It seems that every generation of youth define the standards of what is acceptable and unacceptable when it comes to dating and relationships. What was taboo and off-limits for one generation becomes normal in the next generation. We’ve seen that in every generation since WWII. I think that most Christian families feel overwhelmed against the tide of messages that our children hear everyday concerning love, marriage and sex. Instead of being victims of the culture, we must be proactive in teaching our children the biblical standards of love, marriage and commitment. Last time I shared the first principle of making sure that parents are involved in the process of choosing a spouse. I know that ultimately it is the decision of every young man or woman of who they marry, but parents must take an active role in sharing their wisdom with their children in the process. I want to share with you a couple more principles that I believe are the bedrock of a biblical philosophy of dating and courtship.
Principle #2 – Become the right person first. Most conversations I have had with young people about marriage and dating have to do with finding the “right” person. It seems that some teenagers and students have a built in radar on their head constantly scanning the territory for an acceptable mate. Now there’s nothing wrong with looking for a spouse or desiring one, but I think that some can become obsessed with it. I believe some have this propensity to “scan” because they are of the belief that there’s only one right person out there and they better find it. I’m not a proponent of that belief that there is one right person for you and if you miss out on that, you’re in trouble. The only standard God gives us for selecting a spouse is that they must be a believer (1 Corinthians 6 &7). There seems to be an obsession though today of finding this magical mate that will solve all their problems and make their life complete. Unfortunately a spouse doesn’t automatically make life better. Marriage does make life richer and better, but it requires a lot of work, sacrifice, and sanctification.
There’s a huge danger that we must help our kids avoid. Most Christian young adults spend all their time looking for the right person instead of becoming the right person. What we need to challenge our children to do is to first become the type of person that God wants them to be, and then let God bring someone into their lives when they are ready for the commitment of marriage. When the object of our hearts is to follow Jesus and to become like Him, then the temptation to make another person an idol fades.
Also, if a young man or woman is consumed with the gospel and allowing it to bear fruit in their life, the type of person that they will be attracted to will change. A shallow, selfish person is going to be attracted to the external and temporary. A gospel-centered person is going to be attracted to someone who loves Jesus. For those of us who have been married for any period of time, we know that the verse in Proverbs 31 holds true that charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised.
A great book for teenagers and young adults to read is Proverbs. This book gets to the heart of every person. It not only shows the type of person we need to become (wise), but it shows us the type of person we need to be attracted to. Encourage your kids to read a chapter in Proverbs everyday and discuss it. Read it together with the intent of seeing what it says about preparation for marriage.
Principle #3 – Beware of idolatry. I touched on this a little from my last point. One of the greatest dangers our children can fall prey to is turning people into idols. Now most of us have an image of a golden statue or something when we talk about idols, but an idol is just anything that we love more than God. God wants us to love him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Unfortunately, we are tempted everyday to love things more than Jesus. We must teach our children to guard their hearts (Prov. 4:23) against the temptation to put another person in the place of God. When our son or daughter starts to believe that they cannot be happy without another person, they have crossed the line of idolatry.
One of the best ways to teach your children about idols is to model it. Our kids know exactly what is most important to us. Is it a team, is it a person, is it a standard of living, is it our job, or is it status? We have very little ground to stand on to teach our kids about idols, when we are always practicing idolatry before them. We’ve all fallen in this area as parents, which is why we must always lead them and model repentance for them. As they see us forsaking our idols, they will understand what they must do when they find themselves in similar territory.
There’s also a great opportunity to shepherd a child’s heart when they’re young in this area. The heart issues of idolatry can be seen at a young age. When we confront and lead our children through issues of idolatry when they are 7 and 8, we’ll have a much greater chance of helping them and shepherding them when they are 15 and 16. When your son and daughter begins to show signs that their joy, hope, or happiness is connected to something other than Jesus, you must be diligent to ask them heart questions. Always lead them back to the gospel and Jesus and pray that it takes root in their heart.
Marriage is a good thing and being attracted to others is natural, but let’s train our children to always place their ultimate joy and hope in Jesus.