Love, Marriage, and Sex
A Christian Dating Guide
God made us as physical, spiritual, and sexual beings. It's completely natural for teenagers to become
attracted to the opposite sex, and for young adults to contemplate
marriage. Dating is the process that we use for this, but it isn't just
a game where we pick a winner from a pool of prospects based upon our
preferences and self-interest. For each one of us, God has designed a
single person who will suit us best, and with whom we can bring the
most glory to God. Our job in the dating process is to seek out that
one right individual. Fortunately, the Bible gives us direction for
this process of finding the specific mate that God has chosen for each of us.
When we're dating, marriage should indeed be at the forefront of our
minds. We should approach the process of dating with the same careful
judgment that we use in finding a marriage partner, using our mind,
will, and emotions. When we discover that we're in a relationship with
someone who isn't our one right partner, we should immediately end that
relationship. So, what are the factors that God wants us to consider when dating and searching for our spouse?
Of course, spouses are
each other. The Bible teaches that this love
is three-fold. The two partners in a marriage must love
each other in the sense of maintaining a godly mental attitude toward each other which is free of
any bitterness or ill will. They must also love each other in
the sense of liking each other as friends, and enjoying each other's
company. Finally, they are to love each other physically, or sexually.
The first step toward love
is becoming friends. However, marriage partners must be much more than friends, and they must do more
than just "fall in love." We have all had friends from whom we
have been separated. We find that after a period of absence,
our friendship turns to forgetfulness. However when we love
someone, our love
doesn't lessen with absence. When we're away from that person, even for an extended period of time,
we still love
them, miss them, and long to be with them. It's easier to understand grief in this light. Even when a
person dies, our love
for them remains, and it pains us that we can't enjoy that person's company.
as it is described in Philippians 1:9-12, is enduring, kind,
faithful, and hopeful. It is never jealous, conceited,
unmannerly, irritable, self-seeking, demanding its rights, it never
takes pleasure in injustice, and it never fades.
Yes, real love
is durable. Perhaps one of the major causes of
failed relationship is the speed and extent of involvement before love
has time to gel. Too often, a couple "falls in love" too
quickly and emotionally. The circumstances can be deceptive,
although they seem perfect. A couple can seem to fall in love
on a moonlit night when, in reality, they don't even like each other.
Later, when the relationship cools off, they discover that they
would not make good marriage partners. Too often, they go
ahead and get married based upon a temporary emotional high, when their
relationship has not proven itself with the test of time. It
takes more than just common interests to insure a good marriage
relationship. For one, it takes diligent prayer,
which young people and their parents should begin early, perhaps even before the
children even have interests in the opposite sex. Potential
marriage partners should first establish their relationship
spiritually, before they start a physical relationship. Thus,
follow the principles of chastity before marriage, and physical faithfulness after marriage.
God instituted the divine institution of
marriage when he brought Eve to Adam. From this we can conclude that marriage is a
control placed upon the use of sex. Adultery and fornication
are acts of illicit sex among partners who are not married to each
other, and these acts are strictly forbidden in the Bible (Exodus
20:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:3). Even mental adultery, or impure
sexual thoughts, are forbidden (Matthew 5:27-28). Adultery is
the only grounds for divorce (Matthew 5:32), and marriage is
otherwise to bind the two partners until death.
God began marriage in Genesis 2:18, to give Adam companionship, and to keep him from being
lonely. The woman is to be a help to her husband, and the
incomplete and lonely man is made complete through marriage.
By Genesis 2:14, it is obvious that when two partners marry, they must
leave their parents and assume total responsibilities for their own
lives and actions, and for their own new family unit. There
is to be no dependence upon parents, once the partners are married.
Sexual problems can plague relationships
both before and after marriage. In a society that puts so much emphasis on outward
sexual expression, it's no wonder that sex is a major contributor to relationships gone
bad. Too often, these failures get their roots from partners
who confuse sex with love.
The Purpose of Sex
Let's begin with a biblical look at the
purpose of sex. The original purpose of sex, as seen from the Garden of Eden, was
for recreation, or companionship. This is the primary purpose of sex, it's
why God created sex. Adam needed companionship, and God gave him
Eve. Of course, procreation is another purpose of sex, by which we are
given children to rear. However, before the fall of Adam and
Eve, they had no children, and procreation was not a feature of their
sexual expression. Had the fall never occurred, Adam and Eve
could have simply lived together in God's garden forever. After the
fall however, procreation was created by God and it was made created as another purpose of sex.
This brings us to an interesting facet of the way God
created men and women. He gave us certain stimuli to assist us in our
physical relationship with the opposite sex. He gave us hand holding
as an initial and readily available means of beginning a physical
report. However, and interesting thing happens when a couple gets used to
holding hands. Just as with the initial desire to hold hands,
when this becomes a familiar practice, it loses the thrill that it
gave at first, and we feel new stimuli driving us toward a new
desire. The law of diminishing returns takes over, and we are
no longer satisfied with hand-holding. Well, God gave us
kissing, which we usually see as the next stage, when our initial
touching became the stimuli for more physical contact. Then comes the
stages of embracing, fondling, and sexual intercourse. God
made us such that each stage is a stimulus to move us to the next
stage. God never intended for kissing to stop with kissing! We also know that
this is not only true during a single sexual episode, but also
throughout the lifetime of the relationship. God made us able to
maintain a spirit of adventure in our physical relationships by
continually seeking and finding pleasing sexual situations with our marriage partner.
We need to consider God's physical design
of our sexual stimuli when we consider dating. Just as in marriage, when a
dating couple starts holding hands, it's not too long before they
are not satisfied with this level of sexual contact, and they
proceed through the same stages of sexual involvement which
God meant to be practiced only within the control of
marriage. Just as we have already said, "God never meant for
kissing to stop with kissing!" For those trying to stay true
to their commitment of chastity, they find that their desires are
properly stimulated but not properly fulfilled. A sufficient
stimulus without ultimate satisfaction produces frustrations toward the
partner. These frustrations can even be recalled after marriage, thus
creating long term resentment. Although the practice of complete
chastity before marriage is outdated in our culture, it seems to be the
only way of staying true to God's word and avoiding frustrations.
Once the slightest physical involvement is begun, it is guaranteed
to bring either frustration or a deeper level of involvement.
We would do well to remember that love develops into sex, not sex into
love. People do not need "experience" in sex in order to make
their marriage fulfilling. They will learn what they need to
know from each other, and they will love the process of
learning it. A good guideline for daters is to remember that you are probably dating
someone else's future spouse, and you should want to treat them
with the same respect that you hope someone else is treating your future spouse.
Parents should realize that solo dating without supervision is
an adult game. Participants must be capable of the
responsibility to place limitations on their physical relationships before
marriage. Without the proper maturity, young teenagers cannot be expected to have this level of responsibility. They
hardly even know their new adolescent bodies yet, and much less do they
realize their new responsibilities. Ecclesiastes 3:5 says
there is a time to refrain from embracing, and this time includes when young teenagers are dating!
In The Home Schooling Father, Michael P. Farris suggests three principles for courtship:
- Courtship should wait until one is prepared for marriage.
- Young Men
- A man is not ready
for marriage until he is ready to work and take care of his family's finances (Proverbs 24:27, 1 Timothy 5:8) (Psalms 127:3).
- A man is not ready for marriage until he is able to maintain a home.
- A man is not ready for marriage until he is ready to be a father.
- Young Women
- A woman should be prepared to teach her children.
- A woman should be prepared to be a homemaker.
- A woman should be prepared to be a mother.
- Any prospect for courtship should meet the
spiritual standards established together with one's parents.
- Any prospect for courtship should be a person who is personally
interesting and attractive to me (the easiest of the three).
One for One
The Bible teaches that there is one and only one
particular marriage partner for each of us. Just as God brought Eve to
Adam in Genesis 2:21-25, He will bring the right marriage partner to
each of us. Adam was incomplete, and his right partner made
him complete, and they were joined into one single flesh. God
did not bring Adam multiple wives, but only one. Monogamy is
still God's rule for us (1 Corinthians 7:2). Neither did Adam
have to roam the hills looking for the right companion, but he just
practiced faith rest, and accepted his right woman as a grace
gift when God brought her to him. God has designed the particular soul,
spirit, and body of each particular man, for the particular soul, spirit, and
body of a particular woman, just as he designed Eve for Adam. (Ephesians 5:31-31).
Also, God's order for the family is that the husband be the spiritual
leader of the family, and that he rule over the wife (Genesis
3:16). He is to be a guide and teacher for his wife
(Ephesians 5:25). Wives, in turn, are to respond to their
husbands spiritually, mentally, and physically (Ephesians
5:22). They are to respect their husband's responsibility,
and submit to it by lining up under his authority.
Jeremiah 31:22 speaks of the woman as being a "new thing" that
God created that would "encompass" the man. Eve was a "new
thing" in that the other animals in the garden were created on a lower
level, and those animals did not have particular mates with which to
exclusively share their lives. Eve was new in the sense that she would
belong to her particular man, Adam, for her whole life. She
would be faithful to him, unlike the animals who have no respect for a
one-for-one physical relationship which would last a
lifetime. Eve was the right woman for Adam, not just the right species.
Furthermore, each woman is to "encompass" her man in the
physical sense. God is telling us that he designed our bodies
specifically for our right partner alone. He made us to be a
close, exact, and unique fit physically. This is talking
about sexual intercourse where the woman physically encompasses and
surrounds the man, thus allowing maximum sexual fulfillment
for each partner by this custom-made design.
When it comes time to decide whether a particular
person of the opposite sex is the correct choice for a marriage
partner, the decision should be taken very seriously. We should ask God in
prayer, and He will guide us. We should also take the time to
ask ourselves plenty of serious questions about the person with
whom we are about to commit to spend the rest of our lives.
The following points are Biblical guidelines for selecting a marriage partner.
The first criterion for picking a marriage partner is
found in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, where we learn that Christians are not
to marry unbelievers. The three-fold expressions of love
can only be achieved by Christians, through Christ, so we can be
sure that any unbeliever who falls in love is only expressing
a temporary emotional attraction. This suggests an interesting
point about the dating period. How will we know whether our
partner is a believer or not, unless we ask them? This implies
that spiritual beliefs must
be discussed, preferably even before a date occurs. Though this is not usually the first thing on
the mind of a teenager, it is necessary in order to follow
God's guidelines for relationships. Unless you can be
satisfied that your potential partner is a believer capable of true love,
you should look elsewhere.
One myth that hurts many relationships concerns those partners
who are indifferent in their spiritual attitude. Quite often,
since the person seems like a nice, good, moral person, the
believing partner will presume that they will be able to lead
their lost partner into spiritual truth, after they start
dating, or after they are married. This is a false assumption.
The Bible supports no doctrine of dating evangelism. Though
the Christian can be a positive influence on the life of the
unbelieving partner, there are no assurances of their future
spiritual direction. They must still be converted through
the working of the Holy Spirit, like anyone else. Therefore,
since Christians are to marry only believers, they should
also date only believers, since each date should be considered a potential marriage partner.
Not only should a marriage partner be a believer, but they should
be developing their spiritual
maturity through regular Bible
study and prayer. The spiritual
maturity of the marriage partners
should be compatible, and the man should have the potential of taking
the responsibility as spiritual leader of the family (Ephesians 5:21).
Quite often, this guideline will limit the choice of a marriage
partner to those who share the same doctrinal beliefs. Because
of this, we should be careful when entering marriages between
two people who have had different spiritual background such as
being reared in different denominations, and especially Protestant-Catholic differences.
A mate should be selected based upon spiritual
maturity as described in the Bible. The following questions may prove helpful in selecting a mate:
Many of these topics will be covered in further detail in the following
paragraphs. Please note that although only one person (Jesus
Christ) ever lived a perfect life, the answers to the above questions
will be quite valuable in evaluating a prospective mate, as well as
examining one's own life.
- Does this person's life reflect the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22)?
- Does this person practice daily Bible study and prayer (Romans 12:1-2, Philippians 4:4-9)?
- Is this person humble
(Philippians 2:3, 2 Corinthians 12:7)?
- Is this person quiet (Proverbs 10:19, 17:27-28, 29:11, Luke 9:5,
1 Timothy 2:2, 6:4-5, 2 Timothy 2:16, Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 3:4, James 1:19)?
- Is this person a hard worker (1 Thessalonians 4:11)?
- Does this person listen to Godly counsel (Proverbs 12:15)?
- Can this person overlook an insult (Proverbs 12:16)?
- Does this person exhibit determination (Philippians 3:14)?
- Does this person like children (Psalms 127:3)?
- Does this person attend church
regularly (Hebrews 10:25)?
- Does this person's life reflect a freedom from worldly wickedness (Romans 2:29-32, James 1:19)?
- Depravity (a delight in evil)
- Holding grudges
- A hate for God
- Arrogance and boasting
- Obedience to parents
- Is there even a hint of sexual immorality in this person (Matthew 5:28, 1 Corinthians 6:18)?
- Is this person easily angered (1 Timothy 2:2)?
- Is this person too competitive (Romans 14:10, 15:7, Galatians 5:26)?
- Does this person complain habitually (Philippians 2:14)?
- Does this person worry habitually (Exodus 14:14, Philippians 4:4-9)?
- Will this man provide for my family (1 Timothy 5:8)?
Will this woman be a wife and mother of Godly character (Proverbs 31)?
More often than not, teenagers lack the
maturity, spiritual and otherwise, to enter marriage and live up to its demanding
responsibilities. There are fantastic changes in our outlook,
attitude, and desires between the ages of 16 and 18, and again
between 18 and the early twenties. If you are past your
mid-twenties, do you recall any serious changes in your attitudes
between the time you graduated high school and the time you graduated
college? Of particular concern during these years is the libido, or sex
drive, which is strong enough to sometimes force irrational decisions
in order that the demands of the libido be met. Ecclesiastes
3:1-5 teaches that there is an appropriate time for everything, and the
statistics show that the teenage years are not usually the time for
marriage, although some teenagers are successful by the grace of
God. Statistics tell us that 50% of those who marry in their
teens are divorced before the end of five years!
Parents are great assets when it comes to
deciding about a marriage partner. A couple should always have the approval of both
sets of parents before marriage. (Colossians 3:20, Ephesians 6:1-3).
Our parents know us, probably better than anyone else. They
have lived close to us all our lives. They can offer valuable
insights and advice, based upon their knowledge of us and upon their
own experiences. Young people usually lack the experience
required to make major decisions. It is truly a danger sign
for a young person to marry when he is in serious conflict with his parents.
It is probably a good principle to marry
someone with a similar level of education (Proverbs 16:16, 23). This guideline would then
imply that one's basic education be completed before marriage.
Education is responsible for many of the changes in attitudes
in young people, and if it is incomplete, we may be sure that
some changes in attitudes are forthcoming. Furthermore, a
lack of a high school diploma should give us a warning sign about a
potential marriage partner, since it may indicate serious character
deficiencies such as irresponsibility, or maybe an I.Q. level that
would not be compatible with ours.
So, far, we have discussed what should be expected of a marriage
partner. Now let's look at some of the things that should signals
of concern about potential marriage partners. These are things
that we don't want in marriage partners. These deficiencies
should be mastered before marriage, because they are often the causes of failed marriages.
A healthy mental attitude is a must for a
marriage partner, and one of the things that will certainly disturb mental health is
jealousy (Proverbs 6:34, Song of Solomon 8:6). A jealous partner
will deny the privacy of his mat. He is actually a neurotic
who will be constantly wanting attention. He will be obsessed
with his own ego, and he will be a taker instead of a giver. Don't marry a jealous person.
"Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with
a quarrelsome wife" (Proverbs 21:9). Proverbs gives many
warnings about the problems created by a person with a quick temper
(Proverbs 15:18, Proverbs 21:19, Proverbs 22:14). This will
cause the other partner to live in fear because this angry person will be constantly demanding his rights.
One of the first signs to be noticed in any person is their honesty,
which is a required trait for any marriage partner (Proverbs 29:24,
Romans 12:17, 2 Corinthians 8:21). If a person is prone to
cheating or other deceptions, he will not make an adequate marriage
partner. The other partner will never be able to trust this
person, and the distrust created will act as a corrosive element to the marriage.
The Bible has much to say against pride (Proverbs 11:2, Proverbs
16:18, Proverbs 19:23, 1 John 2:16). The proud person loves
status symbols, and may even want to marry one. His ego is
what he is really interested in elevating, not his marriage. This
person may aspire toward some image, either for himself or his spouse
(Proverbs 13:16). He may also mask his true personality so
that his ego won't be threatened. This is another reason for
allowing a lengthy period of courtship before marriage. We
need to get to know our partners and observe them over a period of
time, instead of planning to change them after we're married.
Popularity and social status should not be a factor in choosing
a marriage partner.
As mentioned above, God designed marriage to include sexual
fulfillment, but one must avoid a partner who wants to marry
only for sex (Ephesians 2:3, 2 Timothy 2:22, 1 Peter 4:2).
Other Potential Problems
Ephesians 4:29 and James 3:9-10 tell us not to associate with
those who use profanity. Certainly, if we're not to be with
them, we certainly wouldn't want them as marriage partners.
Romans 13:8 warns against those who go easily into debt. In a
marriage, this can quickly force the wife into the working
environment, even against the will of both partners. God intends
for us to be thrifty, though not stingy. As marriage partners
however, we must avoid the urge to keep up with the Jones's. It may
also be a good idea to avoid serious differences in the
age or background of your potential marriage partner. The most
serious problem created by mixed marriages is probably that the
children can be ostracized even when the parents are perfectly content.
God has designed a particular marriage partner for each of us.
We are to practice faith rest, and simply watch for the time when God
will unite us with that person, then thank Him for his grace
gift. We will be a perfect match for that person,
spiritually, mentally, and physically. We will share mutual
enthusiasm with that particular person, and we will love
them and relate to them in an attitude of gladly-given (grace) expression.
Owen Weber 2008