In the last of the ‘Everyday Church’ series, tonight we looked at ‘everyday intimacy.’ Love is the hallmark of the Christian, but intimacy conveys the closeness of the relationship which God wants to have with His people. Intimacy is not just about sex, as is often thought nowadays, but is about ‘developing relationships in which love is successfully expressed and received and shared,’ (Eugene Peterson, ‘Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work’, P 24) There is perfect unity in the Godhead and perfect relationship; since we are made in God’s image (Gen 1:27), it is obvious that both our vertical relationship (with God) and our horizontal relationships (with people) are of prime importance.
God uses metaphors to describe the importance of relationships in the Bible, one of which is the description of God as the husband, the bridegroom (see Matt 25: 1-13, Is 62:5, Matt 9:15, Rev 21:2) and the church, the people of God, as the bride (see Rev 21:2, John 3:29, Rev 19:7). Even when Paul is teaching people about human marriage, as he does in Eph 5:21-33, he is keen to remind people that this is really just a picture of spiritual things: ‘This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.’ (Eph 5:32) When there are problems between God and His people, the metaphor which is used is that of adultery or harlotry (sexual promiscuity), because these things are the very antithesis of intimacy. God clearly places a high value on intimacy as we can see from the Song of Songs, ‘a collection of romantic love lyrics in which sexuality is pervasive and explicit.’ (Eugene Peterson, ‘Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work’, P 37) This book is not only about human love, however; it also has much to teach us about the passionate love of God for us and our response to Him.
The Song starts with the fervent words ‘Kiss me!’: ‘Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine.’ (Song of Songs 1:1) Kissing is incredibly intimate, but it is also the word used frequently for worship (Greek ‘proskuneo’, Matt 2:2, 8, 11; Matt 18:26; Luke 24:52; Rev 4:10.) There are passionate descriptions of the two people in love (see Song of Songs 4:1-15, 5:10-16, 6:4-10, 6:13b-7:9) which may seem over-the-top or embarrassing to us, but they remind us of the urgent need for personal communication between lovers and how, as we express our pleasure and our adoration, not only is our perception of the beloved changed, but their perception is also affected. Love changes our perception of ourselves, our attitude towards others and our values and our goals. As we reflect on God’s love for us, our view of ourselves and other people is inevitably changed: ‘We see God’s people (and ourselves) not through the dirty lens of our own muddled feelings, and not through the smudgy windows of another’s carping criticism, but in terms of God’s word.’ (ibid. P 64-65)
Knowing that we are unconditionally loved by God, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him (Ps 139:14) and that we are invited to come into His presence with confidence (Heb 4:14-16) frees us to live in a new identity of children of God and enables us to love God, ourselves and others as He truly wants us to.