Thursday, April 2, 2015

DATING: WHEN WORDS AND CHOICES CLASH

by Dan Phillips




Note: Recently, I linked to this nearly four-year-old post in the body of another. Many had not seen it first time 'round, though it kicked off some waves in other bloggy locations at the time. The subject remains current, and I need to dip into the well once and maybe twice this week here. So here 'tis once again, lightly edited.

[This is yet another one of my occasional serieses. In this, I write for our readers who are yoots, for their own benefit; or for parents, to share with their yoots. It'll also work for pastors, especially yoot pastors. Previous examples include A word to Christian yoots, and Why God gave you parents, etc.]


Coarse but pointed joke-that-you've-all-heard-anyway alert in 3... 2... 1....
So this iconic guy's talking with an iconic girl, and asks whether she'd be willing to engage in carnal acts for $1 million.

She considers, shrugs, says, "For a million dollars? I guess."

"Would you do it for $5?" he follows up.

She is shocked, and deeply offended. "What do you think I am?" she rages.

His classic retort: "Oh, we've already established what you are. Now we're just haggling over price."
And now, a moment's pause while Pyro readers wonder where this could possibly be going. Play the overture from Handel's Messiah in your head. Daaaa.... da-daaaa....

Now, why is that joke funny to most folks? It's funny because of the surprising clash. In the punch-line, the woman is deeply offended, because she wants to say that her virtue is precious, and he's cheapening it with his $5 suggestion. But the man counters that he already knows her virtue not to be beyond price to her. She can be bought. What she says now is one thing; what she has already said, another.

So you, unmarried Christian reader, start dating an unbeliever. What are you saying?

"What?!" you splutter. "We haven't had sex!"

This isn't about sex. I'm asking what you're saying, what message your choice is communicating.

To whatever degree you're concerned at all about this person's soul, you're trying to tell her/him about Christ, right? You're trying to tell this person that Christ is the One in whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17), the source and reason for all the universe (Colossians 1:16), the most important celebrity anywhere, ever (Philippians 2:9-11). You want to persuade him that Christ is Lord of all. And you want him/her to believe that Jesus is all these things, and that He is all these things to you.

But you've already told him that Christ isn't all that. You're just haggling over price.

(Or am I assuming too much? Are there some who are not even concerned whether the people they date are or are not saved? In such cases, the kindest I can say is that such are clueless, loveless, and faithless, and they really need to reconsider the big question, for themselves.)

Let me approach the issue another way.

Would you date a child molestor? Oh, of course not. Instant deal-breaker. Thief, murderer? No and no. Rapist? Never. Those are really bad things.

But not as bad as being an enemy of God (Proverbs 15:9; Ephesians 2:3)? I think we have some seriously skewed priorities.

See, if you are in a dating relationship with someone who doesn't love Christ, you've already said the Christ-issue isn't the issue to you. Her looks, his job, the way she treats you, his sense of humor — whatever; these things matter more to you than Christ does.

You want this person to believe that he is a sinner, under God's wrath, and deserving His judgment. You want him to know that his righteous deeds are as filthy rags, that everything he can produce is not enough for God.

But you've already communicated, by your choice, that what he has is enough for you. That you and he share enough values, goals, aspirations, and affections to create (or even consider) an exclusive and intimate relationship.

See? You've already dealt a death-blow to your own credibility. You really might as well stop talking. Your priorities, your choices, have drowned out your words (cf. the principle of Titus 1:16).

I would think this would be clear-cut to any Biblically-instructed Christian, and am constantly surprised to find that it apparently isn't. But let's extend it a bit.

If someone can credibly check the "Christian"-box, are you all-done? All that remains is attractiveness and basic compatibility, then go buy the dress and rent the tux, chapel, preacherguy?

Well, yes and no. As far as a moral issue, yes. Since the Bible doesn't teach a third "will" of God, by which we (for instance) must discern mystically and ookily what one girl/guy in all the world is The Chosen One for us, basically we may morally marry any (A) available and (B) willing (C) Christian (D) of the opposite sex (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:39). (Sad I have to add all those qualifiers, but here we are.)

But what of wisdom? I heard somewhere it was the principle thing (Proverbs 4:7, CSB).

Here is where churches often depress me. I know of a ladies' group that considered studying The Excellent Wife, by Martha Peace. The idea was rejected, because they didn't want single women to "feel excluded."

My wife and I both thought, "Huh? They're exactly who should be studying this!" The single man/woman is exactly the person who should be looking long and hard at all that marriage entails, before making that next-to-unconditional commitment.

Consider this illustration:

What would you think of a man who spends his free time going from car dealer to car dealer, checking out luxury cars that he will never buy?

He takes them out on a long "test" drive. He floors the accelerator, he jams down the brakes. He swerves around sharp turns, cranks the stereo, kicks the tires, slams the doors, asks question after question about the engine, the wiring, the electronics. He talks to the mechanic. He makes the salesman invest much of his day, and then goes through the whole process of credit checks and dickering about price and bargaining...

...then airily says "Wow, that was fun! Thanks!"

And leaves.

Next day: rinse, and repeat. Another dealer, another car. Another hapless sales staff.

What would you think of a guy like that? Selfish lout, right? Cruel? Jerk? Immature, thoughtless, loveless, graceless, without compassion? World revolves around him? Other people are his toys?

I totally agree.

So what of the person who's dating someone (s)he knows (s)he has no business considering as a spouse?

Brother, you know Ephesians 5:25-33, 1 Peter 3:7, all that? You know that God will call you to love, cherish, serve, protect, and lead your wife. You know you will need to provide for her, honor her exclusively from your heart, and with your body. You will be obliged to lead her in holiness, guard her, lay down your very life for her. You know that a bad choice will have very rough consequences (Proverbs 12:4b; 21:9; 25:24; 27:15-16).

But what if the girl you're dating is vastly more mature than you, or vastly less? What if she is disrespectful, rebellious, and sees no need of a leader? What if she particularly does not respect you, is constantly correcting and bossing you? What if you absolutely dread the very thought of having to cross her will, to any degree? What if disagreements invariably become arguments, and go on and on? How could you put on her a yoke she so obviously is not ready to take? How could you subject your future children to such a household?

What, you never thought of that? Then what have you been thinking about?

Sister, stop nodding for a second. What of you? You know Ephesians 5:22-24, 1 Peter 3:1-7, and all that? You know, do you, that God calls you to respect your husband from your very heart, in the way you think and act? You know that, under God, your husband will be the human authority in your life? That you will be obliged before God to love him, respect him, subordinate yourself to him? That you will be his helper, called to aid him in fulfilling what God has called him to?

So what if the man you're dating does not have what it takes to lead you? What if you find yourself constantly telling him what to do? What if he knows God less well than you, because he knows the Bible less than you? What if he is not prepared to lead you on, because he hasn't even caught up with you yet? What if your spirit is independent, and the thought of subordinating yourself to this man is either unthinkable (because he is so unready), or barely tolerable (because he is so passive and pliable)?

In either case, how can you be so cruel as to lead this woman or man on, letting him or her give this portion of his life to you in exclusion to others, when you know you have no business considering a future with him or her?

Is that loving (Matthew 7:12)?

"But he's started reading his Bible now!" "She's started going to Bible Study!" Great. But know this: what is most telling about another person is what he or she is before taking any interest in you. That indicates her or his heart.

If deathbed conversions are "iffy," dating conversions are doubly so.

This long post could be even longer, but I'll (almost) close with a few summary questions.

Would you consider marrying someone who never, ever washed his body? Yuck! No way, right? What if (s)he never, ever had his heart and conscience washed (Hebrews 9:14; 10:22)? Evidently yes? Hmm.

Would you consider marrying someone who never listened to a word you said? No way. What if (s)he never listened to a word God said (Proverbs 28:4, 9; Romans 10:17)? Evidently yes? Hmm.

Would you let someone drive who didn't care much for traffic laws or signs? Not likely. But you'd consider marrying a man who has no Christian walk, or had none before he got interested in you? Or a woman who hasn't yet taken to heart what God says about her and her role? Evidently yes? Hmm.

And in neither case, if you'd not consider marrying, why date? Just a harmless test-drive?

REAL-LIVE FINAL THOUGHT: I know exactly what some readers will think. They will think, "Well, my (friend/relative) married an unbeliever, and later the Lord saved him, and that worked out great! So I'm just trusting God to save/mature/sanctify my unsaved/immature/rebellious little dew-drop!"

To that, two responses:

First, so if someone sins or does something stupid, and it works out all right, you should do the same? Dude. Seriously. Grow up.

Second, as long as we're trading stories, I've heard stories about people who've pointed real, live, actual, loaded guns straight at other people and pulled the trigger, and the gun jammed. Neat, huh? So if God wants someone to live, he can jam a gun, right?

And if you loaded a pistol and went out to see who God wants to live, and who He wants to die... would that be a good thing?

Or stupid, bad, reckless, insane, and sinful?

Kid, life's not a game. Hasty decisions cast long shadows.

For every reason in this world and the next, wise up.

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