Earlier tonight, I was at my local college group at my church (Grace Bible Church in Bozeman, MT) called CrossLife where we heard a message about relationships. This weekend, Grace is hosting a Bible conference called "ADVANCE314" which is about "advancing in Christ" (I'm really looking forward to it!) and one of the big speakers, Rick Holland of Mission Road Bible Church in Kansas City, flew in a day early to talk to us in college, high school, the workplace, and who are already in marriages and relationships about the topic of relationships and what it looks like to have a godly one. Let me just say I was blown away, and if you had known of the events that transpired in the hours and days before tonight you would see the Lord working through this to bring about His glory.
In any event, the information I'm going to be giving out here is not that of my own, but of what Pastor Holland preached and what the Lord reveals to us through Scripture itself.
Regardless of whether you "date" or "court", both are eventually going to end up (if done right and for the right reasons) with marriage as the result. Personally, as of this very night due to how powerful the message was and due to myself recognizing the dating/relationship mistakes I've made in the past, I have decided that I am not going to date someone until I'm either ready to be married or until the Lord tells me that I've found someone who I'm supposed to pursue. In both my past dating relationships I've wanted to make them "God honoring", but in fact they turned out quite the opposite whether it was because I was compromising my beliefs one-by-one or because I fell into lust as opposed to love.
In relationships there are two extremes that most people find themselves having to balance between.
- Already choosing who you're going to marry before you meet them. This is particularly dangerous because you have put before yourself a pre-conceived notion that you know what's best for you and what/who you're going to get regardless of God's divine plan. Not to mention, if this is the way you're looking at your future marriage, then you have already limited your options to an all-time low by not giving people a chance.
- Running around dating a ton of people. I've heard a TON of people tell me that I need to "date around" to see "what's good for me", when in reality it's not necessarily about who is good for me (it is to a point but over-all not so much) but about who I can honor the Lord with until "death do us part". Throughout high school and college (and sadly enough even middle and elementary school nowadays) you constantly see guys and girls with new dates just about every week because they want to "test everyone out" before they find "the one". Unfortunately, this is a lot more harmful than some realize...
Before I move on I want to explain the difference between Love and Lust, because although many claim to know the difference, few actually do. Most people believe Love is an emotion, and to a point they are correct, but we have to be very careful with that because the "Love emotion" that most people feel is usually just straight up Lust trying to disguise itself so you feel justified in your actions and motives. Love, the way our media and Hollywood show us, does not exist in the way most people want it to. In fact, Love is not just an easily manipulated emotion (again, quickly becoming Lust if one is not careful), but Love is actually a verb. When you love someone, you don't need to tell them that constantly to reassure them or justify yourself to them, you show them through being at peace with them, being kind or good to them, being patient with them, by being faithful and gentile, and by having self-control. Sound familiar? That's because Galatians 5:22-23 talks about what we call the "Fruit of the Spirit", which begins with Love. Once you get Love down, the rest is the product of your efforts to love effectively.
In Proverbs 30, Solomon talks about three things that he finds amazing, four of which he doesn't understand (verse 18). In verse 19 he lists how (1) the eagle soars in the air, (2) how a snake slithers on a rock, (3) how a ship sails in the middle of the sea, and (4) a man with a young woman (a maid he calls her). Solomon was one to talk, he had thousands of wives and covenants which each of them. Solomon let his "Love" (really Lust as we talked about above) take control of his life and eventually they all lead him away from the Lord and towards all their false demon-gods.
When people say they want to have a "biblical marriage", does that mean they want to have one like Solomon did? Or David when he killed for Bathsheba? Or Esther who was chosen? Or Jacob who married the wrong woman? The list could go on for a while but I'll stop it there. When people say that they want to have a strong, godly, biblical marriage, they don't mean that they want to follow in the example of their favorite Bible heroes, they mean that they want to build their relationship on Christ as their rock and follow His commandments and principles placed throughout Scripture.
As the title of this post infers, there are twelve "C's" to healthy, godly relationships, and here's the first:
- Christ - Obviously right? If you are a believer and you are not pursuing a relationship that will strengthen your faith or that is honoring to the Lord, then you are already doing it wrong and need to get out immediately. Colossians 1:17 says that Jesus is before ALL things. All things! In the workplace, Christ is before your boss and your job. At school, He's before your teachers and your peers. At home, He's before your parents and siblings. Jesus is before EVERYTHING, and that ESPECIALLY goes for your relationships. When you don't start with Christ as the head of your relationship (verse 18 of that same passage), none of the following C's matter because the only "C", the hidden thirteenth C, that follows is Chaos, and that's a dangerous and destructive thing. Put Jesus first!
- Church - This one is important, though not nearly as important as Christ. In fact, out of all of the C's on this list, in my opinion this one is of the least importance. The only reason I say that, is because my parents (who remember, are not perfect) aren't terribly involved in the Church, yet their relationship still thrives around believers and non-believers. That being said, the Church is very important to the individual as well as the couple (especially the new couples) because the Church is there to support you and love you and be an example of how your relationship should look compared to Christ. Your relationship should thrive in a Church setting!
- Confirmation - This one is important because so many people miss it. Proverbs 12:15 says that "the way of a fool is right in his own eyes; but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise." Guys, if all your friends, family, co-workers, or even random people who encounter you and your significant other in general all are not sure of your relationship and try to convince you to see their point, chances are they're probably right. Chapter 21 of the same book goes on to say in verse 2 that "every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord pondereth the hearts." Ultimately the Lord knows if your heart is in the right place or not (going back to #1 above) and He usually puts it upon your friends or family's hearts as well if you or your significant other aren't willing to listen to Him. Often times, friends won't say anything because they're afraid of how you'll react, other times the Lord just wants YOU to figure it out on your own.
- Communication - Ephesians 4 talks a lot about how to communicate with one another within the Body of Christ (the Church) and I believe a lot of that applies to marriage or dating relationships as well, especially when talking about the "sun going down on your anger". Communication balance is important because either guys don't communicate well and they're misinterpreted or ignored. Women on the other hand often over-communicate and are also misinterpreted as well. Finding a common middle ground when it comes to communication is important if you truly want your relationship to thrive, the result of no common ground is endless conflict.
- Conflict Resolution - This one goes hand-in-hand with Communication and is really the same thing, though just as important. If conflict between you and your spouse or partner (I don't mean this in a sexual way, I mean this in context of dating) cannot be resolved then there is a major problem and it's possible you two are either not ready to be married or have deeper issues you need to resolve. Resolution is an important part in any relationship because no two people are exactly alike on everything and disagreements are bound to occur. Ephesians 4 also touches on this.
- Correction - As humans, we just don't like to be corrected. In relationships though, correction is super-important because someone, at some point, is bound to be wrong. Proverbs 27:5 talks about open rebuke being better than a "secret love", or knowing but not saying anything, while verse 6 goes on to say that kisses from an enemy are deceitful. Why do I bring that last bit up? Because if you want to be in a relationship that's honoring the Lord and you go out on a date say to the latest Halloween film, how do you think Jesus would react to that? If your partner got up and left and you asked him or her what was wrong, would you be open to correction if they told you flat-out that Jesus would not approve of us finding entertainment in serial killers killing people? You'd be surprised at how many people would say no and even go so far as to defend it. Be correctable, be teachable, you don't know everything no matter who you are.
- Convictions - This one is SUPER-IMPORTANT and could also easily be titled "Like-Mindedness". If you're interested in spending the rest of your life with someone, you need to find out what they believe. I'm not talking big issues like "are they saved?" (hopefully if you're reading this far and actively pursuing or are in a relationship you're already putting the first point into effect), I'm talking about do they believe in the pre-tribulation rapture, are they okay with abortions, divorce, or homosexuality, do they believe that the fallen angels came down and mated with human women in order to create the giants seen in the Old Testament, do they believe God used evolution or thousands of years to create as opposed to six literal days, etc. Why is this important? Because if you want to spend the rest of your life on Earth with this person and want to honor the Lord while doing it then simply enough you need to have the same, if not just similar, convictions swimming through the back of your mind. It makes everything a LOT easier. Talk about these things and ask questions BEFORE you are engaged or "serious". Make sure!
- Cash - Or Money. Do you have the same views on money as your partner? Where are your priorities? Is tithing a priority? Are food and clothing? How much do you spend on entertainment? This one is pretty straight forward. Remember, you cannot have two masters, God and money, you have to pick and choose (Matthew 6:24).
- Chastity - Or Purity. This one is also SUPER-IMPORTANT. Sex is an amazing thing. I have not had it, but the concept itself is incredible, I look forward to it one day. Sex is important because once you loose your virginity you cannot bottle it back up again for someone else. Once it's done, it's done. The thing about sex is that whomever you have it with, you are creating soul-ties with that person, and if you've had multiple sex partners then not only are you breaking the covenant of marriage, but you're also creating ties to other people you aren't supposed to. All men are tempted by pornography (many women nowadays too), but did you know that most women are tempted to act out pornography (as are men obviously)? Purity here doesn't just mean sexual purity, though certainly that, but also purity of mind, heart, soul, spirit, and emotion. Don't emotionally invest into someone in a "dating" type way when you're not going to marry them, it only makes it hard later. Matthew 5:28 reminds us that not only is committing a sexual act considered sexual immorality, but just looking at someone with Lust is as well. Does that mean looking at someone with Lust or masturbating causes us to loose our purity? According to Scripture it seems to, but I simply just don't know. All I know is that this is really important and one that EVERYONE struggles with and will struggle with. If you've already blown it and feel discouraged, don't! Christ's sacrifice on the cross redeems us of ALL our sins, and although you may not be able to be a virgin again, Jesus' love covers you in white and makes you pure again in His eyes, and if your future-spouse is serious about your relationship and honoring the Lord though it, he/she'll be just as forgiving.
- Children - This one can sometimes be scary, but it's just as necessary as any C that has come before. While dating someone, again having the intention of marrying them (hopefully), you need to begin to have conversations about children. If you want to have children or not, adopt, how many, what kind of schooling they'd have (public, private, home, Christian, etc. Hopefully not Catholic...), any convictions about or on children, etc. You need to be thinking about these ahead of time. When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them the Creation Mandate in Genesis 1:28 which basically meant "go have kids and take care of My Earth". To the best of my biblical knowledge, God has never told us to stop having kids! And if you can't have kids, adopt! The Father adopts each of us believers into His family (Ephesians 5:1), so why shouldn't we continue on that tradition? I'm not saying everyone need to have kids, that's like saying everyone needs to get married, but children are an important part of marriage. Marriage isn't just for you or even just for God, it's also for your kids. If your kids see you and your spouse always fight, then guess what, your child will do the same and pursue relationships like you and your spouse's. A child's environment is very much a factor in his or her future and plays a HUGE role in the type of relationships your child pursues from that point on.
- Care - Ever heard the phrase "sharing is caring"? Well, here you go! As two people in a relationship with each other, you need to care about one another, all the time! Another title for this section could almost just be Love! 1 Peter 3 talks all about the structure of marriage and how the husband and wife are supposed to love and respect each other, care for one another. You need to stop worrying about yourself, know your spouse (and not just in the sexual way), and care for them!
- Commitment - Finally, the last C is this, also known as Covenant. Not only should you be fully committed to the person you're going to marry and be selfless about it, but you need to remember what covenant means. A Covenant, in terms of marriage, is an unconditional commitment to someone who is just as imperfect as you as you walk through sin together striving to be more like Jesus Christ who has saved you by grace alone through your faith in Him. Love is a commitment. Marriage is a commitment. Dating and courting is a commitment. Proverbs 5 tells us to think about the consequences of breaking a commitment, of being unfaithful, think about them first and then forget it remembering that you made a promise to yourself, your spouse, and ultimately to the Lord. If there's one "Pre-Nup" that you would ever consider signing or committing to, Rick Holland says, and I agree, that it should say that you two would promise to "never talk about divorce". If you're planning on following each of these twelve steps, then there should be no reason for one any way, not that (according to Scripture) there ever really is.
Bless you all for reading this all the way through and getting this far, I know it's a lot, it was a lot to type too, but I truly believe that these things are important, and Rick Holland couldn't have done a better job of teaching them and sharing them with all of us at CrossLife earlier tonight. I want to stress that the twelve "C's" are NOT something I came up with (Rick did that), but something that Scripture fully supports. I may have written this piece and added in a few opinions, verses, and personal application to it, but this is not my message, and on some level it's not even Rick's (though it's also certainly his in some respect), but GOD's message for all of us as believers trying desperately to walk in his ways. I hope this was helpful to some of you, if even one person found this helpful I will rejoice. Thank you all for your time, blessings!