Love. First Corinthians 13 tells us that it’s patient and kind, not envious or boastful, not arrogant or rude, not selfish, not irritable or resentful… In plain terms, it details for us a God kind of love, real love. This love is described as agape love.
Agape love isn’t a love that refers to romantic or sexual love, or even to the love that blooms within friendships. But it’s a love which “involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will. It is distinguished from the other types of love by its lofty moral nature and strong character” (Gotquestions.org).
However, there is a book (yes, a whole book) of the Bible that gives us a good picture of what the God kind of relational love (between a man and woman, husband and wife) is supposed to look like—which is our focus for today. The book I’m referencing is Song of Solomon (it may read Song of Songs in your Bible).
For years, following bad experience after bad experience, my heart was hardened to the idea of real love, at least for myself. And to be honest, even though my heart is no longer hardened, I’m not all that enthused or worried about experiencing it now (unless that’s God’s plan for me). Nevertheless, I believe God has been drawing my attention to this book in order to show me that real love, the love He intended for us to experience within relationships/marriages, isn’t a myth; it actually exists. The problem lies in the fact that we women have a tendency to search so hard for and desire so deeply “real love,” that we’re easily blinded by the counterfeit love running rampant in our society today. But, just as counterfeit money doesn’t negate the fact that real money exists, counterfeit love, even though widespread, doesn’t negate the fact that real love does exist.
There are several aspects of real, godly love that we find in Song of Solomon, that we should be keenly aware to look for, and display, in our own relationship experiences.
1st: Real love adores – In chapter 1, verse 8 of Song of Solomon, the shepherd—the shepherdess’ pursuer—says (in response to her), “If you do not know, O most beautiful among women, follow in the tracks of the flocks…” He says, in verse 15, “Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.” (See also the shepherd’s words in chapter 7, verses 1-7.)
It is evident to us, by the shepherd’s sentiments, that he loves and adores his future bride (sounds familiar?). In the same way, sisters, if a man loves and adores you, you won’t have to wonder about it; it will be evident, by his words and his actions.
2nd: Real love waits – In verses 4-7 of chapter 2, the shepherdess says, “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Sustain me with raisins; refresh me with apples, for I am sick with love. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me! I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.”
Here, we see the fatigue the shepherdess is experiencing as a result of the love she feels for her shepherd (he’s currently absent).
As the ESV study Bible notes, “love is demanding”; therefore, the shepherdess is admonishing the women of Jerusalem, and all of us today, especially we who are daughters of God, to not force or rush love. “It is clear that the couple is already in love, but they must allow their love to proceed at its proper pace, which includes waiting until the right time to consummate it, in marriage” (ESV Study Bible notes, underlining mine).
3rd: Real love is intentional – In verse 15 of chapter 2, the shepherdess says, “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.”
According to my study, in ancient times, wild animals were used as a representation of problems that could separate lovers. For example, according to Gotquestions.org, Egyptian love songs used crocodiles to picture a threat to romantic love. In Israel, crocodiles were not common, but foxes were. So here, the site says, if the blossoming vineyard is taken to mean the growing romance between the couple, then the foxes represent potential problems that could damage their relationship prior to the marriage.
So the bride, in essence, the site notes, wants to take preventative measures to protect their love from anything that could harm it. She is intentional about maintaining the health of her relationship, as we should be if, or when, God blesses us with a mate, and it’s as our mates should be toward the relationship as well.
4th: Real love is rooted in godliness – In chapter 8, verse 6, the shepherdess says, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.”
On looking at this, one could surmise that the jealousy spoken of here is that of the worldly nature, but it is not. This jealousy, as my study Bible notes, parallels the love spoken of in the sentence before it. This jealousy “is a resolute devotion rather than a selfish ambition.” The shepherdess’ statement here, therefore, “indicates that both love and a jealousy to protect marriage are given by God.”
This jealousy, sisters, should be a mutual feeling felt by both partners (spouses).
5th: Real love endures – “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised” (8:7).
Through this quote by the shepherdess, we see that real love endures. It is a flaming fire, unable to be overcome by the “many waters,” or any problematic occurrence, that may arise in an attempt to thwart it.
With these things noted, sisters, let us determine to:
(1) Not despise love;
(2) Take our time entering into relationships, giving ourselves the opportunity to assess whether or not a man is truly in God;
(3) Note whether our “person of interest” truly displays the God kind of love that’s on full display in our text; and
(4) Be a partner worth pursuing and marrying. It’s not enough for us to find a godly mate, sisters, but we must also be a godly mate, reciprocating the love shown to us, as we see the shepherdess did toward the shepherd who pursued her.
Awakening love before it’s time is a common occurrence in the society we live in. As I’ve stated already, I, myself, have fallen into that trap. However, when we learn better, we must endeavor to do better (James 1:22).
Understand, there is nothing wrong with desiring real, godly love (unless it becomes an idol), because as we see from today’s text, it’s a beautiful thing. However, in spite of those desires, no matter how strong, we must hold fast to the Word of God, which admonishes us to not be so antsy to find, or encounter, that love. Because, as we know, the main goal of the Christian life is not the seeking of self or our pleasures and desires, but the worship of God, fulfilling His mandates, and being conformed into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.