1 Corinthians 13 : Solid Bible Advice For Christian Dating.
Choosing a life partner is the most critical choice you will make in your life. A lot of people have been conditioned, whether consciously or unconsciously, to keep their actual selves hidden most of the time. How then, can you correctly discern who is the right person for you while not just relying on feelings and external appearances?
In this article, we will discuss some insightful methods that a Christian can use to avoid getting into traumatic relationships while also being guided by the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 13: What is Love?
The word “Love” is central to the Gospel and to our lives. When asked to describe love, however, most of us reduce it to transitory emotions. I’m not saying that feelings don’t matter, but just letting our feelings dictate the course of our lives isn’t right either. Let us dive into God’s word and discover how He defines love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails.
-1 Corinthians 13:4-8
1 Corinthians 13 paints a beautiful picture of God’s love for us and how we are to love others. The Bible describes love as an action verb. It is not passive. Love is first described as being patient and kind. Patience is one area a lot of us struggle with. When you’re not patient, it’s hard to be kind too. How are we flawed humans supposed to generate a love like that from within ourselves, you ask?
2 Corinthians 3:18 Key to Becoming Christ-like!
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
-2 Corinthians 3:18
Self-help books will tell you, you can change your life with self-effort and determination. God, on the other hand, doesn’t want you to be self-occupied but Christ-occupied. Self-efforts can only lead you so far, and will only endure as long as your determination does. And we all have a limited amount of willpower. God, who created you and knows your shortcomings, has a better plan. He doesn’t leave you to your own resources, struggling to figure things out.
The Bible says that we are transformed into Christ’s image by beholding Him. When we rely on our own strength to improve ourselves, we are trusting our flesh. The Bible warns us that in our flesh dwells no good thing (Romans 7:18) and that we should put no confidence in our flesh (Philippians 3:3).
The Holy Spirit transforms us into the image of Christ as we spend time in His Word, contemplating and beholding His majesty, tenderness, and grace.
Just as the sun leaves a tan on us as we spend time outdoors, the radiance of the Son of God’s glory leaves His imprint on us when we spend time beholding him.
We only experience true inward transformation by looking at Jesus, not ourselves. And we can truly love others only when we abide in Christ’s love and draw from His everlasting supply of overflowing love for us.
Ask The Important ‘WHY’
In his book ‘The Sacred Search’, Gary Thomas urges Christian singles to ask themselves WHY they want to marry. Knowing the ‘why’ will help you choose the ‘who’ wisely.
We buy a gadget when we know it contains certain features that we would like to use. Do you ever purchase an expensive device without knowing why you want it or what it will be used for?
It’s funny how we spend days and months researching why and which smartphone to buy, yet when it comes to the most important decision of our lives, we rely only on our fickle feelings.
Knowing why you want to be married gives you clarity on choosing the right person to fulfil your purpose together. No one, as Gary points out, can keep you enthralled for the next fifty years. Seeking God first and having a shared mission gives you something to work on together as a couple while growing in God’s love and wisdom.
God’s Design for Marriage : A Marriage Tripod
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
– Ecclesiastes 4:12
A marriage is like a tripod. It can’t stand on only two feet. The third foot is required for balance. God is the third foot.
Without God as the third leg of your tripod, your marriage will wobble. When you marry a Christian, you know that even when your spouse is unkind or unfair to you, they will feel the Holy Spirit convicting them. You don’t need to nag your spouse and constantly point out where they’ve gone wrong; you don’t have to play the Holy Spirit to your spouse.
As Christians, we continue to love and serve our partners, praying for them and with them to the Lord. We do our part by relying on Christ’s strength, while the Holy Spirit does His.
Marriage was created by God to teach us how to love and serve others selflessly, all while clinging to Him and becoming more Christ-like; for man and woman to become one in the bond of unity and have a greater revelation of Christ’s love for His bride, the church.
2 Corinthians 6:14 – Christian Dating a Non-Christian?
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
-2 Corinthians 6:14
To be yoked paints a picture of animals that are linked by a wooden beam to pull a load. You don’t yoke animals of unequal strength together. If you yoke an ox and a calf, the stronger one drags greater weight, while the weaker one is pulled around in misery, making it painful for them both to accomplish a task together.
As Christians, we find strength by abiding in Christ’s love. When one spouse operates from Christ’s sacrificial love and the other from mere human might, it creates an imbalance.
Marriage is hard. There will be times you battle with communication issues, financial struggles, challenging children, loss of loved ones and lack of intimacy. You’ll need someone to hold your hand while you navigate your way through the flames, someone who is strong in the Lord. Someone who prays for you when you’re under attack, helps lead with insight and makes decisions seeking the Lord’s wisdom and discernment. Not someone who is arrogant, argumentative and makes self-centered decisions.
Let’s explore the reasons why Christians shouldn’t date non-Christians :
Lacks Real Identity
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.
Every true Christian with a revelation of their identity in Christ sees significant changes in the choices they make and the lives they lead.
We do not lose our authentic selves when we accept our new identity in Christ; rather, we become our true selves in Him. We were made to be Christ-like. His joy becomes our joy; His love, our love; His peace, our peace; His strength, our strength. In Him, we experience the bliss of a greater kind of existence.
We aren’t shaken by adversity, but rather trust the seasons of hardship to bring about Christ’s primary purpose in our lives: to connect with and become more like Him.
Where did we look for our identity before becoming Christians? People often feel compelled to define themselves by their careers, economic status, achievements, looks, and so on. But what happens to their sense of identity when they come up short in any of these areas?
The core of their identity is rattled, causing them to frantically grapple and define themselves by something or someone. How can a person have a healthy and stable self-image when they base their identity on temporary external things that are subject to change?
We derive our identity not from what we do, but from what Christ did for us on the cross. We become who we truly are in Christ: Children of the living God. We didn’t earn it by self effort, but by admitting our flaws and need for a savior, so we can’t boast about it. But we can claim our sonship, walking in confidence with our heads held high because, in the end, we are saints and conquerors in Christ.
People suffering with an identity crisis are prone to bouts of depression, irritability, loss of motivation, and low self esteem. People with low self-esteem and a lack of identity can often outwardly display an arrogant nature of pride, bragging, and an overly defensive attitude. This is someone who is unconfident and so over-compensates by boasting, and looking down on others’ faults while exalting themselves in their own eyes.
True believers, on the other hand, live with an eternal sense of security. Our Abba’s love for us is unending, and we are sealed with His Spirit.
for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Galatians 3:27 says, we are clothed in Christ. When Abba sees us, He sees Jesus. We are His joy and delight. When we see ourselves as God sees us, others begin to see Christ’s love and glory flowing through us. We become what we were always meant to be: vessels of His love and light in a cold, dark world.
Do you want to marry someone who has no idea what their actual life purpose is? No matter how ambitious or purposeful someone appears to be, they are just seeking something that truly fulfils them. However, only God can truly satisfy us. We were made for something greater. Their urge to fill the void they feel can lead them to chase fleshly lusts rather than draw closer to God. A wise person understands that true fulfilment can only be found in the Lord, while the foolish seek pleasure wherever they can find it.
Believers struggle to live out the Christian life God desires for them when paired with an unbeliever who lives according to the flesh. You need a spouse who helps you grow in your journey, not someone who slows you down and hampers your purpose in Christ.
Lacks Real Love
We love because he first loved us.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
The verses above show us that God is love and only one born of God can truly love. We love because we are filled with Christ’s love and draw from it. God is the source of our love. How can someone who doesn’t have God as their source offer you real unconditional love? How can one give something they themselves don’t have?
Don’t get me wrong, many unbelievers have good intentions and sincerely want to love their partners. But, as much as they want to love people the way they should be loved, fallen flesh gets in the way.
Christians are born of the Spirit. This is not to say that we are without flaws, but we are empowered and led by the Spirit. We might fail at times, but the Holy Spirit is the source of our strength, not our weak flesh.
Feelings come and go. Over the years, the mushy feelings of lovey-dovey love may evaporate. You will have days when you don’t feel in love, days when you want to go Chucky and repeatedly stab your partner in the throat (Hey, you didn’t hear that from me!).
When you’re flooded with life’s troubles, you need a partner who doesn’t act based on feelings, but instead rolls up their sleeves and helps you navigate through the murky waters of everyday life. True love is more than just a feeling. It is action. It is intention. It is a choice.
A lot of worldly relationships work on a give-and-take basis. It’s easy to wonder, “Why should I care about someone who doesn’t care about my feelings?” Then get engulfed in a toxic cycle of tit for tat. What makes us Christians if we just love and do good for those who do the same for us? Even worldly sinners, according to Jesus, love people who are good to them. What distinguishes us or sets us apart?
As Christians, we are called to give more than we get. Even if our partner fails to do the same, we continue to love and serve them because all we do is for the glory of God. Our gaze is fixed on our Lord, not on the actions of our spouse. Christ is our rewarder. We do our best to love our spouse and trust the Lord to deal with their hearts.
Imagine being in a relationship where you and your spouse both love and serve with Christ-like selflessness, powered by His Spirit in you.
1 Corinthians 13 says love endures all. Choose a love that endures.
Lacks Real Kindness
The Bible says we are, by default, children of wrath.
Only someone who is humble can demonstrate true kindness. I know it sounds cliched, but think about it: genuine humility comes from knowing yourself well enough. When you’ve spent enough time learning from your mistakes and comprehending your flaws. A person becomes a Christian when they recognize how wretched and imperfect they are and seek Christ as their savior from their fallen self. In Christ, we are made a new creation, and our old self is cast away. Only when we realize how flawed, yet how much we are loved by Abba, do we find it easier to show grace to other flawed people. We don’t look at others with a “holier than thou” attitude. We look at them with empathy and kindness.
A cancer survivor can empathize better with someone going through the same phase. Similarly, when we see our spouse acting up, it is easier for us to empathize and extend grace to them, drawing from Christ’s love, because we know we are no better. We don’t look down on them, instead, we build them up with our words and service.
This doesn’t mean one tolerates abuse or never communicates their feelings or opinions. If you are in a dangerously abusive relationship, extract yourself from it. Communication is important, but communicating with grace and patience is even more important.
Grace is underserved mercy. As discussed earlier, 1 Corinthians 13 describes love as first being patient and kind. And marriage often requires offering undeserved kindness without criticizing or humiliating the other, regardless of how wounded one feels.
Like Faulkner says, “You don’t love because: you love despite; not for the virtues, but despite the faults.”
Do you want to be with someone who blows up every mistake you make, is harsh, manipulative, and unforgiving, or someone who looks at you with God’s glorious grace despite your flaws?
Lacks Real Intimacy
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
The goal of marriage is for two people to unite as one. This will never be possible as long as one is a believer and the other is an unbeliever. They may attempt to be one physically, emotionally and socially, but they will never be one spiritually.
Christians often get attracted to unbelievers and begin dating them with hopes of eventually leading them to Christ. But it’s often the other way round. Dating unbelievers can hinder your relationship with Jesus. Being around an ungodly person might cause you to sin more, behave and speak differently, be led astray. If your life is all about Jesus, you won’t be able to express and share your faith which all Christians want to do, since there is no connection. A believer’s spirit is alive and vital, whereas the spirit of an unbeliever is dead.
You can never expect to be happy in a relationship that starts out by disobeying God in the first place. It seldom ends well. When the infatuation fades, you will want someone who will pursue your deepest yearning for the Lord with you, and if it isn’t fulfilled, it leads to frustration and tears over unmet expectations.
Lacks True Wisdom
Anyone can have knowledge, but true wisdom comes only from the Lord. Marriage involves entrusting your life to another person and becoming one flesh with them. Can you trust someone who lacks wisdom? Don’t look for potential, look at their patterns. Are they debt-ridden over-spenders? Do they frequently quarrel with their family? Are they actively seeking Jesus on a daily basis? Do you see your union with this person bringing you growth and drawing you closer to the Lord?
Do you view this individual as someone who asks God to lead them in wisdom and teach them to walk in compassion?
Even Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, fell because of his unbelieving wives. What makes you believe you won’t fall? Don’t put your faith in your flesh. Guard your heart.
Beware of The Superhero Syndrome
Women often fall for the ‘bad boys’, while men fall prey to the ‘damsels in distress’. You fall in love with their potential and feel good about yourself because you believe that by rescuing them, you can help them become better people. You forget that it is not your responsibility to save someone; it is Christ’s. Get over your superhero syndrome. Trying to save someone while dating them creates a dangerous co-dependency in which you get a high from their continual need for your help while they enjoy being pandered to. Of course, we have a responsibility to share Christ’s love and the good news of the gospel with people, but you don’t have to date them in order to change them.
Don’t try to be someone’s savior. We have Jesus for that.
Now that we’ve discussed the importance of dating believers, let’s have a look at some warning signs you should watch out for while dating.
Dating Red Flags :
- Love bombing: When someone tries to influence and control you with excessive displays of love, praise, and attention in a short span of time after meeting you. This love bombing phase is eventually followed by manipulation or devaluation, but you keep going back to them, doing what they want you to just so they put you back on their ‘My Precioussss’ pedestal. You get so infatuated and hooked on the highs of their attention that you lose the ability to recognize their manipulative behavior, and even if you do, you find it hard to let go of them. All they have to do is shower you with more love bombs and you’ll quickly forgive and forget.
- If the person you are seeing is overtly possessive of you and pressurizes you to commit, even though you keep saying you need time to get to know them better, be careful. I’m not saying you shouldn’t commit, but make sure you’ve done your research, gotten to know them well, and have peace from the Lord after seeking his mind.
Be wary if someone rushes to commit to you without first getting to know you or asking appropriate questions. This person has low self-esteem or underlying abandonment issues that need to be addressed. The person you marry will be the parent of your children, the handler of your finances, and a co-decision maker. You don’t want someone who jumps into things without first contemplating matters and seeking guidance from the Lord.
- If they keep bringing up their ex-partners in conversations or are still best friends with them, it shows that they have unhealthy soul ties to their past and aren’t ready to move on. So, could you please move on?
- Be cautious of someone who claims to be a Christian and yet wants to ‘cover some bases’ with you before getting married. The need to evaluate sexual compatibility is often used as an excuse. Don’t you trust the Lord to bring you someone who is compatible with you? Can we claim to be Christians if we trust our own methods above the ways of the Lord? Since the Christian life is all about surrender to Christ, don’t fall for these flimsy excuses that are only meant to fulfil fleshly lusts. A wonderful marriage is worth the wait, and the anticipation will only make things more exciting.
- If they constantly ask for your pictures but never ask you thoughtful questions to get to know you on a deeper level, it demonstrates how shallow they are. While receiving compliments on your looks might be nice at times, bear in mind that appearances fade over time. If you are just liked for your appearance, there will always be someone more attractive. You’ll be easily replaced.
- Do they have a history of relying on family, friends and ex-partners for financial support? Fiscally irresponsible? Drowning in debt? An affluent lifestyle that exceeds their means? Flee!
- Observe how they treat their family. That’s how they’ll treat you in the future.
- Pay attention to what their friends say about them; friends and relatives often jokingly and unconsciously convey a lot about a person’s character. Pay heed to what they say.
- Social Proofing : They keep throwing social proofs your way, bragging about how much “in-demand” they are amongst the opposite sex. They want feeling grateful that they chose you over the others, creating a weird power imbalance that makes you feel pushed to say “yes” before someone else gets lucky and whisks them away.
- Are they extremely hot tempered? Overtly critical of others? Ok run. Now!
Marriage isn’t easy. Don’t waste precious years of your life pursuing a traumatic relationship that will result in an even worse marriage. You must practice discernment while choosing a life partner. There may be aspects of this individual that you don’t notice because you’re overwhelmed with emotions, but others will. Consider the opinions of the people who care for you.
Keep seeking the Lord’s mind. Not your will, but His will, because His will only wants the best for you.
Maximize Your Singlehood
God sometimes allows you to go through a season of singleness, to help you grow in Him and equip you to be a better partner to your spouse. No matter how ready you think you are, you must put your trust in Him and His timing. Many of us rush into relationships, even if they are toxic, in order to gain control. We oppose God’s plan because we believe we can mold our story better or that we know what truly brings us joy. But what exactly is faith? Faith is having a good opinion of God. Knowing that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).
Though this season of singleness can feel hard and lonely at times, trust that God knows what He is doing. Our Abba never fails us. Let Him write your love story. It is easy to make an idol out of your partner if you are not whole in Christ and deeply rooted in Him. If you seek fulfilment from your spouse, you will be disappointed. You were created to be complete in Christ. Marriage requires us to pour ourselves into selflessly loving the other; we cannot do so unless we are first filled with Christ.
Once you are married and have kids, you may never experience a time like this again. Use your singleness to devote your entire attention to Christ, ministry, and self-growth.
Here are some things you can do to maximize your singleness :
- While you’re still unmarried, practice selflessness. Go see that elderly aunt who keeps calling you, check in on your pals and ask how they’re doing, and look for ways to help your community.
- Learn to cook and build healthy habits.
- Get organized. You will be leaders and homemakers, better your organizational skills. Make your bed, tidy your room, complete your to-do list, and quit procrastinating.
- Be prudent with your finances. Invest wisely and put your money to work so that it can make you more money as you enjoy time with your family.
- Be spontaneous and do things you’ve always wanted to do (NOT the strip club!). Travel, learn that instrument you’ve always wanted to play, minister to others, and acquire new skills.
- Go on dates with Jesus, spend lone time with Him, and talk to Him throughout the day. Can you be in a relationship with someone if you never spend quality time with them? Same goes for the Lord. He longs to be with you. Set aside at least twenty minutes in your day to be alone with Him. Listen and converse. During this time, the Lord will give you some tremendous revelations. Keep a journal by your side and write down what the Lord says to you. You’ll be astounded by the impact this Jesus-time has on your life.
Dating isn’t easy, especially if you’ve been hurt in the past. Remember that you are not alone on your journey, and that Jesus is always with you. While dating, ask His Spirit to give you discernment and wisdom. Most importantly, stay rooted in God’s word. His word will be a light in your walk, and He will make your paths straight.