothing wrong with being “in love” with him, and if you experienced the kind of love some people do with Jesus, im sure you’d understand it, too.

    Like

  13. Yvonne says:

    Actually that “kiss me with the kisses of your mouth” line is from the Song of Songs, which used to be interpreted as an allegory of either Yhwh’s relationship with Israel or Christ’s relationship with the Church. (Read theologian Stephen Moore on this subject – “God’s Beauty Parlour and other homoerotic spaces in and around the Bible” – most enlightening.)
    Nowadays I gather people tend to interpret the Song of Songs as what it is – an erotic love-song. Fashions change.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s