People Will Say We’re in Love

I went out to eat with a guy friend the other night, and as we sat across from each other we talked about our classes at the college, and our lives, and what we were doing in our spare time… all the things we aren’t able to catch up on when the business of the day intrudes.  I explained to him a few things that had happened in my own life, people I was interacting with and situations that I had been in, and he gave me some advice in those areas.  His perspective as a guy involved things I never would have thought of if he hadn’t spoken.  “Do you really think that?”  I asked him, somewhat indignant since the topic was one that I held dear.  “Well, I’m just telling it to you as a friend and as a guy,” he said.  “That’s how it seems to be to me.”

As I thought about the things he said over the next few days, the more true they seemed.  I had never thought of my situation from a guy’s perspective before — other than my father’s — and it was interesting to see it through the eyes of my friend, whose genuine concern for my well being and happiness guided what he told me. 

Now that’s a friendship.  As I sat poking at my salad before heading off to a night class, I looked at my table companion and smiled.  How wonderful to have a friend like this, who would tell me the truth out of care — but would never deceive me about his feelings.  He has never been ambiguous when it comes to our relationship – or lack thereof.  “Phylicia,” he had said.  “We’re friends, and both our families know that, so we should be able to do things together on that basis.  There’s no pressure for anything more — and I like it that way.” 

I like it that way too.  The stability of our friendship lies in the fact that both of us have obligations elsewhere — to family, work, church and studies.  We have no obligations to each other.  We have no pressures and emotions to deal with.  We have no jealousies over each other’s friends of the opposite sex.  When we meet, we enjoy the time that we have together — and the rest of our lives aren’t spent pining! 

This is the kind of freedom I have spoken of in previous posts.  In the Victorian era, we would have been out of line to go to the cafe’ for our dinner without a chaperone.  Yet in the mid-1800’s, we would have been perfectly acceptable!  Because we are not in a relationship the guidelines for our interaction our less stringent than they may be in that situation.  This, of course, depends on the family.  However, my friend and I are in no dire straits to gain each others’ attention — and thus, we have no motivation to attain it.  Without motivation, there is no temptation.

If anything, my friend has given me great insight into how young men think, feel, and react.  He tells me honestly his opinion of certain character traits in girls, if I ask.  This in turn helps me in my view of myself and in what femininity is in regard to masculinity.  We never go too deep:  we don’t share feelings, emotions, and establish connections that belong within a committed relationship; but we do have a mutual friendship that transcends opinion, gossip and pressure.

Often “what people think” colors our reactions to the opposite sex, and can limit us in our friendships and interaction with girls or boys.  I call it “People Will Say We’re In Love Syndrome”.  Part of this is rooted in pride — concern over others’ opinons — and part is rooted in fear, but there are really only two causes:  Guilt or Pride. Guilt comes when a ‘friendship’ is not actually a friendship but an ‘illegitimate’ relationship (one not authorized or supervised by parents).  Pride instigates PSWLS when we walk around in fear of what people are thinking or saying about us. 

How do you build an immunity to PSWLS?  Two steps:  first, evaluate if you are above reproach in your parents’ and God’s eyes.  If you are, you can eliminate guilt as the cause.  Second, evaluate yourself for prideful intent.  Are you in the friendship to make it look like you’re in a relationship?  Are you so obsessed with yourself that your utmost concern is what people say and think about you?  Why can’t you enjoy the friendship for what it is?  If you work at keeping yourself in line on these two fronts your friendship should be pain and pressure free.

Immunities are built up over time.  They aren’t pills that you pop, although vitamins help in the long run (in regard to PSWLS, I suggest taking Humility, Patience, and Self-Control; write 1 Cor. 13:4-8 on the prescription and Celestial Pharmacy should hand it over  pre-paid).  If you wait until you’re love-sick, emotionally distraught, or fearful of friendships (all symptoms of advanced PSWLS) you will have to take some bitter pills to get back on track, and continue with that medicine until your weakened state is strong again.  Build an immunity now, and you won’t have to take the bitterness later.

My cell phone beeped 5:45 — time to head to class.  My friend was devouring a turkey sandwich and watching the news over my shoulder.  We’d been quite quiet for a while.  “We’re probably the only people who can go out and say nothing and still have a good time,” I laughed, gathering my coat and purse together.  “You know what they say,” he smiled with a twinkle in his eye.  “‘You say it best when you say nothing at all’…” 

Friends don’t have to say anything to know where they stand.  They just know.  And in that knowledge, they’re content.

Is Courtship Biblical?

Now there’s a question you haven’t heard.

A lot of time we take courtship for granted as a Biblical concept, without questioning where it is found in the Christian faith — if at all.  Is courtship a Biblical concept, and if so, are Christians who do not follow it in sin?

There are some denominations who truly believe that courtship is a firm facet of the Christian walk; that to compromise in this area is indeed to wander into sin.  In these denominations, there is a specific way to go about courtship and each couple is to execute their relationship along those parameters.  Other denominations are much more lax in regard to male-female interaction — some just confront the issues pertaining to sexual immorality and leave it at that.  Are either of these branches wrong?  What about all the systems in between?  Is there one set method for courtship that God has ordained for His followers?

I truly don’t think so.  The relationships of Scripture were influenced by culture and era, so the example set by those will not be completely transferrable to our present society.  We can’t lift Ruth and Boaz off the pages of the Old Testament and pop them into contemporary, metro-sexual New York and expect the story to be the same.  Then again, some women like the idea of marrying their former mother-in-law’s cousin, who happens to be about twenty years older and considerably well-off due to a couple decades of careful investment in the wheat industry…

Does this mean that the Bible leaves relational methods for us to decide?  God is not into relativism, in case anyone  noticed.  Just like any other aspect of life our relationships are to proceed along specific guidelines that the Lord provides — but there’s no Dating Rulebook either.  Rules do not equal legalism — but legalism does equal rules.  The true Christian abides by the Lord’s commands because he honors Him and chooses to obey from love; the legalistic Christian abides by commands to one-up others and feel good about himself.  Whether those rules are right or necessary is not relevant to legalism. 

Picture a bowling alley.  You’re standing, ball in hand, about to hurl it down the lane and into the pins for a stunning victory to impress your friends.  But before you send it flying, you purposely put up the bumpers so the ball has no chance of spinning into the gutter.  You send the ball down the lane and — WHAM! A strike!  You walk back smugly… but  no one’s very impressed.  “Let’s see how you do with the bumpers down,” they say.  So you try it — and fail miserably.  You’ve played so long with the bumpers you can’t keep the ball in the lane without them. 

Unfortunately, many Christians operate in relationships this way.  By putting up the bumpers of legalism, they keep themselves on the straight and narrow, knowing that if they take down the bumpers they might head straight into the gutter.  Rather than strengthen and perfect they choose to operate in ‘safety’, within rules, so that they never have to face temptation.  One day the bumpers will come down.  When that day comes, if you can’t keep the ball in the lane, you will have a harder time re-learning so that you can keep it where it should have been before.

Legalism breeds weak Christians — and this means legalism in any area.  However, legalism as pertains to relationships is especially dangerous because of arrogance and selfishness that seep in.  Satan can use legalism to his direct advantage because legalism equals pride.

Am I saying that operating in discipline is legalistic?  By no means.  To live in the flesh, without reserve or control, is equally damaging and full of self.  We must strike a balance, and more importantly, understand our motivation for how we go about our relationships.  If a woman goes into relationships with the intention of landing the man, she may compromise many things in order to accomplish that.  If a man goes into a relationship with the idea that he will tread the line physically, he will be sacrificing his morality on the altar of instant gratification.

What guidelines, then, are given to us?  Check out Titus 1:8-9, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; and Romans 6:12-15 (view this link for an even more thorough Biblical support).  All these emphasize the fact that a Christian is to live a holy, upright life.  Part of living this life is not only to seek righteousness but avoid evil.  Where Christians go wrong in relationships is when they question, “How far is too far?” This clues us in to the fact that they are already wondering when sin becomes sin — and if it is really wrong at all.  The question should not be “How closely can I tread the line?” but “How can I most glorify God in this relationship?”   A person asking this question of himself will not need legalism to keep him in the middle of the lane.  His devotion to God will keep him there.

So then:  is courtship Biblical?  Because of what it stands for, and the concepts, methods and and ideas that are involved, yes.  But courtship in and of itself is not the God-ordained fashion that all people must use for their relationships.  For most of us, our parents dated and they grew to glorify God with their marriage even with any mistakes they may have made.  Even a couple that dates can glorify God if they are abiding by his painstakingly clear standards for sexual intimacy — it belongs within the bond of marriage alone.  If they choose to tread the line of that command it is their own spiritual walk they threaten.  It is their choice.  It is everyone’s choice — rules cannot protect, defend or excuse anyone before God. 

This view of courtship should not be viewed as threatening or undermining to its foundation.  Rather, it should be viewed as incredibly freeing to us as Christians.  We have the choice in all parts of our daily lives to choose God or choose ourselves.  Relationships will be no different, no matter what method you choose to go about them.  Temptation is not picky, and even with the bumpers up it can reach you — and destroy you if you aren’t able to stay true when they’re down.  We have an amazing freedom in Christ — for He “did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self control.” (2 Tim. 1:7).  Legalism operates out of fear — fear that without it you will fail.  Strength comes when you beat fear down and become victorious. 

Think about your motivations for choosing courtship.  But more than that, check your heart when it comes to viewing others and their decisions about relationships; especially fellow Christians.  Understand the freedom you possess — and that every one possesses in Christ — because grasping this concept will determine whether you keep the bumpers up in life or if you lay them down and send the ball straight into the pins.

Think of it this way:  I’ve just given you an incredible excuse to go bowling.