A book on relationships.
That seems fitting for people my age.
Exactly what I had in mind when I picked up this book off the shelf.
Loveology: God. Love. Marriage. Sex. And the never-ending story of male and female.
The rest is history.
John Mark Comer, as I’ve discovered, is a teaching and vision pastor at a church in Portland, OR. Little did I know that such position exists! He turns out to be very witty, tackling postmodern issues with razor-sharp theological arguments. Comer is also an avid reader himself; check out his Twitter timeline for books he’s currently reading or if you’re into indie music, his timeline is also a great source for fresh tunes.
Title: Loveology: God.Love.Marriage.Sex. And the never-ending story of male and female.
Author: John Mark Comer
Categories: Man-woman relationships; Marriage
Comer deals with the main issue first: Love. He opens the book with the story of Adam and Eve and moves on to explaining what the Bible thinks about love. He outlines the differences between the Hebrew words used to define love, such as rayah (love for a friend – which I think is comparable to philia), dod (lustful love or eros), and ahava or the one we’re most familiar one: agape. He closes this part by concluding that Jesus’ love is that of ahava, the one that’s based on selflessness, that moves past mere affection, and the one that’s entrenched on commitment.
In Part Two, Comer uses the story of Adam and Eve to explain the model marriage that God has in mind. He believes there are four reasons for marriage: friendship, gardening, sexuality, and family. Allow me to explain these points using his own words. First up, friendship:
God never says, “All you need is God.” Adam has God, and it’s not enough. God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone”
In other words, one’s spouse should be one’s closest friend.
Second, Adam was tasked with a gardening project (“be fruitful…”). We also, live to work, and our work should be based on a specific calling or vocation. One’s marriage should be built around this calling.
Couples who exist simply for one another are doomed to failure.
If the point of your marriage is your marriage, it will collapse in on itself.
If the end goal of your relationship is your relationship, it will self-destruct.
And therefore, Comer mandates the reader to have a sense of his/her calling before getting married and that the spouse should become a “helper” for the other person (ezer in Hebrew, meaning partner).
The third reason concerns sexuality, but I will talk more about it in a devoted paragraph. The fourth and last reason is family, and this is where the procreation mandate gets in (“…. and multiply). To end Part Two, Comer skilfully inserts the fifth reason that was not mentioned in the beginning: re-creation. This reason only exists because Adam and Eve had failed to sustain their marriage. Marriage should be viewed as “two broken people coming together to find healing in Jesus.” and that “the point of marriage isn’t to find our missing half. It’s to help each other become all that God intended.” Marriage also isn’t an elixir for all your problems now, it will only expose what’s already inside you. Happiness isn’t the reason for a marriage, it’s the result. It’s not something God owes the married couple, nor something a spouse owes the other person. It’s also a gift. And so, if you put your faith (or reason for happiness) in your spouse, it’s a matter of time until they let you down.
As my senior pastor often reiterates: Marriage is not about expecting the other person to make you happy, it’s about you making the other person happy.
The third part is all about sex. Comer kicks off by rectifying a common misconception about sex, which states that sex in and on itself is bad. Wrong. God’s view of sex as a good gift is unchanged, even after the fall in Eden. He recycles the word echad (which he introduces in the first part) to make his point that sex is much more than a casual, consensual thing. It’s a physical and spiritual fusion between two humans (echad), and therefore he calls the reader to flee from the temptation of porneia (you can make an intuitive guess of what this word means…).
Part 4 is about romance. Comer studies the “notorious” Songs of Solomon to explain that there are four points that mark the journey of a relationship towards marriage:
- The chase: It is the male’s job to instigate and lead the way for romance. Men are also called to lead and to take risks.
- The line: Not getting anywhere near the line until the wedding day. Comer warns the reader not to found a relationship upon sex for three reasons:
- The echad explanation
- Sex obscures the vision
- It’s not sustainable
- The friends: Become best friends with your partner. Open up to each other. Allow each other to be scrutinised.
- The journey to the day: Every relationship is a journey. Either it’s shying away from marriage or moving towards it. An advice: don’t date until you’re (close to) ready to get married. Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house (Proverbs 24:27).
After these four points, Comer makes his point by drawing illustration from Isaac and Rebekah’s fateful encounter at the well. Now there’s a brilliant paragraph here. It’s a point I’ve heard repeatedly during sermons in my church. I’ll just paste it right away:
After the decision to follow Jesus, I would argue the most important decision you will make is who you marry. That decision will shape your life. Your children, family, where you live or don’t live, what you succeed at or fail at, your future – all of these things hinge on who you marry. A bad decision can cripple you for life. And a good one can unleash a whole new world. A lot’s at stake.
Using the story, Comer also points out that it is OUR job to figure out if the person we’re dating is God’s pick for us. And because I like dos and don’ts, I’ll list some from this chapter for you:
- “… don’t settle. It’s far better to be single and unhappy than married and unhappy. The former you can change, but marriage is for life.”
- “You don’t have to get married. Ever.”
- “Don’t marry someone you hope will change.”
- “Don’t explain away the red flags. When your family and friends say stuff you don’t want to hear – listen… Whatever you’re frustrated with now in your potential spouse, ratchet it up by ten…”
- “Don’t forget you’re not just marrying a husband or wife. You’re marrying a father or mother.”
- It doesn’t belong to the list, but it’s worth mentioning: “No matter who you marry, they will have problems and issues, and, at some level, they will be a “bad match” for you. It’s inevitable… When it comes to marriage, there’s no perfect match.”
The next chapter in this part deals with waiting. Because waiting is an activity, Comer teaches us how to wait from Psalm 37: trust in the Lord, do good, dwell in the land, enjoy safe pasture, take delight in the Lord, commit your way to the Lord, be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for God.
Part 5 deals with male and female. In light of the current worldview that deteriorates the value of gender, this part becomes ever relevant. God created males and females as genders, or sexes for specific purposes. First of all, genders are equal before God, but we’re also unique. However, the Biblical view is that the man should lead and the woman should be his partner. He then also sheds some light on what Paul says in the New Testament regarding the roles of husbands and wives, on the gift of singleness, and on homosexuality.
Finally, Comer beautifully crafts a closing piece by writing an epilogue opened with the story of Jacob and appends a Q&A section which apparently was the brainchild leading to the book.
I love this book SO much that I’m afraid I’m unable to write an objective assessment of it. In fact, I had this book brought to a publisher and had it translated into Indonesian (which has been around for roughly 2 years and is still selling well). I love how Comer uses original Hebrew and Greek words to edify the reader, I love the humour sprinkled around the book, I love… let me just stop now.
As I’ve penned quite an extensive summary, this time I want to invite you to think about what I’ve written above. Things I wrote in the summary are the ones I highlighted in the book, those I found most interesting or most thought-provoking. Sometimes I leave a huge question mark on the margins as well. So please, have at it and leave your comments below!
Do check out some of the Loveology resources freely available on Youtube:
Or check out the introductory video to a small group Bible study designed to accompany the book.
Outlook: The next review (#4) will be on minimalism.