Psychology is about the science of mental behaviour. Theology is the study of God. What about "Loveology?" For John Mark Comer, pastor of teaching and vision at Bridgetown: A Jesus Church, loveology is a theology of love. With sensitivity to the different emotions and relationships, Comer mines the depth of Scripture to flesh out insights about all things love and relationships. Two truths are emphasized here. First, love is beautiful. Second, something has gone wrong. Teaching pastor Comer strings together the major faces of love in modern society and puts them under the scrutiny of these two basic truths.
Comer then applies these truths to five areas of love and relationships. He begins with God and the purpose of the Garden of Eden. Love is about washing one another's feet, a service emphasis. In the Hebrew word, ahava, we learn of a relationship beyond mere affections but friendship. This is powerfully demonstrated in the second area: Marriage. We read of how God has intended for beauty to flourish and the perfection of love in marriage between two persons. No one marries in the hope of breaking up later. "Marriage is humbling," so says Comer. It is not the elimination of problems and challenges in marriage. It is learning to live humbly in spite of each other's flaws. Just like the original love and marriage, sex too has its fair share of beauty and the lack of it. Letting Scripture guides once again, Comer resets our understanding of sex by saying God did not begin with "Don't" but "Be fruitful and increase in number." It is a liberating statement that we are created to be sexual creatures, and sex is not evil. Sex is beautiful and good. One way to celebrate this goodness is the literal reading of the Song of Solomon. The problem comes when sex becomes treated like a kind of god, which then leads to a host of other problems. Problems like pornography, sexual immorality, and promiscuity. When sex becomes a god, adultery becomes more accepted. The fourth area that Comer touches on is romance. Looking at the Song of Solomon, one draws themes of invitation, waiting, dancing, wooing, and playing. Comer addresses the modern concept of dating and says that the Bible has said nothing about dating. It does has something to say about guidance in love. Like the love stories of Moses and Zipporah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, and others. It is because marriage is so important, Comer decides to weigh in heavily in this phase, saying that "the right spouse is worth the wait." The Scriptures are full of instructions about waiting. If we have learned to wait for God, everything else is possible. The fifth part is about sexuality, gender, and sexual orientations. This is probably the most challenging of them all. Comer asserts that we are all created either male or female; equal but unique. We need to remember that gender roles have not been tarnished by the fall. The danger of believing that roles are tarnished is the ease in which husbands and wives blame the Fall for things that they are responsible for. He carefully touches on the gift of singleness.
Having made a case for biblical sexuality, Comer then works on the controversial topic of homosexuality. If there is any one part of the book that will divide readers, it will be this. He recalls a friend of his being forced to choose "between Jesus and his sexuality" in which his friend eventually chose the latter. Comer comes alongside offering an apology to the gay community for the way that they have been treated. He even points out six myths:
1) Gay sex is the worst sins ever;
2) I'm straight and you're gay;
3) The church isn't a safe place;
4)Repressing your sexual desire is oppressive
5) The Bible doesn't really teach that gay sex is a sin
6) Come to Jesus and he'll make you straight.
Jesus is the embodiment of love. For all the talk about sex, marriage, singleness, romance, sexual orientation, and so on, we need to remember not to turn any one of them into an idol or a kind of god. For when we do so, we risk putting obedience to God secondary and our sexual desires primary. For readers wanting to get a quick answer about love, they will not find it in this book. For this book is not about quick fixes on the love life. It is about holding together the beauty of God's creation and purposes with the awareness that we are not what we originally are. Most importantly, we need to let Christ nail both the beauty and the flaws at the cross of grace, so that our understanding be grounded in God's Word and sensitized to what is happening around us. The way to read the book is to see it like a dance. Some steps are easy while others are difficult. There is the need to let biblical truths guide our movements and to be aware of our partners, our friends, believers, and people we care about to dance with us. It may need guidance and initiative from the one who is ready. Most importantly, in dancing, there is no need to be paranoid about winning or losing. For life is about living, not trophies or accolades.
Personally, I find the use of pink a little too distracting and feminine. Perhaps, using an additional colour or two can bring about greater balance in this very thoughtful and already well-balanced book.
Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.
This book is provided to me courtesy of Zondervan Publishers and Larry Loss Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.