Marriage: Male-Female Relationships Part 2
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The foundation: love
We laid a foundation for relationships last week that is very important . . .
Love is the basis of relationships. But we saw that God’s love is completely different than ours. We read in John how God’s love is perfectly typified by Jesus giving his life for us. We saw that when Jesus Christ gave his life for us, he didn’t feel like it . . .
Last week we looked at initiating relationships. We looked at the notion of having friendships with the opposite sex. We saw these qualities of love have a bearing on how we would initiate and carry on a relationship with the opposite sex.
I think one thing that was fascinating last week was that in almost every area, real love is the opposite of our love.
Example: In initiation, real love focuses on getting to know the other person rather than trying to impress them.
Example: In the area of emotions, real love focuses on . . .
Four realities in dating relationships
Now I want to talk about going deeper in male/female relationships. Call it dating, getting serious, whatever. We’re talking about that point where be kind of exclusive and not date anyone else but that person. Let’s begin by establishing several realities of dating relationships.
People will date
The first reality is that people will date. I say this because there are some idealistic Christians that wonder if people should date. “It’s not in the Bible,” they say. They didn’t even do it in Jesus’ time. And there are a lot of painful and negative things often associated with dating.
Here’s the reality. People will date. And because it’s not some kind of a moral issue, we need to figure out how to do it in a way that’s not going to be damaging
There is an emotional bonding
The second reality of dating relationships is that there is some kind of emotional bonding between the two people. Like we said last week, there’s something that goes on between people of the opposite sex where there’s an attraction . . .
Most romantic relationships terminate
A third reality is that most dating relationships end. The younger you are, the more likely the relationship you are in will end.
There is pain in separation
And finally, when it does end there will be pain.
These are four realities of dating relationships that I don’t see changing anytime soon. What we have to do is look at godly love and see how it applies to this framework of dating. And there are several principles of biblical love that I believe apply here.
Love does not take advantage (1 Thess. 4)
The first principle of love we can apply to dating is that love does not take advantage of another for personal gain. In other words, if I love a person, I don’t use that person. Love is giving. Love is self-sacrificing and serving.
Paul says in 1 Cor. 13:5 very simply, “Love is not self-seeking.”
We take in many ways
There are all kinds of ways we can take advantage of another person. There are all kinds of ways we can use another person. And if you’ve dated a lot, you’ve probably done most of them.
We can use a person for identity and security
You can date someone just because you feel insecure not dating someone. “What would people think of me?” There’s a question of identity there.
We can use a person emotionally.
We can use a person emotionally. You can see this when one or both parties are coming together and they’ve got to get an emotional charge.
Example: It’s not, “I’ve been thinking about her, and I think she needs some encouragement!” It’s, “I wonder how hot I can get things tonight.”
We’ve got to be in touch with our motives on this kind of stuff. We need to reflect on our time together. What was my attitude? What was I trying to do when I got together with her? Was it, “I though about her ahead of time. I’ve thougth about what she needs . . .” Or was it, “Man, I can’t wait for tonight! There’s going to be some strong feelings!”
And you walk away from a relationship where that kind of thing went on and you feel emotionally used!
Like I said last week, God’s ideal is that men and women get closer. But what happens instead? Because of our selfishness, because of our screwed up ideas of what love is, we hurt each other and grow more and more self-protective.
Example: What happens to a person as they get older? Do they get more open, vulnerable, easy to get close to? No way! People get more careful, more closed off, harder to get to know . . .
And why is this? Because people have been used again and again and again! So there are selfish patterns of relating that drive people apart. And there are godly patterns of love that bring people together.
We can use a person sexually
Obviously we can use a person sexually. One of the strongest passages on this is 1 Thess. 4:4-7. I like the way Paul puts it here because of the reasons he gives. He says that sexual passion in the wrong context can “defraud” your brother.
When you defraud someone you are conning them out of something. You are ripping them off. You defraud someone by trying to get something from them by illegitmately offering something in return. It may be sex, security, whatever.
Sex is probably the main way we defraud one another because sex says, “I want to be completely united with you. I don’t want to hold anything back.”
And yet, the very nature of a dating relationship is that it’s temporary! In a dating relationship we are holding quite a bit back. We are holding back our commitment, our future, etc.
Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:16 that the one who has sex with a prostitute is one with her. He unites himself somehow to a prostitute! And he even cites the scripture from the OT about marriage, “The two shall become one,” from Gen. 2. He’s saying that even in the most casual sexual encounter there is some kind of bonding, some kind of oneness that results.
And then we walk away. Or we break up. With our sex we’re saying, “I want oneness. I want complete unity and commitment.” But then we walk away. This is why Paul says, “Watch out that you don’t defraud one another by sexual immorality!”
There is real damage that results from this.
Example: Let’s suppose that there was a person in your life you had to pass all the time. And every time you walked past this person, they snapped you in the ear. The first time . . . The second time you’d get real angry! “Now cut that out!” Actually different people would react differently. Some of us would try to get even. Some of us would get very creative in avoiding, wearing a helmet . . .
This is exactly what we’ve done in the area of sexuality. Some of us have decided, “I don’t care about it anymore.” We’ve hardened our hearts in this area. Some of us have completely lost the vision for intimacy of any kind. Some of us have retreated from the opposite sex . . .
But I am committed
Whenever I talk about this, someone says to me later, “But we are committed! I don’t want to rip anyone off! We even want to get married!”
Then I say, “Well, good. Why don’t you?” “Oh well, the parents, the details . . .”
“Well, if you’re not ready to make the committment in other ways—by putting your name on the line, your reputation on the line, your family on the line—then why are you making the commitment sexually?”
And what answer comes back to me? “Because we love each other!”
Here’s the addage. It’s cute but true: Love can wait to give; but lust can’t wait to take! The very first quality of love listed in 1 Cor. 13 is, “Love is paitent!”
When someone says, “We need to have sex because I love you!” Use your brain and recoil from that person. Because that person is not only lustful and selfish like all the rest of us, that person is a manipulative liar. I would have more respect for someone who said, “I’m horny and I want to have sex because it would make me feel good!”
Love is not possessive (I Cor. 13:4, 5)
The second principle of love that applies here is that love is not possessive. Paul says it this way in 1 Cor. 13. . . . The term he uses for jealousy means you are possessive of that person, that you cling to that person. Paul says love is not that way. This may also be related to the notion of love not being self-seeking.
This refutes the idea that love says, “I need you! I’ve got to have you!” Which are staples of Hollywood love and music love. “I’m so lost without you . . .” There is an insecurity, and therefore a possessiveness that dominates most romantic relationships. Let’s think of how it effects these realities of dating.
When it comes to ending a relationship
I think this principle applies especially when it comes to ending a relationship. Insecure, self-centered, possessive people have a doubly-hard time ending a relationship. It’s hard for all of us, because of reality number 4—it hurts. But it’s extra-traumatic if God hasn’t worked on the self-centered insecurity that we all struggle with.
Love is boldly self-sacrificing (John 15:12, 13)
What I mean by this is that love is not self-protective—protecting myself from hurt, saying, “I can’t give myself to someone unless I can trust them,” “If I know that someone is going to walk out on me or this relationship isn’t going to be here a year from now, I can’t love her!”
There is no better picture of this than Jesus Christ again. And especially his relationship with his disciples. As he says in John 15, for years he laid down his life for these men. He says, “If you could love the way I have loved, you’d be in great shape.” But what you have to realize is that it was one of these men who betrayed him! And Jesus knew it all along! Way back in ch. 6 he says, “Did I not choose all of you? And yet I know one of you is against me!”
Jesus knew Judas would betray him. Jesus laid down his life for Judas. Jesus washed Judas’s feet. Jesus gave to Judas everything he gave to the other guys. Here is the ultimate picture of love.
We want to protect ourselves
Our selfish love says, “I’m not going to love you unless you give me certain assurances. I’m not going to love you unless you make me feel safe.”
This is why in dating relationships you’ll have one or both parties calling for more commitment, more assurances, more security.
“How serious are you about this relationship?”
“How committed are you to me?”
We do these kinds of things often in a game-playing way.
Example: I had this girl challenge me with, “I’m not sure we should go on with this relationship.” “Oh yeah? Why?” “Because I’m not good enough for you.” I was thinking, “Why would anyone ever say that to another person?”
Example: Other people handle this problem by saying, “I’m going to reject people first. I’ll always be the first one to reject. That way I can be safe.”
There are also many people who protect themselves by saying, “Then I’m not going to get involved in dating at all. I don’t want the pain. I don’t want to have to break up. I just don’t want to go through that.” Again, we’ve got to look at what we’re saying. “I don’t want anyone to cause me pain.”
Genuine self-giving love says, “Even if you aren’t committed to me, I can give to you!” “Even if you are going to hurt me, I can serve you and love you.”
A miraculous love
Obviously the love we’ve described this week and last week is not normal. Like I said, in just about every area, God’s love is the opposite of ours.