Summary: Love must be more than romantic love. When romance supersedes covenant as the central bond of marriage, the stability of that relationship is subject to
SENTENCE: Over the years I have officiated or observed the marriage of quite a few people and with it have seen a significant change in the nature of the couple's wedding vows.
INTRODUCTION: In years past the focus of the vow was on the promise to love, honor and cherish until death do us part. The vow was on the permanency of the relationship for better or worse. That pledge before God was considered the highest form of love and devotion.
More recently, vows to express their current love for each other. They tell the other of how special they are, how they make them feel and how they want this feeling to last forever. The focus is on the love that is “now” with only the hope that it will remain throughout their lives.
Now, all that is fine and moving but does it really capture what a marriage is all about? As Tim Keller has said, “Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love. A wedding should not be primarily a celebration of how loving you feel now— that can safely be assumed. Rather, in a wedding, you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to be loving, faithful, and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstances.
SENTENCE: This new reality speaks volumes about the basis for the status of marriage today.
TRANSITION: Some weeks ago I handed out a booklet on the state of marriage that showed the exponential increase in divorce, cohabitation and non-marital births, and the more contemporary and common practice of “friends with benefits”- referring to short-term sexual encounters.
The obvious question is, “What has led to this demotion of marriage?” Before the 1960’s marriage was primarily viewed is a comprehensive union inherently suited for procreation and the sharing of family life. It called for permanent and exclusive commitment. In this view, the state has an interest in marriage because society needs children who become healthy adults capable of contributing to the common good and stable marriages are best suited for that. Since the 60’s the dominant view is that marriage is essentially a private matter, an affair of the heart between two adults, in which no outsider, not even the children of the marriage, should be allowed to interfere. Marriage is primarily valued by how well it benefits or satisfies the adult's individual emotional need and is primarily for and about adult happiness. If the benefits are absent for then divorce becomes a valid even recommended option.
SAY WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO SAY: Romantic love has always been around. An ancient book, the Song of Songs, reminds us of its universal appeal. From the book, we learn that romantic love is a wonderful gift of God but it should lead us to something deeper and more permanent. That is a covenantal love that goes beyond the emotional whims of romantic love to a one that is modeled in Jesus Himself- who loves us even when we are otherwise unlovable.
SETTING: The Song of Songs is unique in the Bible. There is nothing explicitly spiritual about it. God is never mentioned and neither is faith, sin, forgiveness, grace, prayer, holiness, worship, or eternal life. The sexual content of the book is graphic and intense to the point that at certain times in history, young people were forbidden from reading the book. Some have even questioned whether the book should be included in the Bible.
The book has often been explained as an allegory of God's love for Israel, or the church's love
for Christ. But most see it as a collection of love songs, celebrating the mystery and delights of romantic love- something common in ancient literature and much like it would be today. The title suggests that of all such songs this is the best song like King of Kings or Holy of Holies.
It can't really be understood chronologically; it's like an arrangement of songs with a pivotal center point of a wedding night, the physical consummation of love by a bride and bridegroom. In fact, it may be the book had been composed and performed for a wedding celebration. In it, we find three singers—the bride, the bridegroom, and a chorus. As the book unfolds, the characters anticipate and/or reflect upon that wedding night.
TEXT: Song of Solomon (Songs)
THEME: When romance supersedes covenant as the central bond of marriage the stability of that relationship is subject to our emotional whims.
What does the Song of Solomon teach us about love?
I. Romantic love is a wonderful gift of God. (Chapter 1-2)
A. It gives us pleasure.
The book starts with the bride saying, "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine." The song is telling us that one of the reasons love is so wonderful is that it is a source of great pleasure and delight and the kiss is an expression of that.