Whether using provocative sexuality to advertise products or acclaiming sex as the pinnacle of human experience, there is no doubt that our culture is sexually charged. Unfortunately, Christians often react to this aspect of culture in two less than helpful ways. The first is to lambast the glorification of sexuality as evil, at times avoiding healthy conversation about sexuality entirely. The second tendency is to ‘Christianize’ the sexual emphasis in our culture. Thus, some churches have developed a “40 days of sex” focus without giving careful thought to the implications for our views of human person-hood.
Sexuality is one aspect of our essential ‘good’-ness as created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-31). Sexuality is not a result of the Fall into sin. At the same time, like any other aspect of our humanity, our sexuality is often bent by sin and brokenness. Although originally ‘good’, our sexuality needs redemption.
This is where the beautiful poetry of Solomon’s Song of Songs speaks so powerfully. While interpreters through the centuries have approached this work in many ways, Song of Songs is essentially a form of love poetry within our God-inspired Scriptures.What follows are some notes toward a view of redemptive sexuality and intimate love drawn from the Song of Songs.
Intimate Love is Good
Sexual love has at times been demeaned in the history of the church. Song of Songs, however, says something entirely different. The very fact that this brief book finds a place in our Scriptures speaks to the importance of intimacy. As you read through the Song of Songs, you will find that it is not only suggestive but explicitly sexual. Reading this, we should appreciate the truth that, not only does God care about sexual intimacy, He delights in it.
Intimate Love is Verbal as well as Physical
When popular culture reduces sexual intimacy to a few specific body parts, Song of Songs offers a much more comprehensive landscape. Language here is maximized through metaphors, vivid descriptions, and verbal delight. “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!” (Song of Songs 4:1). After this introductory engagement, the speaker verbally delights in his lover from head to toe with tantalizing words. Intimate love is redeemed when our words delight in the other. Without a doubt, sexual intimacy is physical. In our culture today, however, we often dismiss the power of verbal intimacy and verbal sexuality.
Intimate Love Demands Defense
When one of the lovers says, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” (1:15), he is telling us something. Our intimacy can be ruined and damaged by foreign invaders, even ‘little’ ones. Sexual intimacy demands defense, and Song of Songs makes that clear. There is a focused intimacy that exists between these two lovers. Their intimacy needs to be defended from things or people that try to harm that love. “Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave” (8:6).
While we understandably think of intimacy as existing between two people in solitude, the Song of Songs shows us that the love two people share – even their sexual love – has an impact on the community around them. Though odd to us, the literary dialog between the man and woman in this poem is observed, commented on, and celebrated by a chorus of friends: “We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine” (1:4b). You can see this most readily in translations that insert headings into the text to help with reading, like the NIV or NLT. This helps us understand that the community around us is impacted, both positively and negatively, by the intimacy that exists between two lovers.
Much more could be said about this topic, not to mention the importance of understanding sexuality within the context of singleness. We were created in God’s image as good and our sexuality is one aspect of that. Within our sexually charged culture, we must seek ways to redeem intimate love and the Song of Songs goes a long way to help us with that.