Well, it’s Valentine’s Day again. Yes, once again it’s that time of year where we express our eternal, undying affection for that guy or girl that we’ve fallen in love with by spending ridiculous amounts of money on cards, flowers, chocolates and teddy bears. Now while Valentine’s Day and all this romantic snuggle- wuggle- lovey- dovey- huggy- kissy- face stuff is enough to make The Doctor violently sick, it does provide an opportunity to discuss good relationships and what makes them work. This is mostly directed towards those of you who are really serious about following Jesus so if that describes you, then listen up…
Whether you’re involved with someone or not right now, it’s a good time to start thinking about the factors that go into a healthy, Christ-centered relationship. If you’re in a dating mode and you’re serious about Jesus Christ, then there are some things that you should definitely be considering while you’re out there looking for Mr. or Ms. Right. First off, let’s not kid ourselves- everybody wants someone who is physically attractive, right? That’s a given but unfortunately a lot of people who get together with a great looking guy or girl find out that physical attractiveness by itself is not the best way to choose someone to spend the rest of your life with. So what should we be looking for?
Well, here are a few items that you should definitely have on your mental checklist:
1) First and foremost, you should be looking for someone with a solid commitment to Christ.
This should be a no-brainer but it’s a trap that a lot of people fall into. If you are a Christian and are involved in a relationship with someone who isn’t, The Doctor has some advice for you- get out of that relationship! You see, many Christian teens who are involved with non-Christians are confident that their boyfriends or girlfriends will come around and really get right with God eventually. That may be true of course, but more often than not, it will be the non-Christian partner who will have the greater influence on the other.
Listen carefully while The Doctor gives you the hard truth: Each day the counseling offices of Pastors and other church leaders are visited by Christians who fell in love and married someone who was not really serious about following Jesus. These people have now found themselves trapped in unhappy relationships with partners who do not share (or have become hostile) to their faith. You definitely don’t want this happen to you.
Listen, if you enter into a relationship with a solidly committed Christian guy or girl -even though there may be problems- at least you will both be pulling in the same direction towards Christ. However, if you choose to enter a relationship with someone whose priority is not Jesus, then you will both be pulling in opposite directions. You don’t need The Doctor to tell you that doesn’t work.
If you’re starting to get the feeling that your boyfriend or girlfriend’s “Christianity” is more for your benefit than their own, it’s time to re-evaluate that relationship. You may have to make some hard choices but God will honor you and bring you through it if you put Him first.
Ok, what else? Well, another important thing is to…
2) Look for someone who exhibits Godly character
Good, Godly character is a foundational thing that you must have to build a lasting relationship. Unfortunately, the truth is that not everyone who calls themselves a Christian exhibits Godly character. So how can you tell if someone is really a person of Godly character? Well, just as you can identify a type of tree by the fruit it produces, you can also identify a type of person by the “fruit” that their actions produce.
A person with Godly character will be someone that you can trust, someone who will never lie to you. A person with Godly character will put you and your best interests ahead of their own. A person of Godly character will never intentionally embarrass you or say cutting, hurtful things to you. Some other important elements of Godly character can be found within the Bible’s definition of true love…
“Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand it’s own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong….If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
A person of Godly character recognizes you as a unique, special creation of God and treats you that way.
This final piece of advice is just as important as the first two…
3) Set definite physical limits to your relationship before you get involved with someone and stick to them
So, now we’re talking about what is physically appropriate and inappropriate in a dating relationship. How much physical intimacy is OK and what is “going too far”?
Well first off, let’s establish that the Bible clearly states that sexual activity before marriage is always wrong (See Leviticus 18:20, Acts 15:20, and 1 Thessalonians 4:3). The Scriptures tell us that the physical aspect of a male/female relationship is reserved for those who have made a permanent commitment to each other. This commitment is expressed by the act of marriage where you publicly vow before God to forsake everyone else except the person that you’re getting married to.
The problem lies within those so-called “gray areas.” Take kissing for example- a kiss can be totally innocent or wildly passionate depending on who is doing the kissing! So what can you do to determine what is appropriate and what isn’t? Well, here are some specific questions that you can use to determine what’s right and what’s wrong within a dating relationship… (1)
- Does the Bible give me any warnings regarding this specific thought or act?
- If there are no specific warnings, what general Biblical guidelines are there to help me decide what is right and what is wrong?
- Will this action lead us both to health, wholeness and Godliness, or to sexual lust?
- Ask yourself…
- “Is this good for me spiritually?”
- “Is this good for him/her spiritually?”
- “Does this honor God?”
To this, The Doctor would add that it’s also helpful to view your partner as a son or daughter of God. Any behavior that causes a physical desire within them that you cannot Biblically fulfill will cause his or her Father (and yours) great pain. Listen, the time to think about these things is now before you allow yourself to get into a situation where your body is doing your thinking for you. Remember- any behavior that creates a physical desire in your partner that you cannot Biblically fulfill is likely to be inappropriate!
Now there are many people within the medical and educational communities who are often heard to say things like this: “It’s just unrealistic to expect teenagers to abstain from pre-marital sex- they’re just going to do it anyway.” Such people seem to believe that you, as a teen, are unable to control your own body. Such people apparently feel that you are nothing more than a slave to your hormonal impulses. The Doctor thinks that’s bogus- he doesn’t buy that line of thinking and neither should you. Remember the words of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Listen, if you’re looking to establish a solid, loving relationship with that right guy or girl, remember to always put Christ first. There’s no better foundation on which to build a great relationship.
(1) These suggestions were adapted from Dr. Charles Mylander’s excellent book, Running The Red Lights © 1986, published by Regal Books