We know that when a person is of the age where dating is proper, they are striving to become adults. They are in the process of forming their own opinions and individuality. There are keen urges within the person to do exactly what he/she wants, yet maturity admonishes him/her to obey Scripture and honor one’s parents. Many churches, Christians, parents, and children (teenagers) have failed miserably in both dating and marriage because they did not follow Scriptural guidelines.
Parents have been saddened as they have watched their children get pregnant and/or have abortions.
They have watched them marry the wrong person, but many times the parents themselves were partly to blame for not “raising the child in the way they should go so when they get old they will not depart,” as Scripture admonishes! Many parents themselves are very ignorant on the correct way to teach, prepare and help their children choose whom God wants the young adult to marry. In this apostate generation where “the very elect are being deceived,” parents have adopted their society’s norm for dating and choosing a mate instead of following eternal kingdom directives and protocol.
Honor means giving respect to what the parent is counseling and to seriously evaluate their advice. The difference between being ready to date and being ready to marry is the level of maturity one possesses. Chronological age has nothing to do with immediately becoming an adult or being mature. The legal age of becoming an adult does not make one an adult. Maturity can be seen in the intellectual, moral, ethical, emotional, physical and spiritual decisions that are made based on eternal truths; it is being able to make right choices and have good judgment.
Since dating is a prelude to marriage, extreme caution needs to be taken in one’s choices. Many lasting negative results can hinder a person’s future success in life as the result of actions participated in during the dating process. The young adult, even though in age may be looked upon as an adult, does not yet possess the maturity from years of life experiences to totally understand all the truths involved in dating and choosing a mate. Parents have a God-given directive to try to guide, help and protect their children with the extra twenty or thirty years of experience that they have in this most important process.
1 Timothy 5:2 says, “The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” God tells us to treat a member of the opposite sex as a brother and sister, or mother and father. This verse means that we are to limit physical contact. Kissing, hugging, etc. should be reserved until marriage—I personally believe holding hands should be also. God creates our chemistry to react to certain stimulus by the opposite sex. The more we entertain touching, etc., one with another, the more we tempt ourselves. The Scriptures tell us to flee temptation. They tell us not to tempt the Lord. Joseph ran from Potipher’s wife. 2 Timothy 2:22 tells us, “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness...” There are powerful forces created within the human body that are put there by God for the sole purpose of the usefulness and happiness of a married couple. To play with these forces prior to marriage is wrong and dangerous.
Young people in their physical prime are tempted to experiment and ignore the warnings of their parents because they do not yet have the experience in life to know the repercussions of their folly. Most importantly, many of them do not respect, fear and love God with all their heart, soul and mind, so they go against God’s warnings both in disregard to their parents’ authority and God’s safeguards for behavior and choices. As Dr. Harold Shryock points out, “Young people who have retained their innocence in these matters do not realize the tremendous driving force contained with the reflex mechanisms of their sex organs. They assume that as long as their intentions are good they will be able to maintain control of their conduct and avoid sexual indulgence. But in so thinking, they are in danger of being deceived, and are preparing the way for sad disillusionment. When two young people are alone with each other, they are in definite danger of passing beyond the point of no return in their ability to control their intimate conduct.”
Safeguards should be initiated and welcomed by both the parents and the dating couple if they are mature and show wisdom. Dr. Shryock elaborates, “Determination is not enough where the sexual responses are so powerful as to overrule one’s good intentions. The only safety for a young couple, as far as the proper conduct of courtship is concerned, is to steadfastly follow God’s instructions for single people’s behavior prior to marriage. They are to avoid the circumstances that make it possible for them to become the victims of their biological desires. In the first place, they should avoid spending time in solitude. Secondly, they should not allow their expressions of affection to consist of those forms of physical contact which stimulate sexual desires.”
Until a person is actually in a position in life to get married, they should limit their time with the opposite sex to group situations. There is a real danger when we ignore established truth because of our youth. When one is young, they look at everything through rosy glasses. Everything is beautiful and they have a totally optimistic and trustful viewpoint. This is normal since they have not lived long enough to understand and experience reality. The Bible tells us a person should always be on guard for the wiles and devices of the enemy.
Courtship, (spending time primarily with one person of the opposite sex), starts a process of sharing one with another. This sharing leads to secrets or things significant to only those two people. Once confidence is established it becomes easier to step over the moral line reserved for married people. The immature, selfish person uses this trust or love as he might call it, to justify his lustful behavior. Thus, the more opportunities they are alone, the bolder they become in sharing and expressing their thoughts, emotions, and feelings.
Marriage experts tell us that the safest age for serious courtship and marriage is when a person is over twenty years of age.
This is due to the fact that the personality and individuality are still forming prior to this time. Our directions in life are still being decided. Many times when one marries in their teens, they realize later that they made a mistake. The things they once respected in their spouse they no longer respect. They find out later that they are not as compatible as they thought and are interested in different life ambitions. One mistake the teenager may make is in not understanding the impelling emotional force by which casual friendship can be carried into marriage. The teenager is trying to be accepted as an adult and they see that this person accepts their views. Being socially made by the Creator, they want to be accepted, loved and recognized and this person who they respect at this moment fulfills their need. Then, before enough time has passed for the respect to be tested by a more developed individual/personality, and before their position in life allows them to support the stresses of a husband and wife relationship, they find themselves prematurely married.
Dr. Shryock gives the following danger signs as to when a teenage relationship moves too quickly for a healthy future:
1. They are together several times a week.
2. They are sometimes in solitude.
3. They indulge in physical intimacies (holding hands, etc.).
Parents do their teenager a great injustice as well as themselves negating their own responsibilities ordained by God if they do not try to guide their young adults toward safer relationships while they are still forming their individualities. They should be involved in group activities in safe environments. The young adult might resist the Godly advice, believing nothing else matters as long as they are with the person they love. At this time in their lives, they are usually led by feelings and emotions, which are not yet mature. The Bible tells us to be led by the word/truth which then becomes faith but not on our feelings. If they take God’s instructions seriously and honor their father and mother, their future will be safer and happier.
Before courtship begins (dating one person exclusively), several issues need to be considered. Financial responsibility is one such issue. Does the main income earner (man) have an adequate job? Do not expect the young lady to support the man through college, etc. This shows a lack of genuine respect for her as a person, and usually her personality suffers later as the man many times feels socially superior to his less educated wife. Future goals should also be discussed. Many problems arise when one has a call to serve humanity, for example as a medical missionary in Africa; whereas, the spouse wants the luxuries of private practice in America or the country of origin. The couple’s religious convictions and beliefs is another issue of significant importance; they need to be as close as possible. If they have different religions, etc., their social relationships with people will be strained.
The Bible warns us dogmatically not to be unequally yoked. (2 Cor. 6:14)
We are not to have that type of fellowship with any person that is not a true Christian. Instead of enjoying the company of the same people and the satisfaction of attending the same church, they will find themselves at conflict resulting in stress, tension, and unhappiness.
Interracial marriages add a greater amount of effort and preparation. It is not that one race or culture is better than the other, but that the customs that one is raised in affect one’s attitudes and conduct. Marriage, under the most ideal circumstances, where both people are mature and prepared for it, is still a challenging time of adjustments. When one marries cross- culturally, one must be prepared for the added stress factors that are a reality in this situation.
All through the Bible, we see courtship did not normally take place until the couples were mature, financially sound, religiously the same (God instructed), and the woman was willing to leave her parents and country to follow her husband.
Is the future wife sincerely willing to leave her country, culture, and family and move to another land?
This is a serious question that needs an honest answer. Many times a young lady will say yes, only to later resist either intentionally or unintentionally following her new husband. Sometimes this is done innocently on the woman’s part. Initially, when she told her fiancée she would move with him, she was sincere – not understanding the great cultural differences of a new country. These stress factors, along with the adjustments of marriage and coupled with missing her parents and relatives sometimes proves to be too much. Thus, a lot of tension and strife develops in the home. When the stress factors become overwhelming on a weak personality, a depletion of their nervous energy results in irritability, an attitude of pessimism, a loss of creative ability, a lack of drive, a lack of alertness, a lowered resistance to disease, chronic fatigue, physical or mental breakdown, and possibly divorce.
Every person has a tolerance limit to stress and strain. But sometimes, in a young adult trying to cope with too many pressures at the same time, the new adjustments are too much. So, when a young lady says “yes,” sometimes she honestly intends to follow and live with her future husband, but she is too naïve to understand the psychological factors involved in her growing personality.
On the other hand, sometimes a young lady never really intends to move to another location. Because she wants the man, she deceptively acts like she will adjust, but in her mind she intends to change his mind after they marry. Integrity is an important characteristic one needs to examine in one’s future mate before allowing one’s feelings to get carried away so that one cannot truly see the character flaws of his/her future mate. A person, who is deceptive, and not well prepared to face life, creates a lot of problems in the home, not only for his/her own marriage, but also for the relationships of all involved.
When people are not developed enough as mature Christian adults, they purposely or unknowingly create an unhealthy barrier not only for themselves in their marriage but also between their spouses’ relatives and even between their parents. The young wife sees the husband’s parents as a threat to getting her selfish intentions fulfilled. Married couples are supposed to have the closest relationship with their spouse. They are supposed to be committed to each other according to God’s plan. However, this does not mean adversely affecting other important relationships and responsibilities that God intends for us to have with family and friends.
When a person is too immature and has character flaws of dishonesty and selfishness, it is certain that there will be problems in the marriage and other relationships.
Another concern that needs to be considered is the racial identity of their children. Depending on the community, there could be tolerance and acceptability. However, not all environments are as socially tolerant, and within all communities there will be certain prejudices to face. The racial backgrounds, no matter how distinctly different they may be, and depending on the prejudices and biases within the country and people of their community, will determine how much adversity the children will have to face. Sometimes they find themselves wanted by neither country nor people.
I am certainly not saying that interracial marriage is sin! No, it is not; but I do think that it is wise to consider the real ramifications and added stress factors one will face in a cross- cultural marriage. God is no respecter of persons.
In his book “The Rejection Syndrome and the Way to Acceptance,” Dr. Charles Solomon states, “We all experience rejection to one degree or another on a daily basis because conditional human love is always imperfect. The perfect unconditional love of God is the only love devoid of any taint of rejection. We experience this love through an understanding of our identity and acceptance in the Lord Jesus Christ, through death and resurrection with him.”
Yes, we are all raised by imperfect parents. However, it is critical that we base our identity on Jesus Christ as He alone can continue to love us regardless of our imperfections. Only He can heal us of all of our hurts, pains, and wounds. A couple today must have their relationship truly based on the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the effectual work of His cross to have a wonderful marriage.
In part 2 of this 3-part pastoral letter, we will continue on the “Scriptural Guides to Dating and Marriage.” This is a most important series of messages to help both the parents and their children choose when and whom to date as a marriage partner. May we each allow God to help us (parents and young adults) avoid the consequences of rebellion.
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