Building a Good Relationship
In building a genuine God centered relationship, you must be genuine, and focused. If you truly desire to follow God's precepts, and not those of society, you must be willing and able to cast off the 'games' that people play in relationships. There must be no hiding behind made up masks, and false identities. Get rid of the fixation on pleasure, and the viewpoints from glamour magazines and TV shows. You must seek Biblical precepts; rather than how you feel or are told by friends. This means a Christian relationship will be built on and with honesty, and communication, in order to be real and authentic. These translate into genuine relationships that are flowing from a life that has been transformed by grace, and renewed by Christ, as Lord of your life.
In order to accomplish this task, you must seek to know yourself and the other person. If you are not honest about yourself, how can you expect to have a good relationship? The same applies to seeking honestly from the person you are courting. You have to be honest about who you are, that is, knowing your personality, aspirations, and desires, and working on your relationship with Christ. You also have to be honest about what you plan to do and be in life. Then, you can seek that in others, and honestly assess how you feel about them and about what they do and say. The way to do this is to have open, honest communication, be willing and able to ask the tough question of yourself and your date. The hiding is then eliminated, and a real relationship is built! Open communication is a vital foundation for every marriage, necessary in order to understand and help each other. Without it, you cannot see what is truly motivating the other or what their ideas and intentions are. When you have differing points of view--and you will--be willing to talk and listen. Simply by listening, 99.9% of the problems will be resolved. When you have this settled before marriage, you will be light-years ahead of the game. If you are already married, then you can use these principles to figure out what you need to work on in yourself, as well as in your relationship with God and others.
We can be honest even in our Western dating culture. Yes, most people-- Christians included--tend to stick to the shallow end of the communication pool. We spend time asking about favorite movies, hobbies, whether and such, so the most important questions, such as our struggles, vulnerabilities, and insecurities, are not addressed.
Once you are honest, then you can explore love. If you do not take care of honesty, your love will not be honest. You will be in love with an idea and not a person. You will be building a false relationship, not a real one!
We will not be perfect, as we will make mistakes, but we have the grace of God who makes up for our shortfalls. So, let God work in you. Be honest with Christ as your Lord, and be willing to learn, giving Him your fears and insecurities. Be willing to improve yourself before seeking a relationship. You cannot expect others to change and grow if you do not. If you are not willing to improve the 'you' before trying to get who is right for you or to improve your spouse, you will just cause upheaval and disorder in your self and the person you are with! You are not to seek someone to fill a hole that they cannot fill. Be accountable to and ask questions of someone who will always listen to you. By doing these precepts from the Word, you will better prepare yourself for God's best, which is in your best interest, too!
Oh, by the way, do not even think, consider, or attempt to do missionary dating (date someone who does not share the same faith and theology as you). After over 20 years of being a pastor to singles, I have never seen this work. I have never heard of this working! It only leads to distress and strife, especially when children come in to the picture!
Here are two essential attitudes to have if you are serious about following God's precepts in relationships:
1. An attitude of Fellowship: Fellowship, (koinonia) is the Christian catchphrase for getting together. Perhaps it is overused and underused. We overuse it to describe anything from hanging out to having communion, then we under use it by not taking the reality and depth of its meaning to heart! Biblical fellowship is a partnership of relationships and resources that contains good communication, cooperation, and mutual beneficiation. The powerful Holy Spirit is our true partner in the Church. This is true because of what Christ has done for us.
2. An attitude of real Intimacy: The Church has taught for centuries that sex was for procreation only and there are still Christian groups proclaiming this. However, this is not what the Bible teaches. Sex was created by God to populate (Genesis 1:28), to expresses unity (Genesis 2:24), to know your mate (Genesis 4:1), to express love (Genesis 24:67), to meet each other's needs (Genesis 24:67; Deuteronomy 24:5; 1 Peter 3:7), to play (Proverbs 5:19; Song of S. 2:8-17; 4:1-16; Ecclesiastes 9:9), and to prevent sin (1 Corinthians 7:2-5). Intimacy also includes our being available to our spouse (1 Corinthians 7:3-5), and showing him or her our undivided interest as an expression of love (Song 4:16; 5:2).
How do you know if you are 'In Love?'
According to the world's standards, and that of many Christians, being attracted to another is our first consideration in dating or courting. However, is this right or Biblical? No! Yet, we often judge another person by our attraction to them or their attraction to us before we venture into a relationship. However, remember Prov 31: 30. Good looks, magnetism, beauty, being pretty, even charm, are vain, ineffective in building a relationship, and are not lasting. Love finds its roots in the deeper end of the pool where maturity in our relationship with Christ dwells, where He is Lord and from where our trust and the model of all of our relations originate.
Now, Keep in mind that there may be someone you may not have thought of, who may be right for you! I am always amazed in single groups in church how so many of them do not even look at each other as their ideal mate because desire is blinding their search. Thus, the only thing fueling their search is vanity, and the perfect one may be sitting right next to them! So, look up, and look around beyond your limited set of parameters!
Love begins, real love, that is, when you have a firm grasp on what we have talked about so far. It happens when the presumptions and games are out of the way, when open communication is happening, and when both of you are growing in the faith. If you are meant for one another, then love will come. Love cannot be forced, manipulated, conjured up, or pretended to be real. You can try to force love for a while, but it would be like teaching a dog to walk on its two hind legs. It will be able to do it for a little while, but not very long, and not very well! You have to let Love happen as stipulated in 1 Corinthians 13.
What does it mean to love someone? How do I know if I am 'in love?' How do I really know if my potential mate loves me? It has often been said in Christian circles that "love is a choice," but what kind of choice is it? When do we make that choice, and what if it is the wrong choice?
One of the first signs of love is seen when you desire what is best for the other person. You begin to have their best interests in mind, with passion and/or conviction along side, when their feelings and needs are of greater importance to you than your own. When you read 1 Corinthians 13 and see your mate and yourself in those words, then you may have real authentic love. What love is not is when you place your needs and plans over theirs, and you project what you think their needs are or should be. When you become the one who chooses what the other wants, then you are on the path of self-gratification and manipulation, and not love.
There are times where you cannot meet all of the needs of another, nor should you. That has to be based on Biblical values and precepts. That other person you love, or think you love, needs to be discipled and growing in the right direction, as do you. They may need correction, you may need correction, they may need to change, and you may need to change. Therefore, a balance has to occur between fulfilling their needs, and fulfilling the right needs. Nevertheless, the bottom line, the litmus test is, that you desire to put them before yourself. You are not being selfish or manipulative or have hidden agendas, and neither do they. Of course, there will be times we want to control or change them, but we have to be willing to repeal those selfish desires in our heart in favor of their desires.
A Biblical relationship, one between God and us, and one with another, will take the focus off you and put it on what can be empowered and/or invested in the other person. With God, our surrender of our will goes along side that too (John 14-15; Gal. 2:20-21; Phil, 3:10). Therefore, you have to discern where the line is between our obligation of real friendship, and love. In addition, that can be different for each person. The main factor in determining where that line is will be the degree of excitement, passion, and desire. The emotional factor should not be there in such force in a fellowship-based friendship.
With courtship, you are seeking to keep in your mind and heart, the best interests of not only the person you are going out with, but also your future spouse. You need to do this because you are preparing yourself for the real love of your life, and if this one is not it, you can ruin yourself and that person you are out with, as well as your future spouse. This multiplies further, when you consider the future spouse of the person whom you are dating. Therefore, one person's sin/mistake will affect scores of people. That is why God hates sexual promiscuity. It negatively effects and destroys not only you, but many others too! Keeping the other person's best interests at heart will result in saving your sexual and emotional purity for your true love.
One of the main objections to courtship is people feel when you do not have sex or a lot of physical contact with each other you will not develop intimacy or even an attraction to each another. Then when you do get married, you will find out there are no sexual or romantic feelings one for the other. Thus, you will never develop true love for your spouse. This thought is completely ridiculous! I know this from my personal experience in courting my wife, studying dating history, my 20 years of counseling singles, and of course, the Word.
The main reason that engaging in several romances is dangerous, as I said before in the other three articles, is that it will develop a lot of emotional baggage. Those people will stay in your thoughts and rob you of your emotional commitment to your spouse. I am not saying you are to have no romance before marriage. On the contrary, getting to know your spouse to be is romance. Romance does not mean sex outside of the marriage bed. Sex does not build romance, commitment, trust, or knowledge of, or for, each another. It only satisfies the sin of lust, and blocks the building of real intimacy and genuine romance. The physical can get in the way of real heartfelt romance, because it clouds the issues in the building of a relationship. I have never heard of anyone who, after courting and marriage, had a problem with sex, unless there were physical problems or past abuse issues. God has wired you to engage in sex without any problems in doing so. The problem is that our sinful nature has heightened and corrupted it. To build a good relationship, you should consider all the aspects of building that relationship before you consider romance, as in physical touch.
Also, be willing to draw a line beyond which you both agree not to cross in your touching each other. This will prevent your lust from getting the best of you. The best defense is a good offence, plan, and agreement. So, draw the line, agree together, and commit to it concerning how far you will go physically. Keep Biblical values in mind! For some, it will be not going beyond kissing until you are engaged. For others, it will be never going past the bikini/swim suit areas (conservative swim suit--not a thong!)!
If, after working through all the relational building process, and making a commitment to each other leading to marriage, no attraction or romance develops, then you need to consider carefully that perhaps this relationship is not meant to be. If this is the case, you will be hurt, but also consider this you will be saved from a lifetime of being with the wrong person, which would cause each of you and others around you grief and strife! So, praise God and move on. The Biblical process has saved you! Keep the friendship alive. Remember that any effort made in building relationships is never a waste of time in God's eyes, unless it is hurtful or damaging.
Another thing to consider is that romance and attraction build over time. Most Christian counselors, as well as surveys, have shown that with older couples in a growing relationship with Christ say their love has increased over the years--not decreased! So, if you are in your 20s, are planning to be married, are worried that you do not feel attracted enough to each other, and yet you meet the rest of the relationship building criteria, that feeling will change and you will grow fonder of each other!
Many people wonder, and ask, if love, or commitment comes first? The Bible gives us an answer that surprises a lot of people. In Ephesians 5:22-33 the context of this passage indicates "love the one you marry" rather than to "marry the one you love." Thus, romance is often skewed with society's emphasis on feelings, and not on commitment. So, when the tough times come, romance will not keep you together, only your commitment will. This is a reason that love is also a choice. As a result, I believe commitment will supersede love, and be a good indicator that love is in the mix!
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- 1988, 1998, 2002 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org
About the Author
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Director of 'Into Thy Word Ministries,' a missions and discipling ministry. He is the author of the book, Into Thy Word, and is also a pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena California (M.Div.) and currently pursuing his Ph.D. He has amounted over 20 years of pastoral ministry experience, mostly in youth ministry, including serving as a church growth consultant.