“He helps me over puddles by walking on water.”
“If He loves you unconditionally, He’s a keeper.”
“Jesus really is starting to make me feel …. Aaaahh the love I’m feeling, He really loves me like no other.”
Those are just some of the results yielded by searching for the “JesusIsMyBoyfriend” hashtag on Twitter. Yes, it would appear that some folks have got it into their heads that the incarnation of God, killed to atone for their sins, can actually fulfill the role of a significant other in their lives. It’s not that I can’t see their point; in my seemingly endless singleness, I sometimes find myself trying to figure out the perfect placeholder for until my Mrs. Right (if she even exists) shows up. There are, however, several problems with ‘Dating Jesus’.
First, the nature of our relationship with God, and how it differs from a romantic relationship. Romantic relationships are usually based on such factors as physical appearance, emotional or sexual gratification, or just being ‘compatible’. Many of these factors are based on immediate impressions or feelings, and almost all of them are subject to change – even if you and your partner have been together for some years, you can still find that you’re not as ‘compatible’ with each other as you initially thought. In contrast, God’s love for us shouldn’t even be allowed on principle. He is the all-good, wise Creator and we the rebellious, foolish creation; if there were two human partners who embodied each of these personalities, we’d probably be more than a little surprised at their being a couple. The truth is that God’s love for us is far more shocking than we often realise. That’s also partly why it’s false equivalence to compare it to a human relationship, because those often rely on mutual agreement. God isn’t what we would ordinarily pursue, but He still loves us anyway.
Trying to bring this relationship down to the level of a human romantic one, then, is at best misleading and at worst straight-up irreverent. It strips God’s covenant with us of almost everything that makes it special. This could also put people off church, even people who had previously been thinking of giving it a try. If they’re not creeped out by the idea of having a ‘love relationship’ with a murdered homeless guy from a Middle Eastern backwater town (and who wouldn’t be?), they might wonder if what we’re trying to sell them can’t be found in just any other relationship. But that’s the thing: Jesus is, by nature, unlike a romantic partner. He’s not just our cosmic Romeo. He came to this world from heaven, lived the perfect life that we could not, died to pay the debt that we could not, then broke the power of death by rising from the grave and is now pleading for us day and night before God. Now, does that sound like someone you’d picture fondling in the back row of the cinema?
Another issue with all of this is that it suggests that human relationships are somehow wrong, or that they’re not good enough. This flies in the face of what we know about such relationships from Scripture, though. Right through the Bible, we read about couples who did great things in God’s name, either together or individually. Abraham and Sarah. Jacob and Rachel. Ruth and Boaz. Mary and Joseph… You’d think if God had had a problem with any of these people being together, He’d have done something about it. Indeed, in the Genesis account of creation, we see God declaring that it isn’t right for Adam to be alone, so He creates Eve to be Adam’s companion. Not to mention the fact that it’s better for kids if they’re brought up by two parents who are in a healthy relationship, so that they can learn what love looks like in practice. If this kind of relationship is off-limits, how else is the Church supposed to raise the next generation of believers?
Ultimately, this kind of thing doesn’t leave me angered or embarrassed so much as confused. On the one hand, I appreciate the point that Jesus Christ should be the number one focus of our lives. At the same time, though, I see many couples in my church and elsewhere who have no problem squaring their own relationships with their love for Christ, because those two ‘loves’ are of very different natures. In my first post about singleness, I mentioned that Paul was okay with the church in Corinth having spouses, if it meant their emotional/sexual needs would be met. What makes this situation any different?