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.