His lips are lilies dripping with liquid myrrh.
Song of Solomon 5:13
A medical doctor, Henry Gibbons, Sr., has defined a kiss as “the anatomical juxtaposition of two orbicularis oris muscles in a state of contraction.” The good doctor has given us a fine effort and no one can question his expertise on these matters.
In the Bible, however, a woman who is swept up in love for Solomon says the kiss of her lover is sweeter than wine; that his lips are lilies dripping with perfume.
The doctor and the woman in love both describe a kiss – but their descriptions vary considerably.
We often confuse definition with meaning. When I ask young people if they’ve ever used the expression, “Rock on!” they invariably say yes. “So,” I ask them, “what does it mean?” I have yet to hear a precise definition of this phrase – but here’s the point: even if they did offer an accurate definition, the definition would sound ridiculous. The meaning of the phrase cannot be captured by the definition – just as an anatomical definition of contracting muscles cannot describe the meaning of a kiss.
Ironically, the more serious we are about doing what God wants, the more we are tempted to focus on definition rather than meaning.
God told us to rest on the Sabbath. He added that we also provide rest for livestock and even fields. God cares about his creation and wants it to rejuvenate.
But, if we’re not supposed to work on the Sabbath, what is the definition of “work”? As the years went by, the religious scholars grew more and more obsessive about defining “work.”
Could you, for example, tie a knot on the Sabbath? Some knots were permitted, but a camel driver’s knot was forbidden. If a deer wandered into a building, could you lock it in? No, that’s work. But if two people did it, it’s okay. Could you chew your fingernails on the Sabbath? No. And, if a false tooth fell out of your mouth, you couldn’t pop it back in. The rabbis also warned that looking for fleas on your coat was work.
The rabbi’s diligence to define “work” took on comic proportions. What if you had a pillow with snot on it? Could you wipe it off? No. Is a mother working on the Sabbath if she grabs her kid and pulls him along? No, if the kid complies and walks with her; yes, if he drags his feet.
The Bible scholars focused on definition rather than meaning. As a result, by the time they got done defining “work,” no one knew what it meant to rest.
I revel in the fact that Jesus fully engages my intellect. But when it comes to understanding a kiss, I would rather listen to that woman who loved Solomon than the medical scholar who dissected a cadaver.
The love, to which God is drawing us, is best discerned by the heart.
(text copyright 2011 by Marty Kaarre)