In the beginning God gave to humankind everything they could possibly want. The whole created world was made for us to enjoy. Every possible need was catered for. The pinnacle of God’s creation was humankind. The need for community was solved by the creation of other human beings: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.’
It started with the beautiful gift of marriage; the lifelong union of a man and a woman in which sex – another of God’s beautiful gifts – is to be enjoyed with intimacy and freedom, without guilt or shame.
God is love and we know he is because of all he does.
The word ‘love’ or ‘lover’ appears over and over again in the Song of Songs. It is all about romantic love between a lover and his beloved. They are overcome by love for one another. The beloved says that she is ‘faint with love’.
There is a strong element of physical and erotic love. Both describe the physical beauty of their marriage partner. As one commentator put it, ‘the Song of Songs is a long, lyric poem about erotic love and sexual desire – a poem in which the body is the object of desire and source of delight, and lovers engage in a continual game of seeking and finding... sexual gratification.’ But their love goes way beyond the physical and the erotic. The beloved says, ‘This is my lover, this is my friend’. There is nothing better in marriage than having someone as your partner, your lover and your best friend. The lover says, ‘Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm’ (Song of Songs 8:6). The desire of God for his people is the same as this idea of the love held between husband and wife.
In Ephesians we find that mutual respect is the key to a happy marriage. The key words in verses 21– 33 are ‘respect’, ‘love’ and ‘submit’. The overall heading for this section is ‘out of reverence for Christ’.
The word 'submit' is different from the word ‘obey’ (Ephesians 5:22). Submission is voluntarily yielding in love. It is a beautiful characteristic and it is clear from the overall heading, ‘Submit to one another’ that Paul expects mutual submission. This teaching would have been a revolutionary concept in first-century culture. Respect is the key to a good relationship between the sexes.
As we read these passages today, may God give us his Spirit so that we may imitate Jesus in all our relationships, whether married, engaged, or single.