You were created with a purpose and that purpose is: deep relationships. You can go ahead and write that down, stick it on your refrigerator, make it the wallpaper on the screen of your smart phone. Send it out on twitter or update your Facebook status. You were made for deep relationships.
All the way back in Genesis, God created Adam as a living, breathing being to have a deep relationship with God. God gave Adam free will so he could choose whether or not to love God. That freedom to choose is the essential hallmark of a deep relationship. Deep relationships are only possible when we can choose.
God didn’t stop with just a deep relationship between God and man. That wasn’t good enough. So God made Eve because deep relationships with other human beings is essential too. Eve was so much like Adam (she was made from his own rib) yet Eve was also essentially different from Adam (she was a woman, not a man). This mysterious difference between the sexes makes for one of the deepest relationships known to humanity.
We were made for deep relationships. What is a deep relationship? A deep relationship is a profound, caring connection of mutual support, cooperation, and trust. Our soul yearns for deep relationships. The first deep relationship we encounter is with our mother. It starts before we are even born, while we are still in the womb. Then we are born and meet our father. Fathers share equally in caring for the needs of the child. The father and the mother both love the child, but they often express their love in different ways. A mother’s love tends to be more passive and nurturing while a father’s love is often more assertive. Both the father/child and mother/child relationships are deep relationships and a child does best with access to both kinds.
We enjoy other deep relationship throughout life. We have deep relationships with our family—brothers, sister, grandparents, and cousins. We make friends. We have girlfriends or boyfriends. We may marry and form a deep relationship with a spouse. We can also have deep relationships with colleagues and coworkers or with people in the Church.
Over the next few weeks, we are going to look at ways to improve the different types of deep relationships we share in life. Today, I want to share some important advice from the Word of God that is especially applicable for people who are dating. However, it also applies in other deep relationships.
2 Corinthians 6:14-16
14 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? 15 What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? 16 And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.
In Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Atticus Finch said, “You can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family…” There’s a lot of wisdom in that. In the context of deep relationships, it tells us we have little choice about some of our deep relationships—like our family. However, there are many relationships we can choose. One of the most important deep relationships we choose is who we date.
I will never forget the first time I told Kelly I loved her. We’d only been dating a little while. After an evening together, I brought Kelly home and walked her to the door. She gave me a kiss goodnight and I said “I love you.”
Oh no! What was I thinking?!? In all honesty when I said “I love you” that night, it really wasn’t a conscious choice. I didn’t think to myself ‘I think I’ll tell Kelly I love her tonight.’ It just sort of came out.
You see, in my family growing up, we always said “I love you.” We said it when we went to bed, when we parted company, when we said goodbye on the phone. It was such a habit, I even accidentally said “I love you” to the pizza guy once. Yeah, I was ordering a pizza over the phone and I was like, “I would like a large pepperoni pizza delivered to 4309 Vinson Ave. How much is that? Ok. Yes, I would like extra cheese. Thank you. So it’ll be here in 30 minutes or less. Great! I love you. Bye! [Click.]” How awkward is that?
Well that night after our date when I said “I love you”, Kelly did not reply with “I love you too” (like my Mom always did). And I knew I had made a big mistake by the awkward silence that followed. Kelly called later that night. We had a long talk as she explained why she didn’t say, “I love you.” She said she felt those were some very important words and she didn’t take them lightly. She said that when she finally did say them, I would know she really meant it.
Funny thing is, I’m not sure if I really loved Kelly when I said those words to her the first time. But after our telephone conversation that night, I think I really did start to love Kelly. I thought, ‘Wow. This is a really special woman. Such honesty. Such wisdom. Such authenticity. I could marry someone like her.’
It’s important to think carefully about the person you’re dating and decide is this is the kind of person with whom you should be in a deep relationship? Do they have the kind of values you believe are most important? Are they the kind of person who will help you grow as a person. Are they the kind of person you could spend the rest of your life with? If you surround yourself with amazing people, they will inspire you to be amazing. However, 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.””
Kelly and I learned a lot about each other as we talked on the phone about the words “I love you” that night 24 years ago. We were sorting out what be believed about love. We were also learning how we communicated. We found out how the other person was brought up and how we would like to bring up our own family. (Incidentally, Kelly eventually decided that she really liked my family’s tradition of saying “I love you” often. And to this day in our family, we tell each other and our children “I love you” every chance we get.)
Hopefully, one of the chief values you will expect in a person you date is that they are Christian. Paul’s advice in 2 Corinthians 6:14 is very important here. He said, “Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers.”
A Christian’s faith is the very core of who we are. A Christian is a person who has decided to give Jesus their complete allegiance. A Christian seeks the Kingdom of God above all else. A Christian has committed to follow Christ wherever he leads. Why, then, would a Christian choose someone who is not a Christian as their most important teammate? You need someone who shares your most basic, core faith. You need someone who will help you be the best Christ-follower you can be and someone whom you can help in the same way.
I would advise you--if you are a Christian--to be clear upfront with any person you date that you are a Christian and your faith is very important to you and you are looking for someone who shares your beliefs and values. And don’t settle for someone who says they are a Christian. Look to see if their actions align with their words. Do they live as a Christian? Are they active in church? Do they serve others as Christ calls us to? Do they have a real relationship with Jesus? Now you’re never going to find the perfect person—perfect people don’t exist, but it’s reasonable and wise to expect the person you might spend the rest of your life with to have values you think are important.
Even if you are not dating, these principles still apply to other deep relationships you choose. Consider the other types of deep relationships with which you might get involved. I advise you to take these words to heart.
The second thing I would advise you when you are dating--don’t move too fast. Who you marry is a very important decision; it will have a huge impact on the next 40, 50, or even 60 years of your life. Take your time. Kelly and I dated for two and a half years before we married. At the time, it seemed like a very long period, but now that we’ve been married for almost 22 years, it doesn’t seem that long at all.
It takes time to really get to know someone and you want to know them pretty well before you make such a deep commitment as marriage. There’s a lot going on in the early stages of dating. Both people are trying to make the very best impression. And because of the way our bodies and brains work, we initially look for all the things we like about someone we date while at the same time overlooking as many of their faults as we can. That’s why the early stages of dating can be so exhilarating; your girlfriend or boyfriend just seems so wonderful and perfectly suited for you. Of course they do, because you are drunk on hormones and they’re trying real hard to show you their very best. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a good match, but it does mean it would be wise to give the relationship plenty of time to reveal a less biased picture. Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” The same holds true for men. Give the relationship time to move past the initial charm and physical attraction so you can see if they are still someone you want to spend your life with.
It’s Just Dating
Now, some people would say, “We’re just dating. It’s not that serious. It’s not like I’m gonna marry them.” I understand that sometimes you just want to go on a casual date. But you have to understand the way the human body functions. God designed us for deep relationships. Therefore, the very biology of our bodies—the chemicals, the hormones, our emotions and psychology—is geared to drive us to into a deep relationship with someone of the opposite sex. People who think they can just casually date anyone—regardless of their values—without it ever becoming serious misunderstand the powerful lure for people to bond. We are designed for deep relationships and our casual relationships naturally grow deeper and deeper. Before we know it, we are in too deep.
The deeper the dating relationship the harder it is to turn back. Perhaps, that is why so many people marry the wrong person. Even if they see the red flags in the relationship early on, they can’t turn back because they’re already in over their heads. I often counsel with people with marital problems because they don’t like something about their spouse. I ask, “Didn’t you know this person had this bad quality when you were dating?” They usually say, “Yes. But I was in love” or they say “I guess I thought they would change.”
Be careful. You might think you’re just going on causal dates, but don’t underestimate the potential relationship you or the person you’re dating might be drawn into. Make every effort to date people you believe share your values. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
What if You're Already Married?
"But what if I’m already married?" That’s a great question. The Apostle Paul gave some advice for Christians who are already married to non-Christians. In 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 Paul basically advised Christians who are married to non-believers to remain married and work for their spouse’s conversion. If this describes your marriage, I would encourage you to pray for your spouse to come to know Christ. Don’t nag them about their faith or badger them to death to go to church. Certainly, you can look for good opportunities to encourage them or invite them, but don’t be overbearing. Remember, it is the Lord’s job to convict and convert your spouse. You are only to love them and support them and to be a tool in God’s hand. Who knows what God might do? Make it a matter of daily prayer and live your Christian life in such a way that your spouse cannot help but admire your faith and be attracted by it.
If you are struggling with other marital problems besides differing religious views, I would advise you to be proactive and work as hard as you can to overcome you problems. Talk to your spouse about your concerns. Talk to your pastor or seek marital counseling for a qualified marital counselor. Marriage is sometimes difficult (that's why it's so important to make careful choices in the beginning while we are still dating if we can!). Click here for more on marriage and dating.
Paul warned the Corinthians not to team up (in deep relationships) with unbelievers. This isn’t limited only to dating relationships. Consider the other types of deep relationships you have in life (especially the deep relationships you choose)--the people with whom you do business, the company for which you work, your close friendships, partnerships, etc. How does Paul’s advice apply in these relationships?
It would be nearly impossible for Christians to go through life without having any dealings with non-Christians nor should we. I believe the love of Christ and His great commission compels us to reach out to non-believers. (How else are we supposed to introduce them to Christ?) However, we need to be especially careful about the kinds of relationships we develop with non-Christians and the depth to which we take those relationships. We can choose some of the relationships we commit to, others we can choose how deeply we commit. In every relationship, you should be careful and “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
The most important deep relationship we can have is one with Jesus Christ. It is the one relationship that puts everything else on the right path. Until we get our hearts right with Jesus, we will have problems with everything else. You will struggle with your family life, your dating relationships, your marriage, your work-life, your friendships, your children.
It’s time to break down and surrender. That means you’ve got to submit everything to Jesus. You’ve got to give up trying to be in charge of your life. Let Jesus be in charge. He knows what you need more than you know yourself. He loves you so much, he died on a cross to pay the price for your past mistakes. Through Jesus, you can make a fresh start and follow his way of living--where you will develop deeply refreshing, meaningful, and uplifting relationships that will help you live life to the fullest.
Wouldn’t you like to give Jesus a try? Then what’s stopping you? Pray to him right now. Ask him to come and take charge of your life. Ask him to forgive your past mistakes and lead you from now on. Promise to trust Jesus and follow him wherever he leads you and you will be truly blessed. And ultimately, you will spend eternity with God in His glorious Kingdom. Don’t delay. Ask Jesus into your heart today.