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St Johns Southgate

04 Sep 2018

Religion: It ain’t sexy. Or is it?

From what I’ve observed, people tend to imagine Christians as being prudish and uptight when it comes to sex.

That may be a fair description of some, but it’s unfair to blame that on the Bible. To be sure, you don’t often hear people saying, “Gee, that Bible’s a raunchy book!” But if they’d read it cover to cover they might have noticed that it does have some saucy hidden treasures.

The Old Testament book, Song of Songs, which simply means the greatest of songs or poems, is a book of erotic poetry. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s a poetic musing on the joy of sex!

It’s often explicitly descriptive, with lines like, “How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights! Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its fruit.”

At other times the poetry is more suggestive than explicit, allowing the reader to dive as deep as their blushing mind might take them into a sexual daydream. It’s been said that you haven’t lived until you’ve read Song of Songs in bed with your partner. It is incredibly sexy, there’s no doubt about it. It’s by far the sexiest book of Holy Scripture.

Sexy things are great, but what’s a book like Song of Songs doing in a collection of sacred writings considered by believers to be the very word of God? After all, in its eight chapters, God isn’t even mentioned a single time! There aren’t any commands or instructions and you won’t find typical religious vocab like “repentance”, “forgiveness” and “salvation” in it. So why is it in the Bible?

I’d prefer not to give a definitive answer. After all, poetry is for the reader to interpret as they will. But what I will say, is that the simple fact of it being in the Bible expresses God’s wholehearted endorsement of intoxicating sexual love within loving, co-equal, partnerships.

Additionally though, it can speak to us allegorically. If Song of Songs is in the Bible, and the Bible is a collection of writings that speak to, for and of God – a god who is “love” as the good book says – then it tells us something of God’s nature in Christ Jesus. It tells us that God loves us with a passion; loves us beyond rhyme or reason; loves us beyond words. It tells us that God looks at humankind with a lover’s gaze – with eyes that say, “I just want to be near you, with you, a part of you, completed by you!” If the Bible is God’s love letter to us, then Song of Songs paints the technicolour masterpiece of the consummation.

If for no other reason than curiosity, I encourage you to dust off the Bible and give Song of Songs a read. It’s better writing than the The Joy of Sex and it speaks on so many more levels. Fair warning though, either read it with a bucket of cold water or your partner close at hand.

Tom Hoffmann

Pastor - St John's Southgate

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