In the absence of a major church reforming debate or political crisis, there are still things popping up on our social media timelines ready to provoke a lot of heat, controversy and offense. This weekend, it was Beth Moore’s turn. For context, Beth is a US Christian and author with a large women’s teaching ministry. I don’t actually know much about her Bible studies and if they are any good but she does seem to upset a lot of people.
Last week, she wrote:
This provoked some quite hostile responses with some arguing that this was pretty much the final proof we needed that Beth was an out and out heretic to be shunned at all costs.
This set me wondering “I wonder how Jesus would have responded to Beth’s tweet and the reaction?”
Well, we can’t say for certain but we do have some clues. Here are three incidents where people around Jesus seemed to be getting a bit irreverent.
- His disciples take a sabbath stroll and start snacking from the grain growing in the fields. It’s not even a full picnic but the Pharisees looking on get very hot under the collar at this apparent breach of the Ten Commandments.
- Some mums bring their little ones to plonk on Jesus’. His gatekeepers try to warn them off. Jesus is too busy and important to be pestered with child minding duties. He’s meant to be preaching, not running the creche.
- Whilst Jesus is eating dinner, a woman turns up and starts crying over him. She dries the tears with her hair and opens a bottle of perfume over his feet. Scandalised at this rather romanticised behaviour and horrified at the extravagant cost, the disciples led by Judas begin to protest.
In each case, Jesus instead of siding with the objectors basically tells them to chill. In their desire to police behaviour towards him, the Father and God’s Law, they’ve missed something of God’s love, grace and salvation plan.
Now, would I use “crush language” to describe my relationship with Jesus? Probably not, even if it was a throw away comment in a tweet about grapes. That probably says more about English cultural norms and stereotypes than anything. However, I’m also cautious about the kind of language that suggests a “Jesus is my boyfriend” perspective.
However, the problem with so called “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs is not that the language is gushing, not that it lacks theological depth and not that it’s a bit close to the edge shocking. Historically hymns like “What a friend we have in Jesus” have been considered too shallow by some. The reason there’s a problem with such language is that if it dominates, then it can put the focus too much on my individual relationship, which is a real aspect of faith, when the marriage language focus is on us corporately as the bride of Christ.
Therefore, whilst we need to be careful about not losing the Biblical perspective that we together as the church are the bride, I think there’s another risk and one that we need to be more careful about. If all of our language about God is either dry, theologically analytical or pragmatically transactional then the danger is that we lose the language of deep emotion of true gratitude and love.
The remedy? Probably a month of meditation in the Song of Songs.