Write about the Song of Solomon in 500 words… the theme of the book and how it connects to Jesus. A tall order! But I accepted the invitation by my friends at Simply Jesus and Group Publishing. Here are my 500 words. (This essay will be included in The Jesus-Centered Study Bible, available September 1, 2015!)
The Song of Solomon makes my toes curl; my cheeks blush. This collection of love poetry is not coy about sex, bodies or connection. How amazing, and slightly puzzling, that our emotions, endorphins and the resulting euphoria count as part of the canon of wisdom. But how does this full-bodied love on display function as insight or truth?
Growing up I remember pastors, the brave ones that would dare touch this book, speaking of The Song as either an allegory for our relationship with God or an instruction manual for married couples. Neither explanation rang true – or true enough – to satisfy my curiosity.
I’ve always been drawn to the lusty bits for what they are – erotic love poems about a real woman, a real man, people with real bodies alight with passion, overcome with feverish pleasure. My body belonged in this story somehow and I wanted to know why, to know how. I was convinced The Song was more than a playlist of heady love songs meant to stimulate my imagination.
But what if the book was meant, in part, to stir my deepest imagination?
What if Eve never bit into the apple? What if Adam never took the next bite and shared in that sweetness that opened the door to shame? Where would we be with no temptation or forbidden fruit, no broken relationship or expulsion from Eden? Can you imagine a world without the curse?
One possible way to understand the wisdom of The Song is to see it as an extravagant dreamscape where we glimpse a world in which we never left Eden. Living in this perpetual garden of delight we developed into different people, different bodies intertwined with one another and creation.
In a curse-free garden hierarchy and sexual domination never entered the scene. We grew toward one another in mutuality, our sensuality well placed. Women initiated with ease, men reciprocated without threat and there emerged an unashamed boldness in sharing our bodies with our beloved.
A vibrant abundance teemed across the landscape. People thrived in glad partnership with creation – there was no toil, no exploitation, no contending against nature. We joined with creation, groaning with a God-given goodness.
In The Song we dream of a requited love, what it might look like if Israel lived as a faithful bride, a partner whose affections never strayed. This hallowed love affair between God and his people would be so different from the infidelity retold in Hosea or the unrequited love witnessed in Jeremiah. For once God would be wholly loved.
We wake east of Eden, outside the gates with the vestiges of the curse. Jesus entered into this world and set a new dream in motion – setting things right and restoring what’s broken in humanity and creation. Jesus wants to live that dream of unbroken connection and toe-curling goodness.
The Song allows us to dream of a mighty wholeness and connectedness. It whets our appetite for a world saturated in love, a worthy dream as God’s children.
This is one of six contributions I made to The Jesus-Centered Study Bible along with Kathy Escobar, Brian Zahnd, Carl Medearis, Mark Braverman and other amazing friends. The Jesus-Centered Study Bible releases on September 1, 2015 – but you can pre-order now!