A few weeks ago in Student Ministries, I asked the kids to bring in what they thought were the best love songs. To my surprise, every one of them had a song and the variety was pretty remarkable. We had country, classic rock, 70’s R&B, hiphop, pop, contemporary Christian, and even a Disney song. They covered finding love, young relationships, the love of God, new marriages, and looking forward to life-long love.
Love stories impact us all for better or worse (why do you think we have so many blog posts on the topic?), yet we all hope for the better. For those of us who aren’t too jaded, we celebrate the wedding of two people in love and we marvel at the couple who is celebrating 50 years of marriage, knowing that their love has weathered many storms and seen some of the heights this life has to offer, all while they dove deeper into the self-sacrificing love that they have for one another.
It isn’t only our own love story that impacts us, but the love stories of others who shape our views of love—both for the positive, as well as the negative. This is an aspect of the sermon series on the Song of Solomon that is easy to overlook. Sure, we see the love of the king and his bride played out before us on the pages of Scripture and ask what does this mean for my marriage or even my singleness? But how many of have asked what does my marriage mean for those around me, the others who are watching it unfold and looking to us as examples, illustrations and for guidance?
If our marriages are to be a taste of what is to come between Christ and His church, then we need to be aware of who is watching, because how we put true love on display will influence their own understanding of divine love. We see this throughout the story in the Song of Solomon—in the words of the others, the chorus who is not directly in the romance, but who longs to celebrate and, at times, participate in the story.
From the opening chapter (1:4 & 11) as the woman and man confess their love for one another, we see the intrigue of those watching. They want to rejoice in this young love. Though she feels unlovable, they want to adorn her with jewelry. They are excited to see this love blossom; and as it springs forth into marital consummation, once again they are there to celebrate encouraging the young lovers to allow their passion to bloom (5:1).
But as the story turns cold from the chilly rejection of the affection of the king by his wife, we see the fire of enthusiasm quenched in those who were once enamored with their love. Following her rebuff, the bride recognized her mistake and goes out in search of her husband. In doing so, she asks the daughters of Jerusalem to help her find him and send a message. Their response is anything but encouraging (5:9), “What is your beloved more than another beloved, that you thus adjure us?” What was once exultation in love has become cynicism. If you have rejected the one you claimed to love, why should we care about him? We can see the hardness setting in. How we display love reverberates into the lives of others. Not only will they see the faded glory of our own story, but will begin to doubt the beauty of marital love as a whole. We see it all around us with a culture running from marriage both before and after the “I do’s.”
Our failures need to be confessed and our passions for our loves renewed like Solomon’s bride. When a world sees once again the depths and riches of marital love, they will once again seek to trust in marriage again. The daughters of Jerusalem heard her impassioned repentance and were eager to find the lost love (6:1). When he was found, they saw the couple’s love reunited and were caught up in the wonders of love emerging out of a bitter winter cold, longing to look upon this love that recognizes faults, forgives, and renews (6:13).
This wasn’t hope founded on a mask of a marriage, pretending everything was a fairytale. It was a hope grounded in the hard tilled soil of a love that works through sharp rocks, overwhelming weeds, and compacted clay of selfishness. Those around us don’t need to see perfection; they need perseverance despite imperfection put on display. We all will go through rough patches and we need to see examples that show that love conquers all.
When this love is seen, then others will not be content with just a happily-ever-after love that is never a reality. Instead, they will fight for persistent commitment in the real life marriages that we have been blessed with. No longer do the daughters of Jerusalem look to just celebrate or marvel at their love. The bride is more than a distant celebrity to elevate in their minds or to gossip about at her failures. She has become a sister, someone to be protected—and her marriage, a wall to be reinforced (8:8-9).
As the picture of Christ and His church, we need to (we must) invest more into our marriages, not just for our sake, but for the sake of those around us: our children, our friends, the singles who will inherit the responsibility of marriage in the next generation, and for a lost world that still looks to love for hope. May Jesus be glorified in our marriages and the grace of God empower us to fight for true and real love because others are watching.