Ever since Aimee in the first grade I’ve only ever wanted a wife. I’ve never wanted a lot of friends, to be “one of the guys,”seen as a “ladies man,” or to even “date.” Marriage was my only relational desire. Even at 7 years old I was fully aware of the ideal of Christian marriage. So, for that end, I began to set my mind, steel my character, and discipline my heart so that I might become [highlight] the most eligible Christian bachelor [/highlight] I could be.
I have never wavered. Champion of the idealists. The most hopelessly romantic. My resolve has only strengthened. Now in my mid 30’s and still single I would like to share some of what I have learned the hard way over the years:
Everyone has lost their minds.
In my pursuit of becoming a “most eligible Christian bachelor” I have been paying very close attention to the unique sub-culture that is Christian singleness, dating and relationship advice my entire life. Certainly, there is no shortage of examples and case studies on the bookshelves and in our churches. The amount of attention we give to “the ending of singleness” has grown astronomically disproportionate. You’d think entire books of the Bible were dedicated to the pursuit of finding a wife and that Jesus himself mandated coupling as the chief undertaking of Christian community. Prayer meetings and justice efforts are sparsely attended, but a meeting about relationships is a packed house. Every time.
In this current post-romanticism, western, American cultural context in order to be married one must first engage in some version of what we lazily lump into the term “dating.” We live in a culture obsessed with it and the dominant Christian sub-culture has certainly embraced “dating” as their own.
Yet, as far as I can tell, no one has any idea what they are doing.
For the most part the popular peer given advice on pursuing a woman sounds eerily similar to the advice you’d give to someone trying to capture a live deer with their bare hands. You have to make every right move, and do everything perfectly, one false step and poof – she’s gone and you’re a loser.
[quote_right] Ask 20 people what “dating” means or looks like and you will get 20 different answers [/quote_right]
The crazy thing is that no one can even agree on what they are talking about. Ask 20 people what “dating” means or looks like and you will get 20 different answers – different etiquette, different boundaries, different expectations, different experiences, different everything. Each of us are either just making it up as we go along or holding onto personal boundaries and norms that no one else even knows/cares about.
For something we seem to be obsessed with perpetuating it’s all yet another Christian adventure in missing the point.
You can admit it, if single, your singleness can gnaw through even your most content moments with the lure that even those would be better with someone to share them with. How could you not when every song, television show, movie, book, conversation, and even sermon seems to dwell extensively on finding your soulmate.
Shouldering the accompanying longing is hard enough without being surrounded by a cultural lunacy intent on keeping the raw nerve exposed.
I have been a part of this frenzied Christian dating culture my entire life. I’ve watched it consume just about everyone I know. I have felt every bit of the internal and external pressure to be married. I have had every awkward conversation there is about why I am single with well meaning onlookers. I have never enjoyed it for a moment.
Still, perhaps no one has spent more time hopelessly dwelling on the romantic ideal of marriage than me (I can prove it).
In my life and relationships I have been able to resist the temptation to “lose it.” Not allowing my life to center on pursuing a wife or at least/worst filling the void with other relationships. Nevertheless, this overly heightened awareness that I am alone infects my head and my chest in a way that can ravage my day and take a considerable amount of energy just to keep the madness at bay.
The most eligible Christian bachelor is the one who realizes there is a cultural lunacy at work and keeps his cool in a mad, mad world.
We idolize marriage.
If an idol is something that we construct in order to fulfill our desires while distracting ourselves from God then I think the way we laud marriage qualifies.
Now, we all know all of this comes from a good place – the biblical high regard for marriage and relational purity (both spiritual and physical). Christians have been steeped in the ideals of biblical, Godly, love and self-sacrifice. It should be no surprise that we professing Christians are often the most hopelessly romantic. We are deeply in love with the ideas of love and marriage. No critique here. Good on us.
However, a case could be made that we have exalted marriage and family over the Church (by Church I mean the localized body of Christ, not the business of modern church operations). Ask pastors and they will tell you the order goes: God, Family, Church. I get it. I’ve read the books. Yet, I can’t find the scripture. Biblically speaking, marriage and family is a temporary institution and secondary to the eternal mission of the Church (Matt. 22:30, Mark 10:29-30).
[quote_right] marriage seeking has become an all-consuming collective cry from all parts of the community [/quote_right]
Nonetheless, marriage seeking has become an all-consuming collective cry from all parts of the community. We have created a generation of “marriage seekers” who are constantly assured that there is no greater pursuit that that of finding a mate and no greater accomplishment than marriage.
Likewise, the chief priority of most single men and women is clearly that of finding a romantic relationship to call their own. An enormous amount of time and heart space has been cleared in order to focus on that end.
We stack more and more upon marriage and have held up marriage as the prerequisite for maturity, success, stability, and even ministry. Marriage is increasingly seen as the panacea for all of our problems – that if we were married then everything else would just fall into place, or that certain goals should be put off until after we are married. How can anyone reasonably think like this, have you ever met a married person?
This leads to the majority of our own personal development being tailored toward becoming the most eligible man or woman we can become. Our driving force is often not truly conformity to Christ but to our own personal ideal of what a “most eligible Christian” looks like. In turn, the success or failure of attaining that image becomes the filter through which we view ourselves, our self-worth, our success or failure as a person and as a Christ follower.
Like I said before, I’ve only ever wanted to be married, so if anyone has been tempted to idolize marriage it is me. It is so easy for your chief personal desire to become your chief priority. There’s an important distinction to be found here that a Christian man can not allow to happen.
This subtle subversion has forced me to spend a lot of time wrestling with the counterfeit motivation that comes from our own desire for marriage within a Christian sub-culture. It is easy to think you are trying to be more Christ like, when in reality you are merely becoming more culturally “christian.” That is to say, conforming to the culture’s standards of what it means to be desirable and “datable” is not the same thing as dying to self so that you can image forth Christ and His Kingdom.
When marriage is your chief motivating force, and not God, you have idolized marriage.
The most eligible Christian bachelor is a man who reveals that he is animated by God towards the conformity of himself to the image of Christ – not the cheap parody of conforming himself to what he thinks makes him the most eligible Christian to be married.
It is not good for man to be alone.
About here is where people usually protest a bit and exclaim, “but didn’t God say it is not good for man to be alone?” Yes, God did in Genesis 2:18. God did. We take that verse as a blank check to go about solving our aloneness at all costs. Yet, there is a much more important truth in that verse that should bring such great hope and peace – the creator of the universe recognized this at the dawn of creation – of all things, God, Jehovah Jireh, has got this one!
What’s more, within Christian community, you are not alone. That verse is not entirely marriage centric or even sexual. Adam had no knowledge of such things before Eve. It was that man was created as a social creature that needed to be in community with an equal and have intimate companionship. Within a community of Christ, among the brotherhood and sisterhood of all believers, no one need feel alone. The degree to which this is true in any given community should be the barometer for whether or not a Christ like community is being expressed.
Seriously, slow down, listen…You. Are. Not. Alone!
[quote_right] You are not primarily a sexual creature, or a “slave to your sex drive,” or even a spouse. [/quote_right]
Our identity is to be found in Christ and among the body of Christ. Adoption into the family of God frees us from the relational pressures and expectations of the world (again see 1 Cor 7). You are not primarily a sexual creature, or a “slave to your sex drive,” or even a spouse. You are most certainly not half of a whole – the idea that you will be completed in someone else is a lie and completely opposed to the biblical foundation of dying to self and finding your identity in Christ. Sex is not the answer. Marriage is not the answer. Christ is the only answer to the longing you feel.
We all must detach our loneliness from assumptions about singleness. Otherwise we commit a caustic error of correlation vs. causation. Just because you feel lonely does not mean the reason is singleness or the solution is a romantic relationship.
Spend any amount of time with the Bible studying the lives of all the men, women, prophets, and leaders who went through long seasons of abject loneliness. Even, and most completely, our Savior. We can know for sure that God understands, is with us, and is at work in these seasons. Everyone feels lonely – it’s simply a constant part of our lives due to sin and the separation it causes from God’s intended order. You are not alone in this. Single, married, famous, destitute, popular, unknown…all feel alone at times. Nothing on this earth will ever fill that void. Knowing this has calmed me down considerably and helped me understand something that I want to “get rid of” as merely a part of being human.
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” ~ C.S. Lewis
It is not good for man to be alone. Trust me, this one I get. I understand exactly why it is not good for man to be alone and I battle the reasons why every day. I have not been given one solitary moment of contentment with my singleness. I’m one who has been “truly single” my entire life, never filling the void with other relationships or dating.
The isolation. Feeling unloved and unlovable. The long dark nights—when it feels as if your own soul has turned against you as it screams for release from this mortal coil. The temptation…so many temptations—to give in, to give up, to act out, to drown yourself in any of the ungodly releases this world places at your fingertips. The prison of “aloneness.” The brick in your chest. The hand at your throat. The lies. All lies. Lies from the pit of hell.
Due to a life changing event as a child, I’ve spent a lot of time during the long dark nights thinking about loneliness, depression, and suicide – not necessarily my own, but of how it “happens.” As the third leading cause of death among teenageers and youg adults we are clearly not engaging one another in the way we are designed. Christian community must step in as the body of Christ. We must not leave anyone alone. Or worse, be a driver for feelings of rejection and loneliness in others through our careless selfish pursuit of a wife.
I know that it is not good for a man to be alone, but I do not get to define myself by it, let others define me by it, allow it to take over my priorities, or weaken my faith in a sovereign God.
The most eligible Christian bachelor does not let himself or anyone else define him by his bachelorhood.
More accurately, everyone is simply lost.
It’s a “now for the matters you wrote about” world (1 Cor 7).
1 Corinthians 7 is a remarkable passage of scripture. The only one that begins as an “aside” as Paul turns to matters that the Corinthians wrote about. The counsel that follows is clarified as being his advice and not of God. It’s as if the Corinthians were saying, “Jesus was the Christ, got it…saved by Grace through faith, good stuff…but Paul, what about getting married?” Paul then acquiesces to their shift in focus. Is it really any different now? Nothing has changed. The amazing revelation of the Gospel is unfolding before us and we keep writing in about dating questions.
This mad mass psychosis over “dating” seems to originate from an utter lack of instruction on a proper theology of relationships. As with any other area, when Christians are denied biblical instruction they readily borrow from contemporary culture to fill in the gaps. Yet, the popular understanding of dating, sexuality, and relationships is completely incompatible with a proper theology of Christian community. We then do what we do best and write countless books and articles on how to go about a non-Christian activity in the most “christianly” manner. Reacting when we should always be leading.
[quote_right] This mad mass psychosis over “dating” seems to originate from an utter lack of instruction on a proper theology of relationships. [/quote_right]
We see a readily observable parallel to this in other Christian media: When so called “christian” movies or music are simply knock-offs of popular media it looks like cheap, inauthentic, cultural pandering. The same thing happens when our posture towards relationship models are also mere knock-offs or spins on what the greater culture is embracing at the time. We end up offering nothing close to the new reality the Church is meant to represent. No answers. No leadership. No hope.
The single men and women in our communities are confused, broken, and hurting. All of them. As adolescence and young adulthood continues to expand as a stage of life, more and more men and women are single longer and experience more deeply committed (emotional and physical) relationships while still longing for marriage. This growing demographic of single young adults who are putting off of marriage to later and later years has resulted in a lot of questions about self, identity, sex, and relationships few people are equipped to answer.
So far Christian community has not offered them any relief from their loneliness or bad relationship cycles.
This is a strange generation when it comes to dating and marriage – the first to have these concepts totally taken over by a romantic individualistic ideal. One where a man, by himself, must walk out his front door and by himself happen across the one woman that is his “soulmate” and of course she must do the same in order to find an all consuming love that was divinely designed to create a marriage that rises above all others before or after.
Disconnected from traditional models, and often community of any kind, we find ourselves alone in the search to not die alone.
The majority of the advice I give these days is on dating, relationships, and how to heal from damaging experiences. The cross-section of loneliness, sexuality, family, and marriage has resulted in a pressure point that is wearing on our collective hearts and forcing itself to the tip of everyone’s tongue. The best I seem to be able to offer is not answers, but a shoulder to shoulder sharing of the burden because I do understand what they are going through.
The most eligible Christian bachelor does not take or give counsel drawn from the patterns of this world.
Many communities have lost respect for singleness.
The local church has become one of the most hostile places to be single I have ever experienced. Many of my peers would wholeheartedly agree.
Often, even if unintentionally, singleness is treated as a gross ailment (contrary to biblical teaching) that needs to be cured as soon as possible so that a true and full existence can begin – or, at best, as something to come to terms with and submit to.
Don’t believe me? Then why do we ask people “why” they are single? What reason are we searching for? Why do we look at those who are single through their 20’s and assume something must be “wrong?” Yes, we do, admittance is the first step.
See, we begin in singleness and if anything we are called out of that into marriage. Singleness in service to the cross is the norm not dating and marriage (take another look at 1 Cor 7). Singleness shouldn’t have to be learned, coped with, or given into. The idea that it should be shows how committed to the dating/marriage culture Christians really are.
We even go so far as to divide up our communities on demographic and/or relationship status in order to better facilitate coupling. Even calling them “singles” ministry – as if that is a person’s primary identity.
This builds a frenzied culture of relationship seeking when we have no idea what we are doing. The things supposed to be reserved for marriage are not, the things that aren’t are. We are constantly stealing from the marriage we hope to secure as more and more shame and baggage are being carried into relationships by people who have no idea how to deal with it.
Moreover, the challenges of being single are just simply not given nearly enough credit.
I mean no disrespect, but if you have not been single you have no idea what you are talking about. Almost every message I have ever heard or read has been from people who just simply do not get it. It’s not their fault, they can’t, how could they? They’ve never really experienced true singleness (true singleness being never having experienced a long term relationship).
I’m not saying good advice isn’t given or that it shouldn’t be given, it’s just rarely understood. As a parallel, I’m well read and experienced enough to give great advice on marriage communication (and am often asked to), but I don’t really understand what it is like to be in a marriage relationship. I can’t – there’s an internalized connection I do not have the categories for.
Yet, messages are given on singleness from pastors who have been married for 20+ years and have never even been single (no, your teen years do not count). They flippantly make insensitive references and jokes treating the 27 year old the exact same as the 17 year old. Just imagine if a message about marriage was given by someone single.
[quote_right] Every time I hear someone make dating jokes, or entice attendance at an event by mentioning all the single people who will be there, I “boo,” loudly, and invite you to join me. [/quote_right]
Let me make my feelings on dating jokes from the pulpit clear: Every time I hear someone make dating jokes, or entice attendance at an event by mentioning all the single people who will be there, I “boo,” loudly, and invite you to join me. These well meaning relevancy attempts are one the lowest class appeals from the pulpit you can make and are almost always more damaging than the speaker realizes by assuming, perpetuating, and validating a caustic norm. Please stop. We can do better than allowing culture to set our relational starting point and instead proactively create a new “Kingdom” baseline (more on that below).
Young adults are treated like youth groups by leaders who have no idea what do with or how to relate to single adults who live in a very real, very physical, and very broken single world. These so-called “singles ministries” are usually lead by a married couple who have no real understanding or interest in what it means to be single.
There are plenty of ministry jobs you aren’t even eligible for if you are not married. Why is this? What is the fear? Think about it.
Most all advice I’ve heard on this topic is built from two faulty premises: 1. Defining singleness as a “stage,” and 2. Assuming dating as a norm. At best it is designed/intended to keep men and women as physically and emotionally “pure” (whatever that means) as possible before marriage. Good, yet, still entirely marriage centric and offers little to those of us living in singleness or truly recognizing the realities of this adult life. I think a case can be made that this well-meaning counsel does not dig deep enough into the foundations of our faith nor even bother to ask the question of what kind of relationships we are to be having and community we are to be building.
Scoffing at a single person giving relationship advice (as I often hear) and asking “shouldn’t we get advice from someone who is married” betrays a mindset of something being wrong with singles – insinuating that they are so because they lack the skills to be married. I’ve been to church seminars based on that assumption. What do you think singleness is exactly? There’s plenty of room for some interpersonal coaching and helping people be better with the opposite sex, but let’s not confuse the two concepts.
I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me in an attempt to relate, “I remember what it’s like to be single” Or, “what it was like to be your age.” Oh really, you do, you who married your high-school sweet heart? You, who when you were my age, had been waking up next to your wife for the past 10 years. You have no idea what a faithful single person goes through every day and trials they face. Your goodwill is recognized, but your patronization is not appreciated.
[quote_right] Rarely do I see the discipline it takes to be single given the respect it deserves. [/quote_right]
Rarely do I see the discipline it takes to be single given the respect it deserves. Particularly since being single through your 20’s is most people’s worst nightmare. They can not fathom such loneliness and physical discipline.
They have no idea what it is like to try to contain every lustful thought and impulse, absorbing it, never entertaining those desires. Sure, married men experience the same temptations, but at least they can turn their thoughts to their wives. Single men have nowhere to turn and must contain every explosion with discipline alone. Discipline they are rarely taught.
They have no categories for what it is like when no matter what level of joy or pain life brings, at the end of the day, you will be alone. Alone to cope. Alone to heal. Alone in the dark. Every day. Their advice falls flat, hollow, and often condescending.
What it really takes to be single, to be a good man, to be a most eligible Christian bachelor in this desperate and disparate world should be seen as awe inspiring and heroic. Yet, we hide those people in our communities rather than celebrate them.
I don’t think I respected singleness enough because I thought of myself as “just passing through.” I planned to married young, just like everyone else in my family had done, so being single was to be a very temporary stage of life. I’ve had to work hard to learn how to be single because the only thing I ever wanted or was taught about was how to get married. I don’t know if I have had any true allies in this journey.
Singleness and celibacy through your prime young adult years takes an awful toll as it twists and binds and wears a man’s soul thin. We are not designed for it. I would not wish it on anyone.
The most eligible Christian bachelor is the one who holds a rightful respect for his singleness and wants to help others be God-honoring in all relationships more than he wants to get himself married.
Our way looks no different from any other way.
The problem is not with the pursuit of marriage or of marriage as an institution, but with the crisis created where the rightful respect Christians have for marriage meets the wholesale endorsement of modern dating culture.
Lacking the proper theology of Christian relationships mentioned earlier, it is through this cultural frenzy, media onslaught, and tacky sermon jokes that the pursuit of a spouse through pop-culture dating schemas becomes the primary interaction model in our communities. In this way, we have let the culture teach us how to interact with one another – how we see one another, how we think, act, react, and speak to one another have all been taught to us by a culture given over to the patterns of this world. We may combat this strongly in other areas of Christian life and practice, but when it comes to “dating” mainstream Christianity has, for the most part, bought in wholesale to the popular schema.
Again, the popular understanding of dating, sexuality, and relationships is completely incompatible with a proper theology of Christian community.
[quote_right] we have let the culture teach us how to interact with one another [/quote_right]
This means we have adopted rules of interpersonal engagement that necessarily create a predatory, competitive, divisive, superficial, worldly environment of mistrust. We have needlessly, yet enthusiastically, invited this culture into our youth and young adult ministries and thereby reinforced an improperly focused encounter with every guy and girl that meets in our churches. Everything becomes about the “romantic qualifier” – meaning that as a guy every girl I meet is to be evaluated by potentially being “the one” or something else. No sparks? Moving on…unless of course you have some friends I can run through my romantic qualifier.
We’ve duplicated a competitive environment where every night after a gathering and the group goes out for a meal the guy sits across from the girl and seeks to become the most important thing in her life, and competes with the guy next to him to do so, when neither are looking out for her God-ward relationship first, because the one who does is probably not the one that gets the date.
We have forgotten or chosen to ignore that everyone is in your life for a reason, and there are far more relationships, deep and meaningful, than the romantic “one.” We are capable of and deserve much more from one another than this all-or-nothing mentality that the dating culture creates.
We can not allow the world to define our interaction models and then adopt them under the guise of “redeeming” them. Christians are to be about the work of building an entirely new kind of community – Christ’s Kingdom breaking into this world – a new reality.
I am as guilty as anyone of letting my own desires and the culture’s lens filter how I saw the women I interacted with. It takes daily discipline to not do so. It is fine if I want to meet a woman at church, but it is simply wrong if I let myself see my community as a “dating pool.”
The most eligible Christian bachelor is the man who does not engage in any predatory or competitive behavior, at all, ever.
We’ve ignored something greater.
Rather than leading the way and creating a new and better culture Christians often misguidedly assume a reactionary posture to cultural norms, then slap “Christian” on things as an adjective and call it a worldview. How we see one another as individuals, as men, as women, is so heavily influenced by the broader culture (and our dating obsessed sub-culture) that it requires a deep intentionality about developing a proper theology of Christian relationships if there is to be any hope of building an authentic community.
This collision between worldly norms and Christian ideals can often creates a strange, confusing, even schizophrenic culture of relationships, friendships, and dating in our communities. Is it any wonder why our student ministries and young adult groups struggle with a true sense of community?
[quote_right] We can do better. We can create a radical counter cultural community. [/quote_right]
We can do better. We can create a radical counter cultural community. The Bible and church history have a lot to teach us about how Christians have lived out a theology of Christian relationships.
I can promise you that if there was a community where everyone could enter in and lay their armor down just for one second, where no one would feel judged, pressured, or compared, where they could truly trust the people around them, that countless men and women would run to be a part of that kind of community. The floors would be stained with the tears cried in relief from the pressures and loneliness faced day in and day out.
Brothers meet your sisters! Sisters meet your brothers!
How we understand one another as men and women affects all of our relationships. The primary understanding of one another and our primary interaction model from scripture is that of the brotherhood and sisterhood of all believers – and that changes everything in a world wrecking, plan changing, pride stomping, inverted, topsy-turvy way that Christ and his kingdom does so well.
Let’s be crystal clear, “brotherhood and sisterhood” is not a synonym for “just friends.” This cheapens and limits the body of Christ. As the guiding principle of all of our interactions it is so much more. You do not start there and move onto “something more.” The something more, the something greater, is the brotherhood and sisterhood of all believers! We are given this greater default relationship as a gift of grace. And as with all things Gospel you do not need to be anything other that who you are at this very moment to receive it! We begin in the eternal. How amazing is that!
Shame on us for reducing the brotherhood and sisterhood of all believers to something so much less, so trivial as some modern dating version of “just friends.”
The Church is the new family of God. Through spiritual rebirth we each become brother and sister of Jesus Christ through adoption into the family of God. Consequently we are brother and sister to each other. Husbands and wives are first of all “brothers and sisters” before they are husband and wife.
[quote_right] Shame on us for reducing the brotherhood and sisterhood of all believers to something so much less, so trivial as some modern dating version of “just friends.” [/quote_right]
In Mark 3:33-35 Jesus posits, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Now, just so you don’t think this is something some bitter kid made up one Saturday night while sitting home alone:
Athenagoras (133-190 AD) in defense of the early church when it was being accused of oedipal and incestuous relationships due to the use of brother and sister language answered, “…to whom we apply the names of brothers and sisters, and other designations of relationship, we exercise the greatest care that their bodies should remain undefiled and uncorrupted…”
This tells us a couple of things: the early church was carrying on in marriage (hence the accusation of incest) and their primary understanding and care for one another was guided by a brother and sisterhood that looked out for one another as such.
Athenagoras goes on to reinforce that the early church followed the apostle Paul’s counsel in 1 Corinthians 7 saying that “…you would find many among us, both men and women, growing old unmarried, in hope of living in closer communion with God… for we bestow our attention; not on the study of words, but on the exhibition and teaching of actions, – that a person should either remain as he was born, or be content with one marriage…”
Radical then, radical now. There may be no generation or culture in history more in need of the freedom and security that comes from this understanding than ours.
Our guiding question at all times must be: “At this moment am I more concerned with this persons/the people around me’s relationship with God than anything else?” More than your desire for a wife, more than your desire for friendship, more than your loneliness, more than your pride or vanity, more than anything?
What does that look like for an eligible Christian bachelor? As always, look to Jesus. As Dorothy L. Sayers framed it: Christ recognized a woman’s dignity in ways unheard of in history. Naming women as equals and co-heirs of the Kingdom. Trusting them as central to His Church and choosing women to first announce The Gospel. A Man who never flattered or patronized, never stereotyped or made jokes about them, who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension, who took their questions and arguments seriously, who never “told them their place,” never leered or jeered at them for being female, who had no agenda or dignity to defend…Jesus saw them and valued them for who they were. No wonder women were His most faithful followers from cradle to cross.
Jesus never objectified women, chose his companionship based on their “past,” or dismissed anyone he wasn’t personally interested in. When you look at a woman purely as whether or not she is attractive enough to be your wife/object of affection, then you are objectifying women to a similar degree to other tribal cultures – denying her all she is and the way she is intended to be seen. Weaving burqas of your own design. Immaterial or fabric the impact on women is cut from the same dark cloth.
No favoritism or withholding affection…
No matter how strongly I desire a wife, even if my pursuit of that is noble, I can not allow that to control how I engage in fellowship – meaning romance being my only concern. Positioning, posturing, and manipulating in order to secure that future. Remember: “Am I more concerned with this person’s relationship with God than anything else?”
[quote_right] No matter how strongly I desire a wife, even if my pursuit of that is noble, I can not allow that to control how I engage in fellowship [/quote_right]
In James 2 scripture admonishes against showing favoritism. The example given is that of rich and poor but it is not a stretch to say the same about how we treat one another as single men and women. Likewise in 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 scripture instructs against withholding affection, “we have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.”
We may never withhold our love for someone based on what on a “dating” driven interaction model dictates. If you withhold love for someone based on a romantic qualifier you have failed the community of God. Fears of someone “getting the wrong idea” are superfluous to our responsibility to one another as brothers and sisters. Being discriminate in our choices to be open to some people (those we are physically attracted to) and not to others (those we are not physically attracted to) and pushing aside everyone else in our search for “the one” is simply unacceptable.
Look around your church for the “missing misfit.” Has the dating centered, cool hunting tone of the community excluded the awkward and the different? In my current church it has. Not one single misfit.
I have seen men, good men, walk into an event and if there was not a woman he was attracted to there would walk back out. You may not do it physically but you may emotionally. The same thing happens when you seek out and talk to the girl you are attracted to while ignoring everyone in between. Or far worse, only talking to the friend so that you can “get to” the woman you desire.
In fact, I once watched as an entire healthy young adult group completely imploded after one remarkably attractive woman literally walked in off the street and joined the community. The men could not handle the competitiveness for her attention and the women could not handle the comparison and the abandonment they felt when all eyes turned to her. She was not served well at all and eventually left the community and her faith in a public disaster.
We settle for so much less than God has for us. The fellowship of the saints, the body of Christ, the brotherhood and sisterhood of all believers is the something greater!
This “dating culture” (meaning the obsession with it) may be the most corrosive cultural trend we have ever let into the church – we have got to redefine the way we see and interact with one another as Christian men and women.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we need to become a group of plutonic eunuchs but that we have a responsibility to one another as family. Nor does this mean leaving “dating” at the door. We can bring all of life and love into the community because we are in this journey together as caretakers. No one has to do it alone.
[quote_right] If you stop seeking a spouse and start having relationships you just might find you’ll end up with the best of both. [/quote_right]
If you stop seeking a spouse and start having relationships you just might find you’ll end up with the best of both. How is anyone supposed to find a wife if they aren’t trying to you ask? I think we can all rest assured that attractions and romances will inevitably surface within these relationships. God’s economy is perfect. Obsess over His Kingdom and invest in the Body of Christ above all. Trust in Him for the rest. Anything less is telling God we know best and our needs must be put first or met in the way we insist.
Not that this is simple, nor is it something that can just be told to you. It is something that we must stand for and work through together as a community. The discussion must always be directed towards finding your identity in Christ, becoming an authentic community, and creating a culture of “otherness.”
The most eligible Christian bachelor is not the one hard pressing every new girl for a date. They are the ones first and foremost showing a genuine interest that she and everyone else that comes around become a part of the community.
It gets worse…
To say that dating within churches and other types of Christian community looks the same as the world is not entirely accurate. I believe we have made matters even worse by applying a layer of idealism and judgment to the interpersonal alchemy that has got to stop. Our way is becoming the more hurtful way.
[quote_right] Our way is becoming the more hurtful way. [/quote_right]
I have sat across from remarkable sisters in Christ and have asked them why they have never been in a Christian relationship, never dated a Christian man – their answer: Brian, I’ve never been in a Christian relationship because (and I quote multiple women) “what Christian guy would want me after what I’ve done.”
Heartbreaking. Convicting. I have sat with my head in my hands for hours over this one. How did we create a community where that thought is possible? What have we done? I think I know, and many of you know too.
Tell it to us, Matt: Jesus wants the rose!
God does not owe you anything….
The chief suspects are an “idealism” and underlying sense of “entitlement” that shapes how we think about others and about what we “deserve.” A very suspicious word, “deserve.”
An idealism that we have tasted through post-romanticism writing and art that continues into every story we have seen or heard our entire lives has shaped what we are looking for – a true love, kindred spirit, soul mate bond. How could we ever go back to any other system of marriage? Why would we want to? Isn’t this what God intends for us? Do we not want to experience a deep unending love that represents to the world through our marriage the way God loves the world, or more specifically how Christ loves His church?
It’s a quick slip from believing that God intends each of us to find our divinely appointed soul mate to thinking we are “entitled to” such a relationship – and from there is another quick slip for us to think about what we do or do not “deserve” from this relationship that we desire so deeply.
Around here sneaks in an idea that what you deserve is somehow based on your own character or choices (a remarkably unbiblical idea) and with that creeping around our minds we can often impose our own “deserve” filtered version of our own personal idealism onto others. Some even go so far as to carry around a literal list. I doubt God asked Adam for a list before he created Eve.
Once all of that is coupled with what happens when a “dating culture” collides with the average Christian’s high regard for marriage something a bit tragic happens that is only growing among this generation.
[quote_right] As if I can perfect myself in such a way that I deserve someone I deem perfect by my own standards. Shameful. [/quote_right]
As chief of the idealists I may be as guilty of these thoughts as anyone. As if I can perfect myself in such a way that I deserve someone I deem perfect by my own standards. Shameful.
Loving as Christ loved…
Caught in between the true ideal God intends to reveal through marriage and the trouble with some of our personal conceptions and sense of entitlement to it is the idea of “loving a wife as Christ loved the church.”
“Love your wives, just as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25) – now if you want to bold, underline, and exclamation point something you follow it with the words “as Christ loved the church.” Those are some seriously scary words, gentlemen.
Eve was the ideal. Ever since day one after the fall we have been trying to get back into Eden (the angels with flaming swords made a dramatic point then and they should now). There is no going back. Still, every man longs for Eve – a woman made for them, who loves and will only love them, who has never so much as been seen by another man. I’d marry her. That is who I want.
However, we do not live in the Garden, that’s not our world and our reality. We must live between Genesis 3 and Revelations.
Gomer is the example. A direct cross-reference to Ephesians 5:25 is the story of Hosea and Gomer (Hosea 1). Christ is the ultimate Hosea and the Church the ultimate Gomer (various translations characterize her from prostitute to simply given over to a worldly lifestyle). This is the image God choose to reveal His “deep unending love that represents to the world through our marriage the way God loves the world, or more specifically how Christ loves His church.” We don’t often like to talk about this.
[quote_right] we have no grounds to impose our ideals on someone else and then judge them for it [/quote_right]
What does all this mean for community or for “dating?” It means we have no grounds to impose our ideals on someone else and then judge them for it. Christ did not do so in his community relationships, famously befriending the harlot and the prostitute, and began his ministry to the gentiles through the woman at the well (a Samaritan whom the Jews despised, her husbands rejected, and who had been with multiple men). Even Mary, the mother of Jesus, was an unwed pregnant teen that needed a man to accept and love her in a way that transcended his personal desires/standards and cultural expectations.
But we still do it. When you say “a woman like that” or to someone else that he or she is not “good enough” for them. I hear these phrases all the time. I hate them. We often have no idea what we are saying.
We have a tendency, I know I have, to make the mistake of thinking that if we were holding the line on relational purity that you were doing it for “her” and that if she did not do the same then she could not possibly be the one for you – she somehow betrayed you and broke the contract (has “deal-breakers”). I’ve even heard Christian men say the words “damaged goods.” That’s messed up. Who were you holding the line for? It should have been and always be for God, because that’s what He has asked of you, full stop. End of issue. It is not about you and it is not about some pre-fabricated idealized, judgmental, marriage contract.
Relationships are the only area of Christian life and practice where we are willing to tolerate such egocentric dialog about what “I” want or about what “I” am looking for – creating this world of idealism and “deal-breakers.”
I’ve even heard the retort that if so called good guys accept the girls who made all of the mistakes then what incentive does anyone have to stay pure from the temptations of this world. How about God, Christ and His amazing love, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit making you into a living temple of the Most High God – how is that for incentive? Is that enough?
Now, if you are someone who has come from or has given over to the ways of the world – held a lot of different hands, if you will – you can have the tendency to think you are defined by those choices or must then expect consequences. Now, there are consequences to be sure, but in the community of Christ you are freed from those worldly definitions. Your sins are gone, you are a co-heir of the kingdom, a sister or brother in Christ. You are far more than a sum total of your actions, good or bad. How amazing is that!
[quote_right] You are far more than a sum total of your actions, good or bad. [/quote_right]
None of us are “good enough” for one another. No two people “deserve” each other. We don’t deserve anything. Not our next breath. God does not owe you anything.
There is no “if I live this way, or do things just right then God will grant me the perfect woman/marriage.” That ideal is romantic to be sure, but it is madness. We don’t allow for such ends-and-means thinking in other areas of Christian life and practice.
I can admit this has been a hard truth for me. Isn’t it right to desire only the mostly Godly woman I can imagine? I say yes. It is ok to long for Eve but we must develop a heart for Gomer too. Hosea was a man of God, a man with a beating heart like any other, with his own desires and personal “standards.” Then God said “that one” and he loved her – drawing from a well far beyond his own strength and creating a love story that has been read and reflected on for thousands of years. Romantic indeed.
How much is too much?
Now, for me, I never enjoyed any naiveté about the destructive relationship choices people make. I come from a world where my first female friend got pregnant at 12 and told only me about it. The first girl I ever went on an official date with ended up getting pregnant by a criminal at 15 and hid the pregnancy to term (again, me being one of the only to know)…and she was the pastor’s daughter. My high school was plagued by date rape and STDs and I stood in as the shoulder to cry on for more women than I can list. Loss, betrayal…and on and on.
While I was not distanced from the experiences of others, I remained disciplined against such mistakes – unfortunately, I was not always able to understand, accept, or reconcile why certain things happened or why people made the choices they did.
I’ve thought about this constantly over the years. Seriously, how much “past” is too much to “accept?” Where do you draw the line? Virginity? A certain number of pre-marital partners? Children? Disease? Addiction? Divorce? Abortion? At what point would you tell me or a friend that I’m not expected to accept all of someone else’s choices into my own heart? When am I “off the hook”? Give me an answer.
[quote_right] there is no line, no limit to the level of love and acceptance a Christ centered heart must be disciplined to be able to give and receive [/quote_right]
It may always be a struggle, but I say the answer must unwaveringly be that there is no line, no limit to the level of love and acceptance a Christ centered heart must be disciplined to be able to give and receive.
So, what Christian guy would want you after the things you’ve done? All of the good ones, all the most eligible ones, that’s who. The rest can keep their so called standards but need to be careful with that Christian label.
Who understands what it means to love a woman as Christ loves us? The kid who imposes his ideals onto a woman and then judges her for not living up to his standards? The two sweethearts who marry the first hand they ever held? Or the couples who love beyond the brokenness of this world and show the world the kind of self giving love that Christ and His amazing Kingdom makes possible? That is the Jesus I follow and that is the image I want to at least be capable of representing in this world.
The most eligible Christian bachelor longs for Eve with a heart prepared for Gomer.
It’s easier to date non-Christians
Not that I’ve ever done it. Yet, I do know that it is much easier to have a relationship with a non-Christian woman. I get the temptation. If you’ve seen/met some my non-Christian female friends then you know I do. Pretty is not the problem. The hard truth is that right now I can go into most any bar and meet a girl who I am more attracted to, have more in common with, have more fun with, has less baggage, and has fewer hang-ups about dating than the women in my church. I’m a virtual knight-in-shining-armor to the non-Christian girls.
Alas, one of the most harmful things you can do to yourself and the spiritual life of an unsaved soul is to engage in an intimate relationship with them. Doing so is one of the most rebellious things you can do in your relationship with God. If you don’t think so you are just rationalizing. You are simply not walking with Christ if you make this choice. You are not bringing them closer to Christ either. That person, that connection, is in your life so that you can be an instrument in their salvation, not so you can date them! There is so much evidence for this it is pretty much unquestionable.
A friend once asked me why it is so much harder to date (or wait for) the Christian woman that you really want. I told him that’s how you know you really care and are not just looking for an easy out. Think of it like this: you know how in an action flick there is often a fight scene where the good guy has to fight off a gang of bad guys while protecting a priceless vase (or some variation on that theme) from breaking? You watch as he takes far more blows than he has to if he would just let the vase break and get down to fighting. Yet he protects the vase in spite of the personal cost. Well, that’s how you know he is the good guy. If he didn’t care about the vase he would be indistinguishable from the rest of the brawlers. That’s what real dating is like for the most eligible Christian bachelor.
The most eligible Christian bachelor chooses to pursue a woman who loves Christ and fights for her heart like the most priceless prize.
We don’t really want to date “biblically.”
I was late to the conversation on practical dating advice. As mentioned earlier I’ve never much cared for it. It’s always been as if I wasn’t playing the game even if others thought I was…kind of like when we were all kids:
You know how kids make up these games and invent elaborate boundaries like, “you can’t touch the driveway ‘cause it’s lava!” or “the bushes are out of bounds and if you touch them you’re out!” You know we all did it. Have you ever been on the way through where kids were playing and someone yells something like “Watch out, that’s lava, don’t touch it!” and you’re like “oh, yeah, I’m sorry I’m not playing, I wasn’t here for all the rules, I’m not really a part of all this, carry on.” Well, that’s how I always felt about the dating culture – sorry, I wasn’t here for all the rules, so I’m not really involved…carry on.
What then are the implications of all this for biblical community and the pursuit of marriage/dating: I have no idea. Kidding, but not really.
The Bible has a lot to say about relationships, the kind of character one should have, love and marriage. However, what it has to say about how to go about finding a wife may not be quite what we had in mind.
Here are the top eleven ways the bible describes to acquire a wife:
- Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. (Deuteronomy 21:11-13)
- Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his flock. Moses (Exodus 2:16-21)
- Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal. Boaz (Ruth 4:5-10)
- Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife. Benjaminites (Judges 21:19-25)
- Agree to work seven years in exchange for a woman’s hand in marriage. Get tricked into marrying the wrong woman. Then work another seven years for the woman you wanted to marry in the first place. Jacob (Genesis 29:15-30)
- Cut off 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law’s enemies and get his daughter for a wife. David (I Samuel 18:27)
- Become emperor and hold a beauty contest. Xerxes or Ahasuerus (Esther 2:3-4)
- When you see someone you like, go home and tell your parents, “I have seen a …woman; now get her for me.” Samson (Judges 14:1-3)
- Kill any husband and take his wife. David (2 Samuel 11)
- Wait for your brother to die. Take his widow. Onan and Boaz (Deuteronomy or Leviticus, example in Ruth)
- Don’t be so picky. Make up for quality with quantity. Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-3)
Furthermore: Marriage Types in the Bible
Hmm, yeah, not quite what any of us are looking for is it? The Bible seems a bit indifferent at times on marriage. Perhaps by “biblical” we meant something more thematically “Christian.”
There’s no such thing as Christian dating.
Using “Christian” as an adjective at all should be called into question and applying it to dating exemplifies the point.
As it turns out, there is only one piece of advice in the entire New Testament about what to do between being single and marriage: Do not look for a wife (1 Cor 7:27). That is it, like it or not, the rest is commentary.
While this is not what many of us want to hear or believe, practically speaking, the advice has a lot of modern merit. When left to our own depraved devices, we will not “look” in the right direction, we will not choose well for ourselves or do well by others in our constant “looking.” 1 Corinthians 7 is about putting kingdom things first and elevating singleness to at least equality with marriage if not greater.
There is and isn’t a “one”
Is there a “one” perfect “soul mate” that you were divinely destined to be with? Yes and no. There are probably a lot of people you could choose to marry and be happy with. God blesses and holds accountable all marriage. However, I do believe there is a “best” that God desires for each of us.
Think about it, with all of the people in the world how could you ever know who is “the one for you?” Next time you fly cross country look out the window and think about all of those towns below. Do not kid yourself, you could probably land most anywhere, and make a life there, meet a girl there, fall in love there, get married and raise a family there. How could you possibly know for sure you have found “the one” among billions?
Only on the Kingdom road can you ever know for sure because what you can know is what you are called to do as a Christian and where you are called to be – and all down to a remarkably precise degree. There, on the Kingdom road, you may or may not find the wife God would have for you.
[quote_right] We can allow the Kingdom Road to focus our options [/quote_right]
We can allow the Kingdom Road to focus our options and thereby increase happiness and assure confidence in where God has you and who God has you with. I see so many men and women caught in this consumer culture onset of an emotionally over analyzed paralysis of choice – seeming to need a deep emotional over romanticized connection for every decision so that permanence can be guaranteed and never regretted.
Perhaps a case can be made for “Kingdom Road Relationships” – developing a theology like that may be the closest thing we can have to anything resembling what we hope to mean by “Christian dating.”
The most eligible Christian bachelor does not let dating take his eyes off the Kingdom Road.
We watch too much TV
The modern dating culture is a child of the broader consumer culture and countless studies have been done to show that more choice does not bring more happiness. Staring at an aisle full of peanut butter options does not guarantee you will be happy with your choice (if you are even able to make one at all). In fact, all of those alternatives make you more likely to regret your choice as you imagine all of the attractive features you might be missing out on. Can consumer choices be compared to dating choices? It may be a stretch, but then again I really love chunky peanut butter.
For example, more and more men desire to be with the most physically beautiful girl they can. Thinking that if they are with the girl they are most physically attracted to then they won’t ever have second thoughts or be tempted by some girl in the future – I think we know the folly of that logic. Different is always more attractive. This is especially problematic as our culture continues to warp and idealize our definition of physical beauty. Regret might be everyone’s greatest fear. What we are really doing is becoming a consumer of others.
[quote_right] What we are really doing is becoming a consumer of others. [/quote_right]
Think about the implications these ideas of “do not look” and “do not consume” have for things like online dating, etc. Think even more about how much of your conceptions of love and romance come from television and movies rather than from Scripture or biblical community. How much of this longing and need to fill the void of loneliness was fed by a consumer culture that creates voids, hollowing us out so that we spend time and money trying to fill it with what someone else is selling?
I suspect the longing many of us feel about the need for a romantic relationship may by be intimately related to these pressures as much as they are to our own created design and desires. This is the essence of the “culture” side of “dating culture” that I have clearly become so set against.
The most eligible Christian bachelor does not derive his cues about beauty and relationships from any media outside of Scripture.
“Dating” no matter what specific boundaries or definitions you put on it, if done right, results in someone getting hurt. Make no mistake, you don’t have to engage in dating rituals, but if you do, someone is getting hurt, that’s the deal. It’s simply the cost of putting your heart out there in that way. No amount of good intentions or “dtr: defining the relationship” conversations are going to help – in fact, it probably just kills the romance and ruins the whole charade to begin with.
[quote_right] someone is getting hurt, that’s the deal [/quote_right]
However, value is found even in heartbreaking rejection. We learn a lot about God and this present reality through human relationships, and it is in romantic relationships that we feel rejection the sharpest.
Christ accepted us, loved us, gave us all he had, all he was, and was rejected. We still reject him. We deny Christ when we hide our faith from our friends, coworkers or those we pursue romantic relationships with. We deny Him when we pursue non-Christ centered relationships and make choices that lead to marriages that do not image forth Christ’s love for the world. The rejection you experience through dating can and should bring you closer to Christ.
I know rejection well. Too well. I get this. I am with you on this, trust me. It does not matter who you are or what you look like – this is hard for everyone. Nevertheless, facing rejection is part of being a good man in a dating world.
The most eligible Christian bachelor owns the risks and does not let the fear of rejection drive his choices in life.
I suppose I can’t write at such length about the dating culture and a proper theology of Christian relationships without giving at least some advice on the actual practice of dating. At least no one has let me off the hook yet. So, before I do, let me be clear that any such advice is for protecting the brotherhood and sisterhood of believers and living a right understanding of Christ centered relationships – “dating” by any definition is absolutely secondary. That said, here goes:
If you like a girl, tell her. If you do not and she asks, tell her. If she tells you she is not interested, move on. It’s ok, see above.
Ask her on a date. Use the word date. Say it bold and clear. Nothing makes a man feel more like one than walking across a room and asking a girl out, and it makes you more attractive too. If you are not ready to do that, then you aren’t ready for anything that follows anyway.
Since there are no more definitions or rules and everyone has their own version of what dating is, then the strong choice is to LEAD. Flip the script. Stop trying to acquiesce to lame social-norm mating dances that aren’t doing anyone else any good anyway. This is the opportunity to take charge and show something unexpectedly greater to people in your life and to the world looking on.
Ask for one phone number at a time. Give her your full attention. Advice about dating multiple people at once is ridiculous – I’ll have to tackle that one later.
Never forget: Put the brotherhood and sisterhood first. Protect it. At all cost. Date only Christians. Date with the intention of marriage. No exceptions.
If you are going to date be extremely intentional about it. In the brotherhood and sisterhood of all believers, just because a guy and a girl are seen together doesn’t necessarily make it a date. Therefore it is even more important to be straight and honest about calling it a date. Stop trying to “sneak-a-date” by avoiding committing to the step. That’s just cowardly.
Remember: the brotherhood and sisterhood of all believers is not synonymous with “just friends.” That means you don’t have to let it be. You can still keep the romantic energy alive. It’s not a choice between “friends” or “the one.”
Pursuit comes after the relationship starts and never stops through marriage. But not before. Don’t confuse pursuit with persistence – which can be good or bad and maybe a bit creepy. Take rejection. Turn obsessive thought into obsessive prayer. Those aren’t signs. Did she just happen to walk by? Not a sign.
It doesn’t have to be linear to be right! We all still want this storybook relationship: love at first sight and everything is just perfect ever-after. Otherwise it must not be “meant to be.” That’s not real life. You can meet and fall years later. It can be on again and off again and every variant in between. The relationship does not have to have a perfectly linear storyline for it to be the one God has for you.
Stop abusing women! Yes, even you “nice christian guy” types. What would we do to a guy who kept leaving visible physical bruises on a woman? Hopefully give it back to him tenfold. Then why do we tolerate the emotional damage? If you don’t know how you feel, or if you do and it’s not a view toward marriage, then stay away from that girl. You are hurting her, doing lasting damage, and messing things up for her. It should anger brothers in Christ to watch a man leave emotional bruises just as much as it would to see physical ones. It angers me. Don’t let me catch you.
You can throw away that list.
A Christian psychologist named Neil Clark Warren popularized the idea of making a list of must have traits and waiting until you meet the person who meets that list. Not surprisingly this is the same guy who created e-harmony, the ultimate expression of list logic. Some day I am going to get Neil, Josh Harris, and John Eldridge in a room and have a very serious talk with them.
We need a theology of Christian relationships not a list.
Making matters worse is that marriage is increasingly seen as something you enter into once fully formed, rather than as a formative institution that two people enter into together wherever they are in life – thereby expanding the time and intent of dating. We want to meet the “perfect person” to marry, but we want them to be “perfect” when we meet them. Otherwise, it must not be meant to be.
The marriage we should be seeking is the marriage the Bible outlines: the marriage of the body of Christ to our Lord and Savior, the commitment of the individual to their new relationship and responsibilities to the cross.
I honestly believe that if we all began by envisioning a life of singleness in servitude to the cross then our lives would be better prioritized.
Let’s not forget, dismiss, or underestimate the fact that Jesus was single. He was also certainly “most eligible.” Our Savior became fully human and experienced all we experience (in every respect Heb 4: 15-6) so we can know our God is a God who is not distant. He is here. He understands. It’s not a stretch to think Yeshua of Nazareth didn’t marry and remained single long past the customary age, even though as Christ he felt every desire we feel, because he was called to be the Ultimate Sacrifice. Are we called to anything else?
[quote_right] Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you could meet a nice girl that shares your values and settle down. [/quote_right]
By beginning with a view to marriage we seek that relationship first and foremost and occupy our lives with personal goals rather than the things of God. It’s not about rules of engagement, though they help, it’s about a true change of heart.
Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you could meet a nice girl that shares your values and settle down.
Instead of carrying around a list of traits you are looking for, perhaps this list of questions will simplify matters:
- Will this person bring me closer to Jesus?
- Is this relationship bringing us closer to Jesus?
- Does this relationship reflect a God honoring bond (spiritual, emotional, physical)?
- Will marriage unite us as one in faithful service to the cross?
So, this is the summary of what I have learned the hard way over the years. Still an unwavering hopelessly romantic idealist. Yet, what I am fighting for, to become, to champion, has changed. The ideal I pursue and what I think it means to be a most eligible Christian bachelor now looks very different. May God continue to graciously strengthen my resolve. I’m going to need it.
It’s remarkably difficult to provide specific examples/scenarios of what Kingdom relationships looks like because we don’t have a lot of communities we can look to. The entire concept can be confusing because most of us lack any experience with a paradigm other than what the culture serves up – friends, dating, the one, and all the rest. Of course, none of that is any excuse for not working together to image forth a new reality – that is, the in-breaking of Christ’s amazing Kingdom here and now.
Someday I will develop these thoughts further and dive in much deeper. For now, I welcome any and all feedback you may have.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
~ C.S. Lewis