Valentine’s Day this week gives us occasion to think about the romance factor in our marriages and daily lives. The romance factor is an essential element of what living is all about. And this certainly is true also for Christian faith and ministry. By romance, I mean the exhilarating experience of falling in love with someone whose beauty and goodness mesmerizes while drawing into his or her embrace. It is the emotional side of love which is so essential to attraction and sustenance in marriage — a vivid, common illustration of what we all need in many spheres of life.
A marriage without romance easily grows weary and stale. Life without romance is the same. The Christian life without the element of romance misses a key factor in what it means to be a lover of God and a follower of Jesus. If marriage teaches us anything it is that it reflects the existence of God as three persons in delightful relationship with one another — the kind of relationship God also calls us into with Himself. Many Scriptures allude to the marital relationship that God intends to have with His people. The church, for example, is the bride of Christ — a relationship which will be consummated in that day when Jesus returns to earth at the end of time to claim His own (Revelation 21:2).
The practical aspect of this is that in marriage it is essential to maintain this romantic element of the relationship. It is true that marriage is all about working together toward a common goal, companionship with one another, and helping one another with daily chores — including the responsibilities of rearing children. But none of this is as it should be without a generous supply of also delighting in one another’s embrace. It seems to me that God intends married couples to experience a good sense of balance between romance, commitment, and companionship.
The practical aspect of this in our discipleship experience with Christ is that we need to cultivate the romantic sense of our relationship with Him as much as our learning and obedience. In fact, it seems to me, each of these feeds and flows out of, and into the other two. Our obedience to Christ flows out of our sense of love and worship toward him and our knowledge of His ways. That’s why the experience of worship, focusing our hearts and minds on the wonders of His person, is so vital to Christian living. Worship, in that sense, is central and pivotal to faith and obedience.
Sometimes Christians and/or church leaders grow weary in their service for Christ. Working day in and day out in the church, facing the spiritual and relational challenges of ministry, they can easily lose the joy of what it means to serve the Lord. Emotionally starved in their relationship to Christ and other believers they quickly become vulnerable to sin and temptation in many forms. Satan takes advantage of them because they have lost their sense of first love. The romance of their Christian experience is missing.
Romance in marriage is cultivated through daily efforts to focus on one another’s charm and beauty. Romance involves daily verbal and physical expressions of affection in fresh and creative ways toward one another. It is the oil of blessing in marriage that enables partners in marriage to sustain service and commitment. A key factor in a stale and tired marriage is the loss of romance. Growing couples don’t merely pray together; they also play together.
Likewise in our Christian lives and service. Effective Christian growth and service can only be sustained successfully in a context of regular worship. Our hearts cry out for an emotional relationship with God in which we are reminded of His greatness and love for us as we also present to Him all the glory He so richly deserves to receive. We need to be “in love” with Christ, not just obedient to Him. We need to know always what it means to “delight ourselves in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4). Our times in His Word need to be experiences of understanding. But also they need to involve a consciousness of His immediate presence and love. It is this combination of apprehensions that will also result in fruitful and honourable obedience to Him.