by The Rev. Rick Stuckwisch
Friendship is a good place to begin, with its shared interests, common values, and mutual pursuits. In close friendships between young men and women, there will almost always be a certain tension, due to the natural attraction of the sexes for each other. Great care must be taken to avoid the breaking of that tension with sin. Alternatively, the tension may also be "broken" in a positive and wholesome way, by leading to something more than friendship. When there are not only those shared interests in other things, but in each other. When there develops a back-and-forth between walking side-by-side and turning toward each other, face-to-face. “Twitterpation” cannot sustain a permanent relationship or life together, but it does have its place in this dance of love. There ought to be a joy and delight in each other, which is not driven by lust or perversion, but by the goodness of God's creation.
It is not only at that point, but especially then, that a young man or woman (of whatever age) ought to be seeking the counsel and advice of father and mother and other authorities, such as pastors and teachers, in particular. Holy Scripture does not tell you whom to date, nor whom to marry, but the Lord does command you to honor your father and mother. It is mainly through your parents that He guides and directs your life, especially from childhood into adulthood. Besides, there is no one who knows you better, and no one on earth who loves and cares about you more. Similarly, your pastors and teachers know you well and have your best interests at heart. Your pastor is called and ordained by God to shepherd you with His Law and Gospel, unto repentant faith in the forgiveness of sins. You shouldn't proceed with any major decisions in life without relying upon that divine and heavenly wisdom!
Fathers and mothers alreadyought to be involved in approving their children's circle of friends. All the more should they be consulted when one of those friends is becoming something more than a friend. Hormones, especially under the curse of sin, are powerful and persuasive, and lust has a crafty way of masquerading as love. Young men and women should not rely upon their feelings and emotions to determine whether a particular girlfriend or boyfriend is a meet, right and salutary one. Hard as it may be to accept, when Mom and Dad (or pastors or teachers) are skeptical and apprehensive about a relationship, then it's probably not one to pursue. Caution needs to be exercised, at any rate, and regular counsel sought at every step along the way.
Where a good friendship between a boy and a girl does transition into a romantic relationship, that will be a terrifically exciting time. But the thrilling fun of dating should not be perpetuated for its own sake, nor allowed to go on and on without any guidance or direction. This stage in a relationship is really a testing of whether these two friends may become husband and wife. If it becomes clear that marriage would be unwise or out of the question, then romantic dating ought to stop, and perhaps a normal friendship in the company of other friends may be resumed. But if the relationship continues in a positive and healthy direction, with the blessing and approval of parents and other authorities, then the couple ought to be thinking and planning toward marriage. Long-term dating relationships are simply too subject to abuse. Engagements, too, should only be as long as necessary to make arrangements for marriage, including pre-marital pastoral care. There may be all sorts of exceptional circumstances, but I'm referring here to things in general. The bottom line is to honor the Word of God and obey the Fourth Commandment, that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.
It may sound crazy to 21st century ears, but maybe the arranged marriages of the past weren’t such a bad idea. Americans are frankly too hung up on romance . Romance is fine and good, but it doesn't make or sustain a marriage. It is the love of Christ for His Church, and the faith and love of the Church for Him, that teach and equip husbands and wives to love and serve each other. The true love that makes for a good marriage is chiefly the love of self-sacrifice and free forgiveness, for Jesus' sake. It is a commitment to do the right thing, even when you don't feel like it. Often as not, the romantic love of a husband and wife will wax and wane over the course of time, as the years go by. Fireworks come and go, like holidays, but there grows and develops the satisfying substance and stability of a shared life, a home and family.
The Rev. Dr. Rick Stuckwisch is Pastor of Emmaus Lutheran Church in South Bend, IN. He and his wife, LaRena, are very (and appropriately) involved in the lives of their nine children whom they have home-schooled.
Created: September 3rd, 2007