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Christian relationships have a purpose. That is, to honor and glorify God and to lead to marriage.
Human beings are designed for connection. We thrive when we are in supportive and healthy relationships. But according to Pew Research, almost half of Americans consider dating and relationships harder now than in the past ten years. They perceive relationships to involve more emotional and physical risk. In a changing world, how should Christians navigate relationships?
What is the Definition of Christian Relationships?
The Bible does not define in detail what dating is. But it contains wisdom and commands about relationships. Biblical dating has one purpose, and that is to honor God in the relationship. As opposed to “playing the field,” the goal of biblical dating is marriage. A man and a woman desire a spouse to journey in the faith and go through life. It involves a person surrendering and submitting to the Lord.
And, in so doing, it serves a specific role in marriage and family building. A solid commitment to each other characterizes biblical dating. It does not base thoughts, words, and actions on worldly advice but on the truth of Scripture.
Have you read a romance novel film filled with intense passion? Or have you watched a mushy romantic film about “finding the one” with a roller coaster of emotions? Media like movies, TV shows, songs, and social platforms, form our ideas about modern dating. These narratives often involve physical intimacy, exploration, and personal desires.
Men and women choose these over obedience to God. In modern dating, the goal is not always marriage. These relationships operate around principles of contemporary beliefs and norms about dating rather than the Word of God.
What Does the Bible Say About Christian Relationships?
Foundation of a godly relationship
A successful relationship builds on a foundation that stands firm. Christian relationships know and live by biblical truths. We can see examples of a godly relationship through different characters and relationships in the Bible.
A shared mission was the focus of the relationship between Mary and Joseph. We remember them as the parents of Jesus on earth. Despite their doubts and fears, they submitted to the Lord. They carried out their calling of caring for the child Jesus.
We also see the relationship between Jacob and Rachel. It shows the importance of relentless pursuit, waiting, and forgiveness. All these are done in the foundation of love.
The story of Elkanah and Hannah inspires in many ways. Their relationship demonstrates how godly individuals bound in a relationship births miracles through the mercy of God. Elkanah displays a love that overcomes flaws. Hannah shows us a love that trusts and endures.
Another relationship that finds its establishment in God’s hands is Abraham and Sarah’s. Abraham and Sarah teach us how God redeems relationships despite sins and downfalls. Their relationship shows us how it is to trust God despite uncertainties. It also inspires us to have faith that God is a promise-keeping God.
These examples in the Bible show us that God delights in godly relationships. He rewards men and women who submit to Him. He is the author and sustainer of relationships. As shown in these Bible stories, Christian relationships focus on loving, honoring, and obeying God. This posture towards God becomes the foundation that propels Christian relationships to succeed and last.
Roles in Christian Relationships
Men are assigned the role of leadership. In dating and romantic relationships, this leadership role includes initiating. In layman’s language, men take the “first step” in pursuing a woman he is interested in. Men also take on the role of providers and protectors. But it does not mean that only men should put food on the table or work. This role means that men take care of their partners (or wives) like Christ provides and protects the Church.
The part of men in Christian relationships encompasses the obligation to honor God and their relationships through their actions.
If men are the initiators, women are responders. That is, women have the role of responding to the pursuit of men. Of course, this response can be affirmative or negative based on the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Women are also called to support the leadership role of men. This support can look like giving companionship, respect, help, and love.
How to Have Successful Christian Relationships?
Do not be unequally yoked
2 Corinthians 6:14 tells us not to yoke ourselves with those who do not accept Christ as Savior and Lord. Thus getting into a relationship with an unbeliever is disobedience to the command of God. Christian relationships center on God and His word. It is then impossible to execute this centeredness with someone in rebellion and is cut off from God.
Being in a relationship as a Christian is not a haphazard decision. Men and women in Christ date and engage in relationships with a purpose. That is, to honor God and obey Him. While others play around and hop from one relationship to another, Christians do not conform to the world. They are serious about nurturing and protecting their relationship.
Being intentional can mean paying attention to the needs of your partner and selflessly giving. It can look like being mindful of what you say and do in the relationship. Intentionality means fulfilling your role in the relationship as a Christ-follower foremost.
See dating as an opportunity for encouragement
Christian relationships are not like any other relationship. Despite many possible problems, Christian men and women point their partners to Jesus. Even more important is that they go through challenges together with a conviction that God holds them together. They don’t allow each other to stumble or fall.
Put on the armor of God daily
As Christians, we are part of a spiritual war (Ephesians 6:12). Satan prowls and is persistent in destroying relationships that honor God. Putting on the whole armor of God – the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit – allows us to be in relationships that put God in the center.
Put obedience over passion
Worldly temptations are something Christian men and women in relationships experience. The enemy may tempt us to be physically intimate with our partners. We may be so drawn towards our partners that we move away from meaningful friendships.
Many men and women attach their identity to their relationship and demand more and more from it. But, in all this, we have to remember that God, in His faithfulness, provides us the means to say no and endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). Obedience to God reaps heavenly rewards that passion cannot give.
Grant one another grace
Two imperfect people with baggage and struggle, who come together to share a life, seem like a recipe for chaos. There is no perfect person, so much more that there is no perfect relationship. Even Christians in relationships fall short in many ways. Thus for a Christian relationship to thrive and grow, forgiveness and grace are essential.
We do not forgive and extend grace out of obligation and trauma response. But we forgive knowing we too were sinners and were forgiven (Ephesians 4:32). We extend grace from an abundance of grace afforded to us by God.
Let the Holy Spirit serve as your compass
Desires and sensual experiences do not fuel Christian relationships. While the rest of the world acts according to perceptions, sensualities, and passions, a Christian man and woman ground themselves on the truth of the gospel. As Christians, we must allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our dating decisions. Let the Holy Spirit speak and act through you as a man or woman in a relationship.
Pray for a healthy Christian relationship
Every faithful follower of Christ knows the power that prayer holds. We pray for the most minor and most significant things that make up our life. Praying for a healthy Christian relationship is a practice you can do while still single.
Pray that God readies your heart for a Christian relationship. If you’re already in a relationship, pray that God strengthens and upholds you to be the kind of man or woman He wants you to be. Pray for His will for your relationship.
Important Reminders About Christian Relationships
The right Christian relationship should love and honor God foremost
A Christian man and woman is primarily a follower of Christ. So you must consider your relationship with Christ before entering into a relationship. God calls Christians to love Him with all their heart, mind, and soul (Matthew 22:37). You must then ask yourself the question, “Is Jesus truly my Lord and my Savior? Is He the focus of my life?”
The quality of your vertical relationship with Christ will overflow into your horizontal relationships with people. It is also vital to always do a heart check and ask, “Does this relationship honor and glorify God?” Your response to such an inquiry must manifest in your thinking, speaking, and acting.
The right Christian relationship bears a fruitful ministry
The right Christian relationship is a relationship between God and for God. God can use our connections to sanctify and grow us in faith. Christian relationships are not controlling, abusive, and toxic. A relationship that centers on the gospel results in love, encouragement, and peace. It manifests in kindness, faithfulness, and self-control. These fruits will not be hidden from other people’s sight. They will be seen and experienced by others and will serve as a ministering avenue for them.
The right Christian relationship knows how to maintain boundaries
Many people get into relationships with enormous demands from their partners. A lot of us expect our relationship to be quick fixes to personal struggles. We demand our relationships to fill the emptiness we experience. We tend to pass responsibility to the other person. Boundaries show us the limits to our actions as written in Scripture. They are not there to control us or withdraw happiness from us but to protect us.
Boundaries include physical, emotional, and psychological demarcation lines. For example, Christians need to protect their physical purity. God designs physical intimacy in the bounds of marriage. Obedience to this command is a way of maintaining healthy boundaries in a relationship.
How Christian Relationships Matter Today
When we look at the world today, there is no shortage of relationship advice. We can Google how-tos and whatnot. Social media paints us a picture of what relationships cover – physical intimacy, rollercoaster of emotions, and intense passions.
It can be challenging to be part of a world that pushes this description of relationships. Because of this, some Christians find themselves compromising their beliefs. They don’t realize that a tiny step in the wrong direction is a step too big towards disobedience to God. There is a wide range of relationship problems, from abuse to divorce. Toxic relationships affect people’s mental health and spiritual walk.
It is this reality in today’s society that Christian relationships matter even more. A relationship that glorifies, honors, and obeys God is a great model, especially for the youth. A Christian relationship paints an image of Christ as a bridegroom and the Church His bride. Christian relationships are a platform where God can display the glory and reward of surrender and submission.
Christian relationships are a union and fellowship of a man and a woman. Many couples in the Bible, like Joseph and Mary, show us what godly relationships are like. The man and woman in a Christian relationship fulfill roles designed and commanded by God.
Being in a Christian relationship is not without struggles. There will be temptations and problems along the way. Despite these, Christian relationships can grow and succeed. A relationship that grounds itself in the truth of the gospel stands on an unshakable foundation.
As men and women, we are to love God foremost. We then allow God’s love to overflow in our relationships. We can do this by being intentional, encouraging, obedient, gracious, and prayerful. Christian relationships play an essential role, especially in modern times. They take part in protecting the sanctity of marriage. Christian relationships show the world the glory and faithfulness of God.
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