Last summer, the media couldn’t get enough of the word “entanglement” as actors Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith confronted rumors about infidelity in their relationship on an episode of Jada’s Red Table Talk show on Facebook.
The couple displayed a united front, forgiving the indiscretion, and committing to their partnership no matter what happens. For over two decades, people have been attempting to redefine marriage. And as commendable as pledging a lifelong commitment is, there is no difference between that and how God intended for us to approach our marriages.
Marriage used to mean a union between one male and one female, but it’s increasingly becoming a socially constructed concept with multiple meanings. People with nontraditional views of marriage seem to look down on others as closed-minded or inferior when they don’t waver in their traditional beliefs on marriage.
Additionally, the concept of a life partner is gaining traction, as though it supersedes marriage. However, if one looks at how God originally designed marriage, there is no need to create a “better” concept of the dyadic relationship. Perfection can’t be improved upon; it can only be tainted.
In Mark 10, Jesus says, “Let no one split apart what God has joined together.” Those who take this at face value will automatically see the lifelong commitment implication here. The biblical version of marriage isn’t the problem; people have started to consider these sacred words as optional.
Marriage is becoming more about how we feel rather than what we do. If we feel okay with our spouse’s actions on a particular day, we are more likely to want to stay married. If we’re going through a season in our relationship where things seem strained, or we feel disconnected from our spouse, then we look for exit strategies.
Soon, a habit that our spouse has had since we’ve known him becomes magnified, as well as their other flaws. Or we retroactively recall how we never prayed about this marriage in the first place and begin to convince ourselves that this person wasn’t who God intended for us, forgetting how initially, we thanked God for sending us a “soulmate.”
Suddenly, what was a blessing, turns into the biggest mistake that we’ve ever made in our lives. (At least that’s what we tell ourselves.) It isn’t that God’s statutes have changed. We’ve changed our minds and we want to make the Word fit our scenarios.
The Smiths have openly shared how they began to redefine their union during rough patches in their relationship. While some may consider it amazing that this couple has found a way to stay together, others may find the terminology and overall explanation hubristic as it implies that a life partnership somehow transcends God’s plan for marriage. When one enters into a marital relationship with the mentality that there are no exit doors other than death, then the lifetime commitment doesn’t have to be an addendum. It’s built into the fabric of the relationship. When one truly embraces all the components of love, as outlined in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7, there is grace for flaws.
Furthermore, an “entanglement” doesn’t have to be the end of a marriage but could signify the beginning of a new and better one. While marital healing from “entanglements” requires contrition from the entangler and forgiveness from the spouse, couples must learn that infidelity isn’t the problem in a marriage, only a symptom.
Having a life partnership mentality toward marriage is great, but it shouldn’t replace what God has already perfected. Marriage isn’t a meaningless piece of paper or a man-made control mechanism. It’s a God-ordained institution that pre-dates sin. In its heyday, it was flawless. Now that we are inhabitants of this broken world, it’s stained by ideologies and philosophies that attempt to undermine its importance.
A life partnership may be a verbal contract between two people, but a marriage is a covenant between the couple and God. When we realize that, we don’t have to find creative ways to ensure that we stay together because we’ve already decided that we would when we began our journey.
Tree imagery appears throughout Scripture when describing human beings. When Jesus began to heal the blind man in Mark’s Gospel, He asked him if he saw anything. The man responded and stated: “I see men like trees, walking” (see Mark 8:24, NKJV). Jesus Himself used this imagery to describe the interconnectedness of human beings. One of the most profound statements that He made was connected to something we try to figure out all the time in this life—relationships: “…for a tree is known by its fruit” (from Matthew 12:33, NKJV).
The “Job Interview”
One of the most frustrating things I notice in unhealthy or failed relationships is the lack of accounting when it comes to examining another person’s fruit. Sadly we mistake the honeymoon phase of dating relationships as the true nature of another individual. Anyone can go on a job interview dressed up and ready to answer questions impressively. This is precisely what dating tends to look like. The one thing the job interviewee knows? Putting one’s best foot forward increases his or her chances at getting hired.
I’m willing to bet you that a man will not reveal on the first date that he’s possessive, jealous, and insecure, and has expectations that you treat him like his mother treated him. I’m also pretty confident that a woman probably will not reveal that she is looking for someone to treat her like her last boyfriend or someone who knows exactly what she’s thinking without her saying it. Nor will she reveal any other emotional baggage she may carry. Let me give you a simple secret to help you see through that “impressive resume” on the first couple of dates: Time!
Taking Some Time
I know. I know. It sounds elementary and simple. I am pretty sure the heavens didn’t open up after that revelation. Sadly, this truth is avoided like the plague when it comes to entering relationships and causes more frustration than most people would like to admit. In addition to a tree being known by its fruit, Jesus also revealed that “a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:18, NKJV).
Let me put it this way. Entering a new relationship is like planting a seed. When you begin to water that relationship seed, it will begin to break through any dirt (i.e., any unrevealed vices) that either one of you have and reveal one another’s true nature. Of course, that watering occurs by means of the “living water” (see John 7:38). Afterward, things will begin to bud in the relationship and eventually trees will emerge with accompanying fruit. Here’s the key. Whether or not the other person’s tree bears good fruit depends on their response to your watering.
Please hear my heart on this. Developing a healthy relationship requires an effort on behalf of both parties. If you begin to feel like you are the only one attempting to develop your relationship, then you will begin to feel unattended to and lacking nourishment.
The Fruit Test
Once you’ve overcome the time obstacle, you can begin to properly evaluate a relationship and look for fruit. The good thing about this process is that everyone produces fruit of some kind. The only difference is the marketability of that fruit. Would you go into a grocery store and buy rotten apples or oranges? Why would you do the same thing as it pertains to a relationship? Here are some things to look for when evaluating relationships: “Now the [fruit] of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery… murders…” (from Galatians 5:19–21, NKJV).
Ask yourself: Is this person adulterous? I know what you’re asking. Isn’t this supposed to be an article on dating? What does adultery have to do with dating relationships? I’m glad you asked. Jesus says that any man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (see Matthew 5:28). Do you find them looking at other people when you two are together? This is an indication that they are adulterous, at least as far as their heart is concerned. This bad fruit can help you when you examine the relationship.
You might also want to ask yourself: Is this person a murderer? I don’t want to be misunderstood here. I am not talking about people who may be imprisoned for taking the life of another person. I am talking about people who are locked up in a different way. Scripture is very clear when it says, “whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (from 1 John 3:15, NKJV). Does your significant other have disdain for other ethnic groups? Does he or she make disparaging remarks about others that are hurtful? God saw fit that this issue was serious enough to warrant mentioning and should lead each of us to examine the people in our leaves for this potential bad fruit. Those are just two items on a long list of what Paul deems to be bad fruit. Check out the others on the list in Galatians 5 and determine whether your significant other shows signs of bad fruit.
The Good News
People can exhibit things you should be looking for in a significant other. The Apostle Paul calls this good fruit. Some examples of good fruit? Love, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (see Galatians 5:22–23).
Take time out now to examine past relationships in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Have you seen any of the fruit mentioned above at work in those relationships? More importantly, can you take lessons learned from those situations and move forward with a new conviction? The important thing about the blind man seeing “men like trees” in Mark’s Gospel was that his healing was incomplete. He needed a further touch from Jesus. With that touch he was restored and saw everyone clearly (see Mark 8:25b). Although examining the fruit of others to evaluate our relationships is important, there is still a need to rely on and allow Christ to place His hand on those relationships for full clarity and direction. If you keep these things in mind, your relationship will truly become like a tree planted by the rivers of water (see Psalm 1:3) and flourish in Christ.
Let’s face it. Being single and Christian is hard. It’s even harder to find that person you want to spend the rest of your life with. There are so many factors to consider: age, personality, looks, and spirituality. It can all become a blur. How do you even figure out if someone is a match for you? What does God have to say about it? Here are five powerful secrets to finding Mr. or Mrs. right as a young Christian single.
The first thing to consider is whether you and the other person are serving the Lord. One of the first things I discovered about my wife was that we were both passionate about serving God and looked for ways to bless others.
In fact, I met my wife preparing for a short-term mission trip. The funny thing is it wasn’t love at first sight for either of us. We continued to serve together at different times and in different places for about four years.
One day I looked up and I realized we were spending a lot of time together and I had stars in my eyes.
You can’t find the right person for you if you are putting on a mask in public. The person you attract will be drawn to the mask and not the real you.
So don’t be afraid to share your real opinions about things. Put your likes and dislikes on full display.
Yes, some people will be repelled but the right people will be drawn to you. Now, don’t get me wrong.
You don’t want a clone of yourself who thinks and believes the same way you do. You want someone who will be attracted to your authentic self.
Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone
I grew up in a small storefront church in Los Angeles. Most of my family still attends this church.
My heart will always be there, but staying within this circle made my choices for a mate slim.
Once I got out and started becoming involved in leading a Bible study on campus, and eventually going overseas on short-term mission trips, the dating pool started to widen.
I started meeting different people and more people who were going in the same direction I was going. That all started with me stepping outside of my comfort zone.
Decide That You are Dating to Marry
This should be a no-brainer for Christians but oftentimes we just date people because we don’t want to be alone.
I can remember hearing a sermon about marriage and being a single Christian man. The pastor said that if we’re not going to a hostile mission field or secluding ourselves in the Amazon jungle to find a cure for cancer we need to plan to get married.
That basically put me on blast and I started actively seeking to find the wife God had for me.
Be willing to let go
The last secret is this: Be willing to let go. Sometimes the person you are dating is not the right person.
Still many people go on dating someone when they know that they don’t want to be with this person for the rest of their life.
There are more red flags than a Chinese political rally yet the person still holds out hope that maybe they will change. Most of the time they will not.
It’s best to stop holding on to hope that this person will change their ways or their basic personality traits. When you do that your perspective on the situation changes.
You begin to compromise. You want the relationship to work so badly that you will do anything to make it happen.
Eventually, either you both move on after wasting time or you end up marrying them and committing to a person who is not for you.
Yes, these are all great questions to ask anyone while dating. However, there are some key questions Christians often forget to ask. While not everyone desires marriage (Matthew 19:11-12; 1 Corinthians 7:7), marriage is often the ultimate goal for dating Christians (Genesis 2:24). Thus, our questions must be guided by our faith, wisdom and our intentions. So, in an effort to help you along your dating journey, we’ve included five important questions that we as Christians should be asking, but often overlook:
1) Is Jesus Christ your personal Lord and Savior?
This is a question that should be asked early on in the dating process. Believe it or not, many of us date non-believers or presume our potential mate’s salvation status more than we’d like to admit, instead of just asking. Putting this question out there helps us keep Christ at the center of our new friendships and relationships, forces us and our dates to truly examine our faith, and it shows our potential mates that faith is a priority in our life. Besides, asking this question immediately weeds out those with whom we would be unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14).
2) Are we casually dating or are we “courting”?
Casual dating can be a fun way to meet new people, but it is riddled with ambiguity and emotional frustration. This can be a waste of time for those who truly desire marriage. Thus, courting is a Christian’s best bet. Courting allows you to focus solely on getting to know your date, pray for one another and to prayerfully seek God’s will for your relationship before marriage. After about three months of “hanging out,” it’s reasonable and fair to inquire about your potential mate’s long-term intentions. Are you two free to see other people, or are you two seeking God and a long-term relationship—together?
3) What are your physical boundaries?
We (should) know that sex and all related acts before marriage is a no go (Hebrews 13:14). Though it’s natural to desire to be affectionate toward your romantic interest, wisdom precludes any arousing physical contact – this can include kisses and hugs. Understanding your date’s physical boundaries (beyond sex) keeps you both accountable, honors personal convictions and, above all, honors God. Clarify each other’s boundaries up front and respect them.
4) What is your philosophy on debt and tithing?
Debt and tithing are only part of a larger discussion on money management, and this discussion should occur well before you and your bank accounts become one. Christians actually maintain varying degrees of convictions regarding tithing and debt. In fact, there are more views on tithing than we can count. While there are also Christians who view any form of debt – including mortgages – as a sin, while others believe some debt is warranted as long as it is repaid. However, having varying convictions about finances doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker (Romans 14), but these variances will require lots of conversation, and will greatly impact financial decisions and lifestyle choices in a marriage.
5) Who Comes First? Wife, Parent or Kids?
They say that how a man treats his mother is how he’ll treat his wife. This is a great adage to consider while dating. But God said – and Jesus Christ reiterated – that a marrying man must “leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5). Yet, some husbands not only put heir mothers ahead of their wives, they expect their wives to understand this arrangement. Meanwhile, some wives are guilty of putting their children before their husband, and they expect their husbands to just roll with it. These mindsets are clearly out of sync with scripture, as they can deal deathblows to the “one flesh” mandate. While dating, we often think of our needs or judge how our dates might fit into our world. But we must also assess our willingness to make them number one and our ability to be one with them – above all others.
Christian dating can be fun, but it shouldn’t be done haphazardly. Asking the right questions saves time, guards hearts and preserves godly intentions.