What Does the Song of Solomon Teach us about Relationships and Sex? – Part 1

Sex isn’t a topic that’s discussed often in the church, if at all. It can even be a taboo subject among Christians. Something they do but definitely not something they discuss.

When we compare the church to the world, we see that there is quite a difference between the two. The world talks about sex constantly. Movies, T.V. shows, the news, articles, and conversations with friends are often dominated by the subject. I mean you can hardly watch a television show without some random comment or scene thrown in there that’s really unnecessary, and the only role it plays is just to glorify sex.

But why is there such a difference? Why don’t we talk about sex in the church? Especially when we consider that almost the entirety of one of the wisdom books — the Song of Solomon — is dedicated to the subject.

Now, the Song of Solomon isn’t without its controversy. Many have questioned why it’s in the Bible. It’s been kept out of the hands of teenagers and young adults. It’s been allegorized, historicized, and misinterpreted in an effort to diminish the raciness of the book. But while all that and more has occurred throughout the centuries, it still remains a valuable book.

At its core, it’s about a relationship between a king, presumably Solomon, and his wife. It tells the story of their courtship, wedding, and relationship thereafter. It does so with vivid poetic imagery that at times leaves us, modern-day readers, guessing at the meaning and wondering why the woman is blushing when in today’s terms his comments would be taken as more of an insult than a praise and would probably warrant a slap. But for all its difficulties, the Song of Solomon is inspired Scripture that teaches us about God’s desire for sex and relationships.

What, then, does the Song of Solomon teach us about relationships and sex?

(1) Relationships and Sex should occur between a man and a woman (vs. Gen. 1:27-28; 2:24; Rom. 1:27-28; 32)

That idea — that relationships and sex should only occur between a man and a woman — is fast becoming out of step in our modern world. But while the traditional view is fast becoming out of step, it is the biblical view. One that’s upheld in the Song of Solomon. When you read the book, the love story, including the intimate parts, are portrayed between a man and a woman. That is the relationship that is celebrated by the book. That’s the relationship God endorses and promotes.

Lest someone claim the Song of Solomon only represents one type of relationship, God’s explicitly clear in the rest of the Bible what He endorses. In Genesis 1&2 we learn that a man and woman were created. Verse 27 of chapter 1 reads,

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Ge 1:27)

And in verse 28 we learn that:

“…God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”” (Ge 1:28)

Then in verse 24 of chapter 2, we are told that,

“…a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Ge 2:24)

This tells us that God’s original plan in creation was for one man and one woman to be together for life. If that’s not clear that it’s God’s plan for a man and woman to be together, we also learn in Romans 1 that:

“…God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Ro 1:26–27)

God gave them up to these unnatural relations because of their refusal to recognize him as the one true God despite the evidence He has provided. He gave them up to homosexual behavior, which we are told in verse 32 is something that warrants God’s punishment.

You see, despite what our culture proclaims and trumpets as acceptable, the Bible tells us that it’s nothing more than an aberration, a departure from God’s original plan for creation. If those in our culture are honest, they know this too. They show they know that when they say things like: “This is the new normal.”

So one of the things we learn from the Song of Solomon is that God’s design and plan is for relationships and sex to occur between a man and a woman.

Question for Reflection

  1. What are your thoughts on the Bible’s plan and God’s design for sex and relationships? Do you agree or disagree? And why? (NOTE: Since this is an emotionally and politically charged topicI’m looking for thoughtful, gracious, loving, and engaging answers/comments.)

Resources

Image

Post developed from my sermon What does the Song of Solomon Teach us about Relationships and Sex?

 

Advertisements

What’s Required to Have an Effective Mercy Ministry? – Part 3

In the last few posts, we’ve seen that an effective mercy ministry not only requires compassion, but it also requires responsibility. Today, we’ll explore some guidelines by which to operate. Just as Paul gave Timothy guidelines by which to operate, we too should have guidelines by which we operate. It’s not ungodly or uncompassionate. Instead, it’s wise and helpful. It not only allows us to care for others, but it allows us to provide care in a way that is most helpful for them and best uses the resources of our church.

Just as Paul gave Timothy guidelines by which to operate, we too should have guidelines by which we operate. It’s not ungodly or uncompassionate. Instead, it’s wise and helpful. It not only allows us to care for others, but it allows us to provide care in a way that is most helpful for them and best uses the resources of our church.

Personal Guidelines

(1) Set aside a designated amount of money each month that can be used to help others.

When you run across someone needing help, you can help them without feeling like you have to break the bank or kill your budget.

(2) Pray with the person you are helping

I can’t remember if it is someone at my current church or another church that told me this. But basically, they said that the advice they were given in the past was to pray that the person would use the money you are giving them in a God-honoring way or face God’s judgment. If after praying that prayer they still wanted the money, then you should give that to them, leaving it between them and God as to what happens next.

(3) Designate a small portion of your income above and beyond your regular tithe and give that to a benevolence ministry each month. 

That could be the church’s benevolence ministry or another ministry like WARM or Wise Choices Pregnancy Resource Center. The point in doing that is that you know your money is going to be used to actually help the person. When you walk past a person begging for money, you don’t have to feel bad because you have already given to a ministry that is local and can meet their need. You can even take it a step further by stopping and pointing that person to that particular ministry.

So those are a few guidelines by which you can operate. Of course, there are more but that should get you started.

Church Guidelines

I’ll tell you what we currently do at the church I pastor. Hopefully, that will help you get the ball rolling at your church.

(1) We have a system of accountability.

Meaning that one person can’t make the decision to help someone. They have to call another pastor or deacon and run the situation by them first.

(2) We don’t give anyone money or gift cards.

Instead, we will directly pay someone’s bill, rent, or for their groceries.

(3) We have a tiered system of care.

If you are a member, regular attendee, or family or friend of a member, you can receive more assistance than someone who just randomly calls the church.

(4) We have limits on how often you can receive assistance.

Meaning that we aren’t going to continually pay someone’s bills every month without first really digging into the situation and their finances. If someone needs assistance multiple months in a row, then they have to be willing to open their finances up to us and follow a plan we develop for them based on their budget.

(5) We have a budget for benevolence 

We refer to that as our Local Mission’s Fund. A small portion of the general tithes and offerings goes into that fund every month. That is what we use to help those in need unless there is a special circumstance that requires more than that fund has. If that happens, we will take up a love offering or vote to use money out of the General Fund to help that family.

So those are some of the guidelines that we as a church operate under. We have put these in place because it allows us to be both compassionate and responsible, stewarding the resources we have as a church, as well as it also forces us to dig into the situation and provide the help the person really needs.

Conclusion

As you can see Mercy Ministry isn’t simple. It is complex. While compassion needs to be what motivates us, we also need responsibility to guide us. It’s compassionate responsibility that’s required in order for us to have an effective mercy ministry. I believe if we operate within that tension, we will be effective. As well as we will truly help those who are in need.

Question for Reflection

  1. What guidelines do you operate by personally and as a church?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: What’s Required to Have an Effective Mercy Ministry?

Image

What’s Required to Have an Effective Mercy Ministry? – Part 2

Last time, I laid out the idea that we have to be compassionate in order to have an effective mercy ministry. While it’s important for us to be compassionate, compassion left unchecked can, at times, do more harm than good. You see, meeting someone’s immediate need is not bad, and in reality a lot of times we need to do that. But if we blindly meet the immediate or presenting need over and over again, we aren’t really helping that person because we aren’t forcing them to deal with the underlying heart issue that may be causing their hardship.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone who is struggling has an underlying sin condition they need to deal with. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Health issues, natural disasters, the loss of a job, these things happen. When they happen, we may find ourselves struggling and in need of help, even though we have done everything right and our heart is in line with God’s Word.

But there are others who have needs, and those needs are the result of sin. In order for them to get to a place where they can be self-sufficient, we have to help them deal with their sin. If we are just operating on our emotions, we may not do that. Which tells us compassion can’t be the only driving force of an effective Mercy Ministry.

An Effective Mercy Ministry Requires Responsibility

Part of 1 Timothy 5 is centered around the care for the widows in the church at Ephesus. To give you some background information. Apparently, the church was facing a crisis. Their compassion had led them to enroll all the widows in the church and those loosely connected to the church into a welfare program. Providing for all these widows needs became a burden on the church.

Paul isn’t writing to tell Timothy and the church to quit providing for these widows. They were still supposed to provide care. They just weren’t to continue to operate as they had been. The church had to begin operating responsibly. They had to make sure these widows were cared for in the right way and the church’s resources used appropriately. Essentially Paul was telling Timothy that his compassion had to be balanced by responsibility.

He gave Timothy a set of guidelines by which the church should operate.

(1) The church is to care for those who don’t have a family to care for them (3,4,8,16)

Starting in verse 3 Paul says,

“Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.” (1 Ti 5:3–4)

Then in verse 8 Paul provides the motivation some family members needed to provide adequate care for their families when he says,

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Ti 5:8)

So a person’s family should be the ones who care for them. If they don’t have any family, then the church should take over.

(2) The church is to care for those who have given themselves to God’s service and have a godly reputation (5-6)

Look at the text starting in verse 5,

“She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.” (1 Ti 5:5–6)

Now drop down to the second half of verse 9,

“Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, [and here is where we pick up] having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.” (1 Ti 5:9–10)

So the church isn’t just to enroll any widow. Only those who meet certain moral standards.

(3) The church is to care for those who are of age (9a, 11-15)

In the first half of verse 9, we are told that a woman shouldn’t be less than sixty years of age. Then picking up in verse 11 we read,

“But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan.” (1 Ti 5:11–15)

So again, not just any widow, but only those who meet a certain age requirement.

Just as Paul gave Timothy guidelines by which to operate, we too should have guidelines by which we operate. It’s not ungodly or uncompassionate. Instead, it’s wise and helpful. It not only allows us to care for others, but it allows us to provide care in a way that is most helpful for them and best uses the resources of our church.

Next Time

Next time I’ll lay out the guidelines by which we personally and corporately should operate.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you exercise responsibility when dealing with those who are in need?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: What’s Required to Have an Effective Mercy Ministry?

Image