Some of you may have grown up in an atmosphere in which “I-love-you”s were part of everyday normal conversation. In my family, however, it was assumed that love, shown by our actions, was what held us together. “I-love you” was a magic phrase, used only by two young people who had just experienced a hormone-inspired realization that they were in love. For the rest of us, the contract seemed to be, “If I don’t say anything, I still love you; I’ll let you know if I stop.”
What, that’s not normal?
The other day, I overheard the ending of a conversation between a young couple. She signed off by mumbling, “Love you.” He responded, “Love you more.” Now, the first thing that surprised me was the flatness of their tone; there was no emotion expressed. It was almost as if they were closing an old-time two-way radio conversation: “Roger; over” / “Over and out.” Second, I noticed the evolution in recent years from “Love you too” to “Love you more.” When the second member of the couple responds with “Love you too,” they* are admitting the partner got there first, so the “too” person is always a poor second. But if the answering person replaces “too” with “more,” they are automatically on the romantic high ground.
I wanted to find some Biblical passage that might shed light on the whole being-in-love phenomenon. There are warnings about the “lusts of the flesh” which can lead us into destructive relationships. And, by contrast, there’s plenty about the profound commitment of love it takes to make a marriage work, but that’s based on a choice to love, not on a helpless falling in love. As I reviewed the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments, only one** falling-in-love episode jumped out at me: King David’s attraction to Bathsheba, whom he saw bathing on a nearby roof (2 Samuel 11). He was so smitten by her that he arranged for her to be brought to his chambers, where he probably said the 10th century B.C. equivalent of “I love you,” to which she responded, “I love you even more, O Sovereign King, who has the power to behead me, and this affair is definitely consensual.” When this happened, David was not a lustful young man looking for his first romantic fling. He was 49 years old, had already married seven other women (more than one at a time), and had about ten concubines on the side (1 Chronicles 3:1-9). When Bathsheba became pregnant, David arranged for her husband to be killed in battle, and he then took her as his primary wife. The couple had four sons (and maybe daughters?) during his later years. One of those sons became the great King Solomon. You would have to conclude that Bathsheba was actually the love of David’s life.
Some lessons to be learned:
- Enjoy being in love, but remember the word infatuation comes from the Latin word (fatuus) for being foolish. Keep your head.
- If you’ve sometimes been a fool because you fell in love with the wrong person, in the wrong way or at the wrong time, Remember the great King David, and forgive yourself. God can make something good of your foolishness.
- No matter how morally ragged, even brutal, David could be, he inspired in the Psalms some of the greatest poetry of all time, and it was through his lineage that our Lord Jesus chose to come into the world (Matthew 1:1,6).
- Some of the most pressing challenges of modern life, like dating, falling in love and courtship are not addressed directly in the Bible, which was written in a very different time and culture. We should be cautious about translating Bible characters into modern day faith heroes.
— Pastor George Van Alstine
* Apology to Jill Boekenoogen: Miriam Webster made me do it https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/word-of-the-year/they
**The Bible’s beautiful love poem known as Song of Solomon should be mentioned here. But whatever its allegorical meaning is, scholars cannot attach it to any actual historical lovers.