Monday, February 13, 2012

[Insert Bad Pick-Up Lines Here]

Okay, we have a fun topic this time around. Last Thursday Jon Shea gave us a message about marriage and dating, probably in light of Valentine's Day. This is a topic that I used to struggle with a lot, simply because I didn't like to play by the rules and accept biblical male and female roles for relationships, but I'm coming around. So... biblical marriage and dating... here we go.

Our culture's view of dating in the past 100 years has drastically changed. For the longest time, we embraced the idea of courtship (dating back in the 1920's was a term for prostitution) through "calling", in which a man would come to the home of a woman he was interested in and sit in the parlor with her family all around and socialize with everyone. This way, the whole family was involved in the progression of the relationship and it was more wholesome.

Automobiles changed everything. People could now not only go out alone in courtships, but there were a lot more potential partners they could choose from because more travel was possible.

In the 1960's America underwent a social phenomenon called the Sexual Revolution. There was a dramatic shift in traditional values related to sexuality, premarital sex, and contraception. It also caused many people to question gender roles related to marriage and sexuality with feminist movements and the publication of the book "The Feminine Mystique".

Today, our culture has all the views taken from the sexual revolution, but they have expanded with huge arguments over the issues related to same-sex marriages and cohabitation. A lot of young people today wonder if marriage is even worth it, now that premarital sex is so commonplace.

The question we were challenged with was: As a Christian, how are we to view marriage and dating, and how should that influence our pursuit of a relationship?

Romans 12:1-2 help us easily answer that question.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
It's pretty self-explanatory.

(Genesis 2:19-25)
Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ or she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Genesis tells us that one of the biggest problems we, as human beings, face in relationships with one another is the confusion and reversals of gender roles. Because Adam didn't lead his wife as he really should have, they both fell into sin and brought the curse of that sin onto the world.

In light of that, how are we supposed to view what marriage is to look like?

Probably the most quoted and most argued verses about marriage are these ones, found in Ephesians 5:22-33.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Here, Paul is explaining two things that marriage should entail.

1.) Gender roles: He's explaining the role of the husband being the leader, provider, and protect and the role of the wife as the helper. She is to submit to him (Not in a subservient way for all the nay-sayers out there). The two are equals in the relationship, they just have different, God-ordained roles to play.

Just as Jesus is equal with the Father in the trinity, but submits to Him, so should a wife be to her husband in a marriage. Marriage is most importantly designed to directly reflect God's character.

2.) Raising children: Simple right? Well, it's not just bringing new life into the world. It's raising up the next generation for God and to God. We are meant to raise them physically and spiritually.

Dating and being married isn't just about cultivating happiness, happiness will come. It should be about two disciples trying to find out if they should walk out their Christian lives together. It should be a light-bringing union.

So here are some things to look for before you try to commit to pursuing a relationship:
  • You should already be following God on your own before pursuing a relationship. This one is kind of a given. If you aren't following God now, what makes you think you'll follow Him when you're with someone else? [Guys, if you're ready to play with a girls heart, you better be ready to lead her.]
  • Teach yourself to go with the roles that God has assigned.
  • Learn to resolve conflicts! For the love of God, learn this, because conflicts will happen and how you resolve them will be an example to everyone else, especially any future children, or young people in general.
  • Wait until the right time and submit yourselves to other people's opinions about the timing. Both people need to be absolutely sure and ready before entering into a relationship in order to spare each other a lot of hurt. Timing is everything. It isn't something to go into as lightly as the world tells you that it is. And as for other people's opinions, we are meant to live in community for a reason. Other people are to help us in decisions as monumental as choosing a mate, not necessarily to dictate who we should marry, but to give us perspective and advice. ["The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing."- Joshua Harris]
I think a big thing for us to keep in mind is to try to prevent ourselves from making an idol out of the guy or the girl that you think you want to be with. God needs to always come first. (This is also one of the hardest things to keep in mind, especially for me.) We are to serve God and find someone who is doing the same, then date them, not the other way around.

So, how about some biblical questions to consider for those people out there already in a relationship?
  • Are you both growing individually and living in community?
  • Do you have boundaries for each other's purity? [This is a HUGE characteristic that should be found in Christian relationships.] It's pretty opposite of the way the rest of the world sees dating, but then we are not supposed to be anything like the world. Purity needs to be a priority because of God's command and because it will spare you from a lot of heartache if the relationship doesn't turn into marriage.
  • Girls, do you trust your guy to lead you?
So yeah, Christian relationships are a lot different than worldly dating. God needs to be in the center of everything, especially marital relationships. While everything described in this post may seem ridiculously archaic, conservative , and boring by worldly standards, it's really the best approach and maintains the best success rates that I've ever seen. Call me old-fashioned, but I actually takes relationships seriously. I think more people should approach courtship/dating with a purposeful mentality that really weighs the gravity of the decisions associated with it.

Relationships are not to be taken lightly, you don't just jump into them out of loneliness or a good time. Maybe our success rates would be higher if dating was pursued for the sole purpose of marriage.

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