How should a Christian think about another Christian when it comes to a potential romance? Perhaps you are considering pursuing someone or allowing someone to pursue you. Although these categories are probably not exhaustive, they may be helpful as you think about a potential mate.
Four Chemicals for Christian Chemistry:
It need not go without saying. When it comes to marriage, godly character is not just a deal breaker; it is what the game is all about. This is first on the list because without it nothing else matters. This is the sun all planets orbit around. The rings of Saturn don’t matter without Saturn. Without a deep love for Jesus, marriage will be miserable. The potential wife should be maturing into a Proverbs 31 woman and the potential husband should be a Psalm 112 man. It also should be noted that there is a difference between potential godliness and actual godliness. A wise man pointed out to me that potential godliness does not exist. It is simply “potential.” The person you are considering for marriage must have real visible godly character in order to qualify for the picking.
If you are a woman, you need a husband who is maturing in the faith in order to lead you closer to Jesus. Perfection is not required, but pursuit of holiness is mandatory. If you are a man, you should be seeking a woman who is already exhibiting love, compassion, wisdom and gentleness. Look for the girl who is already serving in your church and washing the feet of the saints. She will be a keeper. Questions to ask include the following: Do I want this man to teach my children the Scriptures? Do I want this woman to raise my children to love the Lord? Is this man a role model I want to follow? Is this lady someone who can show me more of God’s heart and push me closer to Christ?
Not everyone is meant to get along all the time. It is a sin to have ungodly character (1 Timothy 3) but it is not a sin to be socially incompatible. Perhaps you are an extrovert and can’t help but be the life of the party. You may or may not mesh with the introvert who loves to study instead of playing Quelf. If wakeboarding gives you a high and you are the president of the local rock climbing club, you might jump off a cliff if you marry someone who is content to never see sunlight. Then again, that kind of thing just might stoke your fire. To each his own. The point is that you need to marry someone you can have a happy conversation with and that enjoys at least some of the things you do. Not all the pistons need to fire, but you at least have to have a motor that runs. Marriage is not meant to be miserable. You should marry someone who compliments your personality. The best way to figure out if your personalities mesh well together is to spend time together in as many appropriate settings as possible.
It is not just enough to be godly and personable. You need to be on the same tarmac. The man needs to have a plan. What will you be doing in the next 5 – 10 years? You need to be seeking the Lord and know the direction you are traveling. How are you going to turn the world upside down with the message of the gospel? How are you going to bring glory to Jesus with the days he has given you? This does not have to be anything spectacular – it can actually be rather simple. But it needs to be there. And it needs to be going some where.
A woman should not marry a man who is simply blowing in the wind. As a woman, do you want to follow the man you are interested in? Do you want to submit to his leadership and pursue magnifying Jesus together? If he wants to be a construction worker that shares the gospel while on a forklift, are you okay with raising his hard hat family? If he wants to be a missionary to Alaska, are you kosher with seal blubber boots?
If a potential wife wants to be a CEO of Google and a potential husband wants to make farm in Pennsylvania, these lovers need to chat before sailing off into the romantic sunset. These are conversations that need to be had and they can be determinative. Do your visions of life align with each other? (Philippians 1:17)
Your future spouse will be your best friend on the planet. But they need to be more than this. If you come home from work and only want to play checkers together, we have a problem. The Bible commands spouses to delight sexually in each other and this requires a level of physical attraction (Proverbs 5:18-19).
Notice that attraction is last on this list. I place it last because attraction can be automatic or it can be cultivated. You may be interested in someone simply because they caught your eye. No problem here necessarily. However, don’t underestimated the reality that physical attraction can also be cultivated. Its funny how this works. Attraction can blind people to ungodly character, yet godly character can open eyes to see beauty. That beauty can spill over into physical interest. You may not be swooning over someone the first time you see them, but after you notice their character, personality and trajectory in life… you might be surprised to find yourself growing in affection for them. Perhaps they are a rare gem in the rocks that need a closer examination to see its value. Perhaps we all need to die to self and acknowledge true beauty.
You may be wondering how these things practically work themselves out. How can you actually use these four criteria? The church is essential. To quote one of my good friends:
Dating is a team sport. It is hard to determine this for yourself. The heart is deceitful above all things. And there’s hormones. And emotions. And social pressure to get married. Or at least date. When you get to be older, people start wondering if there’s extra marshmallows in your lucky charms if you’re not dating anyone.
Courtship is a community event. Invite your church into your life and don’t be afraid to ask them whether or not you are concocting the right chemicals in your Christian chemistry.
The content for this post has been updated and expanded in Letters to a Romantic: On Dating which will be released in 2017 by P&R Publishing.
7 thoughts on “Four Chemicals for Christian Chemistry: How do you know who you should marry?”
I’m happy I read this. It happens to be very timely for me. In the last couple of months I’ve been giving that question more thought than I’ve ever given it. I find the “cultivated attraction” bit especially refreshing and insightful. I’ve been taking a lot of marriage sermons, reading articles copiously and studying the Bible to be properly oriented on the topic. From the wisdom gleaned and the convictions established I have to say that is article is on point; and in so few words. Great job Sean! I’m definitely bookmarking this (marriage resource material). – 27 y/o, Jamaica
It does hurt my heart to see articles like this that always leave out so much. I’ve been married for 10 years and I never thought to ask the right questions and that has made life very difficult. I have a loving, but very difficult marriage. I don’t disagree with anything you said – I just wish more people would talk about RESPECT, freedom and willingness to compromise. Because even if you think you know what you both want right now, things can change. Plus you might encounter issues you haven’t talked about – how you raise your children for example. How much freedom should they have? What kind of discipline do you think is appropriate? What are your views on birth control and etc. You need to know how this person sees themselves and their potential role as a spouse. You need to take the TIME to get to know them better. That’s a huge one! I was married within less than 3 months. There are just so many things you can’t know about someone until you take the time to really get to know them – see them grieve, lose, get angry, make a mistake, hang around with people with special needs and so forth. But if you are with someone who truly has a heart for the Lord, you would think they’d be willing to listen and compromise and that you don’t need to take the time and you don’t need to take a lot of time to talk. I am very sad to say this is not always the case.
Thank you for your comment Karen. It is very true that asking a lot of questions is very important. Here is a link to one of the best resources I recommend for couples who are considering marriage. http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/questions-to-ask-when-preparing-for-marriage
Very good article! So many resources spend so much time on methods. But simple and clearly started principles like these do more for a discerning mind to illuminate what is necessary for a godly relationship. I’m saving this for a future, personal reminder and a resource for others.
One question, though; I was unsure why you cited Phillipians 1:17. It doesn’t seem related much at all to your point there, unless I’m misunderstanding.
Thanks for your comment Brandon. I am grateful.
Good question about Phil 1:17. I chose it because of the last part of the verse which talks about “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” There are several passages in Philippians that talk about being of “one mind.” This likemindedness is huge for having a similar trajectory in life and laboring for the sake of the gospel. Thanks again for your kind words.
Ah, i see. Thank you for the clarification!
Enjoyed the article and agree that attraction is much lower on the list than what would be expected by worldly standards.