What would you say is the point of romance?
Note, I’m not asking the point of sex, but of romance. Having a crush on someone, someone having a crush on you, the wondering and dreaming, wooing and dating, the proposal and wedding day, and every day after that. What’s the point of it?
Is it just to make babies and continue the human race? Every other species alive today has survived without wedding days.
What’s the point of fictional romance? (Fictional babies? XD)
Is there a point?
To help determine the point of romance, I decided to go straight to the top and ask the person who invented romance and marriage himself.
So, God, why did you invent romance?
A brief history of love
The Bible tells us that marriage was invented for the first two humans who were created. God created one man and one woman, and gave them the whole world to rule over and look after (Genesis 1:27-28). At this point, their marriage relationship was not only perfect but, more importantly, their relationship with God was too. They were happy to live under his rule and guidance. The purpose of marriage was to “multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).
Genesis 2:24 (ESV) says: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
This was the invention of marriage, and that statement shows us what God intended it to look like.
It’s not really what it looks like today, is it?
If the Bible’s definition of marriage followed modern Western culture it might say something like, “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and pick someone he’s attracted to, and stay with them until he isn’t attracted to them anymore.”
This change didn’t happen in the last decade or even century; it actually happened just after the marriage of the two first people. You can read the story for yourself in Genesis 1-3, but at the heart of it, they decided that God was withholding something good from them, something that would be granted to them if they lived their own way.
This disobedience is mimicked both in our own day-to-day lives, and how we write our characters. For example, we don’t like God’s definition of marriage, and have made our own that suits us.
But God says no, that’s not marriage. He has to punish our disobedience and rebellion against him, because he is good and just.
But he’s also merciful, and in his mercy, he gave us someone named Jesus.
Jesus is God, but in human form. He’s completely God and completely human.
He loved us so much that he came to earth to live among us – among awful, rebellious, smelly people – and learned what it was like to truly be human, from infancy to death. He grew tired and hungry, cried and laughed, and was tempted to give up on God, but he never did. He always followed God, and talked about things such as marriage to help us understand how to follow God too.
But if he always followed God, why did he die? Remember, the first man was cursed to die because of his rebellion. Because we decide we want to live our way, we deserve to die. But Jesus always followed God’s way. So why did he die?
Because he loves us. He died so that his people–anyone who trusts him–wouldn’t have to die. He served the death sentence we should have on our heads.
But he didn’t stay dead. After three days, he came back to life and showed himself to more than five hundred people, proving that he had finally defeated death.
Anyone who believes that Jesus’ death and resurrection is the solution to their problem of sin will become one of those people Jesus died to save. We call this special group of people the global church, and it includes every Christian who has ever lived.
The purpose of marriage
The Bible tells us that all of the above is summarised in the picture of marriage. Let’s look at the Paul’s explanation in Ephesians 5:22-32 (ESV, emphasis mine):
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is itself its Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
So. What is the purpose of marriage? Marriage is a metaphor of the relationship Jesus (aka Christ) has with his people (the church). It’s a physical and tactile (though corrupted by human flaws) example of what Jesus’ love for his people is like, and how the church follows and submits to Jesus.
If you want to write romance in a way that honours God, understanding how marriage points to Jesus and his people is a great way to start. Marriage is not only an image of Jesus’ love in real life, but in all its fictional forms.
Whether you agree with me on this or not, it’s still important to understand why God created marriage, and what it points forward to. If you want your characters’ romances to honour God, what better way than for it to display Jesus’ relationship with the people he died to save?
How to implement biblical marriage in your writing
But how can we work this into our writing practically?
This will look different for everyone. Even if you don’t write Christian fiction, your characters can still reflect the true purpose of romance, and respond to it in the right way.
Here are a few practical tips I hope will help you as you approach your writing:
· Pray about it. If you feel your responsibility to God and your readers is a burden, ask God to help you think about it in a way that honours him. Ask him how he would want your characters to respond to each other, to temptations and sins. Through your writing, you can help Christian (and non-Christian) readers understand how to approach romance in a God-honouring way, which is an amazingly valuable thing. God understands this responsibility, and hasn’t left you to figure it out alone. Ask him for guidance and the words to write.
· Familiarise yourself with what the Bible says about romance and relationships. Books that condone sinful behaviour are not honouring to God, so make sure you know what he has allowed and required in each stage of a relationship. Remember that your characters can sin without your writing condoning it, but write within the boundaries God has given us for romance.
· Ask older Christians for their stories. How did you meet your spouse? How did you propose? How did you know you wanted to marry them? I can’t say their stories will be perfect examples, but older Christians will probably give commentary on what hindsight has shown them was right or wrong. Their stories and reflections could be helpful inspiration if you want to know what God-honouring romance looks like in day-to-day life.
· Have another Christian read through your work. They’ll bring a fresh perspective and give confidence if you’re unsure. As a sub-point, I’ve found it helpful (and easy) to talk about romance with trusted Christian peers. It’s especially helpful for me to hear how men think about romance.
When we know the purpose of romance, we’re better armed to write it well. I’m excited to read a new lot of books with God-honouring romances—let’s turn the culture tide subtly, and show a confused world how it’s done.
So, my romantic story-tellers, what are some fictional romances that strike you as particularly Biblical? What did you find interesting from this post?
2 thoughts on “The big picture of romance”
Ahh, I love this! Can’t wait to read the rest of the series. The picture of Christ and the church is one of my favorites from the Bible.
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I’m glad you enjoyed it, Emma! It’s one of my favourite pictures too; the comparison makes marriage so much more beautiful to me ❤