Relationships…that’s an interesting word. I see it often in articles that I read that talk about the fact that Christians should have an “intimate” relationship with the Lord. That Jesus desires an intimate relationship with us. The Father in heaven wants to have a personal relationship with us, His children, here on earth. We have relationships with one another. As parents to children, as workers to bosses, as players to coaches, etc.
But, often we think of the word “relationship” today in the context of:
I’m in a relationship.
I ponder this word as it relates to our culture and to Christians…especially younger “believers.” It is interesting to me how many of your young believers are in “relationships.” At least that’s what many of them tell others or show on the net. They say, “I’m in a relationship.” What exactly does that mean?
Many young Christians today, (led and often encouraged by their Christian parents), almost seem encouraged to have a “relationship” with the opposite sex…even at young ages (12, 13, 14, etc). I’m not sure exactly why unless there is some status to be gained by being in a “relationship.” Or perhaps there is even the desire not to be thought of as weird, strange or even gay by NOT having a “relationship” with the opposite sex.
For many years now I have grappled with the whole concept of dating and what it means to the current generation and I’ve concluded that it is a very, very dangerous “Western” practice. Why do I say “Western” practice…simple…because you won’t find dating even show up in world history until the later part of the 1940’s and early 1950’s here in America after WWII. Dating didn’t exist until after the Great War and the prosperity of a nation turned into drive-ins and “Happy Days.” Now a phenomenon called “Dating” arrived.
Prior to the 40’s there was “courting” in our country. A time where young people would spend time only in settings approved by the parents in the homes of the parents…typically in a parlor or “courting room.” But, is that Biblical? “Courting,” you ask, “Biblical?” Well, when you look at the Bible (and if you agree it is to be our authority in life and not the culture), then you will search your heart out and never even find the term “courting.” I believe courting was simply a forerunner to our modern “dating.” What you will find in Scripture is betrothal and espousal and parents who were heavily involved in this process at that.
Joseph and Mary were betrothed to one another. They were not dating nor were they courting. They were espoused to one another and this espousal could only be broken by something akin to our modern-day divorce. The parents had a huge part in helping the young person determine whom the Lord had mind to be their bride. This process was so extensive that it even included the groom paying a “Bride’s Price” for the young lady. We see in Scripture that Jacob worked for Rachel for 14 years to “pay the price” for her. In Genesis 24 we see Abraham in his old age assign the task of helping Isaac, his son, get a wife to the family servant. This servant travelled back to Abraham’s homeland in Northwest Mesopotamia and the Lord (notice I said, “the Lord”) directed the servant to Rebekah.
I know what you are thinking. You are thinking…that is so archaic and so “old fashioned.” Dear friends…I am sorry to say that what I am sharing with you is the Bible. Not my opinions or what I think is best. Again, you can search the Scriptures from beginning to end and you will only see betrothal/espousal, a process that included the young adult, with the guidance of family and the Lord bringing about a proper “relationship.”
What do we have today? A nation that has a divorce rate approaching 55%. Why? Because we are on a “turnstile” of relationships. Our children swap “relationships” as often as boys used to swap baseball cards. In fact, both practices are similar. So, once our young people get to the altar and their wedding day (now around the age of 26-29 years of age on average), they have had so many “relationships” that they are in essence “damaged goods.” If you don’t believe me, just check out the book:
While “Hooked” reads like a textbook, it is must reading for any family (or person) in today’s society who is interested in the truth about sex. In the church, we need to know our stuff, and reading a book like this gives us ample evidence that casual sex is destroying our society. Some may think that’s extreme. Yet, in this book, science shows how casual, sexual encounters not only increase risk of STD’s and pregnancy, but interferes with natural bonding in relationships later in life. For our young people who say, “I’m just talking to him or her and we’re not ‘doing’ anything.” There is still the emotional bonding that takes place from the relationship. Take a look at this six-minute interview on ABC News about the book by the author, Dr. Joe McInhaney. It’s excellent. Particularly as it relates to all the “reality shows” our teens are watching.
You see, we’re made like sticky tape for each other. And the more people we stick to prior to marriage, the less sticky we get. That can interrupt bonding in many areas of life, such as parenting. Casual sexual encounters, as well as multiple partners also leads to depression, which the authors explain in great detail. This book even tackles the issues of addiction, and why some become addicted to “hooking up.” With diagrams that map out the human brain and its response to sexual stimuli as well as which hormones trigger which responses, “Hooked” makes an excellent case for abstinence and for seriously looking at all of our “cute” little relationships for our children. Which is why you won’t hear much about it. But I wish this was a required text in every health education course in America. Maybe we’d be able to genuinely love one another again instead of popping out of bed like Pop tarts in toasters and having a 55% divorce rate.
Because…if the truth be known…”dating” as we know it in our society leads to pre-marital sex. Plain and simple. They start out with innocent little “relationships” at 12, 13 and 14 and by 16, 17 and 18 they are much more.
So what is the answer? Begin young. Begin when your children are small discussing what the Bible has to say about relationships. Point out the fact that God knows exactly who it is that He wants them to be with and who their spouse is supposed to be. We don’t have to “search” or “look” for them and we don’t have to help God bring that person to our young adult. He is plenty capable of bringing that person to us if we’ll just trust Him. You see, if we truly believe that God is all-powerful and that His Word is the authority in our lives and that we should look to Him and His Word as the guide…then, we will teach our children to trust Him. We will teach our children to even look “peculiar” and “strange” and not care about what others think if they aren’t in the “relationship” scene. In fact, they can rejoice in the fact that the pressure is off of them and they can spend their teenage years growing spiritually without the pressure of a relationship that adds to the demands they already have of school, activities by the tons and potentially even work. We teach that there is something powerful on “waiting on the Lord.”
You may say, “It’s too late…mine are already knee-deep in all of this.” No. It’s never too late. You simply teach. You go to Genesis 24 and you look at Scripture. You look at the life of Joseph and Mary and see how God led them to each other. More on all of this later on how to “flesh all of this out” in our “relationship-saturated” culture.