If you’re into modern worship music, you’d know John McMillan’s song “How He Loves Us” very well. Since writing the song in 2005, many artists have included the song in their repertoire. Kim Walker from Jesus Culture and David Crowder are among those who have done so.[i] It’s clear, the amazing truth behind the song is powerful – God loves us! While this is so true, it’s also very important to understand how he loves us. God loves us with unconditional love known as agape love, and we should express ourselves in a way which allows us to mature and grow deeper in our relationship with God.
Before I continue, if you haven’t heard both artists sing this song, take a few minutes to listen to them. Notice the difference between verse 2 in each version and enjoy the powerful song!
In case you missed it, here are the lyrics of verse 2…
We are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean we’re all sinking
So Heaven meets earth
Like a [sloppy wet OR unforeseen] kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way that…[ii]
Both artists sang different similes in verse 2. Walker sang, “So heaven meets earth like sloppy wet kiss,” while Crowder sang, “So heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss.”
At first glance, we might think Crowder is simply using a phrase that is less controversial; trying to appeal to a wider audience. While this may be true to some degree, there are also theological issues at play.
Unfortunately, the English language doesn’t explain certain words very well. The English word “love” is certainly one of those words. The Greek language, however, has a number of words for “love”; each conveying a different meaning. In this particular case, I suggest we use Greek definitions to make sure we are consistently describing the correct kind of love. This is really important when discussing the kind of love God has for us. (Click here to see a brief overview of the Greek words for “love”)
God loves us with unconditional love. We love because he loved us first.[iii] God’s love doesn’t require reciprocation in order for Him to love us. When we speak of relational love, however, we think of two people having feelings for each other. The key there, is “each other”. Love is reciprocated. Love goes two-ways. When we speak of God’s love, the love starts with Him, and if reciprocated, ends with Him. The only response we, as humans, have is obedience and worship. The Greek language refers to this unwarranted love as agape.
In the song, Walker sang the phrase “sloppy wet kiss.” It’s a simile used to describe the love connection between heaven and earth – the Father sending the Son to earth as an action of love. The problem, however, is this simile doesn’t really describe God’s love (agape), rather the love between a man and a woman (eros). This causes confusion, as we’re saying we understand God’s love in the same way we are attracted to another person in passionate love. God’s love is more about affection than about attraction. A “sloppy wet kiss” has more to do with our attraction to someone than it does are affection towards someone.
Our affection often results in our action outside of attraction, and is usually seen in mature relationships. For example, even within passionate love (eros), affection is shown when a husband cleans the dishes before his wife returns home, or a wife letting her husband pick out the movie they want to go see. It’s a selfless action, out of love. This would be the closest eros is to agape. So, if we changed the lyric to, “so heaven meets earth like a husband washing the dishes,” it would make more sense than “sloppy wet kiss.” 🙂
When Crowder sang this verse, he sang the phrase, “unforeseen kiss.” This seems to work better. This simile is actually using an agape kind of love to describe God’s love. Just like we don’t deserve God’s love, we’ll never understand or comprehend why God would love us so much. In the same way, it’s like someone out-of-the-blue kissing us – it’s totally unexpected, undeserved, unwarranted.
Which one should we use?
It depends on how you view God’s love. I believe God’s love is far deeper than passionate and sexual love (eros), and therefore, I wouldn’t explain God’s love in that way. The term “sloppy wet kiss,” also conveys a sort of shallow relationship. I’d like to believe God desires us to develop into a mature and deep relationship with him as time progresses. Singing the phrase, “unforeseen kiss,” allows for that sort of relationship to grow.
What do you think? Feel free to comment and share.
[i] Kim Walker sang it on Jesus Culture’s album called “We Cry Out” (released in 2008); David Crowder sang it on his album called “Church Music” (released in 2009).
[ii] Verse 2 of “How He Loves Us” written by John Mark McMillan, 2005 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music.
[iii] 1 John 4:19