Courage To Feel

I recently finished reading, and then immediately re-reading, Fill These Hearts by Christopher West. It’s a powerful rebuttal to the lie that Christianity is a joyless religion of laws and suppressed desires. West touches on many points regarding marriage and the plan of God that I hit in my book God’s Love Story, a subject you know is dear to my heart. I could probably write half a dozen posts inspired by Fill These Hearts (I already quoted from it in last week’s post), but here’s the part I want to focus on today:

Christianity is the religion of desire — the religion that redeems eros — and its saints are the ones who have had the courage to feel the abyss of longing in their souls and in their bodies and to open … all their desires for love and union to the Love and Union that alone can satisfy. … the saints have learned to open eros (their yearning for love) to Eros (God’s passionate love for them).” (p. 39)

Seeing God’s love described as Eros might make you a little uncomfortable at first (it had that effect on me). Eros is the Greek word for passionate or sexual love. This word doesn’t even appear in scripture, although erotic love is alluded to. The word we usually associate with God’s love — and rightly so — is agape. Read more

Lovers of God

loveAs long as I can remember, and I’m told well before that, “Why are we here?” has been a familiar refrain in sermons. I’m not sure if other churches ask this question so religiously, but in mine it’s trundled out every Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), and at least once more on other Holy Days and/or Sabbaths throughout the year.

The answers are equally familiar by now: “Because God called us,” “Because today is a commanded assembly,” “Because you’ve been given understanding the rest of the world doesn’t have.” Last time I heard this question was a few weeks ago, and that time I tried to think beyond why I was sitting in an uncomfortable blue-upholstered chair on a Saturday afternoon. When we really boil it all down to the question of why God called us in the first place, why are we really here? What is our purpose as followers of God?

A Great Mystery

From the very beginning God’s focus has been on relationships. Looking back to Genesis 1, we see God speaking the world into existence, and proclaiming that it was good. Finally we come to the pinnacle of God’s creation.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26)

This is the first time in the Bible where we see both The Word/Jesus Christ and God The Father talking about something together. I’m sure they collaborated on the rest of creation as well (Eph. 3:9), but mankind is the one creative act where They made sure we knew They acted together. “Let Us make man” is a collaborative, relational statement, announcing Their intent to make people “in Our Image,” and therefore capable of relationship.

The specific way humans were created also points out the importance of relationships. With other creatures, both male and female were apparently created at the same time. With humans, however, man was created first. This gave God a chance to point out, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). As Paul explains much later in the scriptures, the marriage relationship created here is a picture of the relationship God wants with His church.”

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:31-32)

Here, Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 to teach us a great mystery about the relationship between Jesus Christ and the New Testament church. At its core, the goal of “Let Us make man” was to build familial relationships. We are made children of God and co-inheritors with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:15-17), and betrothed to our adopted Brother (2 Cor. 11:2). We are designed to be in relationship with our Creator.

Lovers of God

In 2 Timothy, Paul describes “the last days,” warning that bad things are going to happen because men will turn away from loving God.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Tim. 3:4-5)

Note that these people have a “form of godliness.” As bad as they sound, they aren’t just people outside the churches — there are some inside our groups as well trying to pass themselves off as godly. But because they are not truly “lovers of God,” they are denying His true power and refusing to walk in His ways.

What does a “lover of God” look like? We’ve quoted John 14:15 several times over the past few weeks, where Christ says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” He expands on this idea through chapter 15 as well.

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:9-10)

Obedience is key to being in a relationship with God. If we ignore His commands, we’re telling Him we don’t care about a relationship with Him. But if we keep His commandments, we’re saying how much we love Him and want to be close to Him.

Dearly Beloved

When was the last time you heard Song of Solomon quoted in a sermon? For that matter, how many Christians do you think would have included it in the Bible if canonization had been up to them? No one seems quite sure what to do with it. My KeyWord study Bible says that portions of the Song were sung at Passover, though, so with that coming up next week maybe today is the perfect time to take another look at the Song of Songs.

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Second Isaiah and Lamentations all use this metaphor; the rabbis merely amplified what they had already found in the Bible. The Song of Songs, to the rabbis, was the completion of the metaphor. The prophets may have denounced infidelity but the Song of Songs spoke of reunion and love, the kind of love that the believing rabbinic Jew felt for God. Even the Psalms do not talk about God as the lover or bridegroom of Israel. The Song of Songs is seen as a dialogue between God and Israel, and this provides the book with a unique religious intensity.” (Benjamin Edidin Scolnic, “Why Do We Sing the Song of Songs on Passover?”, page 4)

Lovers of God | marissabaker.wordpress.comScholars can’t agree on who wrote the Song of Songs or when, much less how to interpret it. Some claim that it’s nothing more than a secular love song, others say it only has allegorical applications. The more balanced view is that it operates on two levels — as an account of human love, and as a picture of Christ’s love for the church and/or God’s love for Israel. That’s the one I like, and there is much to learn when we read this book looking for insight into our relationship with God.

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me. (Song 7:10)

Do you feel like this about your relationship with Jesus? We should, for we do belong to Him since He desired us so much that he redeemed us by giving His own life. The only time we see God’s name in the Song of Songs, it is not translated into English. It’s in chapter 8:6, and “Thus at the end of the Song the woman describes her love for her man as being like ‘YHWH’s Flame,’ the love between them will not only be as strong as death; it will be as strong as YHWH’s love for His people” (Andrew Greele, quoted by Scolnic, page 6). With a love so strong offered to us, we should offer all our love to God in return. What’s why we are here — to be lovers of God.

Love Languages and MBTI Types

Myers-Briggs types have much to tell us about ourselves and other people. Our MBTI type reflects our preferences for crowded parties or small gathering, describes how we connect with other people, shows us how we naturally respond to stress, and gives us a picture of our innate strengths and weaknesses. Another thing it’s often used for is trying to predict what type of person we’ll be attracted to, and most compatible with, in a romantic sense. Unfortunately, MBTI only gives part of the picture in this regard.

Types in Love

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Use of the MBTI for romance is subject to much debate. Isabel Myer wrote in Gifts Differing*, chapter 11, that “it seems only reasonable that the greater mutual understanding between couples with more likeness than difference should lead, on the whole, to greater mutual attraction and esteem.” This was supported by her study of 375 married couples who were most frequently “alike on three of their four preferences rather than on only two, as would be expected by chance.” However, Isabel Myer was an INFP woman happily married to an ISTJ man. According to her own personality theory, they “shouldn’t” have gotten along, especially since she thought that shared S-N preferences were the most important for predicting a couple’s happiness together and understanding of each other. Obviously type isn’t the only important ingredient for happiness.

Elizabeth and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, an NF – NT couple

David Keirsey’s book Please Understand Me II* agrees with Myers on the importance of S-N pairings, saying that his SP Artisan types are most compatible with SJ Guardians, and that NF Idealists are most compatible with NT rationals. His ideal pairing is someone who shares your S-N preference and is your opposite in the other three preferences. For example, he would pair an INFJ with an ENTP.

Continuing with INFJs as our example, these theories have influenced many INFJ profiles online. Jennifer Soldner’s Guide To INFJ Relationships lists ENFP, ENTP, INTJ and INFJ as the best matches for an INFJ. The worst matches are ESFP, ESTP, ESTJ, and ENTJ (note that this last one contradicts Keirsey’s rule for pairing NF and NT types). For the most part, these suggestions seem logical at first, much like Isabel Myer said when theorizing that people will get along best if they are similar. It doesn’t explain, however, why one study found that INFJs were most likely to marry either INFJs or ESTPs, or why Myers herself was happy married to someone so dissimilar in terms of type. Clearly there’s something else going on here.

The “Something Else”

Even with their generalizations about which types get along most easily together, both Isabel Myers and David Keirsey admit there are other very important ingredients to a lasting romantic relationship.

Individual relationships defy generalizations, and it should be stressed that two well-adjusted people of any two temperaments can find ways of making their marriage work for them.” (Keirsey)

“Understanding, appreciation, and respect make a lifelong marriage possible and good. Similarity of type is not important, except as it leads to these three. Without them, people fall in love and out of love again; with them, a man and woman will become increasingly valuable to each other and know that they are contributing to each other’s lives.” (Myers)

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

A mutual willingness to work together and actively build-up the relationships is more important than compatible MBTI types. One aspect of this is understanding the other person and learning how to love them. Becoming familiar with their Myers-Briggs type will help tremendously, but it’s not enough by itself. You also benefit from an understanding of Love Languages.

The five love languages theory was first published in 1995 by Gary Chapman, a relationship counselor and pastor. He says every person has a “language” that they use to communicate and receive love, either Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, or Physical Touch. Everyone has one primary love language, and you might have a secondary love language as well. If someone’s partner is not speaking their love language, they will not feel loved. There’s a test on Chapman’s website if you don’t know what your love language is and want to find out.

Layering Love Languages

In theory, any MBTI type can be combined with any one of the five love languages. I’m guessing, however, that there are some love languages that are more likely for certain MBTI types. Let’s take a quick look at the characteristics for the four type groups as related to different love languages.

SP types are typically concerned with outward, concrete ways of viewing the world, and focus on the here and now. Keirsey describes their preferred role in a romantic relationship as “playmate.” I could see SP types being particularly inclined toward Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, or Physical Touch as a primary love language. These all involve doing something for or with the loved one, which would appeal strongly to SP types.

Duty-fulfilling SJ types tend to play what Keirsey described as a “helpmate” role in relationships. They are stable, traditional, and thoroughly dependable people.  SJ types might be most in tune with Acts of Service, Quality Time or Words of Affirmation as a love language. These love languages visibly or verbally confirm that a SJ’s loved ones appreciate their constant reliability.

NF types are idealistic, enjoy abstract thought, and are natural romantics. Keirsey described their role in a romantic relationship as “soulmate.” They search for deep, genuine connections. Quality Time and Words of Affirmation seem like the most likely love languages, though Physical Touch and Acts of Service are also good possibilities. The key for NF types is genuine depth in a relationship, so they are inclined towards a language that increases emotional intimacy.

The NT types are highly intellectual, and Keirsey described their relationship role as “mindmate.” They are logical, abstract, and have little tolerance for the superficial. Words of Affirmation and Quality Time seem like the most likely love languages for an NT type, but after reading two different forum topics on MBTI types and love languages (one on Typology Central and one on Personality Cafe) I learned many NTs favor Physical Touch as well. My personal theory is that NT types view Service and/or Gifts with suspicion, wondering what the other person wants from them, while the others seem more genuine.

What about you? What are your Myers-Briggs type and love language(s)? Do you see a connection between the two? Share in the comments!

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God of Love, Old Testament

Love has always been an integral part of God’s relationship with His people. The commandments Christ called greatest (Mat. 22:37-39; Mar. 12:29-31) are contained in the the law delivered to Moses: “thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” and “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Deu. 6:5; Lev. 19:5). In addition, the Old Testament conversation about love was not limited to instructions. God also declared His great love for His people.

For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the LORD loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deut. 7:6-8)

In the Old Testament, God’s love is revealed in many ways. He shows His love by rescuing Israel from Egypt and defeating her enemies. His love is contained in the law, given to protect His people from the consequences of sin. Love is shown every time He chastises Israel for forsaking Him and in the way He offers forgiveness and welcomes them back when they repent. He also tells His people He loves them.

“I Love You,” says God

When I first started studying this subject, I was amazed to read how many declarations of love God makes for His chosen people. He calls Himself Israel’s husband, and even after they were unfaithful to Him, He promised to redeem His people from their sins and marry them again — a promise fulfilled when Jesus Christ established the New Covenant. He says, “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. … And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call Me Ishi [husband]; and shalt call Me no more Baali [master]” (Hos. 2:14,16).

And I will betroth thee unto Me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD. And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the LORD, … and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God. (Hos 2:19-21, 23 KJV)

Can there be anything more beautiful than these promises? God is often accused of being unfairly harsh in His judgments, but how many human beings whose spouse was unfaithful would be as merciful towards them as the Lord is toward His unfaithful people?God of Love, Old Testament.

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, and I have loved you; therefore I will give men for you, and people for your life. (Is. 43:1-4 NKJV)

This is one of my favorite passages from the Old Testament. It is so full of reassurance and love.

I was going to write a more complete concluding paragraph, but we have morning services today and I’m running out of time to get to choir practice. Happy Sabbath!