Explore: Invest in the best

• The Explore the Bible lesson for May 25 focuses on Song of Songs 5:6-8; 6:1-3; 8:4-7.

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• The Explore the Bible lesson for May 25 focuses on Song of Songs 5:6-8; 6:1-3; 8:4-7.

Even a cursory study of history demonstrates cultural context shapes the church as much as the church shapes the culture. Sometimes that is good, and other times it is not.

The church was far behind the culture in dealing with racial segregation in the 18th century. Some would argue it still is. It took decades after the Emancipation Proclamation before Baptist leaders diligently began to dismantle segregation in churches. Yet, in time, when racism no longer was acceptable to the common person, the church had to respond accordingly.

On the other hand, over the last several decades, the institution of marriage has been transforming radically in our culture. Church people have not stood by and watched this transformation unaffected.

Cultural dangers

Statistics indicate the divorce rate in the United States is approximately 50 percent. Among believers, that statistic is just as high, and some studies indicate even higher. Being a Christian has not proven to insulate anyone from the potential loss of a marriage. Just because we believe something is unbiblical doesn’t mean we are immune from living it.

Christians not only are as likely to divorce as non-Christians; the church is in danger of losing its prophetic voice about marriage to the world in which we live. As ancient as the words of the Song of Solomon may be, they contain long-proven principles of love, marriage and commitment that would serve any married person well to follow even today.

It’s beautiful to read of the passionate love two people had for each other before they married in Song of Solomon 5:6, 8-10. Even more so, it’s beautiful that these words were put to pen. They remind us marital love needs expression to stay vibrant and alive.

Expressions of love

Two of my good friends who have a very joyful, fulfilling marriage, started a tradition in their marriage years ago. Every morning, they leave each other private love notes, written in lipstick, on their bathroom mirrors. These are messages they share with no one else, but they are passionate and full of intimate expression. Every day in their home begins like a Song of Solomon celebration. When was the last time each of us told our mates, in very intimate terms, how beautiful our spouse is to us?

When marriages do come to a tragic end, the source of the demise often can be traced back to the way the marriage started. The two lovers in Solomon have not only verbalized their joyful anticipation of being with each other; they obviously pledged their exclusive commitment to each other before the marriage is formalized.

“‘I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,’” the bride-to-be expresses of her commitment to her future spouse (6:3). There is a time for two people to stand before God and man and make their commitment to one another until death parts them. Long before, their love for one another should have been sealed and expressed as their exclusive commitment to one another.

The new bride then declares her expectation of total commitment in the marriage, as she should. “‘Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave’” (8:6).

Surrender to each other

Marriage is a promise, one man to one woman, for life. Marriage is a contract. Marriage is a public commitment of one person to another of loyal love, exclusive love. Marriage is the surrender of total trust of one person to another until death separates them. The New Testament affirms this truth, even though it was written centuries later.

Anything short of that is not marriage. The sad truth is, once that trust is violated, it virtually is impossible to rebuild.

The best strategy for two people in a marriage is never to forget the love that brought them together. Wise people express their love for each other, even in the most intimate and personal ways. Wise people guard their marriages from the temptation to share physical or emotional love with anyone else. The best way to do that is never stop nurturing the love they have for the spouse to whom they made a life-long promise.

Although its words are ancient, the timeless, unchanging words of the Song of Solomon are a wonderful guide to reawakening the strategies for building a strong Christian marriage, no matter how the culture around us may change.

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