Jesus is Not Just in Love with the Shape of You

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Oh, Ed Sheeran and your catchy pop songs; why must your lyrics be so devastatingly off the mark?

Last week, as I stood in the kitchen bantering with some of the high school girls in my small group, we began talking about some of our favorite current songs on the radio. We brought up which ones get stuck in our heads the most (Bruno Mars took the cake on that one), and which ones drive us the craziest.

As soon as I brought up Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You,’ there was a collective, “Yes, I love that song!” and an unfortunate unawareness of, “What’s wrong with it?”

“Well,” I said, “It has an incredibly catchy hook, yes. However, it is about the objectification of people and the reduction of love.”

Let’s begin with the question: What is Ed in love with?

It certainly isn’t the sum total of this woman’s being – her passions, character, story, strengths, weaknesses, and beauty. “I’m in love with your body,” he sings.

In a culture saturated with depictions and descriptions of love limited to erotic attraction, I find myself incredibly disappointed to hear yet another lyric that strips it down to sex appeal based on physical beauty. And not only that, but Sheeran sings, “Let’s not talk too much, grab on my waist and put that body on me,” inferring, “Let’s not waste time engaging deeply in conversation or getting to know one another; let’s get straight to sex.”

Strike two, Ed.

Isn’t there more to it than that?

Well, the gospel would certainly indicate that there is.

Not only are humans created in the glorious, mysterious, complex, relational image of God (Gen. 1:27), but our redemption happens through the body of a perfect human sacrificed on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21). And as believers, we will one day enjoy a bodily resurrection (Rom. 8:11, I Cor. 15). Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and appeared in bodily form, not just in spirit (John 20). So we can know that the expression of love and bodies do share an exceptional relationship; however, Mr. Sheeran has mis-ordered this relationship, and reduced both the reality of humans and the reality of love.

When the gospel informs our understanding of humans, we learn that people are more than just brains-on-sticks, more than just meat-sacks, and more than just the sum total of our actions. The church has sometimes failed to teach a robust doctrine of humans, teaching that they are merely souls to be saved whose evil bodies lead them into temptation (a dualistic error). But we can be clear that not only does the body matter (as Jesus healed broken and diseased bodies more than once), but it is profoundly, inextricably, and intimately connected to our minds, emotions, and spirits. For us, the gospel means the redemption and restoration of our whole selves (Rev. 21-22). It means, thankfully, that God isn’t just “in love with our body,” but He loves every part of us – thoughts, feelings, and bodies.

And His love isn’t the stripped-down, hormone-saturated, reduced version of love Sheeran is talking about; His love is the death-defeating, hope-inducing, all-encompassing love that surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:19). His is the love that sees fully our dignity and our depravity, that moves toward us in our lack of deserving, and that reveals more beauty.

Instead of being dependent on our attractiveness or merits, it is dependent on His sacrifice, on His grace.

Whereas Sheeran interrupts a conversation of growing relational intimacy with sex, God invites a deeper relationship of knowing and being known than we could ever imagine through His union with us in Jesus Christ. It’s not that our bodies don’t matter to Him, but we are so much more to Him than bodies.

For an image-saturated culture whose unattainable depiction of attractiveness wracks the hearts and minds of our students, the message of ‘sexy/desirable = relationship/love’ is despairing.

But thanks be to God, the good news of Christianity means that not only was humanity created with so much more dimension than ‘sexiness or desirability,’ but the love we are offered isn’t based on one or any of those dimensions.

The truest and fullest love we are offered is based on the incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, Lover of our souls – and all parts of us (I John 3:16). Ed Sheeran’s, too.

 

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