I feel uncomfortable using romantic terms to describe God’s relationship with us, His children. God being my “Lover” and the idea of “falling in love with Jesus?” I get squirmy, in part because my mind almost automatically associates romance with sexual passion. And — God forbid — that I would sexualize my relationship with my Creator! So, I shy away from the analogy.
Of course, we have many other analogies for God’s relationship with us. Jesus Himself refers to himself as our “Brother,” for example. The Bible refers God as our “Father” so often that it’s become second nature for us to address God simply as that, “Our Father.” In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul uses rich and sensual (not sexual) words to describe his love for the young Christians in Thessalonica, which was inspired by God’s saving love for Paul:
“But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us…like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you…” (vs. 7-8 & 11b-12a, emphasis added)
Depending on our experiences with our earthly families, and a myriad of other factors, these analogies may be more or less difficult for us to enter into experientially than the God-as-our Lover analogy.
But do we miss something essential or central to God’s affection for us if we throw out the romantic metaphor entirely?
One usually unique aspect of a successful romantic relationship is it’s commitment to permanence “til death do us part.” With the exception of religious vocations, there are no other human relationships that involves such serious vows before God and community.
There are also few other human relationships that involve so much passion, strife, affection, and anger. Jeremiah 2 uses the words of a deeply betrayed Lover to describe God’s disappointment with His rebellious people:
“Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate… for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (vs. 12-13)
God also reminisces in this passage: “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness…” (vs. 2b)
In Psalm 6, these pleading, tearful words are mimicked by the other “other lover” — David, representing the cry of us humans (back) to our God:
“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled…But you, O Lord—how long? Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love…” (vs. 2-4, emphasis added)
Lord, heal us from sexual abuse by authority figures, wounds inflicted by romantic partners, and our sex-obsessed culture and selves. Show us, instead, the beauty of Your true and pure and deeply affectionate love for us, your people. Amen.