October 2, 2013

Why Singles Need a Good Church to Make a Wise Marital Choice

Gary Thomas — 

It was soy.

I knew it as soon as I tasted it.

They added the water. They were supposed to hold the water.

There are numerous ways to mess up a chai tea latte at Starbucks. I’ve had so many 7 pump venti chais, no water, 180 degrees, that I know exactly how they should taste. If anything gets even a little bit funky, it’s immediately apparent to me.

I’ve never studied the “mistakes”: I didn’t intentionally taste soy milk to learn what it might be like. I didn’t intentionally get extra water put in to see how it dilutes it. I became so familiar with one particular drink that every variation is obvious.

That’s how singles can use a good church to choose a good marriage:

—the more you get intimately familiar with the standard, the more any deviation you meet while dating will become that much clearer.

Women, you want to hang around men who really love their wives. Young men can be jerks to their girlfriends (of course, husbands can be jerks to their wives as well), so if a boyfriend is just barely kind to you, in the sense that he isn’t actively cruel, you begin to think he’s amazing. It’s harder to accept a boyfriend’s behavior when you know he doesn’t treat you nearly as well as the husbands in your church treat their wives. You want your mind to become so familiar with true godliness and character that false copies are readily apparent.

Young men, you want to find out what a godly woman looks like, sounds like, acts like. It takes time to develop godliness. It’s different from the early enthusiasm of new belief. You want to find out how it’s different so you can determine if the woman you’re considering marrying (and raising your kids with) is on that trajectory.

In other words, you want to become so aware of genuine character and godliness that when you hang around false character and pseudo-piety, you smell it for the rat that it is.

Find couples you look up to; ask them out to dinner! Hang with them. Get to know them. Let your standards be shaped not just by your own generation, but a generation that has been pursuing God perhaps longer than you’ve been alive. This is particularly true if your parents had a cold or dysfunctional marriage. You’ve got to step out of your generational blinders.

Put it this way: on a high school football team, the best player looks like an amazing athlete. Everyone says, “How great it would be to have that guy on my team.”

But that same player wouldn’t even make the practice squad of an NFL team.

Of course, not every older person is godlier. Just because someone has been a Christian for twenty-five years doesn’t mean they have twenty-five years’ worth of maturity. But there is a certain depth of character, of intimacy in relationship, of Christlikeness and kindness that just takes time to build, and that’s what you’re looking to find. You’re far less likely to find it if you hang out only with younger people. When you do that, the “scale of character and godliness” gets skewed—usually downward.

If you don’t know of any individuals or couples like this in your church, you’re probably going to the wrong church. We need to be inspired by fellow believers who are growing in their faith. No church is perfect, and no individual in any church is near perfect, but every healthy church and healthy Christian is “progressively growing.”

For the marrieds reading this blog post, this is a clarion call for us to “step it up,” growing in our faith and growing our marriages to leave the younger generation a clearer path to follow. I believe healthy churches help create and sustain healthy marriages.

What do you think?

[photo: Creative Commons, Gohsuke Takama]

When you subscribe to Gary’s blog, you will receive blog posts directly to your e-mail inbox. You will be one of the first to learn about the latest in Gary’s writing.