Something is wrong when I can sing a worship song to God and then to my wife with little variation. Because, when I look at my wife, “my heart turns violently inside of my chest,” and I am compelled to say…
“I’m madly in love with you”
“You are more beautiful than anyone ever”
“There has never ever been anyone like you”
“I want to hear your voice, I want to know you more”
“I want to touch you, I want to see your face”
“I’m desperate for you; I’m lost without you”
Is Jesus our cosmic boyfriend? These are all lyrics from actual worship songs, but they also give me some good material to romance my wife. Is this ok? Is our love for God an amped up version of the romantic love we have for our spouses (or girlfriends/boyfriends)?
Despite the sense we get from our worship songs, the answer is “No.”
While the Bible does draw an analogy between Christ’s love for us and a husband’s love for his wife (Eph 5:22-25), it’s the self-giving sacrifice of Christ that defines and dictates the selfless, unconditional love that a husband should have for his wife (Eph 5:25). But this is quite different from emotionally driven, conditionally compelled, romantic love that lurks behind the idea of falling madly in love with your boyfriend. God doesn’t romance us, and we don’t romance God. God hasn’t fallen in love with us—he was compelled out of a relentless desire to love the unlovable, and he therefore died for us. And we don’t fall in love with God. Neither the phrase nor the concept is used in the Bible. We respond to his grace by picking up our cross and dying with him.
Despite the popularity of the phrase, the Bible never talks about us “falling in love with God,” and I would highly recommend never using it again. The phrase “falling in love with” comes from the Elizabethan view of romance, which is foreign to the Bible. It refers to a highly emotionally and thoroughly conditional feeling toward someone else, usually based on attraction and the way they make you feel. Just Google the phrase “falling in love” and you’ll get some pretty sappy definitions that I certainly wouldn’t want to transfer to my posture toward God, and neither would Isaiah (Isa. 6). Even when spouses are commanded to love each other (Eph 5:25 and others), it has to do with a selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love that’s governed by the cross and not by how the other person makes you feel.
Saying you “fall in love with God” is taking a 19th century concept and reading it back into the Bible. And it’s subtly dangerous, since it reads a conditional understanding of love back into the biblical concept of unconditional love. So let’s stick to theologically rich concept of biblical, agape love when speaking of God.