Come Away, My Beloved

The fig trees are forming young fruit, and the fragrant grapevines are blossoming. Rise up, my darling! Come away with me, my fair one!”                                                         Song of Songs 2:13 NLT

Believers from earliest times have struggled with the Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon). What’s it doing in the Bible? After all, it’s composed of some pretty explicit love poems. The Jewish people and the early Church solved the problem by interpreting the book as an allegory of God’s love for his people. The reason they did so was because they accepted the idea that there is a deep gap between the physical and the spiritual. Something so blatantly physical as human love does not have in it spiritual meaning.

I want to suggest that the division between the physical and the spiritual is not a Biblical idea. In fact, God never intended the spiritual and the physical to be separated. This is why we believe in bodily resurrection. What does that mean for Song of Songs? It means that human love is not a symbol of divine love; human love is an expression of divine love! Why do we find members of the opposite sex so desirable? Because God, who is love, made the world that way. He made us to find our truest selves in giving ourselves away to another who is like us, and yet not like us. When we surrender our deepest selves, body, soul, and spirit to the beloved we are participating in what C. S. Lewis called “The Great Dance.” When I call my beloved to come away with me, God smiles. Human love and divine love are part of a single continuum. They are two expressions of a single thing.

So is Song of Songs about human love? Absolutely. But it is about human love as an expression of divine love. God made us to love one another because he is love, and the degree to which we really give ourselves away in a selfless desire to please and care for that only beloved is one of the measures of our knowledge of the love of God. Human love is not by any means the totality of divine love. But it is a part of it and is intended to lead us to its consummation in God.

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