Recovering the Language of Love
One of the sad realities of our day is that Christian marriages have as much difficulty and nearly the same rate of divorce as non-Christian marriages. The rate of Christian teen sexual activity is nearly identical to the surrounding culture, with the best estimates saying that they postpone intercourse for one to two years later than their peers.
The Song of Solomon is key in enabling us to recover the lost language of love. First, husband and wife (mother and father, son and daughter) do not fear frank discussion. You cannot read this book without being confronted by the discussion of intimacy and romance that it offers. For instance, in chapters 4 and 7, the writer describes the beauty of the woman with terms that in some cases are funny (“your hair is like a flock of goats”) but in other cases are quite explicit (“your two breasts are like two fawns”). Intercourse is even described. Although veiled in poetry, it’s unmistakable: “My beloved has gone down to his garden to the bed of spices, to graze in the gardens and to gather lilies. I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he grazes among the lilies.”
Take a lesson from Scripture and speak frankly of love to one another. Failure to do so is not a sign of great piety; too often it is an indication that you do not understand what the Bible means when it talks about our bodies. If you value the body as Scripture does (part of God’s good creation, subject not only to the fall but also to redemption), you will see that your body becomes a vehicle for worshipful living, an experience that doesn’t stop at the bedroom door.
Second, strive for lovely language in your relationship and in your home. Your home must be more than central command where people gather for daily orders before being sent out into the battle field. It must also be a banqueting house (2:4), and in it you sing your lover’s praises. Taking the Song of Solomon as our cue, it can be so much more. Romantic love in the book encompasses all the senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. Let your own language of love reflect those senses using both words and gestures.
Third, remember that the language of love is a fruit and picture of the gospel. The sort of relationship for which we strive (and often fail in achieving) is not ready-made from a how-to manual. It is the fruit of a new life in Christ that no longer considers its own needs primary, but looks to serve and love others out of a love and service given to them by Jesus Christ. Because Jesus is our husband and because he loves perfectly in the place of our imperfect love, we can venture out tenderly into the sphere of love again—loving not for what we might get or only when the other person is lovely, but out of the abundance of the love given to us. When we do so, our spouses feel loved, and we also point them to the greatest love of all by letting our language of love echo the gospel announcement that God in Christ has covered us with his banner of love (2:4).
Eric Landry is executive editor of Modern Reformation.