College ministries often have the reputation of being a more subtle E-Harmony. Though often thought of as negative, it shouldn’t be. The church is, perhaps, the best place to meet the person you will one day marry.
But, I’ve been wondering…
What if the core element of Christianity, Jesus Christ bringing reconciliation to God, pardon forgiveness from God and victory over sin actually shaped the dating relationships that began in the church.
Here are some ways forward, though written to men they are equally for women…
How do you treat her? Like a sister or a commodity (1 Timothy 5:2): Paul tells his younger friend to treat the young women in the church he leads as “sisters” and with “purity.”
If it was something Paul felt compelled to tell Timothy it applies to you as well.
How does this shape a dating relationship or a the pursuit of a relationship?
It means she’s been bought with a price. It means that if you are in Christ she is your sister.
Contrary to what the magazines in check-out aisle suggest, women are not a commodity or a resource for satisfaction (or a buffer against insecurity). They are gifted, mysterious and bearers of God’s image. Approach them as sisters, nothing less.
God’s love for her is greater than your love for her (Ephesians 5:20-32): Sure, you love her. I get it. But you don’t love her as much as God loves her. Paul shows this in Ephesians 5. I know the passage is about marriage but think about it. Paul takes the most profound love-relationship that exists among humans, marriage, and says that God loves His church that way. And that God’s covenant-love expressed in Christ is better, bigger and deeper than any other husband. Paul essentially says, husbands learn from the best husband.
Men, if you want to honor your girlfriends look to Jesus’ love for the church.
What does that mean? It means that while you think you love her, in and of yourself, you don’t know what’s best for her. God does. It means God’s picture of relational love (incarnational and sacrificial) should define all your relationships, especially your girlfriend.
It means you speak God’s loving word over her rather than cajole and pressure her with your broken desire. It means that you seek to present her radiant and without blemish, rather than leaving her emotionally wounded and in need of counsel.
God’s love in Christ is a compass north for the boyfriend as well as the husband.
Her relationship with God is more important than your relationship with her (Galatians 4:4-6). I know you think your relationship with her is the most important thing in the world but it’s not. It just isn’t.
“Boyfriends are speed bumps” is what a friend once told me. It’s true, kind of. God’s relationship with her is more important than her relationship with you.
So if you really love her you will want her to grow spiritually, even if it means breaking up.
If you get this you will realize that God has adopted her as his daughter and is seeking to grow His life in her. If you aren’t helping her towards spiritual growth in Christ you might not love her—in fact you probably just love yourself and appreciate the feeling she gives you.
Pointing her towards the true love found in Christ is the sign of real love.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:16)
The truest part of her is not her feelings for you but her being “in Christ” (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). Sure, your feelings are strong but they’re not the truest part of you or her. Paul is so emphatic on this point that he says in two different places that the truest part of ourselves is us being in Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slavenor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:11).
If you understand that at the core of who she is lies her identity in Christ, not her feelings for you, then you can begin to truly respect and honor her. Then you can begin to truly know her.
God, help us to let your love shape our love.
Help us to love like you love.
We need your Spirit for this—help us.