Hello dear readers!
I had the honor of being asked by the Long family to write a guest post for their blog, The Long Way To Go, this week on the subject of how to guard your heart. Below is a portion of the article, but make sure to go to their site to read the rest!
“Guard your heart!”
I’m sure you have heard this phrase before, and you might also have found that it is easier said than done. How exactly are you supposed to guard your heart?
Disclaimer: I am writing this article under the assumption that you desire emotional purity, and to save not only your body, but also your heart for your future spouse. If you don’t believe in emotional purity, this article might not make much sense to you. However, if you do desire to save yourself, then it is my desire that this article help you to obtain that goal.
If I were to say, “Courtship is legalistic,” would you be shocked by such a claim? Probably not.
We’ve all heard people say that courtship, and/or courtship advocates, are legalistic. To some extent, this is true. While I haven’t met any legalistic courtship believers, I have heard plenty of stories about them. Additionally, anything can become a form of legalism. Any belief, any idea, any thing can become an idol or source of legalism.
However, there is a “system” which is far more legalistic, in general, than courtship: recreational dating. Yes, recreational dating is legalistic.
Now, perhaps, you may be shocked. You don’t hear people claim dating is legalistic very often, if at all. Before I go into just how dating has become a form of legalism, first we need to define terms. What is legalism after all?
There seem to be three forms of legalism today:
- Good works and/or obeying the Law must be done to attain salvation
- Good works and/or obeying the Law must be done tomaintain salvation
- Looking down on other Christians who do not hold to an individual’s standard of holiness.
This third form of legalism is the sort of legalism most commonly thrown around today. I have never heard of anyone claiming that you must court in order to achieve or maintain salvation, but if they exist, that is pretty peculiar. However, we do have courtship/betrothal advocates being labelled legalistic because it is believed many of them look down on Christians who do not court.
As I said above, this is possible. Courtship and/or betrothal can become idols. They can become legalistic. That being said, Dating, and it’s loyal supporters, are far more guilty of this form of legalism. While courtship opponents are quick to point out that courtship is not a system to be found in the Bible, they forget that dating is nowhere to be found. In fact, the dating practices of today would have been considered scandalous during biblical times.
While I think courtship advocates do need to be careful, I think it is the courtship opponents, and supporters of dating, who really need to look themselves in the mirror.
While I personally believe that courtship can look very different from person to person, many dating activists religiously cling on to certain aspects of dating, and believe that you must do things their way, or else you’re a weird, legalistic buffoon doomed to never marry or “marry the wrong person.”
5 Ways Dating is legalistic:
1. You must have feelings first
Dating is vehemently opposed to the idea that we should guard our hearts during courtship. Wrapped up in the fairy tale romances of Hollywood, dating claims that you must be head-over-heels “in love” with someone before you enter a “relationship”. This isn’t biblical, yet Christian dating die-hards cling to emotional love like scripture.
Certainly, attraction is important, and to some extent, feelings can’t be controlled; however, the foundation of love is sacrifice, not romance. You have to put the needs of your spouse above your own needs or wants, and this is very hard to do if you are not attracted to someone. Attraction helps, and is definitely important. Attraction will allow the feelings to come. However, to claim that you must be “love drunk” first is dogmatic, and closes the door on other possibilities.
The mockery and dating dogma surrounding the idea that you can or should guard your heart is evidence of legalism, of looking down on those who don’t meet certain, unbiblical standards. Other people have had God-honoring courtships and marriages without starting out deeply “in love”. There is no formula.
2. You must pick your own spouse
Dating believes that you absolutely must pick your own spouse. While this is what I would prefer to do, this isn’t necessarily Biblical. In the case of Isaac and Rebecca, they didn’t meet, fall in love, and then decide to marry. It was decided for them. Apparently there are other ways to find a spouse that are just as legitimate.
While I don’t believe the example of Isaac and Rebecca is ideal, I don’t think we can say that this is wrong. I know other people, living today, who have gotten happily married through betrothal or arranged marriage. It has worked in the past, and it can and does still work today.
Yet, we are so quick to mock and look down on those who forsake the recently formed tradition of dating. According to our third definition mentioned above, this is legalism.
3. You must “try on” the other person first
Here is another blatant example of dating legalism, the idea that you have to “try on” someone before you know if they are the right one for you. You must interact with your boyfriend or girlfriend as if you were actually married to them to see if marriage would actually work. This makes sense if you were considering buying a new tool or piece of equipment. However, people are bit more valuable and complicated than mere machines.
Yet, dating proponents claim that we must “experience all the thrills and chills” of the dating world. Date often, and for whatever reason you would like so you can figure out what it is you’re looking for in a person. You must engage in romance, including physical affection such as kissing, to see if they have what it takes to please you. All these things, and more, I have been advised to do by those who esteem dating. To do otherwise, they claim, is ridiculous, foolish, and even legalistic.
On the contrary, the dogmatic belief that you must “try on” the other person is legalistic. I don’t want to do any of those things. I don’t really want to marry someone who wants to do all of those things either, since much of that advice contradicts scripture, and the idea of loving others.
4. You must have a long relationship to make sure they are the “right one.”
Similar to the above, many who support dating believe that you must have a long romantic “relationship” prior to marriage. Short relationships are looked down on, and are assumed to be inferior to longer relationships. Our culture of dating and divorce has caused us to believe that the longer the relationship, the safer you will be. The longer you get to know someone, the better you know them, the better your odds of choosing the right person.
While this seems intuitive, reality is less so. The reality is less experience is actually a benefit when it comes to making marriages last. Yet, the judgment still continues.
5. The dating “formula” is seen as the only way to achieve a healthy marriage
As all of these examples have shown, dating champions a formula that must be adhered to…or else. While critics of courtship often claim it is courtship which puts forth a formula, it is really dating which has become a formula.
It is expected that you will date. It is expected that you will fall in and out of love until you meet “the one.” If you don’t date, that must mean something is wrong with you. Either you are undesirable, or you are anti-social, or have been emotionally scarred.
To be fair, this makes sense since dating is so prevalent and assumed in our culture. When someone deviates from something so culturally foundational as dating, it’s easy to think there might be something wrong with them.
However, dating is not the only way to get married, and not even the best way to get married in my opinion. I personally have described several different methods which have shown to lead to healthy marriages, and also uphold the biblical principles of faithfulness and love.Dating, on the other-hand, often takes the stance that all other ways of finding a spouse are wrong, and that dating is superior. While merely believing dating to be the best would be fine (if it were true), such a belief falls into legalism when those who stand for dating look down on those who do not agree with them, which seems to be common.
All of that said, it definitely is possible to believe in dating without being legalistic, just as it is possible to believe in courtship without being legalistic. It is even possible to disagree with courtship and betrothal without being legalistic, just as it is possible to disagree with dating without being legalistic.
I think dating is wrong and harmful, but that doesn’t mean I think I’m better than those who do date. You may think what I believe is wrong and harmful, that is fine. You don’t need to feel superior either. It’s okay to disagree. There is no need to throw derogatory names around or believe yourself to be above a brother or sister in Christ. Someone disagreeing with you doesn’t make them a legalist.
If you believe in dating, okay, you can do that, but don’t make it a formula that everyone else has to follow. We already know all about how courtship can become legalistic. Don’t continue to make dating a form of legalism—it has enough issues already.
2014 has been a great year of blogging, and was also probably the most difficult year I’ve ever had–in more ways than one. However, overall, all of the difficulty and changes have been very good.I wrote most posts in the past year than in any previous year, so to recap 2014, here are my top 10 most popular posts:
(click on the images to visit the posts)
10. No Hugging; Now What?
A light-hearted follow-up to my series on why I don’t hug girls, seeking to find a healthy alternative.
9. Emotional Purity –Part 1
A post introducing my series on emotional purity, and why I have personally come to support the concept.
8. I Am A Sexist
My awful confession that I think men and women are different, and created for different purposes.My friends at Freejinger had fun with this one.
7. I Got a C For Defending the Bible
A real life and personal example of the bias of colleges against Christians and truth. I have heard many stories about schools showing bias against Christians, but had never experienced it myself until my Intro to the New Testament class which I took at Ohio State.Thankfully, this C was not enough to tank my grade, and I still finished with an A. It wasn’t as bad as the movie “God’s Not Dead.”
6. This Pastor Hates His Children
Probably the most difficult article I’ve ever written, this was inspired, again, by witnessing an article being shared around the internet by Christians praising this pastor for encouraging and embracing homosexuality. So many Christians are turning their back on what the Bible says and are embracing sin and calling it love.
I don’t like writing on this subject, or criticizing pastors, or directly targeting individuals. I’m sure he is a very nice person, but the views he was sharing are wrong and harmful, and they are being accepted more and more by the world and Christians alike that I felt I had to say something.
More controversial than I expected it to be, this post was meant to make the point that you never have to wonder if you married the wrong person.
This satire came about after I was told my conviction that I should save physical affection for marriage would lead to a disappointed future wife. I was told that my future wife would probably appreciate someone with more romantic experience instead. Hmm…I might be marrying the wrong woman if this is the case.
5. Reasons Why I Don’t Go Ballroom Dancing
Much like my series on hugging
, this post came about because I wanted to give a defense for why I personally don’t want to go ballroom dancing. After getting invited to too many dances that I didn’t want to attend, and not being able to fully articulate why I didn’t want to participate, I put my thoughts together and this article was the result.
4. Why I No Longer Talk Privately To Girls Online
Related to Emily’s guest post
, this article tells a more personal story, sharing my own negative experiences of male/female private communication online. This is a completely new social venue which didn’t exist when my parents were growing up. No one really knows about the dangers, and I hope more will come to see the risk involved.
Few seem willing to acknowledge this reality, and more damage continues to be done. What is probably even more tragic, is I know many people who have come to believe that the harm can’t be avoided, and should simply be embraced.
3. Your Crying Baby Is Sending People To Hell
Inspired by a comment my mom received on her blog by a person claiming crying babies in church are actually sending people to hell. I sincerely hope she was just trolling and not being serious; nevertheless, I have witnessed a lot of discrimination against children in the church service. I find it shocking and sad at just how many Christians, even large homeschooling families, who believe children should be separate from the adults, and placed in Sunday school. It’s just not scriptural.
I also seemed to have done too good a job with this satire, as many people thought I was being serious, and didn’t realize it was a joke. I again apologize for any emotional trauma this post caused.
2. The Struggle For Emotional Purity
This was a guest post written by a friend which really exploded. So many guys don’t really understand how emotionally driven girls are (I have made a lot of mistakes myself in this area). I found Emily’s thoughts to be both accurate and practical. Thank you again Emily for being brave enough to share about this important topic.
It is just too bad that so few really understand the concepts Emily shared.
1. Don’t Teach Girls To Be Modest; That Sexualizes Them
This post was inspired by an article that was being passed around the internet by some Christian acquaintances. The article was claiming that encouraging girls to be modest was actually sexualizing them. Um, what? I found this idea so backwards I had to write something.
This is also now my 4th most popular post all-time. I guess modesty is still a hot topic.
I have bad news for you: your soul-mate doesn’t exist.
There isn’t one person “out there” ideally suited to perfectly fit or complete you in every way. None. However, there are likely several different people whom you would be compatible with in marriage.
This truth is made more obvious when you contemplate the horrible mess we would have if simply ONE person married the wrong “one”. That would mean each of these two people’s real “ones” will end up marrying the wrong “ones” as well. Therefore, one person marrying the wrong “one” will lead to a devastating domino effect of broken dreams and spoiled potential.
So either we are doomed to marry the wrong “one,” or else there are multiple people out there who could be potential marriage partners.
Isn’t this the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard?
Jack LaValley, a relationship coach featured in the publicity blitz, said, ” You don’t have to do it exactly like I did, but I have things to show you about how I made a successful marriage, and I wasn’t even in love with my wife when I married her.”1
Some people are probably baffled that I’m actually going to make an argument for arranged marriage. But thanks to my friendly commenter, Wynd, who gave me the idea, I am doing just that.
Courtship can be difficult and complicated. There are a lot of boundaries you have to follow, and it can sometimes be risky (though certainly far less risky than dating). I’ve joked to my parents a couple times that it would be so much easier if they just picked a wife for me. Although that is not what I really want, it would be a lot simpler and easier.
I’m not going to argue that you should adopt the practice of arranged marriage, but I think there is a lot we can learn from those who do practice arranged marriage. Who knows, maybe when I’m done writing this, I’ll have convinced myself that arranged marriage is better than courtship. All I know for certain is that even arranged marriage is better than dating.
“Really? You’re going to say that an arranged marriage is better than dating? A business deal is better than true love?”
Yes, arranged marriage is better than dating when it comes to finding the right spouse, and it’s not even close. However, done correctly, arranged marriage is far from a business deal, and dating certainly doesn’t have a clue as to what “true love” is.
Okay, so you’ve been pure and now you are courting. What role does spiritual purity play in courtship? Most would agree you should still be physically pure, but should you still strive to be spiritually pure? I say, yes! This is because there is still a chance a courtship will not end in marriage, and should that happen, you still want to be free of baggage.
Whether or not you seek emotional intimacy in courtship, of course, depends heavily on your definition of courtship. When I refer to courtship, I am talking about a time to evaluate whether or not two people would make a good match for marriage; however, there shouldn’t be any pressure or expectation that the courtship MUST end in marriage. Even in a courtship, you should seek to remain faithful to your future spouse.
Courtship is discovering whether or not you have found your future spouse. Maybe you have found them, maybe you haven’t. Since there is a chance you haven’t, you can’t jump all in yet. Your heart shouldn’t be set on the presumption that you will marry this person, because the courtship could be stopped prior to marriage. You must still seek to be spiritually pure for your future spouse. If a courtship does not end in marriage, but those courting have both acted with purity, then the courtship is still a success.
That being said, it’s ideal to only have to court one person, so you still only want to court someone you strongly believe you should marry. But, you could still be wrong, so don’t think just because you are courting someone that you must marry them. All you are committing to in a courtship is to explore the possibility of marriage, and since this is as far as your level of commitment goes, you should not be emotionally or physically intimate in a way that requires more commitment.
But how can this be done? When you are pursuing the possibility of marrying someone, how can you possibly be spiritually/emotionally pure? How do the emotions not overwhelm you?
It is definitely possible, because Paul tells us it is (Phil. 4:8). How it’s done depends on how you go about a courtship, and it can be summed up in two guideposts.
With my series
on “emotional” purity drawing to a close, I think it would be helpful to talk about some practical solutions to maintaining emotional purity. Part 3 of this series
—a guest post by Emily Long—I think provided some good tips, but I’d like to go a little bit more in depth, and also provide a couple of my own tips.
I find it sad that many of the arguments I’ve seen leveled against Emily’s post from a couple weeks ago are arguments that I used to make myself. Yes! The beliefs held by many of these critics were beliefs I used to hold; however, it took several difficult experiences for me to finally realize the danger of communicating privately online with the opposite gender, and not striving to be emotionally pure.
However, these experiences aren’t unique to me. In fact, I know a guy who has very similar experiences. I will call him Sam, and he has given me permission to use his story for this post.
Sam had had very little interaction with girls until he joined an online forum full of other homeschooling Christians. The forum happened to have a girl:guy ratio of 5:1, so by default, most of his friends were female. In the past, Sam had been rather standoffish toward girls, and he regretted that. The Bible spoke of treating each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, so that’s what he would try and do on this forum.
Because of the similarities he shared with so many on that forum, he developed some very close friendships. He became very close with a particular girl who was struggling with boyfriend problems, specifically, her boyfriend was cheating on her. Sam, feeling bad for this girl (Jane), sought to comfort her and provide advice, like any good friend would do. Like a brother helping a sister, right? Jane told Sam how much she appreciated him and his advice, and how much like a brother he was. Sam’s father warned him that his conversations with Jane could potentially be leading her on, or could lead to her becoming emotionally attached to him. Sam didn’t think so. After all, Jane had a boyfriend, and no one could fall in love merely though conversations online…right? That’s ridiculous. Plus, Sam figured, girls had never shown much interested in him in the past. How could a girl like him? They were just friends. Just a brother and sister in Christ.
Part 3: The Struggle for Emotional Purity
Part 4: Is Emotional Purity Harmful?
Part 5: Is Emotional Purity Biblical?
Hold this bucket of water. It’s filled with your “purity”. Every time some water accidentally sloshes out, or you intentionally take some out, you can never get it back. Every bit of water you lose out of your bucket is purity that can never be reclaimed. You have a finite amount of water. I think this is how some people view purity, even those who have rejected the notion of being pure all together.
Often, we see purity portrayed as being finite. We all start out at full health, and as we go through life, whatever amount we lose, can never be reclaimed. There are no purity gas stations to refill. Every little bit of purity you lose from your bucket makes you just that much less pure.
Of course, this doesn’t just apply to the issue of impurity, but to many areas of sin. We feel that we all start out good and innocent, and as our sins accumulate, we become less and less capable and deserving of the good life God has in mind for us. Indeed, we soon can begin to believe that we don’t deserve anything good, or that we have “messed up” too many times to be redeemable. This is a lie that Satan plants in our heads, not God.
I’ve talked a lot about the goodness of purity throughout this series, but what if you haven’t always been the most pure? Well, then it’s possible you’re feeling one of two things after reading this series. Either you think what I’m saying is ridiculous and you find yourself wishing strongly that I am hit by a bus for saying such things, or perhaps you feel guilty, depressed, or without hope. It is not my desire for this series to result in either of these two outcomes.
For those who wish to see me bleeding on asphalt, I don’t think there is much I can say to you, except don’t get your hopes up. There aren’t too many buses around where I live. But for those who may be feeling a bit depressed or guilty from what I’ve said, don’t be! This post is for you.
So far in this series, I have introduced
the topic of “emotional purity”, defined
what it is, we’ve looked at emotional purity from a girl’s perspective
, and I have shown how many of the common arguments
against emotional purity are poor or inaccurate. Now I’m going to address emotional purity from a purely Biblical perspective. Is emotional purity biblical?
Emotional purity is frequently vilified (even by many Christians) and I find this pretty sad. Why would you want to turn down something so good? God created us to be pure, and He knows what is best for us, which is why there are so many verses and passages in the Bible instructing us to be pure.
It’s for our good and the good of others.
There seem to be many Christians who think that the idea of emotional purity is not Biblical, and that physical purity is all that matters (and there is a spectrum of belief along that front as well). I disagree. There are many passages in the Bible that make a distinction from physical purity and purity of the heart.
For example, Colossians 3:5,
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
Sexual immorality is distinguished from “impurity.” They apparently aren’t the same thing…or maybe Paul is being redundant? Redundancy doesn’t seem to be the answer, since this same language comes up multiple times.
“For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” – ESV
Here, the word “or” clearly makes a distinction between sexually immoral (physical impurity) versus being “impure.” Well, the only other part of us that isn’t physical is the spiritual part of us. So Paul is demonstrating that purity extends into both physical and spiritual purity, or “emotional purity,” as some call it.
Other translations substitute out “sexual” and simply make a distinction between “immoral” and “impure.” The King James translation reads, “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” Again, there is a distinction, this time between “whoremonger” and “unclean”.
But we’re not done. Galatians 5:19-21 also makes a distinction between physical and spiritual purity:
– Emotional Purity: What Are Your Thoughts?
– What is Emotional Purity?
– The Struggle For Emotional Purity: A Guest Post By Emily Long
“All the broken hearts in the world still beat/Let’s not make it harder than it has to be/Ohh, it’s all the same thing/Girls chase boys chase girls” – Ingrid Michaelson
I think many people take the approach Ingrid Michaelson does in her song, “Girls Chase Boys.” What’s the big deal with emotional purity? All the broken hearts in the world still beat, let’s not make it harder than it has to be. That makes sense, right? Emotional purity just over complicates things.–
Others would go on to say that there are serious problems with the idea of emotional purity. Some mock emotional purity as unrealistic or a fantasy. “Surely emotional purity isn’t even possible in this day and age.” Others claim it is downright harmful, while still more insist that to have emotional purity you must “invent a sin” such as this article argues.
Do these critics have a point?
While I believe that—like all good things—the concept of emotional purity can be twisted or abused, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The idea that we are to be pure in more than just our physical actions is good, Biblical, and very possible to maintain. As I said in part 2
of this series, I believe “emotional purity” is an unfortunate term to use, since people infer it is all about controlling emotions, when it’s actually about directing our thoughts, and being wise with our actions. This spiritual purity is rooted in self-control and love, both of which the Bible advocates.
But, there are some concerns.