“… rejoice with the wife of thy youth.”
I once read a post that says ladies in church sometimes prefer to marry unbelievers because believers are not romantic. That was a very amusing one to read and since it has come to my notice, I feel it would not be good to bring this book to a conclusion without saying a word about it. I don’t know if that post spoke true, though I suppose it does else it shouldn’t have been posted. And if it is true I really don’t know what they mean by being romantic. Sometimes ladies don’t seem to know what they want and they misunderstand and misdefine their desires. If what makes such ladies to be attracted to unbelievers is their being “romantic,” I think what they really want is a wife beater and an unfaithful drunkard. For if it is true romance that they truly desire, they’d find it best and most beautifully in the people whose very God is love (1John 4:8, 16). We shall see why below.
I know there’re people who try to be very spiritual so as to demonise the virtue of romance, but you can’t blame them. The media puts forward stupidity and they call that romance. So it is the stupidity of the media that warrants such demonising. However, let us take a good look at this virtue from a right perspective.
So what is romance? Romance means, “feeling of excitement and mystery associated with tender love.” Being romantic therefore means showing this feeling. Showing love to one’s spouse is therefore a very great virtue. It is written, “Open rebuke is better than secret love.” (Proverbs 27:5). Not being romantic towards one’s spouse is the same thing as having a secret love. Such love is of little value. I once read of a man who said something like, “Pastor, you know, sometimes I love my wife so much that I almost tell her.” That is what it means not to be romantic. Such a man probably never expressed his love to his wife despite loving her so much. That is bad.
Some people probably don’t like to express their love for others because they feel it makes them look weak. In the same way there are parents who can’t tell their children that they love them. Some others don’t like to express their love because it makes them cry. Still others for some other strange reason(s) don’t just like to do it. It may be because of a resentment of some sort. Such resentment may have occurred as a result of a lack of understanding towards their spouses. Whatever it be that be the obstacle to showing and expressing the love that one feels for another must be surmounted. Why? Loving someone and not showing that love when the person is in the position to feel loved is evil. This is tantamount to robbery. Christian couples must know that they must first of all love each other from their heart passionately, then they must learn to express that love by word and deed regularly.
The Bible is not against couples being romantic. The biggest evidence of this is the Songs of Solomon which is a full book of thorough romance. It is a book filled with two spouses expressing their love to each other. I was seventeen when I first read it for myself and I was shocked to find it, even the first two verses, in the very HOLY Bible. But reading the whole was a beautiful experience. Some say it only refers to the relationship between God and his people, and that it should not be understood in the romantic way. That it does refer to the relationship between God and his people is very true. It fills me with wonder how some awesome preachers and Christian writers take verses out of the Songs of Solomon to preach on loving God and developing an intimate relationship with him. So wonderful and deep the spiritual revelation they present through those verses. It is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. So it is absolutely true. However it does not take away the fact that it is a book of romance all the same. Rather than claiming it is not a book of romance at all, it would be better to come to the conclusion that there is a lot to learn about our relationship with God and being intimate with him through observing the relationship between a man and his spouse in holy matrimony.
Indeed there is a lot to learn. We see all through scriptures that God likens himself to the husband of his people. In the Old Testament we can see God being presented as the lover of his people. For example it is written, “… and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.” (Isaiah 62:5). Elsewhere it is written, “Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.” (Jeremiah 2:2). In the New Testament it is written, “… I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2). And Christ and his church are represented as the bridegroom and the bride respectively. In the concluding part of Revelations it is written, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17). When we see these texts representing God and Christ as the bridegroom and his people as bride, it does not remove the actual natural love that exists between a man and his spouse. But we can have a better understanding of the love that exists between God and his people when we look at the holy love that exists between godly spouses. For example when it says in Isaiah 62:5, “… and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee,” one may never understand that rejoicing to the fullest until he himself has experienced what it is to be a bridegroom. It is in the joy he feels at such a moment that he may know that this is how God rejoices over him. It is in such a state that he could appreciate being loved this way himself. It is the same way that though the book of the Songs of Solomon, though it has deep spiritual meanings of intimacy with God, cannot be seen as a book not meant to be understood in the romantic way.
We find in the book of Ecclesiastes where it is written, “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:9). Concerning that verse Selwyn Hughes (1928-2006) wrote a commentary in his daily devotional with a title, “Are You Fun To Live With?” That is a good question with which good people ought to examine themselves regularly with. Not understanding this truth about the need to live joyfully with one’s spouse, some, when in the company of their spouse, always have their faces like flints that cannot be moved. But being a godly spouse also entails being fun to live with.
Isaac was seen sporting with his wife. In other words he was catching fun with his wife. It was by the sporting with her that Abimelech knew that Rebekah was his wife (Genesis 28:8-9). For Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Behold, of a surety she is thy wife.” Without sporting with his wife Abimelech would probably have little reason to conclude she was his wife. This is because the right and good thing for a man to do with his wife is to catch fun together. That, my holy brothers and sisters, is being romantic.
In the book of Proverbs it is also written, “Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.” (Proverbs 5:18 – 19). Being ravished in the love of a spouse is a blessing from God and spouses should delight and rejoice in this. It is good for spouses to express love in words (written or verbal), in love songs, fond activities, and whatsoever else ravishes (in the positive sense). So sit your spouse down and tell them what he/she means to you. Tell him/her what a horrible place the world would have been without them. Tell him/her how much you love him/her. Ravish his/her heart with the sweetness of the words of your mouth. Make it a regular practice.
Evidently, romantic activities is one of the things we can understand that apostle Paul referred to when he said, “But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:33 – 34). So far one has chosen to be married as opposed to being celibate, they have the responsibility to please their spouses. That, my holy brothers and sisters, is being romantic.
Even when the children of Israel went to war, the person that is newly married was not to go with them. It is written, “When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.” (Deuteronomy 24:5). Why should he be free and at home one whole year? To cheer up his wife. You can’t be free one whole year in the world of today, so don’t even think it, except you’re the child of a billionaire. You probably won’t even get a week off work. But time could be made out regularly for that.
Now back to the stupidity the media presents to us as love. I had said above that the media presents stupidity and call it romance. Here in Nigeria there are many Mexican series that aired on tv that portray stupidity and call it love. You’d see a man moving from one woman to the other in sexual relationships, and after going with many women comes back to the first woman, and then the story concludes that for them to have still ended up together, it means that it is true love. I don’t watch it but the things I overhear people saying makes me wonder why people would spend their time watching such stupidity so much as to allow it corrupt their reasoning. They call their series romance, but all that is not romance. Infidelity is not love. Showing lack of commitment to one’s spouse is not love. Rather it is hate and wicked disregard. But how it should be deemed a means of entertainment to show such irrational behaviours and how people indeed find it entertaining baffles me.
But that which we see in the Bible is pure in all its characteristics. It is an expression of love between couples, not unmarried fools like we see in the media. It is an expression of love of commitment and chastity, not a frivolous relationship that makes the lover change his/her love as often as he/she changes his clothes. It is an expression of love from the heart, not the lust of the flesh. It is an expression built on reason and moral principles, not one built on infatuations and the wanderings of a mind filled with concupiscence. It is a love that reflects God’s love for his people, not one that reflects disregard for the chaste commands of God. It is a love by which the man could say most confidently to his spouse, “… my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled…” (Song of Solomon 5:2). But what could these profane people say? Probably, “my defiled and profane fried-haired tattooed canvas.”
Aurelius Augustine expressed his observation in the following words, “In matrimony, however, let these nuptial blessings be the objects of our love — offspring, fidelity, the sacramental bond… Fidelity, not such as even unbelievers observe one towards the other, in their ardent love of the flesh. For what husband, however impious himself, likes an adulterous wife? Or what wife, however impious she be, likes an adulterous husband?” This informs us that even impious and irreligious people don’t like adulterous people for spouses. So how can people be jumping from one person to the other in an adulterous relationships be presented as romance, even for the purpose of entertainment? Sheer stupidity.
The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of my favourite novel because it is a great novel of adventure, wit, suspense, and drama. But apart from this it had an element of good romance in it. A romance like we see in the Bible. I enjoyed that very well because it was pure and therefore beautiful. I have said in one of the previous sections that, judging by what we can learn from Christ’s life, it is wrong to even maintain a on going relationship with the opposite sex, how much more should one avoid romance before marriage. But if one is married, it is good to be romantic towards one’s spouse.
Keeping Heaven In Sight
“Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”
(1 Corinthians 7:5)
Before I bring this issue to a close, I would like to however point out that we must remember that we live in an evil time. We must be able to put aside matrimonial affairs for the sake of the kingdom from time to time (1 Corinthians 7:5). In such cases let it be obvious that it is for the kingdom’s sake that both spouses decide to stay away from one another for fasting and prayer. We must keep in mind that the choice of marriage is not the best choice given the evilness of the time we live in. The choice of celibacy would have been best, but because of the weakness of our flesh it is better to marry than to burn (1 Corinthians 7:9). For this reason we must show some restraints even within marriage.
Some are of the opinion that after marriage it is good to fan the flames of lust, but this is not right. It was Aurelius Augustine who wrote, “Carnal concupiscence, however, must not be ascribed to marriage: it is only to be tolerated in marriage.” Those are sound words of great wisdom. So it is not expedient to fan the flames of lust in marriage. And knowing that we live in an evil in which the work of the master requires urgency, to sacrifice that work to pursue the cravings of the flesh so much that one goes on as far as to fan the flame of lust (when the natural cravings is not there) is not expedient at all. In that Augustine says it is only to be tolerated he meant it should not be pursued after. The scriptural view of marriage is that it serves as a safeguard against fornication. This truth is hidden in this words, “… that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” (1 Corinthians 7:5). Marriage is a safeguard against such temptations and not for pursuing after fleshly lusts.
“… rejoice with the wife of thy youth.”
I do not by talking about showing restraints in marriage seek to contradict the main import of writing on the matter of romance as a virtue, but there must be a balance. Romance is more about showing love and making one’s spouse happy. To be pursuing lusts within the confines of marriage is another thing entirely. Showing love is just a way of living and of relating with others which does not in itself hinder our service to God, but pursuing carnal concupiscence does hinder our service to God. Though I am not in the position to judge to what extent it is evil, it is most certainly not expedient seeing the evilness of the time we live in. We must therefore remember the more important purpose of preparing for eternity, that is both in preparing ourselves and preparing others. But so far as we choose to be married, our matrimony should not be without romance.
Let us therefore live happily with our spouses (or future spouses when the time comes), expressing the love and affections we feel. Let us be committed to their happiness, for this is well pleasing to God. May he guide us into perfect truths concerning this matter by his divine wisdom. Amen. Thank you and God bless you.
Prayer: Dear Father whose name is love, I pray today that we may understand your love to fullest. As we do may that most holy love reflect in our relationship with our spouses, that we may leave joyfully with our spouses. This I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.