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Romancing Jesus

Call it heresy, but I think in worship we need to put some distance between us and Jesus.

I want to hold you.  Embrace you.  Be embraced by you.  I'm running to your arms.  I'm gazing longingly into your eyes.  You are beautiful.  I'm touching you.  You're touching me.  Wow, we're touching each other.

Read those words to any hormone-endowed adolescent and they will know what you're talking about.
Add music and lyrics sung with whispery-sweet voices and the whole thing is less a worship song than a romantic song with seductive overtones.  Many refer to these as "dating Jesus" songs.

A couple of problems with this whole genre.  First, Biblical language never supports these kinds of words addressed to Jesus.  To embrace (pardon the pun) the idea of a personal relationship with these kinds of images takes it to a level the early church would never dreamed of singing.  Jesus is king.  He is creator.  He sits at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again to judge the living and the dead.  He is savior.  He is the servant-savior-king of kings and lord of lords.  In the New Testament, the name "Jesus" is often bracketed between "the Lord" (master) and "Christ" (messianic king).

And, yes, Jesus can be thought of as a friend ("I call you my friends." John 15:14-15).  He was certainly the Apostle John's friend.  Maybe even a best friend (after all, John was "the disciple Jesus loved.")  But, John, who will later describe Jesus wiping away tears, begins his apocalyptic record by detailing a terrifying encounter with an other-worldly figure who stood before him with white robe, burning eyes and a voice that thundered like the sound of many waters (Revelation 1).

Second, dating Jesus lyrics are the refuge of lazy songwriters.  It is simply too easy to drop dating Jesus lyrics into melodies, altering the phrases slightly, and imagine we have written something profound.  The task of actually confronting the church with words and phrases that challenge shallowness and broadens the church's vocabulary of worship, elevates music from pureed baby food to a full course meal.

There is a scene in the motion picture The King's Speech that exemplifies what I'm trying to say.  King Edward VII, lying in a bed, has just died, surrounded by members of his family.  As soon as the physician confirms the King is dead, the wife of Edward, Alexandra, turns to her oldest son, Eddy.  Looking straight at him she solemnly says, "The King is dead."  Then, taking her own son's hand she bows to him and says, "Long live the king."  Eddy, not a particularly worthy heir of the house of Windsor, was still her son.  But, in that moment, he also became her king.  You do not hug a king when you address him as king.  You avert your eyes and bow before him.

The contemporary evangelical church needs to put a little distance between us and Jesus -- not the distance of weaker or receding relationships -- but, the distance subjects always give a king.  The distance the created gives to the creator.  The distance the criminal, even one fully pardoned, gives to the eternal judge of the hearts of mankind.  O that with yonder sacred throng, we at his feet may fall!  We'll join the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all!


M. Scott said...

LIKE! I've always been kind of creeped out by the "dating Jesus" lyrics myself. He is all-consuming love, yes, but He is also a consuming fire.

Pete D said...

Sounds like Sweet Caroline (Neil Diamond)! "Touching meeee, touching yooooou." Leave the sappy stuff to the top 40 charts and keep it out of worship...AGREED!

John Jordan said...

No more sloppy wet kisses?