Practical Steps for a Christ-Centered Relationship

Chances are, you have been told before that when dating, you should seek to maintain a Christ-centered relationship. But this is not as simple as it may sound. The Bible, after all, contains no step-by-step guide on how to please God in your dating, nor are there any children’s Bible stories which directly teach us how to date. The culture of Bible times was very different from our own, especially regarding marriage. This is not to say, however, that the Bible can simply be thrown out when we consider how we ought to date. Whether you are currently dating someone or are single and looking to the future, the Bible contains much wisdom for you on this subject. There are principles in Scripture which we can apply to our relationships, taking practical steps to ensure they always remain centered on Christ. We are concerned here with three such practical steps: attending spiritually formative activities together, doing devotions with one another, and dating for marriage.

At the end of Acts 2, we find a striking passage. After Peter gave his sermon on the day of Pentecost, we read that roughly three thousand people were converted to the faith, and that “all that believed were together, and had all things common” (vs. 44). The people had fellowship together and enjoyed the benefits of that fellowship, which included the spiritual growth and unity implied here. Growth in the faith need not be only a private activity. Rather, there is something beautiful about spiritual growth occurring corporately.

In a relationship, too, spiritual growth is a beautiful thing. To grow together, make a point of spending time with one another at the sorts of activities or events which stimulate development, not only those that “sound fun.” Instead of going out to eat next week, consider going to that speech being put on by one of the churches’ evangelism committees. Instead of heading to the beach tomorrow night, head to the Young Calvinists Talking Points event. Go to church together for one of the services next Sunday. More importantly, do these things with a purpose. In our circles, it is somewhat normal to attend such events together while dating (especially going to church together). But doing so ought not merely be a formality. Talk together about what you learned at the speech. Discuss differences in delivery or style between your pastors. Spiritual growth does not happen in an entirely passive way; you need to take the initiative if you want to grow together. When you do continue to develop in the faith together, Jesus will inevitably become more central in your life, as well as to your relationship with one another.

Another means of growing spiritually is by doing devotions together. If you are already doing personal devotions each day (and hopefully you are), it should be obvious to you that this causes you to grow closer to the Lord. Choose a book of the Bible and work through it together, looking for themes and application to your relationship but also to life in general. Pray for one another and for wisdom in your relationship. Pointing one another to spiritual matters, even from a very early stage, is Biblical. In the book of Ruth, a beneficial read for anyone in a relationship, Boaz pointed Ruth to God almost immediately after meeting her, and she said that this “comforted” her (see Ruth 2:5-13). Reading the Bible, discussing it, and praying together are invaluable ways of ensuring that Christ always comes first, even if you have not been together for very long.

Just as we ought not fear to point one another to Scripture and spirituality early in a relationship, we ought also not fear to consider from an early stage whether or not our significant other would make a godly spouse. “But,” you may say, “I’m not ready to think about that yet. I just want to enjoy spending time with him/her and go on fun dates together.” If that is your attitude, you should give serious thought to this question: am I ready to date? Dating is not merely an opportunity to have some fun. It is the means by which you determine whether or not God is calling you to marry someone, and we ought to take it seriously. This does not mean, of course, that we can never have fun in a dating relationship. On the contrary, if you are never having fun with your boyfriend or girlfriend, that too bodes poorly for the future. But if your only focus is to spend time and have fun with a person to whom you are attracted for physical and emotional reasons, you open the door for making your relationship entirely focused on personal pleasure. This is not how we should date. The Bible says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (I John 2:16). To make your relationship purely about enjoying one another’s presence and the nice things you do for each other is to adopt a dangerous attitude, one which cares more for the things of the world than those of the Father.

Alternatively, we should date with a view toward marriage. In Genesis 24 we read of the marriage of Isaac. When Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son, the servant found Rebekah and desired her to immediately come back with him. Rebekah’s brother and mother wanted her to “abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go” (verse 55). But when they asked Rebekah to choose in verse 58, she decided to go immediately. Again, it should be noted here that dating is a practice very different from that of Biblical arranged marriages. However, the attitude of Rebekah is an admirable one, and we can all learn from it in our dating. Do not simply delay thinking about marriage to enjoy the pleasures of this world for a time; instead, be willing to consider immediately whether it is God’s will for you to marry one another. In so doing, Jesus will become more central to how you date: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

There are countless different influences from the world around us telling us what our relationships should be like. For the child of God, however, the center must always be Christ, our King. Maintaining such a relationship is admittedly difficult, but the Bible does provide some help for us. By striving always to have Christ at the center of our relationships, we can effectively follow Paul’s advice to Timothy in II Timothy 2:22 together: “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

Matt Koerner

As Christ and the Church

Whether you are married, engaged, dating or single, the issue of marriage should be important to you. The thought that goes into marriage is so skewed in the world today, that we as Christians must take heed to not let it affect us. In the last few months, I have put a lot of thought into my upcoming marriage, and how marriage is perceived by so much of the world. The world is so set on equating men and women, and if they can’t make that happen, they try desperately to set women above men in any way possible. Traditional marriage is so often seen as nothing more than an excuse for male chauvinism. It’s not. It’s an incredible balancing act, a cooperative, working relationship between two people, who, although they are not equal in authority, are equal in value.

The Form for the Confirmation of Marriage Before the Church that is used by the PRCA shows clearly our stance on marriage, that being male headship. It exhorts the bride to be the biblical help-meet for her husband, using phrases like “honor and fear him” and even uses that scary word “obedient” that so many women seem to be afraid of. That scary word comes up again in the portion of the form that contains the vows, where the bride vows to “be obedient to him, to serve and assist him…” This is not simply the opinion of an old fashioned, old school denomination either, this is backed up by the very Word of God (see Genesis 2:18, 3:16, Ephesians 5:22-24).

So no, marriage is not a fun-filled, co-dependent, equal-opportunity relationship. The only relationship in which persons perfectly co-exist without any dispute over cooperative ruling is the relationship of the persons of the Trinity. In any human relationship there simply must be a leader. In marriage it is to be the husband.

So what if we (women, or the world’s viewpoint of women) stopped being so selfish (because that’s what it is), and quit looking at what we have to do, don’t get to do, or who we have to listen to, and what if we looked at what men have to do, don’t get to do, or who they have to listen to. Let’s go back through the marriage form and look at traditional marriage from the groom’s side, and maybe we will see why marriage isn’t cruel or controlling, but rather an amazing bond.

First, we had looked at the exhortation to the bride, so let’s look at the exhortation to the groom now. In this section we find a call to “lead her with discretion, instructing, comforting, protecting…” That may not sound so bad, but think of the selflessness all of those things take. The exhortation goes on even further about the incredible love commanded of the husband.

Next, we looked at the vows in the form, in which the husband now swears to “never forsake her, to love her faithfully; to maintain her as a faithful and pious husband is bound to do…”  Again, see the selflessness here, as a man vows to work hard (see the end of the exhortation again) to provide physically, emotionally and spiritually for the woman he loves, the woman God has given him. Again, this is not the opinion simply of an old fashioned church, but Scripture backs this up. See Genesis 2:24 and Ephesians 5:25-29.

Is this what we are afraid of submitting to, this kind of authority? When a woman takes marriage vows, she isn’t vowing to obey a controlling, careless spouse. She is promising to submit to a man who has just sworn that he will love his wife as tenderly and powerfully as Christ loves his Church.

I found something interesting while researching appropriate passages for this article. As I searched online for common wedding texts, I found that Ephesians 5 came up several times. That is fitting, and I did use it several times as you’ve seen. However, the verses that were selected were only the verses regarding the husband’s duty to his wife. There were no verses found about the wife’s duty to her husband. The world is so afraid of submission that they pick and choose verses that do not require that of them.

Are we so afraid to submit to a man who is called to behave himself toward us as Christ does to the church? Do we think it will be miserable? Are we miserable when we (as the church) submit to Christ? No! Submitting to Christ is what the church does joyfully, as our duty to the Lord who loved us unconditionally, so much so that He gave up His life! Greater love has no man (John 15:13)! So don’t let the world’s jaded idea of marriage fool you, a Christian’s marriage is a beautiful picture of Christ and the Church. A man and woman must understand that in marriage, they do have different roles to play, but when they are played correctly, God is glorified and our lives are enjoyable and blessed.

Suzie Kuiper

Date Like You Mean It

It’s easy not to think too deeply about the things that we do when we are young. It’s way too easy to get caught up in the excitement or passions of the moment without giving a lot of hard considerations to the choices we are making. Dating is a perfect example. It is so easy to get caught up in how attracted we are to someone, how they make us feel, and the fun of the adventure, that we forget how to take it seriously. But as young Christian people, we should be dating like we mean it.

The “imperativeness” of this can be understood when we realize what dating is meant to accomplish and picture. Ultimately dating is a means to an end: marriage. And marriage is not just about our wants or our happiness. If that were true, then there would be nothing wrong with gay marriage, divorce and remarriage, or even polygamy. The truth is, however, that marriage is all about God. It was created and instituted by the King of Kings at the beginning of time (Genesis 2:18-24). It is of His invention and not our own- He set the rules. He established what it was made to picture: the sacred and beautiful union of love between Christ, the Bridegroom, and His bride the Church. That is the holy relationship we are meant to emulate as we walk before the One who established such a bond! Marriage is no trivial matter. Likewise, the activity of dating cannot be either.

Also, the closer that two young people become, the greater the physical attraction between the two becomes. The deeper that your intimacy becomes in sharing time and conversations with one another, the deeper the desire for physical intimacy grows as well.  This is natural. After all, God created us to become “one flesh.” All the raging hormones of our youth does not help matters- it only makes the desire for that physical relationship that much stronger and overwhelming. In fact, so many relationships become so wrapped up in the physical, that they forget to nurture the spiritual and emotional bonds. It can so easily become the focus. And so, it is very easy for individuals, young and old alike, to “burn” in their lusts (I Corinthians 7:9).

Thus, dating leads to temptation. When it is done flippantly, with no view of the future or toward marriage, there is nothing to “wait for.” How easy it becomes to “burn” in lust. Of course this is no different for a young couple looking to marry, however, with the promise of marriage there is an end goal. They have something to look forward to, and know that the physical intimacy will be a blessed part of their union in Christ. This is yet another reason to take dating seriously. Can you stay pure as you draw close to another person, when you aren’t even thinking about marriage? If you are lost in the fun and thrill of the idea of a relationship, but aren’t developing the boundaries and the bonds that will keep you strong and connected spiritually and emotionally, then what are you expecting to get out of the relationship? Your thrills and desires can carry you away. And so, as Paul said, “it is better to marry than to burn.” Date like you mean to take it seriously, not just because you are infatuated or thrilled.

Marriage is about so much more than just the physical. Sure, that is a blessed and important part of marriage, and pleasing in God’s eyes when done in the context of marriage, but it is not what the marriage itself is grounded on. Therefore that shouldn’t be the focus of dating, either. Don’t just look for someone “cute” or “funny,” though those traits are by no means bad! But rather, look for a man of God who will lead you and his family in Christ. In life, God is first, above all things (I Cor. 10:31). In our dating and marriages the same should be true. Establish a relationship that is pleasing to the Lord. Spend time getting to know one another and growing in your faith. Make God your first priority. Love for one another can only come from Him (I John 4:7-19). A strong marriage is built on the love that flows out of our Lord, and without Him, we have no strength.

Let this guide both who you choose to date, and how you both go about spending time together and getting to know one another. Date a man who is strong in the Lord, and nurture a relationship of service to him and to your Lord, and not to your own lusts, wants, and feelings. Put God first:  don’t sacrifice Him for the approval of a person you are attracted to. And don’t forget: while you date you are getting to know the person that you may very well spend your whole life with. Are you using that time wisely to get to know them? Are you using this time to know their thoughts, their views, their attitudes towards life? Now is the time for that. Use it wisely. Remember… take dating seriously.

Abby Huizing