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One of first signs of love is seen when you desire what is best for other person. You begin to have their best interests in mind, with passion and/or conviction along side, when their feelings and needs are of greater importance to you than your own. When you read 1 Corinthians 13 and see your mate and yourself in those words, then you may have real authentic love. What love is not is when you place your needs and plans over theirs, and you project what you think their needs are or should be. When you become one who chooses what other wants, then you are on path of self-gratification and manipulation, and not love.
There are times where you cannot meet all of needs of another, nor should you. That has to be based on Biblical values and precepts. That other person you love, or think you love, needs to be discipled and growing in right direction, as do you. They may need correction, you may need correction, they may need to change, and you may need to change. Therefore, a balance has to occur between fulfilling their needs, and fulfilling right needs. Nevertheless, bottom line, litmus test is, that you desire to put them before yourself. You are not being selfish or manipulative or have hidden agendas, and neither do they. Of course, there will be times we want to control or change them, but we have to be willing to repeal those selfish desires in our heart in favor of their desires.
A Biblical relationship, one between God and us, and one with another, will take focus off you and put it on what can be empowered and/or invested in other person. With God, our surrender of our will goes along side that too (John 14-15; Gal. 2:20-21; Phil, 3:10). Therefore, you have to discern where line is between our obligation of real friendship, and love. In addition, that can be different for each person. The main factor in determining where that line is will be degree of excitement, passion, and desire. The emotional factor should not be there in such force in a fellowship-based friendship.
With courtship, you are seeking to keep in your mind and heart, best interests of not only person you are going out with, but also your future spouse. You need to do this because you are preparing yourself for real love of your life, and if this one is not it, you can ruin yourself and that person you are out with, as well as your future spouse. This multiplies further, when you consider future spouse of person whom you are dating. Therefore, one person’s sin/mistake will affect scores of people. That is why God hates sexual promiscuity. It negatively effects and destroys not only you, but many others too! Keeping other person’s best interests at heart will result in saving your sexual and emotional purity for your true love.
One of main objections to courtship is people feel when you do not have sex or a lot of physical contact with each other you will not develop intimacy or even an attraction to each another. Then when you do get married, you will find out there are no sexual or romantic feelings one for other. Thus, you will never develop true love for your spouse. This thought is completely ridiculous! I know this from my personal experience in courting my wife, studying dating history, my 20 years of counseling singles, and of course, Word.
The main reason that engaging in several romances is dangerous, as I said before in other three articles, is that it will develop a lot of emotional baggage. Those people will stay in your thoughts and rob you of your emotional commitment to your spouse. I am not saying you are to have no romance before marriage. On contrary, getting to know your spouse to be is romance. Romance does not mean sex outside of marriage bed. Sex does not build romance, commitment, trust, or knowledge of, or for, each another. It only satisfies sin of lust, and blocks building of real intimacy and genuine romance. The physical can get in way of real heartfelt romance, because it clouds issues in building of a relationship. I have never heard of anyone who, after courting and marriage, had a problem with sex, unless there were physical problems or past abuse issues. God has wired you to engage in sex without any problems in doing so. The problem is that our sinful nature has heightened and corrupted it. To build a good relationship, you should consider all aspects of building that relationship before you consider romance, as in physical touch.
Also, be willing to draw a line beyond which you both agree not to cross in your touching each other. This will prevent your lust from getting best of you. The best defense is a good offence, plan, and agreement. So, draw line, agree together, and commit to it concerning how far you will go physically. Keep Biblical values in mind! For some, it will be not going beyond kissing until you are engaged. For others, it will be never going past bikini/swim suit areas (conservative swim suit--not a thong!)!
If, after working through all relational building process, and making a commitment to each other leading to marriage, no attraction or romance develops, then you need to consider carefully that perhaps this relationship is not meant to be. If this is case, you will be hurt, but also consider this you will be saved from a lifetime of being with wrong person, which would cause each of you and others around you grief and strife! So, praise God and move on. The Biblical process has saved you! Keep friendship alive. Remember that any effort made in building relationships is never a waste of time in God’s eyes, unless it is hurtful or damaging.
Another thing to consider is that romance and attraction build over time. Most Christian counselors, as well as surveys, have shown that with older couples in a growing relationship with Christ say their love has increased over years--not decreased! So, if you are in your 20s, are planning to be married, are worried that you do not feel attracted enough to each other, and yet you meet rest of relationship building criteria, that feeling will change and you will grow fonder of each other!
Many people wonder, and ask, if love, or commitment comes first? The Bible gives us an answer that surprises a lot of people. In Ephesians 5:22-33 context of this passage indicates "love one you marry" rather than to "marry one you love." Thus, romance is often skewed with society’s emphasis on feelings, and not on commitment. So, when tough times come, romance will not keep you together, only your commitment will. This is a reason that love is also a choice. As a result, I believe commitment will supersede love, and be a good indicator that love is in mix!
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© 1988, 1998, 2002 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Director of “Into Thy Word Ministries,” a missions and discipling ministry. He is the author of the book, Into Thy Word, and is also a pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena California (M.Div.) and currently pursuing his Ph.D. He has amounted over 20 years of pastoral ministry experience, mostly in youth ministry, including serving as a church growth consultant.