We're preparing to do a Connect Group series on dating at our church, so I asked our followers on Instagram for questions they may have about dating. People submitted questions about how to meet people during Covid, how to end a relationship after a few dates, and who should make the first move. The most popular question though revolved around the title of this blog: how Christians should conduct themselves in a culture that has normalized the rejection of God's principles in relationships.
We were just gathering questions to build the teaching around, but I felt the need to address the question right then and there. Even after I did, I wasn't satisfied. It's clear that this question and the burden one feels when it remains unanswered demands more than a simple story post on Instagram. So here we are!
How should Christians handle their intimate lives in 2021? With the world questioning and canceling anyone who disagrees with them, and more platforms to express their displeasure than ever, how are we to live?
How should Christians date in a world where sex outside of marriage is normalized?
I have two major thoughts:
1) This question is a bad question. It's inaccurate.
Questions should be like formulas. There are good, working formulas and bad, broken formulas. A broken formula does not have what it needs to get the correct answer. In the same way, bad questions don't have what they need to get an accurate answer.
Why is this question broken?
Because the implications and assumptions that tag along with this question are inaccurate as well. This question assumes that past generations and eras we're more righteous, which is why there's a question to ask at all. It was easier back then, so can I be graded on a curve now?
But this assumption is unverifiable and downright false. Eras can't be compared! No one can accurately compare right now to 2,000 years ago, 200 years ago, or even 20 years ago. When people try and say, "it was better back in my day," they are comparing a more developed and informed version of themselves (themselves today) to a less developed and less informed version (their past self).
Even if eras could be compared, even Bible times could be considered as significantly worse than the day we live in. Consider the world that Jesus was born into! Scholars believe there was a 400-year gap between the Old and New Testaments; 400 years where the voice of God was silent on the Earth. THAT was the Earth that housed baby Jesus. That Earth humiliated and crucified Jesus Christ.
You can't compare eras. And because you can't compare eras, this question is broken.
The second thought addresses another assumption and implication.
2) This question implies we should be graded on a curve.
It implies a sense of a lost cause in pursuing God's ultimate desire for our intimate relationship, and a belief that Jesus and the New Testament writers would lighten up if they saw how hard it is today. It assumes that Grace is defined as the removing of the "impossible" standard, when grace is actually removing the eternal punishment of sin. Grace is Jesus filling in the gaps between our limited sinful nature and God's absolute perfection and holiness.
These implications are severely inaccurate and even dangerous. Not to be dramatic for dramas sake, but these implications are a misrepresentation of Christ's character!
Let's look at Christ actually addressing the culture his audience lived in and how they should conduct themselves accordingly;
Matthew 5:27-30 NIV
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."
I'll admit, these are tough words. It gets even tougher when we realize He's addressing Jews. These men and women would have been completely entrenched in the law. It was their whole livelihood. Their entire (almost) caste system was based on these laws and who could uphold them the best. They believed they were better than other people groups because they were the only ones with access to this law, too! Jesus looks at a people group entrenched in their culture and RAISES the bar of righteousness. He doesn't mention how hard it must be to live up to the law now that they have been occupied by Rome and their ungodly ways. He doesn't put an astrict by his teaching...
Even more shocking is this; Jesus would have said this during the sermon on the mount- considered to be the largest crowd Jesus ever had at one time. When the crowd was its largest, Jesus was His strongest on these issues.
I could write on this forever and will release a youtube video conveying the same message, but this can't be said enough; we don't have a relative truth. Gods truth is not relative to the day and age we live in. Jesus did not tell us to love our neighbors unless the culture is super divided on political issues. He did not say He is the only way, the truth, and the life until humanity becomes moral enough to not need a savior. And He did not say that we should reserve intimate relationships for the marital bed between one man and one woman unless that becomes highly offensive to culture and apps are invented to make sexual promiscuity almost impossible to avoid.
This isn't a condemning truth, it's a freeing truth! We can rest our head at night knowing we KNOW how to do it. We know the truth. We know that way, that standard, and that truth will not change. And if all that remains the same, then the promises of God remain the same! That means when God said it wasn't good for Adam to be alone, He STILL means it. That means when He decided to MAKE Eve for Adam, He decided to MAKE your spouse! And when He decided to make a WAY for Eve to get to Adam, then He has decided to make a WAY for your spouse to get to you.
It means that Ephesians 3:20 is STILL true! He still wants to bless you in a way that can't be contained! There is no astrict to this truth. Ephesians 3:20 is not meant for perfect people only. It's meant for all of us striving to do things Gods way!