Imagine dropping your son off at football practice and as he’s walking toward the field you yell out: Son, one of my hopes for you this season is that you fall in love with your coach!
Or imagine saying to your son: Son, my greatest desire, as your dad/mom, is that you fall in love with me.
Creepy! Ick! Yuck!
Yet that’s precisely what much of Christianity says today to boys (and to girls) about Jesus. I’m reading an absolutely exceptional book on parenting that starts out with this flawed premise: our primary purpose as parents is to help our kids fall more deeply in love with Jesus.
The use of romantic language in talking about “our relationship” with Jesus has been permeating the Christian church for decades now. Most recently it began to creep into the church through well-intentioned worship leaders looking for a way to personalize worship and make it more “heart-felt,” experiential, and relational…Jesus, I am so in love with you. (My parent’s generation grew up with Gospel Songs that used similar language: My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine...) People like David Murrow have been calling us on it, pointing out that these “top 40 love songs to Jesus” feminize and romanticize the Gospel.
Jesus, however, never ever called us to fall in love with him. He calls us to love him, which is a far different call. It’s a call to follow him. To commit to him. To pledge, allegiance, obedience and loyalty to him. To serve him. We’re not called to muster up deep, romantic, love-feelings for Jesus. He’s not a boyfriend. He’s our King. Our Lord. Our leader. Our Savior. We’re called to love him by following him.
That’s language a boy can understand. His action-driven, testosterone-energized life resonates with the kind of love Jesus is talking about—love that acts, serves, sacrifices, goes somewhere; a love that has the other’s back.
Real boys (and real girls) don’t fall in love with Jesus. Real boys (and real girls) love Jesus. They follow him. They pledge their lives to him. They go where Jesus goes.