Friend Affirmation. A third source of wisdom to affirm your relationship is godly friends. The book of Proverbs exhorts us to listen to wise counsel around us (see 12:15, 15:22, 19:20-21, 27:9). The insights and observations of mature Christian friends should add yet another layer of accountability in relational decisions. One of the mistakes we often make is listening only to counsel with which we agree. But if we have the right kind of friends, their biblical wisdom, as well as the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, can be a strong ally to help us make relational decisions, whether it is what we want to hear or not.
The Confirmation Principle invites God's grace into complicated situations. For Steve and Rachel, it could be invaluable. As collegians, they are not living at home. Their families are not only far away, but they are also unbelievers. Yet Steve and Rachel find godly qualities in one another and are attracted to each other. How should they proceed?
Even though their parents are not Christians, seeking their confirmation is wise and obedient. I believe God would honor their efforts to seek their counsel and wisdom. But what if that is not helpful? What if their parents' insights are ungodly and dishonoring to Scripture?
This is where pastoral oversight becomes critical. I would never encourage a couple to go against their parents' counsel (even if the parents are unbelievers) without a serious evaluation and oversight by pastors and elders. And the counsel of other mature believers can also be used by God to put the relationship under the microscope.
Steve and Rachel should move forward in the relationship only after they have exhausted the confirmation possible from their parents, pastors, and friends.
3. The Contentment Principle
The foundation for developing a righteous relationship with a member of the opposite sex is the ultimate relationship - your relationship with God. If you are not happy with God alone, you will not be happy with someone else. Paul's walk with Christ was so satisfying that he discovered that contentment was possible regardless of any circumstance (see Philippians 4:10-13; 1 Timothy 6:6-7).
A huge error singles often make is believing that a relationship will make them happy. This is just another form of idolatry. Thinking that anything other than God will bring satisfaction and happiness is to make that object an idol in one's life. Stacy, a friend of mine, used to spend inestimable time dreaming and pining about a relationship. My wife and I spoke to her many times about the fact that a boyfriend would not bring the happiness she thought it would.
Finally, it happened. She met a guy who became her friend and eventually her boyfriend. Stacy put her whole life into the relationship. On the surface, she could have won the girlfriend-of-the-year award. Then something amazing happened: engagement!
Everything looked great on the outside. But about two months into her marriage, she began to skip church and slip into despair. When I had a chance to talk with her, her honesty was shocking. She told me, "Rick I really thought a man would bring me happiness. Now I have one. He's a great husband, and I know he will be a loving father. But I am lonelier now than when I was single. What is my problem?'
Stacy's problem was that her contentment was built on a person rather than on God. If you struggle with discontentment now, you will struggle with discontentment when you are married. Discontentment is a sin. It should be recognized and repented of long before a relationship begins.
But don't misunderstand. Strong desire to have a relationship does not necessarily mean discontentment is present. It is noble and God-honoring to want a godly relationship and marriage. But the line is crossed if you start to feel sorry for yourself because you don't have a relationship, become jealous of those who do have a relationship, compromise or sin in order to obtain a relationship, or become frustrated with God because you are dateless. God is for us! Remember His promise in Psalm 84:11:
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
From those who walk uprightly.
If we walk with Him, we can trust God's providence to bring us what is good and keep from us what is not. This includes relationships. If you are not currently in a relationship, that means it's not good for you at this time. Marriage is not the solution to the discontentment you feel being single. Matrimony can never replace Jesus as the fulfillment of your heart's desire.
What do you think? How do you feel about Rick's comment, "If you are not currently in a relationship that means it's not good for you at this time"?
4. The Common Ground Principle
A Christian should consider only another Christian for a romantic relationship and marriage. Second Corinthians 6:14-18 teaches that believers and unbelievers mix no better than light and darkness. The Holy Spirit could not have been clearer. A Christian is not to be yoked with an unbeliever in any spiritual enterprise. And there is no such enterprise more important than marriage. God commands those who are seeking to be married to do so only "in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:39).
What do you think? Rick says, "There is no such enterprise more important than major." Do you agree? Why or why not?
The point, then, is simple: Don't marry an unbeliever! And if marrying an unbeliever is not God's will, then dating one is also out of bounds. Pursuing a relationship with an unbeliever is the most serious mistake you can make in this area. If you do not choose a person who has a living, breathing relationship in the Lord, there is disaster in your future (see 1 Kings 11:1-3).
I have heard so many justifications for dating unbelievers. But the most creative one is called missionary dating. The idea is that dating an unbeliever is a great way to expose them to Christ. I mean, think about it, how much more access can you have to a person's heart than through a romance? Nice idea, but unwise.
Other Christians enter into relationships with unbelievers because of their desire for a relationship. You know how this one goes. There is a nice Christian girl who is faithful at church, but no Christian guy shows any interest in her. Then it happens. She is sitting in her economics class her freshman year of college, and the cute guy sitting in front of her asks her out. She knows he is not a Christian, but her desire for a relationship elbows her wisdom out of the way - and an unequally yoked relationship is born.
Do you remember what happened to Solomon? He disobeyed God by marrying women from foreign lands with foreign idols. Solomon was considered the wisest man who ever lived. We might expect that if he had unbelieving women in his life, he would have been a good influence on them, right? Surely he would have led them to the Lord and not vice versa. But listen to the tragic consequences of Solomon's relationships with unbelieving women: "For when Solomon was old his wives turned his heart away after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God" (1 Kings 11:4). If wise King Solomon was ruined by relationships with unbelievers, who do we think we are assuming we can handle it?
This may seem restrictive, but let's face it. As Christian, we'll enjoy our relationships more if we can connect spiritually with our significant other, especially because our faith in Christ is the center of who we are as people. My favorite part of my relationship with my wife, Kim, is that we both love Christ and share His values. We love Him more than each other, and that enhances our love. Our relationship with the Savior brings us closer to one another. It gives us a common bond that nothing else could.
Taken from "5 Paths to the Love of Your Life" by Lauren Winner, Jeramy Clark and Jerusha Clark, Douglas Wilson, Rick Holland and Jonathan Lindvall. General editor: Alex Chediak. This content is used by permission of Th1nk Books (NavPress), and the book is available at your local bookstore or at www.navpress.com.
Dr. Rick Holland is the pastor of College and Student Ministries at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and an instructor at The Master's College and Seminary. Rick is a regular conference speaker, both nationally and internationally, and preaches weekly to a ministry of over one thousand collegians. Rick and his wife, Kim, have three sons.