Loving God vs Being in Love with God

I recently heard a song that blurred the line between Jesus and a theoretical boyfriend in one of the most blatant ways possible. It was only on the second listen when I realized “Hey, that song has the word “Lord” in it. She’s singing about God! What on earth…….?”  I’ll be putting that song up here in a few days as part of the paperthin hymn feature, but needless to say that got me thinking about a topic that I don’t think I’ve talked about much here. It’s not so much the whole “Jesus is my boyfriend” mentality, but rather this idea that we are IN LOVE with Jesus.

There are many exhortations in the Bible that speaks of our love for God. That God loves us. That in response to the love of God we are to love him back and in the process of sanctification our affections for him are to grow and deepen. [1 John 4:19-20]  Should we sing songs that talk about the love of God? Yes. Should be understand God as pursuing and wooing us so that he might save us? Yes. It is entirely appropriate and biblical to speak of how much we love God, and that we know, feel and experience his love. That is good, and those are things that we should be walking in and exploring and giving ourselves over to. But there is a chasm of difference between loving Jesus, and being in love with Jesus. The latter is not a biblical category, and nowhere in the bible does it say that we are to be In Love with God or even that such a concept is biblically accurate, much less edifying. That sort of thing is never spoken about. It doesn’t exist.

And yet so much of the language that is used in our modern day Christian Evangelicalism is EROS in nature. It is fueled by romantic  love and has subtly infected our culture, music and our theology so that such expressions and ideas are considered commonplace. Its why the western church has by and large accepted lyrics in our corporate worship like “I want to feel you against me Jesus…breathe on me…..hold me in your arms….whisper in my ear….. because I’m so in love with you” This contribution of quasi-erotic lyrics and attitudes towards Jesus has resulted, among other things, in men leaving the church in droves. They find this idea of Jesus as a bearded boyfriend to be intolerable to the point that in their absence the Church has become a place which is essentially run by women whose targeted audience is either other women or boys in skinny jeans.

The point of this post wasn’t to get into a talk  about the feminization of the church, but rather that we need to be more precise with our language. We don’t use such imprecise language in our every day life.  In your own life, you wouldn’t say “I’m in love with my mother. I’m in love with myself. I’m in love with my job. I’m in love with my friends. I’m in love with my professors. I’m in love with my father in law. I’m in love with my neighbor” . No. You say “I love my mother. I love myself. I love my job. I love my friends. I love my professors. I love my father in law. I love my neighbor.”

And yet people don’t think twice about saying “I’m in love with Jesus. I’m in love God.” or singing songs in worship  like “I can’t stop falling in love with you. I’ll never stop falling in love with you.”

Why do you think this is, and what is the result of it?

29 thoughts on “Loving God vs Being in Love with God

  1. hey i just stumbled upon this and i think it’s a great article, but did you mean “latter” instead of “former” in your second paragraph? caused me a great deal of confusion at first cos your sentence after than kinda contradicts it otherwise.

    • First, welcome to the bog. Secondly, Yes, you are right in catching my mistake, thank you very much! I have edited it for clarity.

      • I am so thankful to have came across this because I love God, and Jesus very much I am a Christan and I have been prying for my marriage to be restored and I have been so hurt and troubled by people telling me that God will not restore my marriage until I am so in love with God that he is all I need that I need to be so in love with God that I don’t even want my husband back and that’s when God will restore my marriage. I love God and all my hope is in him, but as hard as I have tried I could not understand how to be in love with him, thank you my email address is aaronsharonbell@gmail.com

      • Sharon, thanks for your comment and sharing your story. The fracturing of a marriage is an extremely painful thing, and I’m sorry to hear that, like Job, you have received such bad advice. I feel upset on your behalf that the solution you were offered is law-based, and not gospel-based. Law based advice points you to yourself and says that you need to do all these things in order for God to hear you and help you. Gospel-based advice points you to Jesus, and lets you know that Christ has already done the work on the cross, so he’s already become all you need to help you.

        I don’t know if God will restore your marriage, but I do know that you can’t “be so in love with God enough” to the point that by doing so you will move God’s hand and get him engaged and reacting. Rather, you are a believer in him, and therefore have the holy spirit inside of you, and as a good father who wants to give you good gifts, he’s not going to withhold from you, but rather will freely give.

        And just as Christ loves and draws his Church, the bride he bled and died for, so is it natural for you to want your husband back, to be able to have a permanent and joyful one-flesh union with him. It is good that you want your husband back- that you yearn for him and that reconciliation may happen.
        I don’t know the details of your marriage- if you want you can email me and we can talk about it some more, but I do know that our understanding of marriage is framed by our view of how Christ loves the Church.

        Even when the church is being messy, sinful, disobedient and unfaithful, Christ continually draws and woos her, because he is the good and faithful one. Likewise even as your marriage is struggling and may be hanging by a thread, or the thread has already been snipped, your duty is to continue to love the lord as you already do, be faithful and steadfast like Christ, and pray that God is merciful and moves the heart of your husband and brings about reconciliation. If he does- God is good. If he doesn’t, God is still good, and he will work it out for good, whether we ever understand the nature of that goodness or not in this lifetime.

        Yes pray for your husband and love the Lord, but realize that you will fail to love God with al your heart and mind, and when you do fail in this, as we all do, this is when the good news of the gospel is a fresh balm on your soul. that God is faithful, that he has forgiven you, that he has a fierce and forceful love and affection for you as his daughter, and that he is in control of all things and will work them all out according to his good pleasure.

        Take care, Sharon. I will be praying for you and your family
        Dustin

      • Gods word is true and I have been praying day and night for over three years for God to heal my marriage. My husband and I have been married going on twenty fore years, my husband was a man of God when we were married, and I believe he thinks he still is, however he is so deceived and has left me for a girl who is twenty years younger then we are her name is Tonya and she says she is a christen she is very deceiving and darning this time my husband has left me moved in with her three times each time Aaron has come back to me asking for forgiveness and has told me that the Lord spoke to his heart and told him to come home, each time he came home she threatened to kill herself, made up storeys about being in a car wreck, said she was dieing would send messages that God wanted him to be with and not me his wife. When my husband would tell her that he loved me and that he wanted to be with me she would text and say he was lying to himself and that he didn’t love me that he loved her she would follows us in our car she drove by our house day and night, and then he would leave again. God is so good that he has watched over my heart and I forgive her its almost like she bully’s Aaron into seeing her and leaving she has plenty of money so she is constantly doing something for Aaron now she has gotten him a apartment and she stays there with him even though she has her own house. When hes with her he doesn’t talk to me, I don’t want anything bad to happen to her I just want God to remove her from our lives and bring my husband home for good, our children are grown and on there own and thy and our grand children are upset. My husbands name is Aaron her name is Tonya please pray for her removal and the return of my husband. I love Aaron and I believe in the covenant of marriage. I forgive my husband and I believe God made us one it would so bless me if you would take a moment and pray, thank you for your time I am very grateful that you read my letter love your sister in the Lord. Please stand with me in prayer for Restoration of my marriage and the removal of Tonya once and for all please know that with Gods grace I don’t hate Tonya and I pray for her as well I just want her and all of her tricks removed from our lives. Thank you so very much for your time your sister in the Lord.

      • I will be praying for all parties involved, that they would both see the light and that they would both stop engaging in this sin. You’re right that they are both deceived, and both need to repent and be forgiven by God. Stay strong in the faith, and remember that you’re not fighting against either of them- they’re just flesh and blood people. As scripture says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

        Keep your heart tender and readily forgive, because you know that you yourself have been forgiven much. And when you don’t feel like forgiving, remember that hen you were at your worst, Christ died for you, and he covers every sin, even unforgiveness in your heart, and so you can have peace in that.

        Be strong and faithful, and stand firm for your marriage and the gift that God intended it to be for you.

        Your brother in Christ-
        Dustin

      • If men think that way when people are in love with Jesus Christ, then they are perverting it with their own minds not God. Sin nature is perverting and twisting. When a person is in love, they do anything for that person, they constantly think about that person, want to please and are excited, long suffering, has a light shining in them that radiates! Perversion and human distortion is what sin does because that’s exactly what’s happening here with your blog. Our society as a whole has a problem with love. We want to pervert and feel uncomfortable at the thought of intimacy with God. Why, because you and others are sexualizing it not even knowing what true intimacy is. It’s a closeness and knowing that person and continues getting to know that person. God put sex between husband and wife because the feelings are a small part of the love that we will actually feel in God’s presence for those who have trusted in Christ. Right now, our bodies as they are, cannot tolerate the FULL love that God will eventually be able to pour out on us. Again, those people are sexualizing and should pray about what love really is. Our country is going down hill because the lack of being in love with God. That radiance that unsaved people would want because they can see a true joy in you. By the way, I do say that I’m in love with my children because it’s a very consuming love WITHOUT sexual orientation (yuck and shame on any people who can’t soundly discern) and REPRESENTS the love that should be between God and the saved person. It’s a parent/child relationship between the Father and a joint heir with Christ (He said so Himself) brothers and sisters in Christ with the Holy Spirit carrying out the Father’s Will.

  2. I understand what you are saying, but I would be cautious about suggesting that any individual’s professed love for God is somehow off-course. The Bible leaves a lot of gaps – by design I think – and part of our great journey is to fill them in as the deeper truths become apparent to us. After all, Jesus identified the first great commandment as the requirement to love God with all one’s might and strength. It strikes me that leaves a lot of headroom for a high degree of intensity in one’s feelings toward God. Just a thought . . .

  3. But people;s love for God can be of course- though I do see the wisdom in taking care that one does not participate in snuffing anothers “fire”, as it were. Still-one can have a high degree of intensity without incorpoating an eros, romantic view of God and his love. To that end, I still don’t think we should speak about God in ways that would have been foreign to the new testament authors, and saying “I’m in love with God” or something similar is one of those things.

  4. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. Revelation 19:7

  5. The phrase “in love” makes a lot of christians uncomfortable because the connotation of romance is assumed. However, some people default to that term because of the overpowering intensity they experience – not necessarily because they envision God as a boyfriend. If the love of a person for God exceeds all, which for many in the new and old testament it did, then it follows that no terminology is sufficiently emphatic. Anyway, attempting to set constraints on how others may properly characterize their spirituality seems out of character with the essence of christianity.

  6. As a Christian who is in love with God and is grateful to be paralyzed because it has brought me so much closer to my God, I would point the reader to theme of divine romance running through the whole of the Bible. Many times God referred to Israel as a lover. The Song of Solomon is widely understood to be a work of poetry symbolizing the relationship God wants us to have with Him. Eph. 5 states that the intimate union of the marital act is a picture of the way Christ loves the Church (us). The Next Life begins with the Wedding Feast of the Bridegroom and the Bride (the Church). We are commanded (it’s not optional) to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The only kind of love that consumes a person like this is true and passionate romantic love between a lover and the beloved. Christ is not a literal boyfriend but the Counterpart to Whom mankind is the perfect complement, taken from His side. True romantic love involves not only commitment, a desire to please, and willingness to sacrifice but also delight, affections, and the need (not merely want) to be close to and one with the beloved. We were created to be a counterpart for the Son of God, a perfect complement. Worship is supposed to be analogous to romantic loving. Even the old vows included, “with my body, I thee worship.” God wants us to love Him much more passionately and completely than we love anyone else, the way one loves when they are in love. There truly is chasm of difference between merely loving God and actually being in love with Him

  7. I think Erik put it very well and personally I do very happily concur. That said I would like to kindly “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.” 2 Timothy 2:14. Whether someone loves Jesus or is in love with Jesus, the wonderful news is they are loving Jesus! That is amazingly wonderful. Rejoice in the Lord!

    I would like to offer some suggested reading on the topic and that would be Spurgeon’s “Altogether Lovely” sermon no. 1001, http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1001.htm. May the Lord bless you!

  8. I understand this article that people can get confused about loving God and being in love with God, but being in love with God doesnt necessarily mean that a person envisions God as a girlfriend or boyfriend or even romantic. Being in love with God is a good thing and lyrics in songs about wanting God to breathe on them and whatnot is simply a way of loving God’s presence and closeness. I think thats where the confusion stems from at times.

  9. in in love with the lord because of his mercy and grace. he is a amazing God i love what he does, what he will do and his love for us no matter what we do. how can any one NOT be in love with a loving God

  10. The book of psalms is an encyclopedia of the expression we, as believers, should have for the lord in regards to our love for him. There, you will never find a hint of the “in love with God” type of expression. Reverence, awe, wonder, and thankfulness at the works of his hands, but not eros-type love. Would anyone say he /she is “in love ” with their father?
    Yet we do it in regards with our heavenly father. Jesus never asked Peter, ” Are you in love with me, Simon Peter?” He asked, ” Do you love me?” This phrase, sadly, has crept in in the last 30 or so years.

    • Seems like more head than heart. God does say that He wants our hearts….FULLY. I’m glad that God SO loved the World, that He gave His only begotten Son John 3:16. SO loved. Pretty strong words from God. Being in love, the all consumming love for someone (like God has for for us and we should have for Him, doesn’t change the meaning just because someone prefers love verses in love. Arguing this still shows the depravity of men throwing sex into everything. Lusts of the body.

  11. I understand what you are saying. However, it is uncontrovertable that the essence of a person’s love for God can only be made manifest by one’s actions. So I remain unpersuaded that anyone has the standing to critique another’s innermost feelings toward diety.

  12. I feel so desperately sorry for the above correspondents. It must be terrible to have no one in your life to fulfil the role of the beloved, to have never met your soul mate and be forced to pour
    all your love and passion into a god – with whom- let us be honest – is a pretty one sided and deeply unfulfilling relationship, both physically and mentally. The really great sadness comes when one half of the truly sacred human and wordly love affair ” finds god” and subsequently abandons that which really matters causing untold misery and unhappiness.

    • & I feel deeply terribly sorry for you, as many probably would. Clearly a person that has sorrowfully placed all their love in human that constantly fails us everyday and loves us conditionally and based on our performance. It’s sad to see that a person with your kind of perception cannot see how great God’s love truly is and how more fulfilling and more powerful even His word is than ANY human’s presence ever could be. Yet it’s also funny that as time passes, you will begin to take back your very own words. I respect your opinion 100% until you go talking foolish about how you feel sorry for the type of people you described. Naw honey, WE feel sorry for YOU. This is greatly and humbly coming from an 18 year old female…in case you were wondering ;) email me for further discussion. sadeburns@yahoo.com

  13. Have you read St. Augustine? He calls God “my sweetness.” He says “You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. He speaks of how he longs to have God inside of him.
    Furthermore, consider the ‘Song of Songs’, also known as the ‘Song of Solomon.’ It is essentially a romantic exchange between two lovers. “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste.” (Song of Songs 2:3) The language of biblical euphemisms is well-known and agreed upon: this refers to oral sex. But, despite the biblical context, the whole book never once refers to God, nor to divine law, nor to scriptural history. Why is this? How can we explain its unquestioned placement in the Old Testament canon? Well, it’s widely considered to be an allegory. The man is God and the woman is his Believers.
    Also:
    “For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.” (Isaiah 54:5)
    “As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5)
    “‘In that day,’ declares the LORD, ‘you will call me ‘my husband'; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’” (Hosea 2:16)
    “For your Maker is your husband; the Lord of the Heavenly Armies is his name, and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of the whole earth.” (Isaiah 45:5)
    “I am jealous of you with God’s own jealousy, because I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to the Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2)

    The point is that the Theos/Eros duality is something that has a long, long history in both Christianity and Judaism. It seems to be somewhat ingrained in human nature. It could be related to the pagan inclination towards the worship of the generative powers. Rather fascinating.

    • Also, I can dig up more verses if anybody’s interested in the topic. I just went for the first few I thought of because I doubt anybody will read this.

  14. Thank you so much for your thoughtful response, and I especially agree with your point regarding the different kinds of love depending on the recipient. To me it underscores the virtually infinite capacity God has when it comes to caring for his children. That, in turn, makes it easier for me to love Him, so thank you!

  15. Don’t get me wrong. I totally get what you’re saying. But this is merely an argument over semantics. Meanings of phrases and even words are often subject to time and culture. Many Christians would use loving God interchangeably with being in love with God. It’s more a matter of how you say it and what you mean. To some, being “in love” with someone means to be fully delighted in the presence of the beloved that one would always seek to be in the presence of the beloved.

    So I agree with you that we shouldn’t be loving God with an Eros sort of love, but I really do believe you’re stroking with too big of a brush. While there are some with a disgusting “Jesus is my boyfriend” mentality, the majority of Christendom that uses such phrases don’t mean erotic language when they say “I’m in love”. So while you shoot down the heretics, you also shoot down biblical Christians in the process.

    I could be wrong, but I think you’re using hyperbole in some of the lyrics you stated.
    I have never heard such a song that states “feel you against me”
    Yet it is perfectly fine to express the experience of the presence of God as “feeling”.

    Asking God to breathe on us in some Christian cultures is to breathe life into us as God did in the garden. Additionally the breathe of God (pneuma) is another expression of the Holy Spirit. A quick word search of the word “breath” in scripture will prove my point.

    Given, whisper in my ear is strange. I personally wouldn’t use that, but it would be contingent on what the artist intended in the song and on its context.

    Lastly, the imagery of a loving father holding his child to comfort or console him is absolutely beautiful.

    The Gospel is about saving us from the well-deserved wrath of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ. His effectual calling bids us to come and die with Him. His regeneration enables us to love Him. If being “in love” with God means having erotic fantasies about Him, then to hell with such blasphemies. However, if people cry “I’m in love with you, God!” to mean, “My Lord and my God, you have won my affections and I see you as beautiful. My love for you that you have enabled by your grace causes me to hate my sin and forsake it. This love I have for you wants me to be able to share the gospel to others because you are worthy of the worship of the lost” then I’m all for saying “Jesus, I’m in love with you”.

    While you make valid points about a certain subculture of Christians, it would seem that you are making a hasty generalization of Christians who use such words or phrases.

    As for the “you don’t say I’m in love with your father”. I would surely say I’m in love with my wife. And saying I’m in love with my wife doesn’t imply a sexual kind of love. If that were true then that phrase would reduce my wife to an object of sex and nothing more. It’s the fact that I’m in love with her that desire to serve and please her. Our God is not simply our Lord and king, he is also a lover who passionately pursued his Church despite her spiritual adultery. Our Jesus is the bridegroom. And His church should be madly in love with Him.

    But once again, semantics. The point is be careful not to use such broad sweeping statements about people who use such vernacular. Especially with the condescending tone in your writing.

    Once again, just because one person abuses such words in an erotic fashion, doesn’t mean that the next won’t use it properly in an “agapic” fashion.

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