Let us Seek: Beloved Partner

So, when I consider today’s readings in the Revised Common Lectionary I see an unintentional correlation between two texts that are clearly unrelated. One of the readings is from the fifth chapter of the Song of Solomon and another is from the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians.

Do you know what stands out to me in this portion of the Song of Solomon? No? Well, I’ll tell you! It is one of the final descriptions of the beloved man. He is described as having legs like alabaster columns and smelly cheeks. His lips are like lilies dripping with a liquid that smells like burial spices. He has a body made of ivory encrusted with sapphires. He is described in ways that are altogether flowing and altogether over the top. He’s clearly well liked, but I want to draw attention to that one final description. The final thing she says in that chapter is “This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”

What is the final compliment that can be made of this wonderful man? He’s not only beloved. He is her friend. The relationship between these two is not simply about physical attraction. The relationship includes friendship and I believe that is truly important.

Now, I love my wife with all of my heart, but she’s changed over the years from the beautiful bride that I married after college. She’s grown wiser in her eyes and she’s grown more lovely in her ways. She’s gained intelligence, character, and tenacity. Over time I have come to love her deeply and that love grows deeper each time I am reminded of one fact. She’s not just my beloved. My wife is my friend and her friendship is the fragrance that makes her more and more lovely…

As our marriage has gone on I have come to realize that her friendship is deeply important to me. As such, ten years into marriage I am as interested (if not more interested) in being a better friend to my wife as I am in being a handsome husband. I heard somewhere that: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a person who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30, alt.)

Here’s where I see the connection to 1 Corinthians. Paul has been writing chapter after chapter of advice to a community that is divided on multiple fronts. Paul has been trying to draw them out of their challenging behavior in an attempt to draw them back into life a loving community. Paul is working very hard to convince them of this reality when he writes the words from our reading: (1 Cor. 15:1-4)

Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures…

These words are an attempt to reiterate a major truth of the epistle. Jesus Christ is the one who is ultimately at the core of the Corinthian community. Paul believed that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were integral to the community of faith. Jesus’ work molded and transformed the ways in which the community lived, fought, and struggled together. To forget this integral truth would be to forget the very thing that made them into a community.

Ultimately, Paul’s call on the Corinthian church is also a call on us as a community. I personally hear it as a call that applies to my own marriage. Jesus’ life was marked by love, sacrifice, and servanthood. My relationship with my wife should follow Jesus’ example. I may appreciate how her teeth look like shorn sheep, but ultimately, her looks aren’t what is first and foremost important. She’s the woman I love, the woman I honor, and the woman who I am called to be a friend to for all of my days.

I normally would offer advice on how to be a better friend to your partner or spouse, but the best advice I have is to love them like you like to be loved in their shoes. Please note, I don’t mean that your partner wants what you would want–love them as if you were them and had their interests…

My father-in-law also once said don’t buy gifts that come with electrical plugs. Apparently he was into solar power before it was cool…

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