Archives For Relationships

If you’re single, you want to be married. At least, that’s what just about everyone in the church seems to believe. Nothing brings out the inner matchmaker of well-intentioned Christians like a sweet twenty something who has somehow evaded the romantic gaze of the opposite sex. “I can’t believe you’re still single!” we say, or “Those boys/girls are crazy not to be asking you out every day!” Meanwhile, singles cringe at the reminders that they’re not in a relationship or else take a few steps back on their journey toward satisfaction in Christ alone, rather than satisfaction in a perfect Christian romance.

From my vantage point, it seems that Christian singles are pressured on all sides to be married. (If you want to know why this mentality is a mistake, click here.) But I also believe that singles tend to put this pressure on themselves. One of the major factors in this pressure toward getting married is the constant quest for “The One.”

Dating Is Awkward

Perhaps we were introduced to our search for “the one” in youth group, when our youth leaders told us to not to settle in our dating relationships, but instead to think of a Christlike man or woman and to accept nothing less. Don’t lower your standards.

And of course, there’s value in thinking this way. You don’t want to marry some lowlife just because he or she is into you. But here’s the problem with holding out for “The One”: He’s not real. She’s not real. You made him or her up in your mind. Which means that until science progresses several steps further, he or she will never exist in the real world.

Maybe you modeled your “one” after a youth leader, a friend’s spouse, or the Lord Jesus himself. But in the first two cases, your perception of these people is far from the reality—no matter how well you think you know him or her, you haven’t seen the depths of their sins or the enormity of their annoying habits. And in the case of Jesus, no one matches up: read the book of Hebrews.

So your quest for “The One” can only lead you to constant disappointment, and you may end up (as an added bonus) messing with another person’s self-perception through your naive expectations.

Instead of focusing on “The One,” focus on each one. As you meet a nice boy or girl that seems to have potential (you know what I’m talking about—wink wink), get to know him or her better. You might think you want to date her right away. You may be absolutely convinced that you’re going to marry him. There’s a good chance that this is “The One.”

But wait! Stop! You don’t want to marry that girl. Nor do you want to be “A Couple” with her.

The Bachelorette - Rose CeremonyWhen you see a guy that you’re into, you don’t really want to marry him. What you’re really thinking is that you’d like to get to know him better so that you can find out if you’d like to be in a deeper relationship with him. And if you do decide you want to be in a deeper relationship with him, then you can eventually find out if you’d like to be married to him.

Because he could be awful. Really. I promise you that nobody wants to “Be Married”—as though that were a general category that someone can obtain without entering into it with a real life, flesh and blood, very specific human being. There are a near-infinite number of people on this planet with whom marriage would be horrible. HORRIBLE! No, you don’t want to “Be Married.” But you may want to marry some specific person you meet someday. And here’s the problem: you’ll never know until you get to that point. You don’t know you really want to marry her until you know her well enough to get a sense of where she’s heading in life, what she’s passionate about, how she handles conflicts, how quickly she repents of her sin, how funny or goofy or intelligent or serious she is.

And everything I just said about “Being Married” also applies—but in a less tragic and less permanent sense—to “Being in a Dating Relationship.” You may think you want to be “Dating Someone,” but there are so many people with whom a dating relationship would be miserable.

And there’s a failsafe built in: the other person has to want it to. So even if you’re mistaken in thinking that a relationship has potential, the other person has to agree. This safety feature of relationships has prevented more than a few major mistakes in the history of boys meeting girls.

The point is: just relax. You’re going to be fine. God knows what you need; and he knows better than you do. You can abandon your quest for “The One,” for that “Dating Relationship,” for “Your Soulmate.” Stop focusing on “The One” and start focusing on each one. As God brings people into your life, get to know them. Enjoy them. Don’t make them audition for the part of “The One.” Get to know those people better, and if at some point you prayerfully decide to test the waters of a dating relationship with one of those specific flesh and blood people, then go for it, and see what happens.

Christians sometimes aren’t the best at handling disagreement. Conservative Christians are often the worst. Have you ever been in a situation where two people disagree over some (non-essential) theological issue, and very quickly the blood starts to boil, faces turn red, and it’s not long beforeangry one’s character is slandered all because he or she held to a different view?

Or worse, have you ever been in a setting where the tension is thick and no one knows what to say? One person has said something that everyone else disagrees with. And since no one knows how to have a healthy discussion in the context of unity, everyone maintains an awkward silence with a matching posture.

Even worse, have you ever been in a classroom or living room where everyone is on the same page on some issue—you’re all Calvinists, or Charismatic, or Premillenial, or whatever. And rather than trying to understand the view you all disagree with, you sit around and caricature the other side, demonize those who hold it, and pat each other on the back for getting it right while all those other poor, less intelligent, and less biblical fellows “out there” have it all wrong?

Me too. That’s why I love teaching at Eternity Bible College. We don’t do that here. We don’t train our students to slam on other views, nor do we teach them to memorize the right answers. We’re here to educate, not indoctrinate. Rather than telling them what to think, we saturate our students in God’s word and lead them discover the truth for themselves in the context of community, discussion, and yes—disagreement.

Because in disagreement, we are forced to reconsider our views. We are pushed to think a bit deeper, more critically, about what we think we know. In disagreement, we are driven back to Scripture to make sure that what we think the Bible says is actually what the Bible says. Sometimes it’s not.

This is why we’ve decided to do a few more posts on the question about Ezekiel’s temple prophecy (Ezek. 40-48). Last week, I wrote a few blogs about what I think the Bible says about how Ezekiel’s temple prophecy will be fulfilled. However, in no way do I want to give the impression that this is the only view that has biblical merit. In fact, there are other views promoted here at Eternity and I love this diversity! This is why I’ve asked Josh Grauman (Associate Professor of Hebrew, Old Testament, New Testament, Greek, and angry 2everything else that has to do with God, Jesus, the Spirit, and the Bible) to write a couple of posts defending a different view than the one I promoted. Because here at Eternity, you’ll hear both perspectives and you’ll be forced to believe what the Bible says—not what Josh or Preston say—about this doctrinal issue and that theological debate.

By way of introduction, Josh Grauman is one of the smartest guys I know—and I’ve been around a lot of smart people. While most of us are out surfing, playing Xbox, or watching reruns of Lost, Josh is meticulously pouring over the original languages of the Bible. He has translated more than half of the Bible from the original languages and has taught classes on nearly every book of the Bible. He wrote his own Hebrew language textbook; he developed his own Bible software called Scroll Tag. And he’s thought deeply about how Ezekiel’s temple prophecy will be fulfilled.

So I encourage you to read the Josh’s posts carefully. Then go back and read my 3 posts carefully. Then go back and study Ezekiel 40-48 even more carefully. I love Josh like a brother and respect his views immensely. And even though he’s wrong about Ezekiel’s temple (gotta have some fun with it!), I hope that we all, including myself, will be driven back to God’s sacred word yet again, so that our views are grounding in the text and not in our tradition.

Love Is Never Lonely

Mark Beuving —  February 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4–8)

Everything that Paul says about love here requires multiple people. Towards whom is love patient? To whom is it kind? Whom does it bear with, believe, hope, and endure?

Holding HandsLove is always directed. Love that sits in one person’s heart and never directs itself toward anyone or anything is not love at all. The heart can sit in isolation and experience emotions like happiness, warmth, or satisfaction. But love does not exist apart from some object toward which it is directed.

My love for my wife is exactly that—love-for-my-wife. It’s not as though I have a store of love in my heart, like some sort of substance which I can choose to dispense here or there as the occasion requires. Love comes with the object. My wife and I stand together, and the love we share is manifested in the patience and kindness we show toward one another, it can be seen in the absence of irritability and resentment between us.

Love that sits alone and focuses on self is not love. For this reason, love is never lonely. You can feel longing for an absent loved one, but you can’t experience the pain of a love that has no beloved—there’s no such thing.

A major problem in the church is our equation of love with romance. The result is that Christians feel pressure to find “the one” they love—their soul mate, their spouse. I am pro-marriage, but I am against the notion that we can begin with a vague sense of love toward “the one” and then sift through all of the candidates until we find him or her. Love requires an object. You can’t love a hypothetical person.

This can also cause us to devote all of our “love”(pseudo-love, really) towards a non-existent object rather than directing it toward the people we interact with every day. We can get so caught up in finding someone to love romantically that we fail to love the people that God has placed in our lives, even as we feel the sting of the “love” we think we feel towards the lover who does not exist.

Because love is always directed, we are only loveless when we have isolated ourselves from people. With each person comes the potential for love. We thrive as human beings not when we have romance, but when we have love. And love is as near as the person next to you. This may include romance, but it doesn’t have to. It has nothing to do with the lovability of the person; it has everything to do with the choice to love.

God first created a solitary man, then declared that it was not good for this one man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). So he created a woman—a wife, yes, but a companion above all. Another human being. An object for his love. Someone to bear with, someone to show patience and kindness.

Love is never lonely. It is as near as the next person to walk through the door. “Let brotherly love continue,” urges the author of Hebrews (13:1). The choice to love will never leave us lonely, because love is always directed.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Two Kinds of Love

Mark Beuving —  February 13, 2013 — 2 Comments
Soren Kierkegaard

Soren Kierkegaard

Soren Kierkegaard made an interesting distinction between two types of love.

First, there is preferential love. As the name suggests, this kind of love is based on preference. Preferential love is the love we feel towards those we find attractive. It’s the love we feel for those who care for us and love us. It is love towards the lovable.

Obviously, this is a great kind of love to have. We love God because he is lovable (1 John 4:19). We love our friends, family, and lovers. To refrain from loving someone simply because they are lovable would be ridiculous.

Our culture rightly prizes this kind of love. This is the love that most of our songs and movies glorify. There is often a hedonistic and even lustful bent to this kind of love, but the point is, preferential love is directed toward those to whom we feel attraction for whatever reason.

But Kierkegaard contrasts preferential love with what he calls commanded love. This is love of the will. It is love that is directed toward anyone and perhaps everyone. Commanded love looks at a person, and even when there is no attraction or affection, it genuinely wishes that person well.

Obviously, commanded love is the more difficult of the two. Preferential love comes and goes, but commanded love rests on no circumstance. There is no reason why commanded love cannot be directed toward both our dearest friends and our bitterest enemies. If preference and lovability are not determining factors, we may choose to direct the love that wills another’s well-being toward any person at all.

Kierkegaard ties commanded love to one of the biblical words for love—agape. It is an unconditional, un-circumstantial kind of love. Commanded love—agape love—is the kind of love that God showed when he died for us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8).

Heart in the SandThe point is not to rid ourselves of preferential love. We couldn’t even if we tried. Rather, the point is to command love for every person we encounter. Kierkegaard exhorts us to love our neighbor. By neighbor, he does not necessarily mean the near-person, like our next-door neighbor. Instead, he means the next-person, as in the next person to cross our path. If we will love the next person with commanded love, then we are not differentiating between people based on our tastes and feelings. We are instead loving people as people, valuing them as those made in the image of God and therefore as worthy objects of our love.

A good gauge of how well you are loving your friends and family is how well you are loving your enemies. You have no preferential love for your enemies, or for the outcasts of society. If you find yourself loving them—genuinely wishing them well—then you love them with commanded love. And if you find no commanded love for your enemies, then your love for your friends is likely nothing more than preferential love, subject to change with the whims of your feelings.

As our culture celebrates love this Valentine’s Day, ask yourself which type of love you will be celebrating.


Mark Beuving —  February 6, 2013 — Leave a comment

Boom Mic Guy NBC’s The Office has recently been raising a fascinating topic of discussion: cheating. The show is a comedy, and most of what the show portrays is lighthearted and funny. But the writers have never shied away from storyline and drama (the humor often flows from these aspects rather than cheap gags), and the show has introduced some heavy and important themes from time to time. [Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen any of the January episodes and don’t want to find out what happens, read this later.]

Cheating in relationships is not new to The Office. Angela, Michael, Andy, Dwight, Stanley, and Oscar have all been involved in relationships where someone was cheating. For the most part, however, these characters and their relationships are so flawed that their moral failings are brushed aside (“Of course she would do that!”). I’m not suggesting that’s right, but that’s why these subplots have never caused much of a stir.

Recently, however, there have been hints of cheating amongst more relatable characters. Most notably, Pam has developed (has been developing for quite some time, apparently) an emotional relationship with the guy who holds the boom mic for the supposed documentary crew (henceforth known as “the boom mic guy.”)

The crazy thing is, they haven’t done anything. All we’ve seen thus far is a touch of flirtation, an emotional connection, and some very sweet comforting. Compared to what other characters have done, this is nothing. But it makes me furious. This form of cheating really bothers me. Pam is married, and her husband Jim has been busy and unavailable. So Pam’s connection with the boom mic guy is dangerous. Pam’s form of cheating is troubling because we’re rooting for Pam and Jim. We believe they ought to be together, so we don’t like outsiders messing with their relationship.

But look at it from another angle. Pam and Jim got together because Pam was acting exactly like this in a previous relationship. In the first few seasons, Pam was engaged to Roy, and Jim eventually won her over by subtle flirting, an emotional connection, and some very sweet comforting. Pam and the boom mic guy in season 9 are basically Pam and Jim in season 1.

This shows how manipulative television can be. We believe that love involves loyalty; that love is something greater than sticking with the person who makes you feel happiest in a given moment. But we don’t seem to hold these views when it comes to television characters. We wanted Pam to leave Roy. The only reason we’re not rooting for the boom mic guy is that we still like Jim. (By the way, a while back I wrote about this very phenomenon in the movie Water for Elephants).

The Office - Season 9An interesting comparison is Erin cheating on Andy with Pete, one of the new guys. Like Pam and the boom mic guy, this one is subtle—nothing much has happened. But in this case, I find myself rooting for Pete. Why? I think it works the same way. When Erin was dating Gabe, she was connecting with Andy, and we were rooting for Andy because we liked him and we didn’t like Gabe. Now that Andy is treating Erin poorly, we’re rooting for Pete. It will be interesting to see how this relationship develops when Andy returns.

The point is this: we need to be careful that our view of love is not shaped by the television shows we watch. I love The Office, but all good things must be enjoyed with discernment. I am certain that the writers will keep Pam and Jim together, but the recent bumps in this relationship brought my attention to the other forms of cheating on the show, and I was surprised to analyze which relationships I was rooting for. And ultimately, love is love—whether our favorite characters realize that or not.