More Like Falling in Love? Confusing Christ-following with Romance
The chorus of the popular worship song “More Like Falling in Love” by Jason Gray shares this heartfelt sentiment:
“It's gotta be more like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance”
But, is this true? Is coming to Christ supposed to be like falling in love? Is that the picture that Scripture paints for us? If it is not from Scripture, why do we feel the need to describe a Christian’s relationship with Christ in romantic terms?
As a kid in the church, I remember many a testimony describing the moment a person “fell in love with Jesus.” We mostly knew what that meant. It was a whole-hearted paradigmatic shift, not a shallow alteration of thought or opinion. However, the "falling in love" metaphor has limits, and I fear that “More Like Falling in Love” crosses far beyond those limits to introduce a whole new set of errors – errors formed through the unholy matrimony (To use my own love metaphor) of bad theology and our culture’s shallow view of love.
I think I know what this song hopes to accomplish. We’ve all been told (and said ourselves) countless times, “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.” We (rightfully) want people to understand that being a Christ-follower is more than something you know, and not merely a list of things that we do. I get it. I agree with it. But I think it’s time to recognize that this Christianity-is-a-relationship observation is only true if combined with some very strong caveats, which when missing, allow for some really wonky (to use the technical, theological term) conclusions.
The first problem is that for many Christians, and most of our culture, the term “falling in love” is completely misleading. Love is an action of our will that requires enduring self-sacrifice and service. People don’t fall in love; they fall in infatuation – i.e., good feelings, which often disappear just as easily as they showed up. Yet, one of the most prevalent misunderstandings in our culture is that if you experience the emotions of “falling in love,” it feels so good that true love becomes almost self-perpetuating and effortless. Whether it is intended by the artist or not, this is exactly the impression that “More Like Falling in Love” leaves. Becoming a Christian is an emotional experience as easy as meeting your true love at long last and living happily ever after. This as much a fairytale in our Christian life as it is in our romantic relationships.
The picture of Christianity provided by “More Like Falling in Love” is one mostly devoid of personal sacrifice or humble submission. While it is possible that the error comes more from the limits of the romance metaphor than the personal worldview of the author, it is no less detrimental. When a believer comes to Christ, we do so with a genuine love for Him, but God-love demands something from us. No, Christians aren’t saved by following the rules, but there are commands we must follow. We are more than just our creeds, but creeds have been a defining part of our history, separating right belief from heresy through the centuries. There are truths that we must believe to be saved, and our allegiance must be altered when we come to Christ. In short, all these things require a broken will, humble submission, and distinct choices on our part – all attitudes lacking in the emotional terminology of the “falling in love” metaphor. We don’t “fall in love” with Christ – at least until we have fallen at his feet in humble submission and repentance.
Finally, “More Like Falling in Love” shares the tendency of modern worship songs to be me-focused and therapeutic in nature rather than God-focused and transformative. The song is essentially a statement about what the author needs from his relationship with God, and what doesn’t work for him. We’ve often heard it said that God meets us where we are – and this is once again true, but only with a caveat. God meets us where we are, but He calls us out of our sin and to Himself. The transformative nature of this relationship is unique. If we come to Christ with the equal terms that we expect of romantic relationships, we’ll be off in easy-believism land.
Now, I know that there are a couple of objections that will come up. Yes, Scripture uses human marriage as an analogy in several places. In the Old and New Testament, God describes His dismay with His people’s infidelity in the terms of a spouse who has been cheated upon. Men are told to love their wives as Christ loves the Church, and the Church is called the “bride of Christ.” It is important, however, as with any literary device, to understand the limits of these analogies, and observe that in no place does Scripture describe an individual’s relationship with Christ in romantic terms. Though it’s an error that stretches back as far as medieval bridal mysticism, doing so leads us down a strange theological path.
Finally, I need to say that I am not attacking Jason Gray individually as an artist or as a person. I have no reason to doubt his sincerity or the depth of his relationship with Christ. As far as I am concerned, he is simply repeating an error that is endemic in popular Christian culture and music. (If you doubt me, think of how many Christian worship songs could be sung as love songs with little or no alteration and make just as much sense)
So, what do we do with songs like “More Like Falling in Love?” Maybe the song has had some special impact on you. It’s not my intention to discount that. I do believe that Christians should just as carefully examine ideas originating from within the church as we consider the ones that come from non-Christian culture. Does one song put our ship in the rocks? No, probably not. It might, however, indicate that a course change is necessary if we want our thinking to align with the truth of Scripture, and we want to avoid disaster in the future.