How He Loves Us – “sloppy wet” versus “unforeseen”

Thinking through the lyrics

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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.

How He Loves Us

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!

Kim Walker

David Crowder

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

LOVE: What the English Language Can’t Explain

Greek Words For Love

Reading Time: 4 minutes

For many of us, the term LOVE is used in many ways.  The only way to really understand it’s meaning, is by hearing the context in which it’s used.  For example, if a husband told his wife, “I love you,” we would understand that differently than if a sister told her brother, “I love you.”  The English language offers one word (LOVE) with many meanings, and in communication, we decipher the true meaning in a particular context.

Well, not all languages are as complicated as English.  Greek offers four words for our relational LOVE and at least one for possessive LOVE.  This becomes very important when understanding Scripture and knowing what kind of love the Bible is referring to.  I would never consider myself a Greek scholar, but hopefully this gives you a better understanding of the word and it’s meaning.

1. Phileo

This is friendship love – the kind of love we have for a friend. This particular love is interesting because it’s the only love we actually choose. Generally speaking, love is a very natural thing, and in many cases, necessary to survive. While many of us have the desire and want to socialize and have friends, it’s still a choice to do so. In the Bible, we read about loving each other in unity and also the relational love between God and humanity (John 16:27). In this particular case, the follower of Christ finds friendship and relationship with the Father because we chose to follow.

2. Eros

While some will say there are exceptions, eros is normally used when referring to the passionate or sexual love between two people.  This is where the word erotic comes from.  Interestingly enough, this is the only word for love that doesn’t show up in scripture.  We can’t prove why, however, I would think we don’t see it because the Bible isn’t about this kind of love.  Yes, God intended us to be fruitful and multiply; however, the biblical story is between God and humanity.

3. Storge

Where eros is the love between a man and women and phileo is the love between friends, storge is the natural bond of love between family members.  This is the love between parents and their children, between siblings, and among social and racial groups (patriotism).  While this word doesn’t directly show up in the Bible, there is a compound version found in Romans 12:10.  It is a combination of philia and storge, giving a translation of “love one another with brotherly [and sisterly] affection,” or with a “strong natural affection.”

4. Agape

While eros, philia, and storge all have relational components, agape is much different.  It’s still a relational love; however, it’s affectionate and not attractive.  Agape is more concerned with unconditional giving than merited receiving.  Of course, this is the kind of love we experience with God, and it’s the kind of love God expects us to show each other – especially in terms of forgiveness.  We try, however, to love God with agape love with our obedience, our love for him in our worship, by accepting Christ, and by mirroring that love among one another.  A perfect example of this kind of love can be read in John 3:16, where John explains how the Father sent the Son to die for us to give us eternal life to all who except it.

Our language is so simple compared to other languages.  As a result, we need to be careful how we interpret words like LOVE so we embrace the correct meaning.  When reading Scripture, it’s important to note that agape LOVE is the end goal, while philia and storge fit into our personal relationships with one another and  eros is very important among healthy marriages, the Bible is most concerned about how God loves us with agape love.  Epithumia refers to our desire to pursue healthy or harmful passions – the former pushes us towards understanding agape better, while the latter blurs our vision altogether.