5 Helps to Prepare for Marriage in Purity
PURE IN CHRIST
Recently at The Well, we looked at Paul’s words to Timothy regarding how to navigate different relationships in the church. We focused specifically on how he should treat “younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Tim. 5:2). In young adult world, this principle has massive implications for how we relate to the opposite sex.
When we put our faith in Christ, two of the amazing theological things that happen to us are called “justification” and “adoption”. We are forgiven of all our sin and made pure before God by the blood of Christ (justification), and are also brought into the family of God as sons and daughters (adoption). That makes us family with each other; brothers and sisters. And when it comes to family, we are not only pure toward each other, but we aim at honoring each other’s purity as well. It’s why guys are rarely fans of their sister’s boyfriends. We want our sister’s purity to be honored, and if her boyfriend is not going to protect her purity, then we want him out of the picture. As Christians, we need to value each other’s purity as well; that is, we should navigate our relationships in such a way that our brothers and sisters are encouraged to live out the purity we have been given in Christ.
So, for a single Christian who wants to be married, how do you pursue a spouse, and pursue purity at the same time? This is a wonderful question, and I hope these five “helps” on friendship and dating will serve you as you seek to honor God “in all purity” from singleness through marriage and raising a family.
PURITY IN FRIENDSHIP
Having strong, healthy, Jesus-centered friendships is the greatest foundation for preparing for a strong, healthy, godly marriage.
1. Have friends of the opposite sex, not best friends.
Many of us struggle with insecurities about our own masculinity or femininity, or our identity in general, that keep us from developing healthy same-sex friendships. Men who don’t feel confident about being men will gravitate toward friendships with women so that they don’t feel threatened. Same thing with women who don’t feel confident about being women. This kind of insecurity/fear-based living will not only stunt or stop your growth as men and women of God, but it will cripple you in finding a spouse. If you’re a girl who only hangs out with guys, godly men will see that and assume you’re either taken or not ready for a relationship, and will move on.
So downgrade your opposite-sex BFF’s to just F’s (friends). That means stop hanging out alone together, just hang out in groups, and stop talking/texting late at night for long periods of time. Or, if you want to be in a relationship with that person, stop living in the gray ambiguity you’re in, and clarify your intentions (more on that in the dating section below).
2. Invest deeply in same-sex friendships.
Men, you need other men in your life. Women, you need other women in your life. Your future spouses also need you to have these deep same-sex friendships, because they will not be sufficient to meet all your social and emotional needs on their own; you need community in your life. Jesus-centered community, to be clear. Join a Community Group, and build deep same-sex friendships with those people through:
- fun social meals/hangouts/events,
- praying and getting into God’s word together,
- holding each other accountable inÂ discipleship.
PURITY IN DATING
Once you have healthy friendships, you are in a better place to be thinking about pursuing a spouse (which is the only reason a Christian should date, BTW). Here are some basic rules that will help you to have purity in dating.
1. Start with group hangouts.
Groups are good. They are non-threatening environments where you get to see how the person you’re into interacts with others. Things like Community Group, game nights, road trips, playing sports together, going to dinner with a big group, serving at church together (this is the best), and so on. Here are some things you get to see, and questions you should ask:
- What are their friends like?
- Are they kind and gracious with others?
- Do they serve others or do they just want to be served?
- Are they good listeners, or just want to talk about themselves?
They might say they are really amazing over a fancy dinner on a first date, but time together in groups, and especially serving together, will show you the truth.
2. Clarify your intentions.
So you’ve done some group hangouts and, if possible, served together in ministry at church, and you really like her. One thing that is crucial to do as your friendship/relationship develops is to clarify your intentions.
- Ask – Ask on a date, and make it clear it’s a date. A very easy way to do this is by saying, “Would you want to go on a date with me? Say, dinner at [some decent restaurant this Friday at 7pm?”. Don’t be ambiguous. And give a huge “out”. Meaning, if she says no, don’t make it awkward like your life is hanging in the balance, and she’s a horrible person for saying no, like she was somehow obligated to go out with you because you did things the right way. Not how it works. Trust God with your life, regardless of her answer.
- DTR – If she says yes, and the first couple of dates go well, it’s time to define the relationship (DTR). Do this sooner, not later. This is an opportunity for you to go “official”, and communicate that you are wanting to seek the Lord’s will for marriage, and wanting to do it in purity, putting Jesus first. Again, she might not be ready to be “official” yet, and you might need a few more group hangouts and dates. Be okay with that.
- FBO – If/when you go official, you gotta go Facebook officialÂ (FBO). This might seem funny to you, but it shows your commitment publicly and makes it more of a “thing” socially, so that your friends and community know where you’re at, and youÂ help the other person out by getting each other on the same page about your relationship.
By clarifying your intentions, you help each other understand what you are looking for from your relationship, and it allows you to see if it’s wise and God-honoring to continue in the relationship toward engagement and marriage, or to break up and move on.
3. Be private in public.
This is massively important. It will save your life. I learned this from a college preacher back at A&M, and it was so helpful. In order to know if this is really the person you want to spend the rest of your life serving (that’s what marriage is, BTW), you will need quality time to get to know each other more deeply. But the problem is we equate quality time with alone time, which is good for marriage and bad for dating.
In dating, alone time turns into make-out time (it’s just science), and make-outs tend to push the boundaries one step further every time, and purity goes out the window fast. Before you know it, you are two Jesus-loving Christians who are so full of guilt and shame about going too far physically that you’re struggling in your relationship with each other, and with God. Seriously, this will happen. Don’t let it get there. Be proactive, and be private in public.
Go to IHOP (open 24 hours), Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, McDonald’s, or any other place where you can talk and get to know each other but won’t end up on top of each other due to being in public. Midnight on your couch = danger. Midnight at IHOP = safe. If you set this as the standard early on, you will save yourself from a lot of guilt, shame, regret, and heartbreak moving forward. Not to mention you get the long-awaited reward on your wedding night, when you have brought yourselves into the context of the safe, loving, covenant of marriage (where God designed sex to be enjoyed in all purity).
If you have not navigated your relationships in purity thus far, start now. Repent from sin, and come to Jesus Christ. If you’re in Christ, your sins are forgiven, you are pure before God, and you have the Spirit of God dwelling in you to empower you to live out that purity as you follow Christ.