Sermon: Love - Romance/Eros
Scripture: Song of Songs 1:1-4a, 4:9-10, 6:3a, 8:4
"A man was reading his paper early one morning at the breakfast table. His wife came over to him and patted him on the shoulder. She looked at him, smiled, and said,
“I bet you don’t know what today is, do you?” He looked at her and said,
“Of course I know what day it is!” and went back to reading his paper.
He didn’t have a CLUE what day it was,
but he was AFRAID that he would make his wife UPSET—she was really SENSITIVE about SPECIAL OCCASIONS. He thought to himself,
“Is it her BIRTHDAY? That must be it.”
So after he got to WORK he called the FLORIST and had a BOUQUET of WHITE ROSES sent to his wife. Then as the day went on, he began WORRYING that FLOWERS may not be ENOUGH for such an IMPORTANT DAY.
“What if it’s our ANNIVERSARY?” he thought.
So he went to the JEWELRY STORE down from his OFFICE, picked out a beautiful TENNIS BRACELET and had it special DELIVERED to his WIFE. As he started home from work he decided that maybe he should also stop and buy an expensive BOX of CHOCOLATES to bring to her—just in case.
He pulls into the DRIVEWAY and his WIFE runs out to GREET him. As he gets out of the CAR and PRESENTS her with the BOX of CHOCOLATES, she throws her arms around him and says,
“Oh, honey, this is the best GROUNDHOG DAY I’ve ever had!”" (illustration found on various sermon illustration sites)
Happy Valentine’s Day!
This month, in recognition of Valentine’s Day, we are looking at various forms of love. We started the month learning about the Greek word for affectionate love, storge. We learned that this is a love that naturally occurs when two people spend time in proximity to each other.
For example it is the affectionate love that is expressed between parent and child.
Last week, we looked at the Greek word phileo, which points to a friendship love that is chosen out of shared interest and looks outward.
Today we are going to look at Eros, which is the love shared by lovers. But before we begin talking about eros, I want to point out that in our study of various forms of love, we discover that marriage is a very unique relationship.
It is the one relationship where there is potential to experience ALL the different types of love: affection, friendship, romance, and unconditional love.
Isn’t it interesting that God chooses to use this relationship as an allegory for His relationship with us? Throughout the Bible, God uses illustrations of brides and grooms, husbands and wives to explain how God as the groom cares for His people, the bride. (pause)
Someone once said
“Love is like the rose: so sweet, that one always tries to gather it in spite of the thorns.”
Another anonymous person said,
“Love, like a cough, can’t be hidden.”
And still another said,
“Love is like the sunbeam that gleams through the shower
And kisses off gently the dews from the flower;
That cheers up the blossoms and bids them be gay,
And lends the fragrance that perfumes the day.”
C.S. Lewis pointed out that “eros” - the love that is often referred to when we say “we’re in love!” is a love that often starts out with the preoccupation with another. (P. 93). When we fall in love, the person we have fallen for consumes our thoughts – that person becomes our beloved. As he or she consumes our thoughts we become passionate for the person. In the Song of Songs, the woman writes, (read Song of Songs 3:1-2) Soon the object of our attention stands out and seems to be perfect in every way. You often here a person in love say “he is everything I wanted and more.” Solomon spoke of his beloved in 2:2-3a, (read).
Eros love is interesting. It is a love that seeks to fulfill its own needs by giving love. Yet at the same time it is a love that wants to give without receiving. When it gives just for the sake of giving, it ends up fulfilling the needs of the giver. So it is simultaneously giving and fulfilling a need. The woman speaks of Solomon saying,
“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine;”
Do you want to know how to create romance in a relationship? Romance occurs when we purposefully seek to make our spouse happy! Eros grows as we seek to meet the needs of our beloved.
Eros is also the type of love that can both make time stand still and soar past in a blink of an eye. It is the type of love that will cause us to stay in a miserable situation, because we would rather love and be miserable then not love at all. (p. 107) Or as C.S. Lewis puts it “we had rather share unhappiness with the Beloved than be happy on any other terms.” ("The Four Loves" 107)
Eros is a love that often starts with physical attraction and grows into a deep appreciation for the fullness and character of the object of its desire.
Now I’ve been dancing around a topic related to eros that the Bible doesn’t dance around, but the church does. In the book of Genesis God says “be fruitful and multiply” and announces “the two become one flesh.” In Deuteronomy young men who are newlyweds are commanded to take a year off from the military to fulfill their marital duty. Throughout the Old Testament we read about a man “knowing” a woman. King David after a time of war sent his men home with cakes of raisins, which meant he recognized it was time for them to go home to be intimate with their wives. (2 Samuel 6:19). In the book of Ruth, Ruth lies at Boaz’s feet and says, “Spread the corner of your garment over me.” (Ruth 3)
Then we have the entire book of Song of Songs or Song of Solomon, which is quite explicit in its description of the intimate love shared by a man and a woman. We move to Proverbs and I’ll only share the second half of chapter 5, verse 19, (you can look up the rest later,) it reads, “may you be intoxicated with her love.” Then Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:5, tells husbands and wives,
“Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Did you realize that the Bible was this juicy of a book? It seems as though there might be something spiritual about this eros love.
Eros and the intimacy that is found in its expression were created by God! It was designed to be good. Unfortunately, we Christians have allowed the physical intimacy of eros to be defined by the world. We have separated it from our spirituality, which was never God’s intent. Because of the misrepresentation and misuse of eros – because it has been used for evil and caused great harm to so many, we are afraid to talk about it. And our fear, alongside our noble commitment to decorum and desire to not allow eros to become an idol, has gotten in the way with our creating the space to allow God to heal our image of eros. See eros is meant to be holy.
It can be a very spiritual love – we know this because it impacts our souls so deeply – that is why a misrepresentation or abuse of eros can be so damaging – because it isn’t just physical, but also spiritual. It is something sacred that is meant to be shared only between two people and is unfortunate when people are introduced to the physical aspects of it in embarrassing, hidden, and hurtful ways.
It is also unfortunate when what could be a good pure love, a love in which we allow God to shape our image of beauty and attraction to match and grow with that of our partner – is tainted by the image of another.
We, the church, have let our culture take over defining eros. We are called to be the salt and light of the world. And yet, we have turned something so special and precious over to the world to define. We did this by focusing on the negative – when those outside the church think of eros and the church, they list all of the things the church is against, instead of what we are for! We’ve avoided reading the book of Song of Songs and we don’t spend the time learning about God’s ideal for marriage. We should be the source for guidance on how to grow eros and how to find healing when eros has been shamed or guilted. We should be the place where people go when they want to fight for their marriage and their family. Instead, the church has caused greater hurt and harm by bringing on greater shame.
But what if, …. What if we could change that? What if we were willing to be appropriately vulnerable with each other in small group settings? What if we offered marriage classes for our neighbors? What if we could confess our sins in this area knowing that instead of being condemned, there would be people there to offer us forgiveness and help us find healing? What if we started a women’s ministry and a men’s ministry that allowed men and women to talk about things and seek wisdom to strengthen their relationships and to navigate what it means to be a woman or a man today? What if?
What if the news media had a more positive tale to spin, instead of focusing on the abuse of Catholic priests, the debate about homosexuality, and abortion, the news reports about the church and eros were instead favorable tales about a decrease in the number of children with divorced parents, about college students flocking to churches to talk about eros and meet each other, and about recent empty nester couples renewing their vows?
What if instead of allowing the media to define eros, we the church started to redefine it for our culture ourselves?
Hey, What if the Song of Songs was republished in a single book format – don’t you think it would be a New York Times bestseller?
See in the church we know that eros is more than just a physical exchange, but that it is a mutual appreciation of God’s creation and an at-one-ment. It is through this sacred love that humans become co-creators with God.
For those who are seeking to find or grow eros in their life, I encourage you to start your seeking with prayer. Yes, it is okay to talk to God about eros. It is alright for a married couple to invite God to make their expression of eros love all that God created it to be. There is also nothing wrong with thanking God for the eros that is shared in marriage. And it is okay for those who are widowed to also share with God their memories of eros with a loved one who has passed away, as well as unmarried singles to be honest with God about their desire to find eros – to fall in love.
Second, eros in its greatest expression is shared in service to our loved one. Mutually give to one another. Like I said earlier, the secret to romance is purposefully seeking to make our spouse happy.
Third, eros is expressed through mutual love and respect. If your relationship is in trouble, be the first to step up in showing both love and respect to your partner.
Fourth, I encourage you to pick up a Christian book that talks about eros. Two recommendations – “The Book of Romance.” I especially recommend this to our young adults. And “Sacred Romance.” You can go to the Christian bookstore or online to find others.
Fifth, don’t be afraid to talk about eros. Your adult and young children, as well as grandchildren need to hear appropriate stories about eros and need a safe place to ask questions, share fears, and tell their own stories. One of the most meaningful conversations I ever had with my grandfather, was after my heart was broken as a young adult. What he shared with me meant the world! Please share your stories.
In your marriage, also take time to talk about this unique marriage love and how your expression of it to each other can become more meaningful.
Finally, remember that eros is spiritual, don’t divorce it from your faith. Amen.