Next week, we’ll be focusing on Jesus’ birth. Last week, we focused on Jesus’ reason for being born, His death as the perfect sacrifice. (If you missed it, you can read about Time Traveling in the Bible: the Three Verbs of Salvation here.)
This week, I want to focus on one aspect of Jesus’ life: the Bridegroom, the object of our spiritual romance as the “Lover of our Souls.” This phrase has been used to describe our personal relationship with the Lord in many songs, even going back to Charles Wesley. (These two articles list many verses that talk about God as being the source of romance, both in the Old Testament and in both the Song of Solomon and the New Testament.)
What Christian Romance is and How it can Benefit Readers
There's a debate in Christian circles about whether romances, even so-called “Christian romances,” provide any real value or whether it's harmful. Obviously, as a Christian romance writer, I believe that romance is valuable. Here's why:
When I was single, too much romance was not good for me. And even now that I'm married, I do still have to be careful not to use books and movies as a source of discontentment. It's easy to look at the fictitious men and resent my husband for not being as perfect as them.
But I do think we can learn what real romance is supposed to be. I never had a problem falling for a “bad boy” because I had read about too many good guys. I knew how a man was supposed to treat a woman, and I looked for that integrity, that respect from guys I noticed.
Growing up without any brothers or even best friends who had brothers (both my best friend at church and my best friend at school only had sisters for many years), and living far away from almost all extended family, the only model I had of what a good husband was like was my dad. I watched my pastors and other men in my church, but I only saw them at their best on Sundays. In many ways, that was what I saw in romance novels, only the best of what men could be in public. Not what they are behind closed doors.
That's why I choose to read and now write a slightly different brand of Christian romance. I want to show weaknesses as well as strengths, in both the men and the women, because life is messy. Real life is hard to navigate when you have all of the sin natures of not only the husband and wife but also all of their family members and friends banging into each other.
I want to show single Christian women what kind of man they should look for. He won't be perfect by any means, but I don't want them to settle for the first man who shows interest in them.
I was like that. I noticed every single guy. I chose what I thought was the cutest in every situation and watched them, trying to catch their eye but without outright flirting. A few of them paid me attention, and I couldn't seem to see past their good taste in liking me. ;)
I thank the Lord that He preserved me from my own foolish, romantic notions. He kept me from being heartbroken, even though I had to suffer lesser hurts. But I look back now and see that the hurts of rejection and being dumped were far less painful than the out-of-wedlock pregnancies they got other girls in.
I want to save other girls from the same heartaches some of my friends faced. If you can learn from others and learn from books, you will be saved a heap of heartache. You don't have to experience something to know it's bad for you. Take my advice. Please!
So that brings us back to my original question. Can Christian romance do all this? Does Christian romance provide any value, or is it harmful?
First, we need to define what Christian romance is, and then we need to see if it provides any value and if that value is worth more than any disadvantages.
1. Definition of Christian Romance
Semantics. This is one of those areas in which there is no one definition that everyone can agree on. So I'm going to share my definition of a Christian romance.
The Christian romance genre
is the subsection of Christian fiction in which the main conflict is a romantic tension
as with all Christian fiction, does not just mention religion or God in a general way but should point to a relationship with Jesus Christ as a central point in a Christian's life. It doesn't necessarily need to include a conversion or even the plan of salvation.
is about the romantic relationship between a man and a woman, married or not. There may be other minor conflicts and themes, but the romantic relationship is the central conflict.
2. Disadvantages of Christian Romance
Moderation. Like anything else good in this world, excess is not good. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
Too much Christian Romance can lead some readers into:
discontentment with their current husband/ boyfriend or single status
envy of someone else's husband/ boyfriend that seems “perfect”
focus on physical relationship (kissing, caressing, intimacy)
3. Benefits of Christian Romance
Perspective. As with most things, I think the majority of the responsibility for a good spiritual experience in a Christian romance novel lies with the author.
If a Christian romance author is serious about trying to prevent their readers from falling into the disadvantages mentioned above, they should be able to make the experience more realistic and spiritual, pointing to the God who created romance and is the Lover of our Souls.
Spiritual benefits of a good Christian romance, leaving readers:
thankful for the man he's put in their life.
determined to work on their own relationship, selflessly giving to show Jesus' love through them and faithfulness to them.
There are probably more, but I'll end with this one: encouragement and inspiration to love their man to the best of their ability (or if single to wait for the best quality of man in God's timing).
Conclusion: Christian romance as a genre is meant to be a relaxing and spiritually encouraging read inspiring us to emulate the model of romance, Jesus Christ. Of course, there are always ways to misunderstand or misuse anything good. Christians should be careful in choosing the books they read, watching what we fill our minds and imaginations with.
Do you read Christian Romance? Why or why not? If I forgot a reason for or against reading it, please remind me in the comments!