Love gone wrong: Jeffrey Epstein, Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer. Our world is messed up when it comes to love. Love is equated with sex. Sex is equated with power. And power knows nothing of respect, tenderness, or intimacy. Everywhere we see love gone wrong.
But in the Bible we find love gone right. Here in the Song of Solomon: In eight chapters of love poetry in which two lovers woo each other, longing to be together. In the Song of Solomon there’s no domination. Each lover respects the other in mutual delight. They enjoy each other and creation without demeaning or debasing anyone or anything. Here is love gone right.
The lectionary cycle of Scripture readings includes every book in the Bible. The Song of Solomon is avoided by most preachers because it doesn’t mention God once (check it yourself) while making it abundantly clear that erotic love is good. To be a creature is good. To be earthy is good.
That shouldn’t surprise us because God made creation and called it good — and us very good. I think God ensured this book made it into the Bible because God knew that we’d get all hung up about sex — and many other things, too.
The spiritual writer Richard Rohr rightly notes that we western Christians largely live in our minds. We’ve forgotten about the gift of our bodies; about the creaturely blessing of being part of nature. We’ve largely made Christianity about beliefs; about leaving earth and going to heaven; about getting away from creation and the blessing of even having bodies at all.
But the Song of Solomon says: Not so fast. Creation is good. This life is good. Having a body is good. Being in love is good. What’s more: Desire is good.
Following the church father Augustine, western Christianity has largely seen desire as something that is bad. Some desires certainly are. But there are good desires, too. When properly followed and rightly enjoyed, good desires can fulfill our heart’s deepest longings and help us live more fully within God’s will.
What if LeBron James had ignored his passion for basketball? What if Mozart hadn’t pursued his love of music? What if Rosa Parks had said “no” to her desire for justice? What a loss for us all.
Imagine a world where good desires didn’t exist. Imagine not having a body. Imagine not enjoying a cold drink on a hot day — or not being able to enjoy the blessings of romantic love. It would be plain, boring, disappointing world if we couldn’t experience desire; if we couldn’t fall in love; and if we couldn’t enjoy this good world, which God created to share with us.
The Song of Solomon contains lots of wisdom: It’s okay to enjoy life. Some of us never got that message. But it’s true. Yes, we are to do good things for God, but we are also to enjoy life. Yes, we are to share blessings, but it’s okay to enjoy them, too: Not as hedonistic consumers indiscriminately devouring experiences and others, but as thoughtful, loving people who are deeply connected to God, neighbor, and creation in an ecology of reciprocity where blessings are enjoyed and shared; where everyone is included and where everyone has enough to live and thrive.
God wants all of us to have a good life — and not just when we get to heaven, but right now. God didn’t create us to endure life, but to enjoy life. It’s okay to have needs. It’s okay to rest. It’s good to love the body God gave you — as it is. We shouldn’t demean God’s handiwork by cruelly comparing ourselves to Photo-shopped supermodels. Don’t denigrate what God has made. That’s true when it comes to creation and that’s true when it comes to you. After all, you’re part of creation — and you are good just as you are.
Instead of being too controversial, maybe the Song of Solomon is exactly what we need ethically and ecologically. Here’s a vision that re-humanizes our understanding of what love can be. Here’s a vision that helps us reconnect with creation and love creation — before it’s too late.
This is all good news: God is love. Creation is good. When we are loving, we express our deepest humanity and we are most deeply connected to God. When we value our bodies, our neighbors, and creation, we all come alive.