My Leader, My Lover, and My Friend
by Joseph Franks
In the Song of Solomon, the love of a betrothed man and woman is expressed. The king adores his Shulamite bride, and she can’t get over the majesty of her beloved. Beautiful is the agape, phileo, and eros love expressed between these two lovers. Marriage is indeed a wonderful gift of the Heavenly Father.
Also, found within this inspired literary work is the mutual love of Jesus and his church. Jesus is the handsome king being passionatly sought after by his bride. And in his own time and manner, he is the one who comes to rescue, serve, beautify, adorn, elevate, and commune with his spouse. The church is forever to bask in the wonderful grace of the Heavenly Groom towards his earthly bride.
So with both of these perspectives in mind, I found the final verse of chapter five to be quite interesting:
My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand. His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven. His eyes are like doves beside streams of water, bathed in milk, sitting beside a full pool. His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs. His lips are lilies, dripping liquid myrrh. His arms are rods of gold, set with jewels. His body is polished ivory, bedecked with sapphires. His legs are alabaster columns, set on bases of gold. His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem. (Song of Solomon 5:10-16)
As the Shulamite bride praises her king and leader, she calls him her beloved. She also calls him her friend.
I find this applicable to at least three relationships:
The Relationship between Husband and Wife: The husband is called to be the pastor of his wife. He is to be the king of the home who is the suffering servant who lives and dies for the improvement of his wife. He is to be her leader, and he is to be her beloved friend. From my pastoral perspective, there are far too many marriages where the fire of friendship has become very faint. Oh, the husband and wife are committed one to the other; divorce is unthinkable; they are attached to the end. However, over the years the tenderness and friendship have diminished. How sweet it was to hear the Shulamite bride call her husband her beloved friend. Friends, in secular circles, much is made over the eros love between a husband and wife. In Christian circles, much is made over the agape love described and demanded by God. But what about the phileo love? Would your wife call you her beloved and her friend? Would your husband consider you his favorite companion? If not, do something about it? The two of you have been called by God to be “one flesh.”
The Relationship between Parent and Child: Many are the parents who have said to their children, “I am your parent and not your friend.” Back in the day when I was a youth minister, it was in vogue to say, “Kids don’t need another friend; they need a leader.” However, perhaps this is a false dichotomy. Perhaps the parent and youth worker can be both leader and beloved friend. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the adolescents in your life looked at you and said, “They are my parents; they are my ministers; they are my teachers; they are my coaches; they are my elders; and in addition they are my beloved friends?”
The Relationship between Jesus and the Disciple: Finally, let us be reminded of the communion between Christ and our souls. He is the holy, holy, holy one who is sovereign. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is high and lifted up, and his name is never to be mentioned tritely or in vain. He is our Savior. Fear and respect are always to be had in his presence. He is not our equal. Yet, that being said, he is the “friend that sticks closer than a brother.” He is our older brother. He is our spouse. He is our leader, our lover, and our beloved friend.