The first thing you are required to answer if you are dating someone and you go to church is this, “So are they a Christian?” Then if you answer yes, your next goal is to date in a Christian way, and then of course have a Christian marriage, and raise Christian kids. But here’s my question – what does that actually mean?
One of my favorite scenes in the Bible happens in John 6. Jesus starts out by feeding the 5000. For an encore He walks on water. Now the crowds figure this out and so they show up to greet Him and the disciples. The conversation goes essentially like this.
Jesus says, “You are here because of the miracle yesterday.” They say, “Um obviously.” Jesus says, “You need to work for the stuff that lasts, not the bread that you need more of.” They then ask what they need to do. Jesus says, “The work of God is this, to believe in the one whom He has sent.” In other words, “Stake your whole life on me.” Their response is classic. “Give us a sign that we may believe.” He of course refuses and they all leave.
Here’s what’s funny. If Jesus would have answered the work question with any sort of job, they would have done it. If He would have said, “Stand on one foot and dig a ditch 100 meters while saying the levitical code backwards,” they would have tried to do it. But actually staking their life on Jesus, not so much. They didn’t want much to do with Him.
This is a constant battle as we think about singleness, marriage and the Church and really any other area of life.
It is easy to get wrapped up in formula and for that matter religion. The real question is, what is your identity in? Are you, your relationships, friendships, singleness, marriage and church about Jesus?
We end up with the wrong goals. We want a family centered church. Everyone wants a Christian marriage and certainly to have a Christian household. And if you’re single, then your job is to not have sex (because that’s not Christian) and if you do date, do it in a Christian way.
But this can be a trap for all of us. It doesn’t matter what you call it, or if you follow all the rules, if you don’t actually walk with Jesus. It gives us the wrong identity and it can make us come up short.
I’m not saying all the rules or ideas are wrong. For example, not having sex outside of marriage is right. It’s Biblical. It’s from God. And the truth is that if I’m following Jesus, He is not going to lead me to have sex unless I’m married. But the problem is that I can abstain from sex and still not follow Jesus. It’s not the having or not having of sex that makes me about Jesus.
This is so important as we are seeking a spouse. We can’t just say, hey that girl/guy goes to church so it must be good to go. We can’t just date, go to church, be in a small group, not have sex, and call it good (although again, those are all good things). The real questions are more like, “Is this other person really trying to follow Jesus?” “What is the fruit of this person’s life?” “Does it seem like Jesus is in this?” “Am I brought closer to Jesus by the relationship?”
But this goes way beyond who to date. What do we want our marriage to look like? There are so many marriages that are “Christian” more in name than in action. Marriages without fruit and growth. Marriages where we are “good people” and “plugged in” but yet don’t really seem to be about Jesus.
And finally, the Church get’s wrapped up in this too. They get so concerned about the nuclear family, marriage and single people not having sex, that pretty much that’s all they are about.
We end up with our identity being in a religion, self-righteousness, our kids, family or marital status that we miss actually walking with Jesus.
Our first call is to know and love Jesus. This is true regardless of literally anything else in our lives. This is what brings us together. It’s what makes US the family that matters most. It is what keeps things like marriage and family from becoming idols (whether we have them or not). It’s also the hardest thing to do. Which is why Jesus calls it work.
My thought is this. What if we didn’t worry about Christian singleness/dating/marriage. What if we worry about trying to follow Jesus and all of that will take care of itself. I get the dangers of that statement, but that doesn’t make it wrong.
Are your relationships Jesus centered or just “Christian”? What kind of marriage or singleness do you want?