ROMANCE

 

LUST & PORNOGRAPHY

It's so hard to control my lust especially when I am home alone.  Do you have any tips or suggestions?

                The temptation is strongest when you're home alone, as you've said. That's because you have privacy without accountability. I recommend any of the following choices--each of which will require a certain degree of surrender and sacrifice if you want to pursue godliness and repent of sin:
                1) Spend less time alone. This could mean studying with friends, or even just moving your computer into the living room., have a door that doesn't close, etc.
                2) Get software that keeps you accountable. Give the passwords to one of your church friends in your accountability group. If everyone in your group does this, there's a good team effort to move in the right direction.
                3) Stay in constant confession and prayer about it, not just at home, but with your church people. It's a real struggle, a dangerous one, and one that will determine the extent of your commitment to God in many situations. 
                If you want to solve the problem, understand that it's going to come at a cost. Sin is tempting because it's pleasing. Removing it will be unpleasant--at least for a while. You can't do it without accountability, so make sure someone else is there to check up on how you're doing.

 

What would you say to a guy who has feelings for other guys?  What about for porn?

                That kind of an issue is very private, I'm sure, and so I don't think he'd be very eager to share it with his small group on a given weekend. But it's DEFINITELY something that needs to be confessed and prayed over. If his pastor is honestly a man who follows God--not just preaches on Sunday, but really strives for godly character and loves Jesus--then that guy should talk to his pastor so that his pastor can pray for him and follow-up in conversation for a while. 

                There are other measures to take also, like avoiding situations of temptation (like being in the company of a guy who's attractive to him, or using the internet to indulge in that kind of imagery).   James 5:16 is clear instruction that recovery from a struggle with sin is done by way of confession and prayer. That is the ONLY way we fight against spiritual struggle. That's why it should be no surprise to us that Satan makes us so reluctant, afraid, uninterested, and unwilling to confess our sins. He'll make us think it's not a big deal, or it won't change anything, or it'll only make things worse. But God wasn't lying when He said that this is how we get healed from that stuff. It doesn't happen overnight, but it does happen.

 

Is it bad to watch pornography if you're of legal age (18+)?

                Yes, pornography is bad.   Matthew 5:27-30 is probably the best and most well-known passage to address the issue, and it pretty much speaks for itself. We were not meant to crave flesh apart from spiritual union under the bond of marriage.

                To keep perspective, ask yourself whether or not you plan on entertaining the same habits when you're dating. Will you tell your girlfriend? Will you show her what you're watching? What about your wife?  Of course, if you plan on keeping it secret, there's no doubt that you know there's something wrong with it.

                Keeping the biblical approach to pornography will do away with the issue about age. It doesn't matter if you're 18 or 21 or 75. It doesn't matter. The issue isn't how old you are. It's the fact that the desire is unhealthy. It's mass-fed to us in media, both audio and video. That's why we have to set some serious precautions to be wise.

                I always check movie ratings, including the content that is listed which describes the reasons for the rating. If there's nudity, it's out of the question. I very rarely watch those movies--simply because I, as a man, just can't approach female nudity as an art form. It would honestly mess with my thoughts. I also don't go to comedies that make light of sexual humor. Those things follow my mind long after the movie is over, and they only perpetuate an unhealthy outlook on the value of women.  All of this is done to honor my wife and protect my purity (which you still have to protect even if you're married!). If Christine wants to watch a movie that has nudity (like a foreign film), I often don't watch it with her (which is nice, because I hate foreign films).  The apostle Paul, in Philippians 4, says "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think upon such things." That HAS to be the priority of believers today, amidst a world that advertises free thinking and anti-censorship to such a degree that all precaution, discretion, and wisdom is thrown out the window.

                We often think the Israelites of the Old Testament are such idiots because they keep turning to false gods and idols when God is working in their midst, and yet our churches today still turn to the same false gods and idols today while God is working in their midst. We, all too often, buy into materialism and shallow body image values and popularity contests. The time to be set apart and holy has never been greater than now, because we are immersed with libraries of biblical resources in our software and bookstores, but we're equally submerged in billboards and commercials and websites of money, sex, and power. The war is in our homes, the weapons are available for us to use. If anyone should be fighting this fight and standing for godly values, it's us, today, right now.

                Every man who struggles with lust needs to confess it and address it among other brothers. Every sister should know that it's a serious struggle for men, and every man should know that he's not the only one that's going through it. There needs to be safety to confess in the church, and firmness to deal with it with prayer and accountability. Don't just wait for that to happen at your church. There are many people who eagerly await great change for the better. Then there are those who bring it. If you follow Christ, don't wait for good to happen to you. Bring it.

 

Is pleasuring yourself a sin?  How else do we relieve our physical needs if we don't want to do anything sexual with another person before marriage?

                I think the issue you're getting at with "pleasuring yourself" is the subject of masturbation, right? If not, this is going to be an intensely awkward response to your question...
                To be very precise, masturbation is never mentioned in the Bible specifically. But to be very contextual, it was certainly included in the topic of sexual immorality, particularly because it involves lustful indulgence.  So the people of God have always understood masturbation to be sin. Remember that Christ himself taught that the way we look at each other can be sinful (Matthew 5:28). That kind of internal, invisible sin is so dangerous that Jesus gives the strongest warning against it with a hyperbolized prescription (Matthew 5:29-30)!
 
                The solution to unhealthy sexual desire is not to find some way to gratify it, thinking that will keep it under control, but rather to recognize it as sin and remove it.
 In terms of relationships, this is why Paul instructed AGAINST long engagement periods--which also means long dating periods--as you can see in 1 Corinthians 7:9. If you're not ready to marry, you're not ready to date. Else, you're really just walking into a death trap of temptation.
                Some practical ways to stay pure, though, are to keep everything in constant confession with a good group of brothers (or sisters, if you're a girl). Stay public with your relationship, including the struggles. Don't hide anything, because that's where infection begins. Even in struggling with private lust, you'll find that confessing that won't make people think less of you--actually it'll do the opposite. Your vulnerability and transparency will engender trust and prayer and accountability. That's why Christ instructs it to overcome sin. Confession is always the first step to any kind of cure, and every cure is a process, not instant.
                If you can get that in your heart, then I'd finally recommend seeking mentorship. If you, as a couple, seek the counsel of an older, wiser couple--a couple that you can point at and say, "we want to be like them"--then that's where you'll get the best guidance. Seek them out and ask for time to be trained in relationship. Listen to their experience and hold on to all the good that they say. This will protect you, teach you, and season you long before you learn things the hard way.

 

Is it sinful to masturbate without pornography or lustful fantasizing?

                Personally, I can't imagine a situation where one would be sexually aroused without an idea or image or fantasy somehow starting it. I might be completely wrong on that, but I've just never heard of such a thing.
                But I think the best answer in uncertain situations like these is always the one that stays most in the safe zone. If you are to err, err on the side of caution, not carelessness. After all, what physical pleasure is there that you are not willing to give up in exchange for holiness? Is there really a need for a physical sensation that is more important than the need for purity and holiness?
                Say that a person really likes getting back massages. Now let's say that the best back massage is given at a local spa where the workers are all scantily clad. Even if the person sincerely claims that he has no attraction to the people who attend him, isn't it wiser not to place himself in such a situation where temptation would certainly be lurking and where his godly testimony is risked before the watching world? Even for the latter factor, going in secret may avoid damaging his reputation, but it's in our secret habits that the Enemy tempts us the most, isn't it?
                My answer, then, is that we should regard masturbation as sinful regardless of the presence of pornography or lustful fantasizing, as it not invites those temptations for future occasions, but does nothing to develop the self-control, self-denial, and value for purity that God's people are daily called to.

 

I have been dealing with masturbation and I want to know if there's anything I can do to stop.  When I pray to stop masturbation, I know I'll still continue.

                Figure out the pattern of when that temptation strikes. Whatever conditions invite that temptation (like being alone, on the internet, or whatever), set up a system of accountability to either remove yourself from those situations or report about those situations to your spiritual accountability.
                That's really how it is with overcoming any struggle. If you're an alcoholic, avoid places where alcohol is available to you. If you're a chronic gambler, stay away from those games. The same goes with the temptation of lust and pornography and masturbation: avoid the circumstances and situations that invite the urge to sin.

 

Why is it so taboo for girls to lust like guys do?  I'm a girl struggling with masturbation, and I'm too ashamed to tell anyone.  Are there other Christian girls like me?  My small group only talks about "guarding our hearts."

                Actually, there are a lot of girls who struggle with masturbation, just like their are many guys who struggle with stuff that we consider more girlish problems, like gossip. Both sexes are tempted with the whole range of sins, and each individual might have different vulnerability to one kind of temptation than another. Being the one to confess in your group might be the best thing you can do for those girls, since it will certainly communicate that this is a place of safety, trust, and healing to come to when someone is struggling spiritually. Someone has to take that first step, and doing so means denying yourself and taking up your cross. I promise it won't be easy, but it will be a huge step in your own growth in commitment and faith.

 

Is it wrong for a wife to lust after her husband?

                Yes. Lust is wrong.  If the wife thinks of her husband as a sexual object for her pleasure, without considering his value as a human being, a co-partner in life and in ministry, whom she serves in marriage with respect and submission, who is an extension of herself in oneness by God-ordained matrimony--if all she sees is someone who is supposed to give her a sensual thrill, then certainly it is wrong. That attitude is wrong no matter who you direct it toward. People are made in the image of God, with value and dignity.
                This, of course, is different from a wife being attracted to her husband and being able to share in physical intimacy that includes marital commitment and fidelity and submission and purity.

 

I have a weak spot for girls.  What can I do to build a resistance?

                One way is to stay in good company. It's when we're alone that we fall prone to temptation. Surround yourself with guys that you can hang with and will keep you accountable, and stay in conversation about every struggle. That doesn't mean go around saying "that girl is so hot," but to seriously be able to admit that you have an unhealthy attraction to so-and-so and need to pray it out. The more you address the issue (instead of hiding or ignoring it), the better you'll develop coping strategies.

 

Is it possible to completely overcome sexual sin (like masturbation or not having sex out of marriage)?

                Yes, it is. Paul notes it in Ephesians 5:3-9 (this is just one of his many examples) that sexual immorality is part of the unsaved character. Christ saved us from that, and victory over sin is not a fairy tale. It takes humility, confession, accountability, and prayer, and without ALL of those things together it won't happen. James 5:14-16 notes this with the issue of sickness. That word of sickness, in the Greek, is also used of spiritual weakness, not just physical illness. It's very possible that James could be speaking of people who are spiritually "sick," meaning they have deep struggles with sin. The prescription is to call the church leaders to pray over him (continually, according to the Greek verb's aspect, meaning it's not just a one-shot deal). With that kind of sincere effort that doesn't try to hide, ignore, or disguise the issue, real victory is achieved.

 

Is being a model for Victoria's Secret (or posing in undergarments) bad in Christian view?

I'm going to say "yes" for the following reasons:
1) The lust of the eyes is a sinful desire that we need to repent of, not profit from. Models that work for Victoria's Secret certainly do display their product, but the marketing strategy plays on the allure and seductive qualities of sexual fashion.
2) It's not hard to point out that the Victoria's Secret portrayal of beauty endorses and unhealthy (and often unrealistic) notions of sex, womanhood, and love.
3) Beauty comes from modesty and purity and character (1 Peter 3:1-4)--not sexuality, promiscuity, and sensuality. None of these are practiced by a model who advertises the opposite.
4) The call of the Christian is to live above reproach--to be far from blame. To intentionally go with a career that immediately calls one's testimony into question is counter to the character of the gospel.

 

 

ATTRACTION & LOVE

If two people are attracted to each other but decided it's bad if they get together, should they remain friends and continue to talk?

                No, I don't think they "should." If they "should" remain friends and keep talking, that means it would be wrong if they did not. It would mean moral obligation.  I think they can, but I don't really recommend it. Our prayers are to resonate with "Lead us not into temptation" (Matthew 6:9-13) but what good is that if we willingly walk ourselves into it?

                Boundaries are wise. If I am attracted to someone who is not my wife, I have to set up boundaries. Avoiding contact is the simplest, most effective preventative measure, but it's not always practical (like if we are in the same class or at the same church or whatever). In that case, I'd keep my contact public--not exclusive. Stay in groups, let close friends know that this is an issue that you want to overcome, and have them keep you accountable.

                While feelings aren't the same as actions, the one leads to the other. That's why we "should" be careful not to pretend the two are very separate.

 

Is it a bad idea for people at the same church to date and look for a spouse?

                Church is the BEST place to look for your spouse!  Think of the advantages. Both persons would be learning the same things, ministering to the same people, enjoying the same fellowship, receiving the same accountability, etc. Dating someone at a different church makes it hard to connect on those VERY important things. 

                If your church is a God-centered, Bible-focused, Spirit-powered church, then that's exactly where you want to have your relationship start and stay.  Note, however, that simply going to the same church doesn't cut it. Both parties have to be involved in it--part of that church's ministry. Attendance isn't the requirement. Commitment is.

 

Is it wrong to pursue someone who is already in a relationship with someone else?  What if that other relationship is ungodly?

                Yeah, that's actually the 10th commandment: don't covet your neighbor's stuff (house, wife, employee, etc.). There's no stipulation on whether it's a good or bad relationship--just don't do it. Don't let your testimony (which represents Christ!) be one that sponsors adultery (for the person in the relationship), breaking up, unfaithfulness, scheming, jealousy, etc. There's nothing noble about breaking up a couple so that you can go out with one of them.

 

If we know dating a certain person would be a bad idea, how do we cope with feelings for someone?

                You deal with it the same way a married man would have to deal with feelings for a woman that is not his wife: you exercise restraint and self-control.  Can you imagine if that married man said, "I felt strongly for another woman, so I couldn't control it, so I had to act on it and pursue her?" That's not an excuse. Our emotions are a gift to experience life, and the flesh and the Enemy can use them to twist that experience and tempt us into destruction. 

                If you are aware of feelings that you have that are not beneficial, exercise restraint and self-control. Recovering alcoholics shouldn't visit bars. Why? Because the temptation is too close in their faces. In the same way, if you like someone who you know you shouldn't pursue, the only wise course of action is to avoid temptation by limiting contact. That's what Joseph did in Genesis 39.

 

Is it bad to tell someone that you like them?

                Haha, not if you're a man. That's WAY better than trying to get the girl to figure it out. Show some strength, resolve, courage, and initiative and just tell her. You're not going to impress her with your cowardice.
                If you're a girl, don't tell him.  I'm joking in my tone, but I do mean this. Even if he doesn't like you, he'll see you as an easy catch which will either automatically have him use you or will completely dispel any interest he could have had. Your modesty and purity are two of your greatest assets to allowing a man to be trained to properly court you. It's not wrong to tell him. I'm just advising against it because the way the relationship starts is the way it persists. If she initiates, she always will. It's just a pattern that happens.

 

Is it possible to like two girls at once?  Is it bad?

                Yes it is possible.  When I was in high school, I liked two girls at the same time--one at school, one at church. I think that really shows how desperate, lonely, and selfish I was. It meant that I was attracted to each girl and hoped to hold their affections, but I certainly wasn't thinking about commitment or serving or honoring either one. My feelings had come from a seriously warped, self-absorbed agenda. I'm glad I didn't actually win either one of their hearts, since I wasn't ready or able to act like the kind of man that God has called His sons to be.

                Yes, it is bad to like two girls at the same time.  You probably can’t actually state a single valid reason why it would be a GOOD thing to like two girls at once, right? What good will come out of that? Even in the best case scenario for your feelings (where both like you back), at least one girl has to go away with hurt feelings, or you have to manage the sin of having two romantic partners.  If you like two girls at the same time, it confirms that your affections for BOTH those girls are completely self-intentioned. You're focusing on NEITHER of them to have all your focus, commitment, protection, service, attention, or love. Your desire for each girl is rooted in something besides godly committed relationship. After all, if you wanted to give "Girl #1" all your love, it ought to alarm you, upset you, offend you at the thought of you having feelings for anyone else, because that's a threat to your affections for her. A true affection will breed not only a godly jealousy over her affection (which is agitated when you see her being close with other guys), but it will also stir up a godly jealousy inside you over your own affections (which is outraged at the idea of ever loving her less, or loving her along with someone else, or loving someone else instead of her).

                Recognizing the truth about these feelings is critical. If you understand that they're based in nothing good for either girl, then you know it's a temptation and a test to overcome. Don't try to just pick one of the girls and get over the other--that doesn't change the truth about how shallow your feelings are for the one you picked. Rather, it's time to confess the problem to your spiritual accountability, receive prayer and accountability, and speak intimately with God about the honest truth behind your intentions and ask for strength to stand firm.

                You can't control your feelings, but you can control your actions. Feelings might be an explanation for poor actions, but they're never an excuse. It's your feelings that the Enemy will use to most easily manipulate you. It's your trust in God that will provide you the strength to be patient, confessional, repentant, humble, and righteous.  If you're going through this situation of liking two girls at once, know that getting through it rightly will certainly strengthen you to help identify and avoid temptation in the future when it's your affections for your spouse that are threatened, not just some girl that you have a crush on.

 

How can I stop developing crushes on practically everyone I see?

                Talk about it with your spiritual accountability. The more secret your feelings, the more intensely they fester. When you start telling people about your crushes, you start to hear yourself talking and realize more about how you feel and who you are. That's a really good first step to bringing your feelings under control and into the power of prayer and accountability.

 

What should you do if you are attracted to someone but they're not attracted to you?

                Oh man. I'm either the right guy to ask about this (because that's like the story of my life) or the wrong guy to ask about this (because I'm terrible at being romantic).
                Here's my personal opinion and advice. Please don't confuse it as some kind of law or moral principle:
I think you should make every effort to be a "good catch." That doesn't mean try to make him/her THINK you're a good catch. It means you actually have to BE THAT. 
                Write down the list of all the qualities you want in the perfect mate. Then see if you live up to those qualities. If you do, you'll attract someone who wants you for being you. So even if you're attracted to someone who's not attracted to you, that wouldn't change your focus on being that perfect mate. Don't derail your priorities to try to convince someone to like you if they've clearly communicated against that notion. The more you try to go after someone, the more you're likely to settle for less. If s/he doesn't like you, don't keep pursuing (cuz that ultimately means his/her opinion didn't matter to you) and don't look elsewhere (cuz that proves you're more attracted to dating than to that specific person). Just go on with your life, being the best you can be. Someone will definitely notice.

  

Is it sin if I'm a Christian girl that loves a Mormon guy?

                That relationship is not an opportunity of evangelism; it is proof that Christ is not the central priority to a "believer's" life. If Christ is central, then there is no negotiating on his lordship in the believer's life, and especially not in the most intimate company that the believer keeps. Compromise on this issue is nothing short of apostasy.

                Sin is in the motive and action. That's different than feeling. Never does the Scripture say God judges you for your feelings. His judgment is always on our motives and actions (since the two are inseparable and clear to Him). Feelings are going to be experienced passively, but how you handle them is what you do actively. That's where your responsibility lies. That's why Ephesians 4:26 can say, "In your anger do not sin." You experience the feeling, but can act properly through it. That's why Jesus can say in Matthew 5:22 that anger (emotion) is subject to judgment, and he lays out to examples of wrongly handling that anger (actions): judging someone in a condemning manner and cussing at them.

                So about this Mormon guy that you're thinking about romantically: I honestly don't know what those thoughts are, or where they're leading you. If your thoughts are lustful, then the answer is clear on whether it's sin. If they're more than just thoughts and feelings and move into plans and goals, it's really not my response you should be seeking. Your values and conscience aren't subject to my scrutiny, and I'm just not wise enough to know the deep and hidden corners of your heart. And even if I were to make a judgment, I have no power of your soul or spirit or calling or purpose so as to make any difference in your life. In that sense: who cares what I think? Know God by what He reveals of Himself in His Word, and that'll make clear to you what's right or wrong. 

                As my personal suggestion: I'd keep my mind on Matthew 5:27-30 and Philippians 4:8-9. It really comes down to whether you trust God with your romance. If you do, great. It's really hard, but it's really fulfilling and inspiring when you do it right.  Of course, if you don't trust God with your romance, then there's really no point in asking me for a biblical response, since the answer would already be dismissed in your mind as lacking credibility.  Only you know which side you're lying on. I hope the Bible is your standard of truth. That's my hope for everyone, including me.

 

How should a believer respond to an unbeliever that flirts with him/her?

                I think it depends on what exactly is meant by "flirt." If it's a wink, you can giggle and walk away. If it's more serious and direct than that, then the response should also scale up in degree. 

                Protect your testimony so as not to stain Christ's name by becoming known as a flirt or tease. Romantic immaturity is one of Satan's greatest weapons to destroy people who were on the right track to salvation.  I think our best example is simply the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife in Genesis 39. He avoids entertaining behavior that could compromise his godly focus, judgment, or action. 

                And, of course, I think it's ALWAYS best to tell someone in person, with noticeable gentility and respect, exactly where your values are. If someone is flirting with you, tell him/her that you don't want to give the wrong idea to him/her or anyone else: you're not interested (or maybe you ARE interested...either way, say it). Behavior should thereafter fall into consistency with the intentions. If you two are not interested, the flirting stops. If only one is interested, the flirting stops. If both are interested, then a more direct and accountable arrangement of relationship is formed. No matter which way that goes, everyone is clear on what's going on.

 

A guy at school who's not a Christian likes me.  How should I tell him that I can't date him without sounding rude?  I'm afraid he'll hate Christians then.

                You can just tell him you don't want to get involved. I don't think you have to lay out reasons, but if you do, there's nothing dishonorable about saying, "Jesus is the first love of my life, and if I can't share that with you, we're both going to really frustrate each other."
                People who end up hating Christians because they can't date them are missing the point. Just stay strong in front of him and he'll eventually come to see that. If he isn't attracted to you for who you are (including your values!) then he has an agenda in mind that I find completely suspect.

 

Is it a sin to be attracted to more than one person at the same time?

                No. The feelings are going to come up naturally, especially during teenage years. Experiencing the feeling is what happens to you. How you handle it is what you're responsible for.

 

How can I be attracted to someone only for their faith?

                You can't be attracted to someone ONLY for their faith. That's weird. You can't negate your attraction to the obvious things like their looks, personality, quirkiness, body odor, or whatever. If you like someone ONLY because of their faith, you'd end up liking everyone who is as faithful as that person (granted that they don't have features that are unattractive to you).

                You can, however, have a good indication on whether or not you attraction is wise by seeing if you hold the same values as that person. What's more important to you (and the person you like): godliness, or self-gratification? Is your faith going to guide your romance, or are you going to pursue your romance and just stuff faith into the remaining corners of your heart? If the person you're attracted to is someone who is one of the reasons why you're growing in Christ, that's a good sign. He or she is someone that rebukes you when you're in sin, encourages you when you do well, has a passion to serve people with his or her gifts and is happy when you serve with yours. Most of all, that person needs to be someone that will be willing to pray with you, submitting to God's leadership in all things. Then you have an attraction that people won't have real reason to be concerned about.

 

How should a Christian look for a relationship?

                Slowly.  We have a tendency to rush into relationships, and I'm sure we have our hormones to thank for some of those urges.
I don't have a way to look for relationship, probably because everybody has a different personality or set of needs and gifts and challenges, so that changes which approach would be best for whichever two people are involved.

                Here's at least a small list of things I'd think about:

1) If you're not ready to marry any time soon, you're CERTAINLY not ready to date. If you don't have the maturity to love sacrificially and unconditionally, then you're really just going to be exploiting someone for your own pleasure, only as long as they suit your preferences, and when you decide you're tired of their positives or just don't want to deal with their negatives, you drop them off for someone else to have to deal with the shattered pieces of their heart that you left behind.

2) Getting involved with someone includes their family. A huge emphasis in relationships is bringing someone closer to God, and that's even more important with significant others. If you want to date someone, you have to be ready and willing to honor his or her parents by the manner you treat them, and also in the manner you treat your significant other. Avoiding your girlfriend's family because it's awkward is a tell-tale sign that you're not looking to love her properly, as you're completely ignoring her entire foundation and upbringing for the sake of your own comfort. Many parents don't have conversations with their kids about what physical boundaries they set for dating relationships, but most people know what would or would not cause their parents concern.

3a) Christians and non-Christians just don't mix. Not if the Christian is serious about God, anyway. You can't seriously think that God is the sole most important purpose to existence of the universe and suffered torture and death to pay for your infinite worth of sin and error, and then couple with someone who doesn't care at about that.  If you're dating someone who is an unbeliever, it's clear that God isn't the reason why you want to with him or her. It would make me wonder what you're really after, since it's not moral, spiritual, ministerial, or about godly relationship.

More absurd is the idea that you could evangelize someone through dating them. It's arrogant. That's like a Buddhist saying to you (the Christian), "I'm gonna date you, cuz after we get together, I'm sure I can turn you Buddhist." Yeah right. If you really think you can change a person by dating them, you're convincing yourself that you have the power of sovereign election, which only the Holy Spirit exercises. You've claimed yourself to have God's power.  YOU can't save anyone. You do your part to give them the message, but the Holy Spirit really does the work and the person decides. You're part is not in the decision, it's in the transmission of the message. There is absolutely NO guarantee, not even by 1 percent, that by dating someone, you can influence the decision of the Holy Spirit or the person to completely put themselves to death to take up the life of Christ. 

 

What type of characteristics should a Christian woman look for in a guy?

                In my opinion, the Christian should look for a spouse who is:

1) Spiritually growing: frequently confessing and repenting of sin and pursuing holiness even at the cost of comfort.

2) Personally stable: having a clear understanding of one's own strengths and weaknesses, knowing when to offer the former and seek help for the latter.

3) Relationally mature: understanding that one's own calling in relationship is to initiate godly submission, not to wait for and respond to it.

4) Physically able: not given to laziness, unproductivity, or tendencies to cut corners to shorten one's own workload especially when at the expense of others.

5) Emotionally healthy: able to reasonably express one's emotions without losing control over or dismissing responsibility about one's actions.

6) Financially careful: understanding the danger of the love of money, the incredible blessing of generosity, the godliness of contentment, and the call to take care of the needy.

7) Professionally competent: exhibiting a strong work ethic of honesty, effort, sacrifice, and excellence to do well at any task as an act of worship to God, not an employer.

 

How do I know if a man will make a godly husband?

                Inspect whether or not he's serious about repentance, confession, and faith and holiness. See if he's someone who admits his wrongs and seeks help to stay right. See if he cares about what the Bible says more than what his heart desires. See if he is naturally drawn to his family as a source of strength. See if his priorities are accomplished at the cost of his pleasures. And see if he is in the habit of frequent, honest, and trusting prayer. That's a man to follow. That's a man to marry. He's worth giving your whole life to, because he's going to take it and his own and put them before Christ. You'll be challenged to follow his leadership, and he'll be challenged to love you despite himself. You take care of your part, and marry a man who takes care of his.

 

What does it mean to submit?

                Submission is setting aside one's own self and tending to the needs of someone else first.  In a relationship, the woman is to submit to her husband by obeying his authority, not usurping it or telling him how to lead.  The man is to submit to the woman by sacrificing of his own time, energy, and resources to direct his wife toward holiness. That is, he is to love her like Christ loves the Church.  In an employment situation, the worker submits to the employer by carrying out all his responsibilities as if he were serving the Lord. The employer submits to the worker by treating him properly, taking care of him and not thinking of him as any less of a human being.  To everyone, it means to love your neighbor as yourself. We're to take care of each other as best as we can, even when it costs us of our own comfort or needs.  Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 are good sources to see where God instructs everyone to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21).

 

Should looks matter when choosing a spouse?

                Yeah, I think so.  Because you get to choose a spouse in our culture, it's wise to choose one that is NOT unattractive to you. Why set up an additional obstacle to your marriage?  But I wouldn't prioritize appearance so high that it takes place of what you know is more important: is he/she faithful, modest, supportive, prayerful, etc.  Look for virtues first. The rest are perks.
                Related issue: The way someone dresses tells you a bit about him/her. Is he/she trying to attract attention to body and physical appeal? Is he/she modest--that is, considerate not to send the wrong message or tempt/stumble someone? Is he/she hungry for attention? Is he/she troubled, angry, rebellious, etc.?  Fashion communicates these signals. Do you want your spouse to continue to dress that way when you're dating? Married? Parenting? How drastically do you expect it to change? Does he/she agree to that?
 
Really, I'm probably the least qualified to remark on fashion since I wear the same thing every day, but even that should make you guess stuff like I'm methodical, predictable, and absolute (and pretty boring). You'd be right on all of those, and there's more that could be said after that.

 

What is the best way to tell a girl you like her?

                My opinion: Look her in the eyes and tell her how you feel and why. No tricks or gimmicks. Roses and chocolates and teddy bears are a smoky ruse that might would only cloud up her expectations of how you'll treat years down the line. From the very first conversation where you lay out your feelings for her, she needs to know that communication doesn't need to get flowered up or come with material gifts to convince her. Your word should be clear, reliable, and sincere. 

                Once you've told her, and if you get into a relationship, THAT is when you bust out roses and chocolates and teddy bears or whatever. Those should be expressions of a loving relationship you already share--not ploys to convince her to get into a relationship which you'll need to constantly purchase to maintain.

 

If someone likes you, but you don't like them, what is the best way to let them down easy? What is the best way to get over someone?

                Let them down easy? You probably don't know me very well. :)
                I would look the person in the eye, probably place both hands on her shoulders, and say, "Listen very carefully: I have no romantic interest in you whatsoever. I'm flattered that you would find me worthy of your attention, but the feeling simply is not mutual on that level. Whatever you have to do to handle it or extinguish it, do. I'll try my best not to agitate your feelings to make it harder than it needs to be."
                Fortunately, I only had to do that once in 8th grade--though I was less neutral in tone. I think the way I said it back then was, "Hey, I heard you like me. Stop. Seriously." All this should probably tell you and everyone else that I almost always bank on clarity rather than sensitivity in cases where I need to choose only one. I'm terrible at romance and more terrible at romantic advice.
                The best way to get over someone? Here's my method (good luck):
                1) Tell her and everyone else that you like her. As long as it remains secret, it continues to fester. Once you get officially rejected, it's actually a lot easier to recover and move on, instead of sitting up at night wondering if the way she laughed at your joke means she's interested...
                2) Avoid unnecessary contact. Don't sit next to her in class. Don't text and call and chat or whatever. Out of sight, out of mind. And certainly don't Facebook-stalk.
                3) Be patient. Feelings don't get dropped over night. Might take a few months. (I liked a girl from 8th grade to freshman year in college, so I know what it's like to suffer for a long time through it)

 

If you like someone but it doesn't push you away from God, should you try to stop liking that person?

                If you have a crush on someone, you should try to reduce those feelings if they distracts you from your priorities: like taking care of friends in need, studying, focusing on developing new and godly relationships with people around you, applying what you're learning from God's Word, loving and serving your family at home, etc. All of those things are what it means to walk with God, and if it becomes an obstacle to any of those, then something should be done.

 

Are there certain couples that are better suited for each other than if each of them were coupled with someone else?

                Sure, some matches are better than others. But this is more for practical reasons.  God's people are energized for ministry by the power of the Holy Spirit. Each believer possesses aptitudes and interests to build up the body--we refer to these as spiritual gifts.
The best combinations of people--assuming that they are both of godly character--are the ones that allow both persons to exercise their spiritual services fully.  If both are built for missionary work, that's a pretty good combo. If only one is in love with missionary work across national boundaries, while the other is not, then that's a less ideal combo. This part is pretty easy to get down.

                There are other pragmatic factors. If one person has a serious handicap (missing a limb, blindness, paralysis, etc.), then having a spouse who is able to provide proper care would be important. A deaf person would make an unusual partner for a professional musician, as it would present difficulty in sharing in one of the most important values of one of the members.  The extreme example should highlight that putting any two random believers together isn't equal suitability for partnership when compared to selecting a spouse based on how the two would complement one another.

                Biblically, God created Eve as a helper to Adam. Woman was not created as a clone of man, but as a complement. For centuries, marriage was arranged by parents to try and match what would make the best complement--not just as two individuals joining together, but two families. That, today, is still the best interest to keep in mind.  A couple isn't ideal just because both are Christian. They're ideal when they complement one another in a godly manner. But ideal is really a luxury, not a requirement, for a relationship to do well.

 

Do you believe opposites attract?

                There is a Yes answer and a No answer.

                Yes: God created woman out of man to be a helper (Genesis 2). She is not a copy of him, but a complement. She possesses certain qualities that he does not. She demonstrates certain emotions differently than he does. God did this on purpose because it's when the man and woman finally join together that they are ONE. Until then, in my opinion, you're incomplete. So opposites do attract in the sense that men and women will be attracted to those that exhibit the things that the other lacks, and vice versa.

                No: In the context of values, I don't think people are really attracted to their opposites for any long-term period. An animal right activist would have a hard time being attracted to a butcher (or whoever kills animals to send to the butcher), because much of what he does and believes about animals would violate her own values. A satanist would have a hard time being attracted to a Christian--obvious reasons. 

                But people differ in the magnitude to which they hold to their values. Not every Christian is really sincere. Not every animal rights activist is as zealous as another. But when you really lay down the most important values that people live and function for, they seek out partners who are moving in the same direction for the same goals. So opposites do not attract when looking at people's life values.

 

Do you believe in soul mates?

                No. I actually think that the concept is a little dangerous, as it provokes irresponsible thinking.  Consider the following:

1) Marriage was arranged by parents until about the Romantic Era. Up until then, should we conclude that every marriage that was arranged by parents was a match of two people who happened to be soul mates? Did parents have that keen of an accuracy to know who you were spiritually designed to couple with? Especially given the longevity of those marriages back then and the failure of our marriages today, I think then that if we want to find our soul mates, we should tell our parents to find them for us.

2) Nowhere in the Bible is there any talk of soul mates. Not once. In fact, there's not even ever a command to try and "find the right one." All that talk is nonsense. The subtle deception is that it compels us to think selfishly--to look for what makes us happy, as if we're shopping for a new toy.  The Bible never tells us to look for the right one, but to BE the right one. All of God's attention is on instructing us on becoming the greatest man or woman that we can be. He commands husbands to love their wives, wives to love their husbands. The great reversal happens, where you are meant to think not for yourself, but for your significant other. It has nothing to do with finding the prize, but being the prize for whoever is searching for you.

3) My own personal development on the previous idea is this: we've been trained all our lives to "love someone BECAUSE" of something--love because she's pretty, love because he's smart, love because...  The more we look into the Bible, the more we find that God tell us to "love someone ANYWAY"--he's not very romantic but I love him anyway, she wants to talk more than I want to listen but I love her anyway.  Love, by God's definition (such as in 1 Corinthians 13), is so backward compared to the pictures we get on TV and billboards. It's less spontaneous and more enduring. Less self-serving, and more self-sacrificing.

4) When a couple breaks up, instead of taking responsibility for the sin and shortcomings that each party contributed to the conflict in the relationship, people who believe in soul mates could simply excuse themselves with comments like, "it just didn't work out, we weren't right for each other, s/he wasn't my soul mate." That kind of thinking completely neglects the blaring truth that the relationship was approached too quickly, without discretion, or carelessly.  Marriage never had its root in personal romance, but in unconditional commitment to love and respect. When a relationship breaks up, it's because someone decided to dissolve that covenant and cease practicing that most sacred vow.   NOTE: I'm speaking generally here. There are, of course, situations where relationships need to break--such as when one out of two unbelievers comes to faith in Christ and the spouse is an obstacle to worshiping God. That's one of the very rare cases where Jesus and Paul in the New Testament will allow divorce.

5) If I were to believe in soul mates, it would not be for any justifiable reason that comes from the Bible. It would be a conclusion that I make by myself, without evidence, and then inject into the Bible.  If I were to do that, I might as well be a full determinist. I'd have to start believing there's someone who's destined to be my English teacher. There's someone who's destined to be my worst enemy. There's someone who's destined to be the dentist who messes up on my root canal....etc.  What compels us to believe that pre-destiny applies only to romantic relationships? It really does nothing but massage the heart, convincing us that we're so special that there's someone chiseled out in the fabric of time who's only reason to exist is to satisfy your romantic or marital urges.  Predestination, as we all know, is something that most people are extremely uncomfortable with when stretched to deterministic degrees. If someone is predestined to be your soul mate, did they ever have a chance to choose? Does that mean that YOU don't really have a choice, but you're just irreversibly written into the course of history to fall in love with someone that was chosen before time began?

6) If soul mates exist, what does it mean when one of them dies and the other gets married and is equally convinced that the new spouse is a soul mate? Can people have more than one soul mate? If you answer yes or no, where are you getting your answer? What is your source of truth and teaching on the matter, since it's definitely in the Bible?  The issue of soul mates is romantic, but ultimately ridiculous.  I don't think God is as concerned so much about WHO me marry rather than HOW and WHY we uphold our marriage.

 

How do you know when you love someone?

                That's a decision that you make, not a circumstance that happens to you. Sure there's physical attraction and social chemistry and emotional attachment--all those things play a part. But you know you love someone when that person's well-being is more important to you than your own. You can prioritize that with everyone around you: your family, friends, and even strangers that you pass on the street. 

                One of the unhealthy thoughts that our society often indulges is that love is like a magical spell that you have to wait for and can't do anything to cause or to prevent. That's just not true. The fact that we're commanded to love one another is proof that it's something we actively choose, not something we wait for to happen to us.

                In terms of finding someone to marry (which is often what this question is referring to), you know you love that person when you're willing to serve them selflessly and committed to reconciling any differences that come up between you two as long as you're both pursuing God.

 

Is it wrong to express our feelings for another if it might hurt the relationship?

                Personally, I think it's always a good idea to express your feelings in a respectful and loving way. When telling someone about an issue that bothers you, let the person know without being accusative or critical. Just say what bothered you, but don't do it to try and punish the person by making him or her feel bad. Even though feeling bad might be their reaction, don't make it your aim.
                If you have romantic feelings about someone, DEFINITELY tell him or her. That's my personal advice, and I'm sure it sounds crazy, but no matter what, only good comes from it. If the person likes you back, you can now freely communicate about how to handle those feelings. If the person does NOT like you back, it definitely helps get over that person, or at least expedites your ability to move on since you'll stop wasting time wondering how he/she feels.

 

Is 1 Corinthians 13 about God's love or Christian's love for one another?

                Both! It's a description of how God loves His people, and how His people are to reflect His love to others around them. This is not the kind of love that is involved only in romantic relationships. It's unconditional love that's given without expecting anything in return.

 

Is a wet dream considered a sin even though you can't control it?

                No, it's not. It's really not morally driven in any capacity. There's no righteousness to it, nor sin to it. Like a sneeze, it's something done by the body functionally, not by the motives or intents of the heart.

 

What's your opinion of makeup?

                I don't wear it often, but it really does reduce the shine on my face when I'm in front of a camera.
                Makeup is neutral. It can be used to enhance beauty or perhaps cosmetically cover up a scar or blemish, and that's great.  I don't really know of any problem behind that if it stays that simple. But people can start to depend on it, such to the point where they won't let anyone see them without it. When that happens, it's become an addiction, and I think MANY women (even at church) are in that place. They've lost the sense of beauty that God's already given them.  But I think the problem, in those cases, is in the heart of the affected person. I never blame the makeup.

 

Do you think there are asexual people?

                Yeah, that's not a secret. There are plenty of people who are unable to have sex, and there are plenty of people who are uninterested in having sex. Whichever group you're referring to, there is an abundance.

 

 

DATING

Why should we date, since the Bible doesn't say we should?

                Yeah, I really want to agree with you: dating should not be done. But people have different notions of dating--some thinks it's going to dinner and talking; others think it's making out; others still think it's a mix of the two.  Additionally, marriage by parental arrangement simply doesn't exist in our society anymore. Everyone is expected to find their own spouse on their own. Do you tell a 40-year-old single man to ask his parents to find him a wife? Or would you instead train in him the value of respect, service, and purity toward women?

                Even the method of parental arrangement is not prescribed in the Bible. It's talked about, because that's what happened, but it's not instructed as the way we are expected to live. At best, it was incorporated as part of the Law for the nation Israel as long as they functioned in the Promised Land in the book of Leviticus.   If we could develop a better way to find a spouse, I'd be very interested.

 

Almost every peer I know at church is in a relationship. How do I find someone around my age to potentially date/marry? It seems as if Christians are getting married younger and younger these days.

                The fact that your peers are getting married doesn't have any effect on whether or not you should. Get married when you're ready and able to get married.  Christians aren't getting married at younger ages these days. You're just meeting people who are getting married and it's feeling like it's sooner than you expected. The typical age of marriage isn't really moving significantly. It remains in the 20s.

                As far as finding someone around your age to marry, I'd be less concerned with finding someone and more concerned with being someone worth finding. It's very accurate to say that you'll attract someone who is only as qualitative as you are. If you are a person of great character and spiritual fiber, that is what you'll attract and be attracted to. If you're shallow or lacking spiritual resolve, then you will settle for someone of like stature and that kind of person will settle for you.

 

What's your opinion on high school dating?

                My opinion of high school dating is the same as my opinion on elementary school driving: everyone wants to try it, some people do, and they pretty much all crash and burn. The exceptions to this are so few and far between that to claim to be an exception is less likely than to claim to win the jackpot lottery on your next ticket purchase. Sure there's a chance it would work (given the proper maturity of faith from both parties, along with circumstantial providence and congregational accountability), but my bet is solidly on the side that mistakes will be made that can't be undone, and certain blessings meant to be shared between spouses will be compromised. This doesn't just mean sexual relationships. It includes emotional and spiritual connection too. There are things that are meant for your spouse--and your spouse alone. Protect that. If you can't marry till your (let's say) 26 or 28, then why date when you're 15? Any dating relationship that passes about a year becomes extremely frustrating because you hit a ceiling to your intimacy. You get close, but you don't actually make life decisions as ONE. You don't live together, have children together, struggle financially together where you share the same debts or losses. Dating early invites breakup, since the relationship can only go so far and its lack of progress will inevitably expose more frustrations without exploring new challenges and victories together. 

                Date when you're looking to marry. Until then, learn to acknowledge your feelings, communicate them (even to the person you have a crush on!) and control them--not by ignoring or neglecting, but by confessing and receiving accountability.

 

When does a Christian know when he is ready to date?

                I think the appropriate time to date is when you meet the following marks of maturity and responsibility:

1) CHASING GOD.  When people are moving in the right direction, seeking first God's rulership in their lives, and when that is something that characterizes them so much that their best friends could find no other way to describe them--that's when you know that they will continue to chase God with their relationship. It won't compete for His love, but it will be another way to love Him.  This has to be confirmed by the person's spiritual accountability partners--friends, small group members, church leaders, etc. If these groups aren't in agreement, there is something suspect about the person's motive in dating.

2) SACRIFICIAL LOVE.  When a person is willingly to consistently set aside his/her own preferences for the sake of someone he/she loves, that's when you see unselfishness and sacrifice which are both necessary to making any relationship last.   Watching how he/she treats family members is key: it's not about whether he/she goes a long time without getting in trouble; rather, it's about whether or not he/she goes out of his/her way to support the family and make the parents proud. 
Conflict resolution is also a huge mark of maturity. Does he/she yell, punch things, or secretly trash-talk? Or, instead of venting about a problem, does he/she try to do what's most effective in resolving the problem? Is he/she able to see a problem from the perspective of the other party? Does it bother him/her that the other party is upset?  This also has to be confirmed by the person's spiritual accountability. If it's not, then it's likely that there's going to be some real damage done to both parties in the relationship. All it takes is for one of the members to be selfish or un-sacrificial, and it begins a cycle of hurting one another or ignoring God in the mix.
 

3) PERSONAL DIRECTION.  He/she needs to know his/her direction in life--the "calling" as many people say. Knowing your personal gifts and weaknesses and how to best use them for ministry is critical to knowing whether or not your relationship will best express your design. It's strange that Christians begin dating without knowing what they're going to do with themselves. That demonstrates a serious lack of leadership in both parties, but especially in the man.

4) CIRCUMSTANTIAL READINESS.  If you're not ready to marry, then you're more than likely not ready to date. If the man does not earn his wages and cannot provide for the woman, then the dating relationship will quickly turn to being fun-based and physically exploiting. If the woman is not planning on marrying any time soon, she can expect nothing from the man but physical pressure to compromise her purity.

                Inspect high school dating in this light. People typically marry in their mid-20s to be early. A high school relationship, then, is supposed to last 10 years before marriage? And that's not going to frustrate either side?  If neither party actually thinks they're going to last forever, then the relationship is now declaratively based on a temporary structure, which is really just sin. No relationship is meant to break and no heart is supposed to be broken.  We were built to love and be loved, and there's a right way to do that (which fulfills and lasts) and there's a wrong way to do it (which offers immediate gratification and long-term damage).  A strong relationship comes from real discipline and effort. It seems like such a high cost to remain pure, but the benefit of a godly relationship is the most strengthening and satisfying thing that a believer can have.

 

Is it wrong to find a Christian partner to date online?

                It’s not wrong.  It's definitely less of a reliable means of evaluation since you don't see or hear what this person is like, but what matters is godliness and commitment, which is not influenced one way or another by how you meet someone. You can meet at church, in a coffee shop, at school, or online. It doesn't matter. How you handle that meeting--that's what defines the worth of your relationship.

 

Why is it so bad to do sexual things with your boyfriend/girlfriend as long as you don't have sex?

                Sexual intimacy is part of the love relationship that's meant to be shared solely between husband and wife. It started in Genesis 2:24 and was more defined when the law was given to Moses in Exodus and Leviticus. Leviticus 18 is a good example of how God instructs his people to remain sexually faithful to their own spouse.
                Marriage is the public confession of a spiritual union that takes place and is physically expressed in the act of sex. To imitate that in a dating relationship is to defile the sanctity of the spiritual bond between husband and wife. Simply being girlfriend and boyfriend doesn't somehow give license to become sexually intimate. Song of Solomon says over and over to protect that purity (2:7, for instance), as it is very hard to control the desire once it's been awakened.

 

How do you resist temptation specifically in dating?

Try some of the following (though I'm sure there are more tips out there, but these are what I recommend):
                1) Don't date until you're able to focus on preparing for marriage. If you have other things to worry about (like school and stuff), you're definitely not going to do it right.  You'll always have worries, but when those worries revolve around figuring out your convictions with self and God, it's a dangerous time to be promising your future to someone since you don't know if that conviction will change!
                2) Stay public. Hang out in places with a lot of light and plenty of other people, like food courts or the beach or whatever else.
                3) Nothing good happens after 9pm. That's just a given. When I know a couple has been staying out late, I know why, and so do you. Unless you're clearly under accountability (like hanging out with her parents), you just shouldn't be out late if you're looking to avoid temptation.
                4) Pray together before and after every date. That means something and it's a good practice to have. Pray for self-control and clear direction. Pray in repentance of sin. Pray for how to worship through your date.
                5) Talk to your small group about EVERYTHING that your relationship needs in prayer. The more you hide, the more an infection grows. It's in confession that purification occurs, as accountability and repentance take place.

 

If you have a boyfriend in college and you kiss him in public is that sin?

                Depends on more than just my answer. What would your parents think? Where are you in your maturity? Where is he? What is kissing going to lead to? What struggles does it present? Do you regard kissing to be exclusive to marriage (for instance, can you spouse kiss other people?)? 
                Inspect the wisdom behind your actions. Be careful not just to look for rules/laws. That's the difference between living by self-righteousness (adhering to rules and laws) and living in pursuit of Christ (by imitating Him in every circumstance).
                My basic guidelines are stated on my website (www.randcho.com), in the "Questions and Answers" link. Go to the topic of "Romance" and look in the section on dating. There's a question that says "What boundaries should dating couples exercise?" That might help give you an idea.

 

Is it okay to be in a relationship with someone from the same church, assuming it's biblical and we don't make scenes and distractions out of it?

                Was it ever wrong to be in a relationship with someone from the same church? That's precisely where I hope my son finds his wife--from his church. What strength is there in saying, "I'm so glad my girlfriend doesn't learn the same things that I do, pray for the same people as I do, and follow the same leadership as I do?" What benefit is there in having different communities with different vision from different areas?
                Any relationship (not just dating relationships) you have needs to be biblical, and should be done with wisdom so as to honor parents and prevent stumbling others. Your relationships with people should also be public, not secret, so as to remain accountable and confessional, that you're constantly postured to received help instead of hide sin. The deepest relationships will come from striving together under the same vision, enduring through the same trials, and finding conviction from the same blessings. That happens best when you're involved in the same church. There's a reason why married people go to the same church: it's healthier for them to grow together in every way. It's equally important in every relationship that you want to grow deeper and stronger.
                What about breaking up, right? If you have a bad break-up then doesn't that mess things up in your church?  Yes, because breaking up like that is part of the NOT-biblical way of dating. Breaking up is giving up on someone; it's finding some condition that cancels out your promise of love and commitment. If you want to be biblical and not make a scene or cause distraction, then keep your relationship accountable to your church, seek counsel from a mentoring couple, submit to spiritual instruction and discipline, and honor your parents through the way you conduct yourselves with one another in public or private. And do this all at a church that teaches you how to date right as an act of worship, instead of just letting you date behind-the-scenes and telling you not to get too physical.

 

What would you do if your girlfriend went to another church? Would you go to her church, ask her to come to your church, break up?

                When Christine and I were dating, she went to her parents' church. I was able to attend both my church (in the morning) and then hers (in the afternoon), which made it a great privilege to be able to worship together, serve together, and have a burden for the same local community of believers. These are integral to spiritual intimacy.

                I knew that when we were married we would be in the same church for that reason. I also knew that dating Christine was preparation for marrying her. Therefore, I knew that we ought to learn and grow and serve and sacrifice in the same local community in order to spiritually exercise my leadership and her support in the relationship. Because we were able to do so, I wasn't going to settle for anything less. I decided to end up at her church because it was a better environment for both of us to contribute our giftedness. My church was more suited for me, but not for her. I was able to teach, lead, design, and so on, but it was so far from her home and school and work that she would only be able to attend Sunday services. Her church, however, had room for both of us to serve, and both of us would be able to fully commit to it.

 

When you say that someone shouldn't date because they have other things to worry about, won't there always be things to worry about?  Does that mean we should only date after we have a job or house?

                "Don't date until you're able to focus on preparing for marriage" was the direct quote, and that's different from "you shouldn't date if you have other things to worry about."  It's a really good distinction that you bring up, and it's important for everyone to know: you'll always have things to worry about. But when you're worrying about figuring out your own particular direction in life--including your identity, gifting, values, and career--then I'd say it's very dangerous to start promising a future with another person since you don't have yours figured out. When your worries are those of maintenance and pursuit instead of life/value/worldview formation, then those are things you want to struggle through together with whomever you're going to have a future with. So look your job together. Save up for and buy your house together. Those experiences are done after the bulk of self-discovery has taken place and you've decided how you want to serve God and your church and your spouse. Don't get together and then try to figure out what college you want to go to, what you want to be, how you want to serve, etc.

 

If it's not a good idea to date, should people ignore their feelings for one another?

                Ignoring feelings is rarely a good idea.  Handling them is wiser. Handling your feelings, however, doesn't always mean submitting to them or gratifying them.  If two people like each other, that's really cool, but that doesn't automatically make it a good idea to get together. Where are they in terms of their commitments? What priorities or circumstances might damage their ability or willingness to maintain the relationship properly? Do they share the same value for godliness and purity and ministry? Do their parents know about it and do they give their blessing (which is different from simply not stopping them)?  Feelings should never be the dictator of our actions. Jeremiah 17:9 says it well.

 

Is it wrong for a man to date an older woman?  How much older is too much?

                I don't think that the difference in age between two people is a reliable indicator of anything related to dating. What we're probably trying to understand (by considering age) is the maturity of the individuals.   Now we know there's no real way to measure how mature someone is with a numeric score, but typically you can get a good feel of whether or not the guy and girl are both able to put each other's needs and desires in greater priority than their own. When you see the guy being more concerned about making sure the girl knows she's loved and safe and respected, you know he has the appropriate maturity to date. When you see the girl being sure to support the guy and follow his lead and protect his dignity, you know she has the appropriate maturity to date. These things can be first observed in how the individuals treat their family members. By watching their most familiar relationship dynamics, you can get a very reliable guess on how they'll treat their significant others.

                Older doesn't really indicate anything. I'm sure you know plenty of people who are older than you, but still act childish. Alternatively, you know people who are younger than you that display remarkable maturity and perspective.  There's nothing in the Bible that prescribes an age difference between the man and woman. It's probably just practical for the man to be older only because it takes a little longer for men to mature before their looking for marriage. When a man and a woman start thinking about that stuff, they start talking to each other, and it turns out the man is usually a little older than the woman. No big deal.  In Jesus' day, people were married when they hit their teens. 

                Whoever you date, don't worry about age difference. Just make sure that you're in the same place in terms of godliness, maturity, direction, and values. Then continue to grow together in those things and get married and have babies and teach them to do the same.

 

I've been dating this girl for 6 months.  I hope to marry her.  When should I bring up my past sexual mistakes?

                Right now is a good time. Personally, I think it's wiser to be honest and up front from the beginning so that a girl knows what she's getting into. That's the mark of a mature approach to the relationship that's unselfish and not hiding anything. If you let the relationship continue while holding back important information that you know she would want to know, then you'll find that you're milking the relationship for as much satisfaction as you can derive before you risk losing it. That's a manipulation, since you'd be waiting for her to build a strong emotional bond with you, convincing her that you're a great guy, before you clue her in that maybe you're not as great as you've led her to think. Tell her up front about your mistakes, ask for her to pray for you and let you seek accountability so that this relationship doesn't ever get added to that list of mistakes, and then proceed with godly caution and prayer support. If you do that, she'll see a quality man--one who deals with his mistakes, instead of hiding them.

 

What should I tell my friend who is dating a guy over the phone whom she never met?  She thinks she's ready to get married.

                For starters, she's not honoring her mom.   Her relationship is secret (which is ALWAYS a sin--ALWAYS). God had made relationships public. That's why marriage was always done in the community. That's why baptism is a public display to communicate our relationship with Christ. All relationships are meant to be public. Secret relationships are relationships that are conducted without accountability, without chance for rebuke and correction, without the community's blessing (which is a much bigger deal than many churches teach us today), and without the testifying godliness to the world since nobody knows about it.

                Then, there's also the part that she's never met him. I'm not going to say that's impossible to work out. Marriages were arranged by parents up until the Renaissance, and they still are in many other parts of the world. But given today's marital statistics and weak outlook on marital commitment, I'd strongly recommend having the two meet before deciding on something that they might not truly commit to till death do they part.

 

What do you think about long-distance relationships?

                I think they're unhealthy. That doesn't mean they don't have happy endings, but they do have a present infection. 
A relationship is not just talking on the phone or sending messages. It's living life together. There's a reason why a man shouldn't propose marriage over a text message or email or phone call. Doing things in person is far more intimate, sincere, and powerful.
 
                Long distance relationships have very little room to grow. It's already hard for a guy to understand the feelings of a girl when she's upset by someone. That gets so much harder when everyone she's talking about is just a stranger's name, and he has no idea what they look like or what they sound like or how their mannerisms are. Whatever counsel, comfort, or advice he can offer is strictly limited to what he's interpreted of her report. And vice versa for her. Both parties are unable to judge a situation with a different perspective because the information available to them is already filtered. They can't even really have the same friends and same targets to comfort, evangelize, serve, or teach.
                Trust, compassion, discernment, intimacy--all these things are directly and immediately challenged by the lack of frequent personal contact. I don't think it's an insurmountable obstacle, but I do think that the time and the distance spent apart EVENTUALLY makes it impossible for two people to really be involved properly in one another's lives. I'd hope that if it's a healthy relationship and moving toward a God-glorifying direction of godly marriage, then the time spent at a long distance would be short and well-monitored.

 

Why is missionary dating wrong?

Note: "missionary dating" refers here to a Christian dating a non-Christian with the intent of evangelizing him/her.

                1) It is disobedience to God, which should already alert the believer that you can't evangelize the world with sin. 
                2) It's a serious misunderstanding of the gospel if a believer thinks he can convert someone else. That completely denies the truth that salvation is by the grace of God and is expressed in the decision of the unbeliever. Nowhere in Scripture are we ever told that we have the power to convert people. Our job is to faithfully deliver the message--we are instruments; we are not the power. That message is delivered only when we display lives that are set apart from the world (not romantically involved with it!), established in how we think, speak, and act.
                3) It's an arrogant and belittling thought to get into a romantic relationship with the mindset of converting someone. You already start off the relationship saying, "I want to be deeply intimate with you because I love everything about you, except your entire worldview, your concept of reality, your moral understanding, and your basic assumptions about the origins and purpose of life and existence for mankind and the universe." It's as pompous as if the unbeliever were to say to you, "I'm dating you, but I plan on making you Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim." What chance would that person have? What chance do you think you have?
                4) You may properly love that person, but you certainly don't hate their sin. In the Old Testament, relationships with unbelievers was punishable by death (read the end of the book of Ezra!). It is adultery against God, as you've given your life to a love that has no room for Him.
                So missionary dating doesn't work. It's a surrender of the faith for the cravings of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. And if you've read 1 John 2:15, you know that that's indicative of a man who fakes the faith, not loves the Lord.

 

How do we warn believers about dating unbelievers?  What if they're already dating?

                You warn them lovingly. Always.  You let them know the what they're doing (though they already know), but not in a way to verbally beat them down to make yourself sound superior. Be gentle and loving in rebuke, as best as you can, because the point of rebuking is to restore them, not finish them off with verbal punishment. This gives them an opportunity to repent from their sin, or to embrace it. In either case, their true desire will be exposed, and from there, you'll know whether the church should rejoice in re-receiving their member, or if the church should exercise discipline and remove that member from the fellowship.

                If that person is already dating, the context doesn't change. Dating is not marriage--it is not oneness between two people. Especially for believers, dating is probably our most powerful way of testifying that we live differently than the world. It is dating that tests the Christian heart the most, and most frequently reveals the false faith behind church-going, church-involved, church-leading members.

                In any case, those who understand the purpose of church discipline (to restore a member or protect the church from sin, not to punish people indefinitely) who lead lives that testify godliness and sincere pursuit of holiness--they should gently and lovingly warn the person.  If he repents, the situation is resolved. If he does not, then take measures to help clarify the gravity of the situation to him (Jews would take two or three witnesses to make an official statement to a person). If that still does not result well, then the church acts to remove the person from the fellowship. That doesn't mean he's kicked out of the church. Rather, it's that his identity is clarified: he is unrepentant and so is not a follower of Christ, and he is regarded correctly as an unbeliever.

 

I read your answer to dating an unbeliever. Can you apply that to just regular friendships?--that it's better to end friendships that hamper your relationship with God? It's kinda hard for me. 90% or my friends are unbelievers; when I'm around them it does not make me closer to God. I sometimes try to share them the gospel or invite them to church. But mostly, I hang out with them cause they're fun. I can't think of a way to glorify God thru my friendships with them.
                If your friendships hinder you from obeying God (as in, if they tempt you to sin) then yes, throw off everything that hinders you from pursuing righteousness (Hebrews 12:1).  If your friendships are what you depend on for strength and community and intimacy and counsel, then those friendships have to be grounded in Christ, else your faith will eventually crumble.
                But it sounds to me like your friendships are just hangouts. That's great. That's your best opportunity to be a light to the world. Display a life of faithful commitment in front of your friends and you'll be doing what Jesus was doing with everyone that was around him. He, too, hung out with unbelievers--but he never behaved like them or adopted their values. He called them to righteousness. Keep doing what you're doing and stay focused. Then it'll compel them to know and appreciate the God who saved you (Matthew 5:16). That's how you glorify God through your friendships with unbelievers. You live obediently to God in front of them.

 

I’m Christian with a Catholic girlfriend.  What should I do?  Breaking up is not an option?

                Why is breaking up not an option?  I think that might be the wisest thing to do if you prioritize your life with God over anything else this life could offer. The choice is yours, but it will undoubtedly demonstrate the loyalty of your heart: it either belongs to God, or to yourself. Like the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30), the call to follow Christ is nothing less than total surrender. He states in vv29-30 that the sacrifices one makes for following Him will certainly be met with great reward. You just have to square away with whether you believe that or not. Paul says it also in 2 Corinthians 4:17, regarding suffering for the sake of Christ.
                The last thing you want to do is to be arrogant enough to think that by dating a girl, you can make her into a Christian. That's not done by your power or hers. That's a miracle of God (John 6:44; Acts 5:31; 11:18) to bring conviction in her heart. Don't try to convince yourself that your sin will somehow earn God's favor. More likely, you will either abandon your faith for her, or it will cause strife in the relationship and she'll naturally blame Christ, God, and the church for it. 

Some people have dated non-Christians and in the end, by the grace of God, the other came to Christ. How can this miracle be explained?

                The same way that a person who grows up in the home of an alcoholic, or in an environment of abuse, or under parents that divorced, or in an unbelieving family is saved: by the grace of God. People get saved because God reached out. It doesn't condone the alcohol, the abuse, the divorce, the unbelief, or the idolatrous relationship. Those are still sins that will be accounted for. Though God may choose to use those things to direct someone toward true repentance and saving faith, that doesn't mean those things are good in and of themselves. Like in the story of Joseph, what man intends for sin, God can use for salvation. God is the Savior, the people are still in sin.

 

How do you know if the person you want to date is Christian or not?  What if they just say they are?

                You know a real Lakers fan when you see one.  You know a real animal rights activist when you see one.  You know a real Christian too, when you watch the way they live.

                It's there, in the way their face lights up when you ask what they believe in.  It's there, in the way they get indignant at the slightest remark against what they love.  It's there, in how they prioritize their time, money, energy, and effort to make sure that what's important to them is noticeable to everyone around them, in the hopes that it would be important to everyone else too.  Jesus says in Matthew 7 that when it comes to detecting people who pretend to be Christian but are not, you will "know them by their fruit."  In that same chapter, Jesus also clarifies that not everyone who SAYS he's a Christian truly is. Even if they think they've participated in ministry, if Jesus is not the driving passion and purpose of their lives and source of their instruction to which they are surrendered obediently, then that is not a believer.

                In the context of dating, if you want to date someone but do not know if he/she is a Christian or not, then it's time to re-examine your motives for dating, since it's clear that worship and obedience and faith are not in the center of the relationship.
Your closest companions (whether they be good friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, or spouses) need to be people who share in the Holy Spirit with you. Every person that you bring close to the center of your heart will be an influence in the direction of godliness or sinfulness. While Jesus had regular contact with people from every walk of life, He kept very careful boundaries in terms of His intimacy and made sure His closest friends were walking with God.

                Our relationships too (especially dating and marriage!) are really the ONLY ways that we worship God. Singing and listening to sermons turns to nothing if loving God and loving our neighbors is not done under God's instruction and blessing.  If someone acts like he/she doesn't care centrally about Christ and the Church, you know with certainty he/she is not a believer.  If someone acts like he/she DOES care, then it's really only known to God whether they're faking or not, but sooner or later their deeds will expose the true value system inside them--whether they're pursuing righteousness in every way or really just using church to have friends and feel like they have a purpose. Such people will ditch church when the find what they're REALLY looking for (money, sex, power, etc.).

 

If I'm already dating an unbeliever and just realized I shouldn't be, then should I break things off?

                If it's clear to you that God is not God of that relationship, do you continue with it? If you know that the relationships is not an act of worship, but an act of idolatry, should it persist?  Any love that doesn't belong to God is, in its definition, idolatry. We discover a lot by watching church-goers make the difficult but real decision between God and dating. Sadly, many choose the latter, and it exposes their self-deception about their own allegiance to Christ, their obedience to His lordship, and their position in salvation.
Our best approach to handling them is with firmness and prayer. Such persons need to know the truth about what's going on, but should also be called to repentance. When I find out a church member is dating an unbeliever, I always remove them from serving in the ministry. They're welcome to come, and I'm happy to see them, but I don't deceive them into thinking their saved if they have a greater love for a human being than they do for Yahweh God. (Mt 10:34-37; Lk 9:23)

 

If it's not best for me to date outside of church, does this mean that I can only find someone to marry in the church I'm going to now?

            Your question presumes not only that it's "not best" for you to date outside of your local church, but it seems that you're also under the impression that it's not allowed to do so.
                Neither of those ideas is true. It's best for you to date someone with whom you can worship, fellowship, evangelize, disciple, and serve. Circumstantially, it's much easier to do those things when you go to the same church, but that doesn't mean you're required to find someone from within your own local church. You should be adamant on finding someone by inspecting their character and life, not congregation and locale.

 

What boundaries should dating couples exercise?

                Remember that dating is not marriage--it's not halfway to marriage either. The priority of a pure relationship is most attacked under the context of dating, and so that's the relationship where the most discretion needs to take place. 

1) Never violate your conscience, and never urge your date to violate his/her conscience either. 

2) Honor your parents and your date's parents by not going against their permission for you or your date's intimacy.

3) If a man is physically aroused, you can be sure that his judgment is now compromised. He's about a thousand yards past the line he shouldn't have crossed.

4) Remember that your date is not your spouse--even if the two of you are engaged. Don't demand or dispense marital intimacy to anyone outside your marriage.

                Those are vague on purpose, only because I think the conviction in the heart is a better guide than a rulebook that defines specific boundaries. We have a tendency to figure out the line between good and bad and then we try to run up and walk on that line like a tightrope when we should be avoiding it at all costs.

                Boundaries are frustrating because it's really nothing but a list of restrictions. I think an equally important (but often neglected) part of dating is goals. Here are some good goals to have:

1) Have the same spiritual goals. Share your passion for God, the Bible, the ministry, the Church--together, not separately, and not just by going to the same church at the same time. Share those in your relationship.

2) Work everything out. That means: Don't break up. Don't talk about it, don't joke about, don't simulate (with any kind of ridiculous "taking a break from each other" kind of notion, since it doesn't solve any problems but just postpones them). If dating is directed at marriage, then it's directed at sticking together through thick and then and getting over any obstacle--absolved only if one party dies or breaks the vow of commitment to the other or attempts to turn you away from Christ.

3) Follow the man's spiritual leadership. That doesn't mean he decides where to eat or what movie to watch. It means he decides how you two will act in order to best serve God and God's people. Let him do that, and try not to correct him for unimportant things. That kind of correction often just does damage to his outlook on the woman.

4) Pamper the girl's heart. That doesn't mean pamper the girl's dresser or shoe closet. It means she is never wondering if you're thinking about her, valuing her, and appreciating the beauty of her being (which has nothing to do with make-up or fashion). Communicate fully and frequently because she's less impressed by what you do than you are. She is more fulfilled in the relationship when she knows she's the most important person to her. Telling her that does nothing. Proving it by how you treat her is everything.

 

Should I leave my church to go to my girlfriend's church?

                People shouldn't go to or leave church for a boyfriend or girlfriend. Already that dating relationship is destructive to the commitment a believer should have to church. 

                Dating is not marriage. It is not oneness. I would be very careful to keep that distinction clear, else you'll find yourself picking and choosing which benefits you get to keep from both and which restrictions to dismiss from either.

What advice would you give to a new Christian who is dating a non-Christian?  Would you recommend ending it immediately? 

                I don't think that would be my first recommendation. What's most important is to bring the other person to Christ. If he or she is going to be an obstacle to the new Christian's pursuit of holiness, then the relationship should end.  God isn't honored in breaking up unless the relationship prevents someone from freely loving Him. The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 that married relationships should remain together if one of the members comes to Christ. That person's life becomes an evangelistic tool.
                What we want to avoid is having believers knowingly go into relationships with unbelievers, since that is a distinct subordination of godliness to self-gratification. Only in the case of two unbelievers in a relationship where one comes to Christ does it apply that the relationship should remain, as long as the unbeliever allows the believer to continue in the faith properly. That understanding of putting God first in every relationship we get ourselves into, and preserving every relationship we can in the hope of evangelism--that is the spirit that needs to drive us. It should be a conviction we follow more than rules to try to operate under. God first in everything.

 

Should dating be a high priority?

                Dating isn't a priority.  There is nothing in God's instruction that commands us to do it or even hints at it being a good idea. On the contrary, there's repeated warning against temptation and frequent instruction on proper approaches to godly relationships and even occasional commendations for people who are blessed with singleness for their whole lives!

                Dating is something you are free to do, but requires a lot of maturity and faithfulness. Think of it like drinking soda. You're free to do it, but it can very easily become a very unhealthy thing if you don't know how to be responsible with it. There is no priority to drink soda; there is no prohibition against drinking soda; but there's plenty of instruction on what mistakes to avoid in regard to indulgence and addiction, etc.

 

If a girl rejects you, should you just move on?  How should we react?

                I don't think you have a choice. If you refuse to move on, what does that mean? You keep asking her out until she finally gives in? That kind of persistence seems noble in a way, like telling a girl, "I'll wait for you." But really I think a lot of times that's arrogant, because it also says, "I don't care how you feel about me. How I feel about you is all that matters, and I'm going to wait till you break."  That's kind of extreme, but you get the idea. If she rejects you, pick up the broken pieces of your heart, go and talk about it with some friends, eat some ice cream, pray for God to help you heal quickly in the heart, and respect her distance. Don't keep trying to find ways to be around her and stuff or hear about her or be reminded of her. Get on with the rest of life because there's plenty more of it to live.

How do you heal someone's heart after leaving a hurtful relationship? 

                Heal someone's heart? That's really up to God and that person, as it's such a delicate process. The only contribution you can make is being available to listen and pray and encourage, but those aren't magic cures by themselves. If the person who is hurt is able to identify and confess any sins that he/she is responsible for, and if he/she is actively pursuing sincere communication with other believers for prayer and counsel, then that's leading toward recovery. 
                It has to come from real vulnerability, not fake strength. Acting like something is not a big deal is not maturity. Holding back in talking about how much something hurts is not courage. The person who's hurt has to be fully vulnerable, only with the intent of being healed. It's not a license to just start slinging insults at whoever did the hurting, or to worry and freak out about uncertain future. When feelings are being communicated, it has to come with the willingness and desire to change any ungodly thought into a godly one.  Your part is to help facilitate that with good counsel, an ever-ready ear, and honest and consistent prayer together in person, out loud, and (I strongly recommend) with the laying of hands as a sign of true connection and oneness.

 

My close friend lost her virginity to her boyfriend. She clearly doesn't want me to know, but she's supposedly a strong Christian, and I want to help her. I'm not sure how to bring it up, and even if I do I don't know what to say to her because I'm sure she knows how wrong it is. What would you do in this type of situation?
                Is she actively serving at church? If so, you definitely need to pull her aside and lovingly (but firmly) tell her she needs to step down. Her unconfessed sin disqualifies her from service, and her unrepentance puts her under serious church discipline. The fact that she tried to hide it already exposes her lack of trust in church accountability, spiritual needs, and Christ's instruction. She has supplanted God with her boyfriend in terms of her integrity, honesty, and purity--all three of which are essential foundations for sincere faith. The main intent is NOT to be punitive. The intent is to protect the church from hypocrisy and to protect her from convincing herself that she can serve God and harbor sin. Speak with her privately and respectfully, aiming to discipline with the hope to restore her in the future--not kick her out of the church. Also let her pastor know so that he can properly tend to her, knowing what she is and is not qualified to do, and giving her the necessary teaching and accountability that she needs.
                If she is not actively serving in church, the same conversation needs to take place and her pastor still needs to be informed, but the matter is less repercussive. It will have all the same disciplinary measures, but there will be less embarrassment or exposure since she is not removed from any position she may have occupied.

 

Why is everyone pressuring me to date, marry, and have kids in the future?  What if God intended for my life to be single like Paul?  I don't think I can focus both on a partner and God.

                You might be right, and you might be wrong. Same with those who are pressuring you.
                I don't think it's unusual or even unreasonable for people to expect you to marry and have children. That's the very first command God expected of mankind--to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. To deny that prime and essential call is really an EXCEPTION to godly design, not a pattern for it. If you can demonstrate that you aren't built with any real romantic interests in your life (meaning, if you don't get crushes on people and stuff), that's probably your best indicator that you're hardwired to go solo in life for a full dedication of service to God. But if you are prone to attraction, then your reluctance to marry and have children is probably stemming from fear or hesitation or some other negative associative reaction from something you've experienced or seen in your life.
 
                In any case, I wouldn't default into thinking that you are the exception. Take each day as it is, and when it's time to marry (meaning, when you hit that age), then figure out if you're really an exception to that rule.
 Don't actively seek out relationships for now. Focus on your single service. Let time run its course and we'll see if you feel the same or differently in the future.
                As for dealing with these people, don't argue with them. Simply tell them it's something you're thinking about and still figuring out. That should ease their persistence since they won't have to convince as if you were oppositional.

 

My boyfriend broke up with me and I'm extremely depressed, is it wrong for me to pray to God for him to come back?

                I can't really say yes or no to that, since I don't know the nature of your relationship. 
                Broken relationships are never good things, so we should pray for reconciliation; but relationships that are sinful or prevent us from properly living in worship are things we should pray for God to remove.
                Prayer is not to ask God to do our will. Prayer is to ask God that we do His will.
                If your boyfriend broke up with you, what is the godly move for you to make? Was this relationship a stumbling block for you? Were you two serving together and following the same vision and direction? Is getting back together going to restore and empower your ability to pursue humility, righteousness, and sacrifice?

 

 

MARRIAGE & DIVORCE

How should we select our spouses?

                Selecting a spouse is not very different from selecting a boyfriend or girlfriend: it's a choice that you make, and then hope that he or she agrees. It's not a magic spell where you just "know" that that's the person you're "supposed to be with" or anything like that. It's weighed according to who you are before God and who he or she is before God.

                Look at your instructions as a husband or wife in the letters to the Ephesians, Colossians, Corinthians, and Peter's letters. If you're going to commit to upholding those values without giving up, then you're ready on your end (though that sounds way more simple than it actually is). Find out if he or she also is ready to promise before God to uphold those values without ever giving up. 
That kind of readiness is known by inspecting your own conscience about the relationship (have you been demonstrating those values already?) and the confirmation of believers around you who know you well. The issue will come down to whether or not you're mostly looking to RECEIVE service from the other or to PERFORM service for the other. Most people, at this point, will be convincing themselves that their reasons for relationship are unselfish, and there's no way to argue them out of it when they're at that point. But fortunately for us, that's really evaluated by God who can't be faked out.

                If you demonstrate a pattern in your life of giving up what you want for what other people need, then I think that's a good indicator. If you are able to maintain strong, loving relationships with your family members despite their weaknesses, busy schedules, or long distance, then that too matters a lot. If you are known to seek God's will even when it makes you uncomfortable or experience hardship, that's probably going to help you the most.

                Marriage is holy. God is holy. If God is not central to your dating and marriage, it's really just idolatry.

 

If I want to get married, is it okay to have a tiny wedding with just my bride and me and a pastor?  I don't want a big show unless that is our Christian duty.

                There might be times where that would be appropriate and wise, but for almost every case that I can think of, it would seem to completely ignore the importance of public confession of vows before witnesses, honoring parents, joining families, and celebrating with the church. Excluding God's people is a hair's breadth away from excluding God, and using a pastor to officiate the wedding doesn't somehow import His presence into the ceremony. 
                Again, there might be some reason I haven't considered that might make a private wedding acceptable, but I really can't think of one. Financial difficulty means having a less fancy wedding, not excluding necessary witnesses. Stagefright or preference for privacy are both insufficient reasons to nullify God's instruction.
                It's probably important to note that there is no biblical passage that instructs us on how to have a wedding. That ceremony is somewhat fluid, changing from culture to culture. Adam and Eve didn't have a wedding, and no chapter or verse tells us we have to have one. But the Bible is very clear that marriage is public--not secret. All the instructions of marriage and expectations around it leave no room to have a secret spouse--that's actually called adultery. If marriage is public, why shouldn't the wedding be? 
                Ultimately, I think it's something that needs to be agreed upon between groom, bride, both their parents, and their pastor(s). Those are the involved parties who have investment and obligation to the spiritual growth of the man and woman, and they'll be best informed to make that decision with godly values in mind.

 

How do you make your marriage God-centered?

                Any relationship (even non-romantic) is God-centered when the following things are true:

1) God is the authority. The values and instructions of Scripture guide the relationship, not the values and instructions of the members in the couple.

2) Both parties understand their God-ordained design. Men and women are given specific roles in their marital relationship. Masters and slaves (or employers and employees) are also given specific roles in their working relationship. Parents and children too have their own roles in their familial relationship. Understanding God's instructions to their specific positions in each of these cases is the central focus of how they are to carry out their calling. It is not a lofty goal to obtain someday, but it is a present call to carry out right now. 

3) Confession and accountability are practiced. When either member in the relationship fails to obey God's authority, he confesses it in repentance, and his partner is involved in forgiving him (if the partner is the offended party), and helping him overcome that sin, particularly if it is a pattern of struggle in his life.

                Those three principles are foundational to any relationship. They can't be counterfeited by the world, since God is central in those principles. It's impossible for an unbeliever to hold God as an authority since he doesn't believe in God! That's the first and most basic reason why a relationship between a Christian and non-Christian (whether it be in marriage, dating, or friendship) will never reach the depth or intimacy that God instructs for believers. If the values are incongruent (namely, the lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives), then they will never hold a passion for the same central things, such as worship, prayer, fellowship, evangelism, or serving with spiritual giftedness.

 

How does a husband maintain loyalty to his wife without just relying on feelings?

                He keeps his promise.   It's setting his feelings aside that makes a good husband.  It's our feelings that make us want to use women, objectify women, exploit women, and abandon women.  Nothing in our feelings makes us want to actually love a single woman with the sole purpose of presenting her to Christ as a pure and spotless bride who has no mark of impurity in her affections, relationships, service, or values.  A husband maintains loyalty to his wife by staying the course. 

1) He considers how to love her HER way, which is often quite different from his (Ephesians 5:25). A popular paradigm is to consider the "languages of love" (which Gary Chapman wrote a decent book on).

2) He prevents her from sin and protect her from temptation (Ephesians 5:26). 

3) He seeks a place where she too can minister with the use of her own spiritual gifts.

4) He makes her his greatest ministry (1 Timothy 3:5). That doesn't mean he'll skip church to go on a date, but it does mean that if she needs more time with him, he will sacrifice to give it to her.

5) He treats her more carefully than himself (1 Peter 3:7). Her feelings are perhaps more fragile than his. That means he can't expect her to deal with things the same way he does.

                Those are just a few ideas, and I feel pretty stupid being able to type them out so quickly and yet knowing that living out any single one of those is ridiculously hard. Your best bet, on top of those things, is to stay in community with other husbands, and ESPECIALLY older and more experienced husbands who are godly and wise. Your marriage is not just a one-on-one thing. You exist in community, as you were always meant to, and your marriage is affected by every relationship you make outside of it. Surround yourself with men that you want to be like, with marriages you want your marriage to be like, and you'll see a difference happening in the way you and your wife live.

 

Is it wise to share with my wife everything that I tell my accountability partner?

                Sharing, then, is a natural and necessary thing to do with accountability partners (which includes your wife, and close guy friends--or girl friends if you're a girl). What affects you and your pursuit of God is something that ought to be shared with these people (whether the news be good or bad) so that they can be encouraged by it (if it's good) or help you refocus (if it's bad). 

                Share what God's doing in your life. Share what you're struggling with.  But be sure to share with a heart of godliness, not just a venting of great emotion. Grief and anger are appropriate, but not if your words are going to become despair or slanderous attacks. Share what happened, how it made you feel or affected you, and seek their understanding of your perspective--but then be open to their counsel on how to follow God through the storm.

                I share everything with my wife in relation to how it affects me. I try to be careful not to incriminate other people in my sharing. For instance, I work under several other pastors at my church. If they shoot down an idea of mine that I was really excited about (which happens often because I propose a lot of ideas), sometimes I get frustrated and upset. I come home and tell Christine about it, but I try not to make those pastors sound as if they're idiots for not agreeing with me. It's not easy to do this though, but a lot is said about one's humility by looking at how he speaks when he's upset. 

                I think if you can master HOW you share things, then you'll find that you can actually share anything and everything. Talk about things with the intent to move and be moved toward God and that'll keep you from slandering people, overreacting to disappointment, and inciting unloving feelings between your hearers and your enemies.   There are plenty of times where sharing something is going to do some necessary damage. Telling someone that they're in the wrong is a good example. That sucks to tell it, it sucks to hear it, it sucks to discuss it together--but sometimes you have to break a bone to set it into its proper place and make it heal and grow the best way.

 

How much responsibility is yours in your marriage?

                At the risk of sounding really cheesy, I'm going to answer with "all of it."  I don't think there's any difficulty that could come up where I would stand back and say, "none of that was my fault" or "that's YOUR job." The whole purpose of being a husband is to walk together with your wife through thick and thin, pick each other up, get through everything together. The two persons now function as one unit, and I don't make much of a separation of parts when it comes to responsibility.   Chores aren't fully delegated to one or the other unless for practical reasons. If the dishes need to be done, someone does them because they have the time and energy--usually me during weekdays, her on weekends. Admittedly, I had to grow into that habit. I take out the trash because it's heavy and Christine's back doesn't need to take any more pressure, especially now that we have a baby. Christine handles the baby because I just freak him out.

                Matters of principle are handled by myself, since I'm constantly driving my brain into Scripture and investigating that stuff anyway. Matters of preference are handled by my wife, because she has things that I don't--namely, style and fashion and artistic opinion and emotion and personality. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but to put it into perspective: Christine is the only reason why I don't live in a pitch black cave with nothing but an awesome computer for work/play, vending machine for food, and a bucket for waste.

                In terms of credit and blame, Christine and I share the same perspective on our marriage, and there's definitely a joint ownership over every victory, every struggle, and every defeat that comes our way. It's not like we feel exactly the same about everything, but more that we recognize that every joy and sorrow is shared between two, not held by one. This helps us maintain our unity in the midst of our individuality. The key, really, is for me to make whatever decision I think is best for her (primarily) and me (secondarily), in that order, and then for her to do the same. And then to submit to the decisions she makes for me.

                I have additional opinions on how the Church has confused the role of the husband. Somehow we got it into our heads that the husband is supposed to LEAD the wife instead of LOVE the wife, and that's supposed to define our positions. Well, I've got opinions on that, but I guess that's a separate conversation.

 

Is it possible for a husband to lust after his wife?

                What a great question! It's a tricky answer, since the definition of lust is sometimes broadened or narrowed to mean more or less than what another person would think.

                I'll clarify the definition that's used in this answer: Lust is really a desire for physical sexual pleasure without regard for committed marital love and fellowship between the partners

                If that definition above is understood, the answer is "yes," a husband can have lust for his wife.  It happens far too often that a husband marries a woman for her looks, and has no intention of upholding his God-given calling to love his wife more than himself and to present her to Christ, pure and holy. Sex is one of many parts of sharing in that committed marital relationship--it is not the only part, nor is it the main part, nor is it the most important part. A married couple who cannot have sex for some reason (for instance, if one is medically unable due to medication or machinery) is still a married couple and can function with godliness in their relationship. A married couple that has sex but does not pursue holiness in their love for and submission to one another is a godless marriage--one that is built on lust, nothing more.

 

There is no mention of marriage partners being deeply in love as the basis for marriage.  If this is true, is marriage a functional thing?  Does God have a spouse in mind for all of us or just some of us?

                Yeah, marriage was arranged by parents until basically the Renaissance era. Marriage is, and always has been, a functional thing to exercise godliness in commitment, unity, love (not the emotional kind, but the self-sacrificing action), and identity, as well as the God-given prerogative for mankind to multiply and be fruitful (Genesis 1:28 and 2:24). Today we have the privilege to choose our own spouse, which comes with its own inherent benefits and challenges. That's something we should be thankful for and handle wisely, but it doesn't change or redefine the nature and intent for marriage.
                Because marriage lasts until death, and then the surviving member can re-marry, it would be strange to say that there is "the one" out there for us. The more you read the Bible the more you'll find that this sentiment is really just a sentimental, romantic, but extremely self-centered assumption. Not everyone gets married, and that too can be the glory of God (as described by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7). Others may experience the death of a spouse more than once and end up marrying multiple times. This isn't sin either. Nothing in the Bible points us to "find the one." Everything in the Bible tells us to "be the one." There is no magic formula for finding out who God has made for you because there is no single person that God specifically made for your pleasure. You are called to godliness, and part of that is hopefully to be expressed in how you wisely choose and commit to love someone sacrificially with full submission to proper authority and an abandonment of self rights for the spouse's benefit. When you are ready to do that, find someone else who is, and that's that.

 

Do you think a girl can propose to a guy?

                Of course I think she can, but that doesn't mean I think it's a good idea.  There's nothing that says she cannot do that. But it does mean that she initiates the relationship, which also means she needs to maintain it. She'll be taking care of him, instead of him taking care of her. That's the pattern: the way a relationship begins is the same way it persists, in regards to initiative and maintenance.
                On a sentimental note, I think that when a girl proposes to a guy, it robs him of one of the most challenging and ambitious moments of his life: asking a woman to marry him. That very act requires so much of his attention and creativity and resources that to take it away from him is what I think is the equivalent of not having a wedding for the bride. It works for some couples I guess, but not on the general whole.

 

Do you think Christian couples should try living together (for maybe a week) just to see how it is before getting married?

                Absolutely not. Marriage is a mutual submission relationship. If the couple has the right perspective on how the husband is to love the wife and the wife is to respect the husband, and if they both really get that each of them is living for the other and not themselves, then living together will work out.
                The real test of marriage happens after the first few years, when romance is lessened and responsibility comes full force. Trying it out before marriage isn't going to really reveal anything important, since people can be accommodating and cooperative for a good long while before their real motives and shortcomings are exposed. Living together would really just be a physical temptation more than a learning experience.

 

What does the Bible say about couples getting married but choosing not to have children?

                The Bible doesn't really speak about that. We know it's God intention for man to multiply and be fruitful. We also know that children are a blessing from God (Psalm 127:3-5). Choosing not to have children, then, needs to come from reasoning that takes those ideas into account. If a couple chooses not to have children, their motives need to be godly and selfless in the same way that couples to DO have children also must be godly and selfless. Careers are not greater priorities than children, as exemplified in the Proverbs 31 woman who had a job but never compromised her call as a mother. Serving in church is not a greater priority than being a parent, as stated in 1 Timothy 3:4-5. There is a right way to have children, and there is a wrong way to have children. In the same vein, there is a right way not to have children, and there is a wrong way not to have children. Whatever decision is made by a couple, it must be made carefully and prayerfully.

 

Why does it seem like a lot of Christians marry just so they can have sex? It seems that way cause a lot of newlywed couples become parents within 9 months of marriage (not even a year).

                It's weird. I have the opposite question: why aren't Christians getting married sooner, since they have so little control over their physical desire?  1 Corinthians 7:8-9 speaks to that exactly. Sex is not bad. Adultery is. If one has sexual desire, that's fine. Use it properly under the confines of marriage, not dating. Getting married earlier is a fantastic idea to help avoid temptation. That doesn't mean get married without preparing or without accountability or without familial support or anything else that you'd go for in consideration marriage. Do it, and do it right, and don't delay it if you don't need to. Dating for a long time tends to seriously strain the relationship since there's a ceiling to which you can grow in intimacy which ultimately fractures the couple's trust in each other. If the relationship gets physical, the man tends to no longer finds value in sacrificial commitment since he can derive satisfaction without having to pledge himself. The woman ends up feeling used and sold out, since she gave her whole body and receives a fraction of his heart. That's why those long-term dating relationships that physically compromise end up having huge fights over commitment and stability.

                Newlywed couples that have children early are actually the NORMAL way to do marriage. Putting children off is only a recent phenomenon. In fact, putting marriage off to a later time in life is also a recent phenomenon. Remember that Jesus' parents (Joseph and Mary) were teenagers when they got married. That was the norm for that culture, and for most cultures, and that endured for many centuries. It's only in this century that people start waiting till their mid- or late 20s to get married, sometimes their 30s even. That, I think, is a shame since marriage is the "gracious gift of life" (1 Peter 3:7) and submitting to a husband and properly raising children is the key to a wife's spiritual fulfillment (Ephesians 5:21-24 and 1 Timothy 2:15)--the two acts that undo the curse given to every woman (Genesis 3:16). Loving a wife is the ultimate way a man can understand and exercise God's love for the church (Ephesians 5:25-33).

 

Is it wrong to settle for someone instead of going for someone you like but don't really have a chance with?

                That's really going to depend on who you like, what you like about him/her, why you have those feelings, and what exactly you're settling for. But given the fact that you "don't really have a chance with" a certain person, I don't think you really have any other choice but to "settle."  I, however, also happen to think that the best way to handle romance is to be up front and fully communicate feelings and intentions always. Go tell whoever you like that you have feelings. If it doesn't work, then nothing changes in your future because you knew you had no chance anyway. If it works, then you owe me a million dollars.

 

When unbelievers marry, isn't it sort of meaningless?  Though it's one man with one woman, they're not marrying under God.  It becomes more of a "tradition," sort of like how unbelievers celebrate Christmas.

                While marriage is instituted by God (starting as early as Genesis 2:24), so is every other instruction for our lives. Whether you're a believer or not, that design is still in you. Commandments like "do not murder" or "do not steal" still apply to us--not because of the laws of the government, but because that is still God's will for people. 
                Pretend you're on a ship that crashes against an uncharted island that belongs to no particular country. You and your crew are all unbelievers. While there are no laws that apply to you from any government, that does not excuse anyone's wrongful behavior, and it doesn't license anyone to evil. Stealing, murdering, etc. would still be sin.
                In the case of marriage between unbelievers, their marriage is still marriage. And adultery would still be adultery. The problem is that they are unbelievers. That's the sin they need to repent of. Having that sin doesn't license them to now commit all the others. It would not excuse anyone to marry immorally (marrying close relatives, marrying their children, marrying homosexually, marrying a married person, etc).

 

What's the difference between heterosexual non-Christian couples marrying vs. gay non-Christian couples marrying? What's the difference if both groups are not children of God?           Marriage is the unification of man and woman. It's not directly related to whether you're Christian or not. It has everything to do with how you follow your godly design in regards to fidelity and partnership. That's why adultery is still sin for unbelievers; promiscuity is sin for unbelievers. Being an unbeliever doesn't somehow excuse you from God's expectations. It's just a category to identify that you are in rebellion against them.
                Homosexuality is actually a completely separate issue (since one can be homosexual but unmarried and it is still sin) but it is no different in that it is wrong in the context of marriage. Not only is it disobedience to God's will about sexual intimacy, but it also then FURTHER destroys what marriage ought to be: a believing man and a believing woman, joined under God. Breaking one part of that bond doesn't make it okay to break all the other parts.

 

Is it wrong to marry an unbeliever, even if you want to bring them to Christ?

                You know, it surprises me how often this question gets asked.  On close inspection, the approach of the question exposes a distinctly self-centered agenda.  It seems to stand on a noble position of evangelism, but there's a huge lack of understanding on marriage. 

                God's been very clear on the relationship between Him, His people, and the world. The operative term is "holiness" which means to be "set apart" or separate or unlike anything else.        Evangelism is calling people to holiness by demonstrating to them a holy lifestyle and communicating its proper instruction and fulfillment.  Marriage, however, is the joining of two parties into one union. The individuals now share in sweet intimacy their identity, vision, direction, and values.  Marrying/dating is not a tool of evangelism. Jesus didn't marry or date anyone to somehow increase his chances of bringing them to faith.  The apostle Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 7:16 that it's actually foolish for us to think that we can save our spouse, as if that's in our power to do. I guess that would make more sense if the tables were turned. What if your girlfriend/boyfriend told you that she/he was only dating you to turn you into a Hindu? Whether you were told or not, is it really in that person's power to change your worldview by going out to dinner, watching movies, and holding hands as you walk along the beach together?

                Marriage is where you'll derive your greatest strength if you do it right. That relationship is designed to be a picture of the Triune God who is One in essence but multiple in persons. So is the husband and wife: one in essence, but multiple in persons. 
Because marriage is so crucial to the proper fulfillment of a person (unless he/she is gifted with singleness in heart, or celibacy), dating needs to be approached with the same reverence and humility.

                Moreover, why would you date someone you can't connect with over what you read in the Bible? Why would you date someone you can't pray with? Why would you date someone you know is not fulfilling her/his duty as a woman/man according to God's design (namely, worship, gifted service, evangelism, etc.)? Why would you date someone who doesn't hold God as the authority over your relationship for your ultimate source of truth, morality, and satisfaction and joy? Why would you date someone who has no regard for the blood of Jesus that was graciously spilled to redeem you from the very fallen world that you've now fallen back in love with?

2 Corinthians 6:14-16 makes an absolute statement against uniting God's people with unbelievers (who, by nature, are Satan's people). To join together with them in marriage is the greatest act of declaring love and fidelity to fallenness and godlessness.  Psalm 1 says that the blessed man is the one who doesn't walk in the counsel of the wicked, stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. "Wicked," "sinners," and "mockers" were synonymous terms for people who did not follow God. Blessing comes by living apart from their influence--even if you're surrounded by them, you don't let them influence you. If you plan on not being influenced by your spouse, you've already approached marriage with no thought for your partner at all, and are only looking to do it your own way.  Further in Psalm 1, the blessed man delights in the law of the Lord. What delight is there when his first love goes to someone who has no affection or allegiance to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, no faith or trust in prayer and obedience to God the Father, and no empowerment or fulfillment by the power of the Holy Spirit? 

                The question then turns around: what exactly attracted this man to the unbeliever in the first place? It wasn't godliness that made him want to marry her. Evangelism is not a reason to marry. It's a hellish excuse to make an act of sin sound like a work of godliness. This too is a pattern by which Satan works (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

                Take heed of 1 Corinthians 7:16. It says, "How do you know whether you will save your husband? How do you know whether you will save your wife?" That's a statement by God, saying that believers were not truly bound in marriage to unbelievers at all. If the unbeliever leaves, there is no obligation for the believer to pursue them, because that relationship is unfaithfulness toward God.  It's one of the heights of human arrogance to think that "because she needs to be saved, I should marry her." Marriage doesn't amplify one's ability to evangelize. If anything, it hampers it. The rest of 1 Corinthians 7 talks about how being single is what empowers one for more ministry. Marriage, though it is not a bad thing, is realistically a distraction from ministry because of the concerns of worldly matters (money, property, children, etc.). So the best way to evangelize someone is not to marry them, but to remain set apart. It is always by the holy example of uncompromised living that people are saved (Matthew 5:16). A Christian who compromises godliness in order to win someone to godliness is a contradiction of faith and a counterfeit in Christ (Matthew 7:21-23). 

                APPENDIX: Christine is my wife. There is no other person I love more than her, by my decision and promise that I made at our wedding, and continue to make every day.  If I then began to form a close friendship with another person who had no regard for Christine, didn't care about her or think she was an important part of my life, and had no intention of also sharing in relationship with her as a way of sharing in a relationship with me, then that friend is no friend at all. That friend is a threat to my relationship with Christine, because my marriage is more precious to me than any other friendship.  In the same way, for any believer who shares a deep relationship with God, any friendship or dating or marriage that doesn't energize and foster that relationship with God is a threat to it. The choice then is to either walk in the counsel of the wicked, or to delight in the law of the Lord.

 

What does Jesus want us to do if a spouse cheats on the marriage?  Is it crazy to try to stay together, even if it happened more than once?

                Reconciliation is the heart of Christian character. In fact, God repeatedly speaks of His people as adulterous for having fallen in love with sin and idolatry instead of pursuing Him (take the entire book of Hosea, for instance). Yet He consistently seeks reconciliation. Is He crazy for doing so? If so, it's really only in the decorative sense that He's crazy enough about you that He'll keep inviting you back into His blessing despite how many times you cheat on Him.

                In terms of marriage, God has allowed divorce in the case of infidelity because He sees that as a breach of the true nature of what marriage ought to be: one man and one woman coming together as one flesh. Forgiveness in this case is noble and godly, but it is not required, since the sanctity of the marriage has been broken. Forgiving doesn't restore what was lost.   But for a person who has been cheated on by his/her spouse, there is no obligation to divorce. And there is no obligation to stay together. That person is given the freedom to decide what course of action to take, since either would be just and could be done with right motives.

                Whether or a person is crazy for wanting to stay together after multiple violations, that's really not for me to answer or even for you to ask. That comes down to a heart motive between that person and God. At best, we can suspect, but it would arrogant and dangerous for us to decide whether or not he/she's crazy for wanting to heal a broken relationship. Such judgments supplant God and betray an inflated view of one's self.

Is it wrong for Christian couples to get married so they can have sex sooner? 

                If you're getting married JUST for sex, that's not love, that's lust, so then repent.
                When you have a healthy relationship, that desire for intimacy is totally normal, and even the apostle Paul recommends getting married quickly (1 Corinthians 7:9). Do it! I don't really see a reason to delay, assuming both parties have a right mindset, are affirmed by their spiritual leaders and accountability, have the support of their families (especially parents!), and are within capable circumstances. If that's the case, I'd say get married AS SOON AS YOU CAN, because dating sucks and marriage is where you are tested the most (which means it can be the place where you grow the most!).

Is marrying and love worth it when ultimately you or your significant other will die?  The grief, emptiness, and sadness that come with being widowed--is it really worth it? 

                Yeah, it's definitely worth it when it's done right.  Think of all the friendships you've had that are no longer around--the friends you made growing up who moved away or ended up going to a different school so you lost touch. Your relationships were shared blessings, and they helped make you the person you are today. Just because they ended doesn't mean they weren't worth it.  Do you wish instead that you were alone that whole time during your childhood, instead of having formed those friendships?  When relationships end badly in conflict, that's a pretty clear sign that they weren't done right. Those are different cases, since it means there was at least some part of the relationship that wasn't right. 

                In regards to marriage, that's the strongest and most life-changing relationship you can have. When it's done right, it makes you a thousand times stronger. If the husband is loving his wife and leading her to Christ, it was worth it, even if he dies. If a wife respects her husband, he will cherish her even well past the day she goes home to Christ.

 

Why do most churches not allow gay marriage?

                The biblical understanding of sex and gender comes from God's stated original design and intent for men and women. Bible-believing Christians formulate their worldview based around the principles and instructions of God--not the other way around. Many churches oppose gay marriages because it defiles the sanctity that marriage was originally designed for (Genesis 2:24). Several parts of the Old Testament affirm God's clear and unequivocal position against homosexual union (for instance, Leviticus 18:22 is an instruction for men not to have sex with other men!). God actually describes homosexuality as detestable to him in that same passage.  The New Testament also makes pretty strong claims about homosexuality. Romans 1:26-27 is a pretty clear passage that demonstrates how God describes homosexuality as a perversion of His design for human beings. 1 Corinthians 6:9 lists homosexuality in a list with immorality, idolatry, adultery, and prostitution.
                I think one of the tragic mistakes of the church today, however, is to be staunch on our position against homosexuality, but completely unengaged in trying to actually reach out to the homosexual community. Often times, the church treats gays in a manner opposite of how Christ may have done. We, as believers, are called to bring light into the world, and that might mean ministering patiently to people who have different views on sexuality. While we do call them to repentance and toward a biblical understanding of love and relationship and sex and gender, that kind of life-altering change in worldview takes time and serious effort, and only a heart that's sincerely bent on prayer and sacrifice will properly exercise the love that God wants to give to those who are far from Him.

 

Are there any circumstances or characteristics that make divorce between a Christian couple reasonable, if not justified?

                "Reasonable" is kind of a flexible term. Do you mean it follows a line of logic or a train of thought? Or do you mean it is something that people should feel is morally okay? If it's the former, then everyone's reason for their own divorce is reasonable, since it makes sense to themselves. If it's the latter, then it's reasonable because it is justifiable, since justifiable means that it is morally okay.

                But if something is not justified--meaning it is not morally acceptable--then it is sin. There is never a case when sin is reasonable. There is never a case when it is okay to defy the instruction and will of God to satisfy whatever finite human reason that's thought up. If it is not justifiable before God, what reason could possibly suffice to say your moral decision has trumped His?

 

 

SEX

Where does the Bible say that sex is only for marriage?

                I think the clearest and most memorable place is in Exodus 20:14, "You shall not commit adultery."  Adultery meant any sexual activity that occurred outside the bond of marriage. Culture might try to change that definition, by saying that adultery today just means cheating on your spouse, but the only definition that matters is the one that the original author meant when speaking to the original audience. God spoke those words to Moses on Mount Sinai, and He had a very clear and undeniable definition behind them.

 

Is incest a sin? 

                Yes. Leviticus 18 is a good place to start. That's where God begins to make official prohibitions against marital relationships between close family relatives.  

                My personal speculation is that God's prohibition against incest comes to protect us from the dangers that are involved with incestuous relationships and children born from them. Remember that Adam and Eve were the first human beings. Their children (for instance, Cain or Seth) had children with their wives--wives who had to be their sisters (or even nieces or aunts, depending on when they were born).   So the human race began without the prohibition on marriage between siblings, but that might have to do with the fact that genetic mutation hadn't yet crept into the genome. That takes many generations to really show up and catch on.
By the time you get to Leviticus 18, the human race has been around for at least 4000 years, so it's now become a significant risk to have children between parents who might share the same hereditary genetic mutations. Prohibiting incest, then, would help safeguard the strength, longevity, and vitality of the Israelite people.

                For corroboration: circumcision, too, though spiritual also had a physiological benefit to it as well. Women who are married to circumcised men showed a 40% decrease in the incidence of cervical cancer long before modern medicine provided other preventative measures. This is another occurrence of God's spiritual instruction resulting in our spiritual and also physical benefit.
Other corroborative examples include kosher diets for the people at that time who lacked refrigeration or sanitation, purity and monogamy in relation to the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, and the treatment of unclean diseases to prevent contagion.

 

Is homosexuality a choice or genetic?

                Who cares?  If you were born with homicidal urges instead of homosexual urges, would that dismiss you from the moral responsibility to repent and overcome?

                People are pretty split between whether homosexuality is something you're born with or something you learn. I think it's a mistake to say that it's only one or the other, but rather a combination of the two. Just like having a bad temper or a short attention span, some people are born with more or less of a tendency toward it, but much of the training and experience they gain through their upbringing will influence how that gets expressed.
                Regardless of whether homosexuality is sourced from genetic and/or environmental causes, that neither excuses nor dismisses the responsibility to deal with it as spiritual and moral issue. If I were born with a genetic disposition for violence, that doesn't make it okay. If I were genetically wired with an insatiable urge to steal or rape, that would not change my action from sinful to simply "natural" as though I'm only expressing the way I am made.
                Our best perspective is to remember that sinful nature is inherited at birth by every human being, and all are still held morally and spiritually responsible for it. Christian or not, every human society believes that, proven in the universal acknowledgement that no one is perfect, coupled with the fact that there is social repercussion for unacceptable behavior.
 
                Our greatest ambition as people is to become more than what we're made of. Whatever limits or challenges we are born with, it should be of prime importance to us to grow beyond them. Simply saying "I was born like this" is not a mature, sophisticated, nor courageous line of reasoning when it comes to defending the rightness of one's actions.
 
                For those who believe in God's Word, the first place is to look intelligently at God's teaching and instruction, without forcing it to say what fits our own agenda. That establishes the whole of our understanding of right and wrong, and keeps the Church in godly living, set apart from political and cultural trends, and concerned only with displaying the righteousness of heaven here on earth by the example of the way we live.

 

Is it wrong to do sexual stuff once you're married, even if it's not exactly sex?

                If you and your spouse are acting out of love and respect for one another, whatever the two of you agree is acceptable is well within your freedom as sexual partners.  In 1 Corinithans 7:4, the apostle Paul reminds us that ownership of our bodies is shared in marriage--not possessed by any single individual.  The husband's body also belongs to the wife, and the wife's body also belongs to the husband.  There is freedom to share with one another in intimate physical contact as long as it remains motivated with godly love and respect--neither person should feel belittled or disrespected or objectified.  If both agree lovingly, you have the freedom to do what the two of you choose to do.  This, though, will certainly exclude those actions that clearly violate godly instruction in other portions of Scripture--such as involving more people than the two married spouses, using pornography to inflame desire by looking sexually on other persons, and performing in public to incite reaction from others.

 

What if a Christian girl that had sex repented?  If she knows she did something wrong and wants to be forgiven, can't she just ask for forgiveness?

                By "repented" do you mean she just apologized and felt bad, but does not want to deal with consequences?  When you have a child, if he does something wrong (like throws a rock at another kid and breaks his nose), would you simply want him to repent by those measures? He apologizes and feels bad. Is that the end of it? Or do you still apply some measure of discipline and consequence to demonstrate to your child and to everyone else that you uphold a standard of righteousness? 
                In Exodus 21 and 22, you can see God's instruction to His people to love their neighbor. Any violation of that was met with discipline and consequence. But what's interesting is that you find in Leviticus 1-5 that it was expected that the violator has already repented (in your sense of feeling bad and admitting wrong). That was part of the spiritual sacrifice. And yet consequences were still dealt.  Can you imagine what it would be like if all we had to do was say sorry and feel bad to make all consequences go away? Who would go to jail? How many times could a man get away with being unfaithful to his wife? Why wouldn't we cheat on our work? There's a reason why God said what He said in Hebrews 12:8-11. Discipline trains us for greater godliness. It is painful for a time, but it becomes our clear deterrent to further transgression.

                A good measure of repentance is this: A repentant person will accept the consequences.  If he tries to avoid them, he either doesn't believe he deserves them or he isn't really willing to deal with the discipline his sin deserves.  In either case, he's only faking repentance.