Sleeping arrangements

What happens when an unmarried Christian couple (boyfriend and girlfriend) want to go on a trip together? Is it okay to stay in a hotel? Do they need to book separate rooms, or can they share a room?

In my opinion, there are two issues to be considered:

1. The issue of “appropriateness” versus “impropriety.”

2. The issue of temptation.

As a Christian, it’s a given that sexual acts (including, but not limited to, intercourse) are reserved for marriage. Engaging in such acts is sinful for those who are unmarried. There are also behaviors that are not necessarily wrong, but may result in being tempted towards behavior that would be wrong. For example, sleeping in the same bed, while not a sin itself, would open the door for lots of temptation, and put “forbidden fruit” within easy grasp, making it easy to succumb to temptation. Therefore sleeping in the same bed is a bad idea because of the issue of temptation. Also, even if two individuals were entirely confident in their ability to resist temptation, most people would agree that it would be inappropriate, in the same way that co-habitation prior to marriage is inappropriate. Even in the absence of any sexual behavior, sharing a bed is a very intimate arrangement, and that type of intimacy should probably be reserved for those who are married.

Sleeping in separate beds in the same room provides less opportunity for temptation, but still may allow for too much temptation to be a good choice. Particularly if there is no sofa or loveseat in the room, it would be quite easy to start out with the two individuals sitting on top of one bed talking or watching TV, and then the one invididual never makes it over to his/her own bed, which puts them right back into the problem described above. Most would agree that sharing a bedroom is inappropriate, just as sharing the same bed is inappropriate.

With separate sleeping quarters, one of the individuals must leave to “go to bed,” which greatly reduces the temptation that results from sharing the same sleeping quarters. From a temptation standpoint, my opinion is that separate rooms are called for. This could be separate bedrooms at the home of friends or family, a separate room in a hotel suite, or separate individual rooms in a hotel. In my view there is not a substantial difference between a separate room divided by a doorway and a separate room down the hall. There should be no more temptation or opportunity for temptation than spending time together normally at one individual’s house or apartment.

Divorce

I think the strongest case against divorce is to look at what marriage symbolizes. God uses imagery to help us understand our relationship with Him. We relate to Him as children to a parent or as servants to a master. We understand these relationships because we experience them every day on earth. There is no greater image of our relationship with God than that of a husband and wife. Of all the parallels that are drawn in scripture, this is the one that gets the most attention and the one that comes the closest to reflecting what our relationship with God was designed to be.

God says He will never leave us or forsake us, and scripture is filled with His continual pursuit of His chosen people (despite their desertion and unfaithfulness). For a husband or wife to divorce their spouse, flies in the face of all that marriage is supposed to signify.

I find it interesting that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the occasion when the Pharisees questioned Jesus about divorce, but Matthew is the only one who mentions the exception for maritial unfaithfulness. Clearly, while Jesus made this allowance, the thing that really stuck out was His emphatic insistence that husbands and wives should never separate (“what God has joined together, let man not separate”).

When it comes to “what’s done is done, can I get remarried?” I think there are a couple of slippery slopes to be avoided. One is the idea that as long as the other party gets remarried, and therefore “becomes unfaithful,” you are therefore free. This would open the door to marry and divorce willy-nilly provided you always make sure your ex gets remarried first. It also places a great deal of importance on timing; ie., who was unfaithful first. It essentially means two people can take the exact same actions, but one of them is guilty of adultery and the other gets off scot free. This clearly is not what God had in mind. I think the allowance for divorce in the case of marital unfaithfulness is restricted to when it occurs in the context of the marital relationship. I don’t think it is a “way out” for two people who have severed their relationship, regardless of whether they are technically (either legally or in God’s eyes) still married or not.

I also think the “lust = adultery = just cause for divorce” concept is a slippery slope. When Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 that lust is equivalent to committing adultery, the word for adultery is moicheuo?. In Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, the word for unfaithfulness or fornication is porneia. Even without looking at the Greek words, I would have a problem with this concept because it again opens up a huge “loophole” to allow unhappy people to get out of their marriage, and I don’t believe that’s what God had in mind.

Does that mean someone who made a mistake and married the wrong person, or made a mistake and got divorced when they should have stayed married is doomed to suffer the consequences for the rest of their life? Well, at the risk of sounding harsh, I definitely think it’s a viewpoint that should be considered. Nowhere does God promise to remove the consequences of our own sin, or even the sin of others. He is more concerned with our holiness than He is with our happiness. The truth of the matter is, we are most likely to be happy when we are holy.

Here are links to scriptures that talk about divorce and scholarly articles on the subject:

Nave’s Topical Bible

Torrey’s Topical Handbook

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Divorce in the OT

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Divorce in the NT

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary

Girls & Me

Originally written for my English composition class in college, February 15, 1996.

I’m not sure exactly how and when I first developed my fear of girls, but it has plagued me most of my life. I am only gradually becoming less apprehensive about talking to girls. As I have gotten older my attitude about girls has changed, as has my behavior around and towards them. Throughout my life there have been many influences affecting how I relate to girls.

I don’t remember ever really thinking that girls were ‘icky.’ However, except for a select few, most girls were not worth paying attention to and probably had cooties. In first grade the one girl who was worth paying attention to was Macy. Of course, I never talked to Macy. To have actually talked to her would have caused me to stutter, sweat, break out in hives, and maybe even collapse from heart failure. Although she doesn’t know it, Macy received the honor of having a stuffed tooth pillow named after her.

I was never in the same school for very long, but the longest was from third grade to sixth grade. During that time I remember liking Shonda, and I think she liked me too. But since I liked her, that meant I couldn’t talk to her. Since I was nervous about talking to girls, I generally tried to refrain from giving any evidence that I liked someone. For this reason, singing “Farmer in the Dell” in music class was a mixed blessing. It was fun to sing, but it was also very nerve wracking. I didn’t want to pick a girl I didn’t like because she might think I liked her; but if I picked someone I did like she might (heaven forbid!) find out that I liked her. I remember a Valentine’s Day one year, when we had to pass out valentines to all our classmates. I tried to find ones which only said “Happy Valentine’s Day” and nothing else. The one I gave Shonda was a Ziggy card that read, “If you’d be my Valentine, I’d be on top of the world!” But I had to make sure that she didn’t think I liked her too much, so I added a “Psych!” to the card. (Actually I put “Sike!” because I didn’t know how to spell.) In elementary school there wasn’t much meaning to having a girlfriend; instead one “liked” somebody, which basically just meant that the two people sat together sometimes. I would have enjoyed sitting next to Shonda, but since I didn’t have the nerve to talk to her it kind of ruled out sitting next to her. One day during lunch, Shonda asked me to come out in the hall so she could tell me something. “Stephen,” she said, “I like you, but I like Lapaka, too. This year I’m going to like him, but next year I’ll like you, okay?” Okay. Should I be crushed that she’s not going to like me this year, or should I be happy that next year I’ll have someone to like? Unfortunately, the school closed after that year, so I had to postpone my first significant relationship with a girl.

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Marriage

How do I know if I’m ready to get married? It’s a common question I’m sure, and it would be nice if there were a simple checklist or test one could take that would provide the answer. The reality is, it will always be a judgment call. However, it occurs to me that three elements ought to be satisfied before deciding to get married.

1. Ask yourself, “Do I feel confident that I want to spend the rest of my life with this person?” This takes into account the level of emotional attachment as well as your knowledge of your similarities and differences and your compatibility on various issues, but it’s mostly a gut-level evaluation of your feelings for this person.

2. Am I willing to do whatever it takes to love this person for the rest of my life? Am I willing to put their needs and desires above my own? Circumstances change and emotions come and go, but a decision to love someone forever is an act or your will.

3. The final question addresses the physical/practical component. Are we old enough and mentally/emotionally mature enough to make such an important commitment? Will marriage present a great financial hurdle? Will our careers or lifestyles have to change drastically if we get married?

Sanctuary Seating Psychology Supposition

Okay, this is a dumb question, but I wonder if anyone else has ever had this conundrum.

Suppose you, an individual of the single variety, are walking into church. You’re fairly early, so there are lots of available seats. (Note: this is a Modern Church, so there are no pews; just individual seats lined up in rows and attached together at the sides.)

One of your friends is sitting in a row that is otherwise empty, so you go to join them. Now, the big question is, do you sit right next to them, or leave an empty seat (AKA, a “Bible Seat”) in between? If you are both male, there is no hesitation. Given that there are enough seats available, two or more males sitting “together” will leave an empty seat in between each occupied seat. This way there is no accidental touching; legs can be crossed, elbows moved about, etc, without bumping into each other. In contrast, two or more females sitting together will always sit in adjacent seats. The precise explanation for this is unknown, but some suspect it may be so whispering during the service is less noticeable.

But what if you are a male, and you’re getting ready to sit down by a female with whom you have a platonic friendship? You don’t want to seem aloof by creating an unnecessary distance between you, but on the other hand, you don’t want to give an impression that is unintended (by you) or unwelcomed (by her). It would be different if the row were already mostly full, but sitting side-by-side with no one else in the immediate vicinity might be awkward.

Am I alone in facing these life-altering quandaries? Is it all in my head, the result of my own insecurity, or have others been plagued by this as well? Any advice?

originally posted 1/23/2005 on bibleforums.org

Online "dating" (a male perspective)

A while back, out of boredom and curiousity, I posted a profile at several online dating sites (match.com, cupid.com, true.com, etc; there are a bunch). Here is what I can tell you from my experience. Some of these will sound like superficial generalizations, so bear with me.

(in no particular order)

  • The number of Christians is small. Some will check the “Christian” box by “default” because they aren’t Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim, and they believe in God; but they aren’t necessarily born-again. In the “what they’re looking for” category, if they leave religion Open/Any/All, it tells you they don’t really understand the Christian concept of being unequally yoked. Even if they are true Christians, someone who was raised on Catholic or ELCA doctrine is not likely to see eye-to-eye with me on a lot of issues. The number of people who have a faith that is truly compatible with mine is very low.
  • There are quite a few women who are divorced and/or have children. In a way, this reflects reality, but I think the percentages are higher for online dating sites. I think single mothers or divorcees are more likely to use an online dating site than someone who has never been married. That may not be true, but that’s my impression. This is not to say that you should automatically rule out someone who has been married before or had children out of wedlock, but it’s not the ideal situation.
  • If they haven’t been married and don’t have kids, they’re likely to be overweight and/or unattractive. I don’t say this to be mean or superficial, and I realize it’s a generalization; it’s simply my observation of a trend that I saw. It seems to me that the people who are most likely to use online dating sites are those who have been unsuccessful in meeting someone via the “normal” means. Often, that means those who have had failed relationships, or those who are not found to be attractive (or don’t consider themselves attractive to others). Again, this is not to say that you should rule out someone who isn’t a knockout. It’s inner beauty that really counts, and someone’s inner beauty can influence how you view the exterior “package.” However, I do believe that physical attraction, though a minor consideration, is important. I also believe that a measure of physical compatibility is important. All other things equal, a 6-foot supermodel is probably not the best match for me. On the other hand, I prefer to marry someone who I can carry across the threshold; so I either need to really start working out, or find someone who weighs less than I do.
  • To actually have a conversation with someone, most sites require you to purchase a subscription. They usually filter out email addresses, IM accounts, web sites, etc, and some are more aggressive than others at censoring profiles to eliminate any description of how to contact you outside of their system.
  • You are likely to cultivate interest from people who don’t interest you. This makes me feel kind of bad when someone tries to contact me or let me know they are interested in learning more about me, and I either ignore them or let them know that I’m not interested. It’s one thing to get to know someone, but since it’s a dating site, I don’t want to get someone’s hopes up when I suspect they’re not what I’m looking for.

Also, some people lie, long distance relationships are tough, and the impersonal nature of the internet has it’s complications.

On the plus side, some of the personality tests and questions you have to answer in the process of creating a profile are kind of fun and helpful in learning about yourself and what you’re looking for. eHarmony.com is probably the best in that regard.

originally posted 3/3/2005 on bibleforums.org

Relationships (marriage)

Random thoughts on marriage and relationships in general…

Orginally posted 10/14/2004 on bibleforums.org:

I think it’s probably best for two people to be at relatively the same spiritual maturity, or at least on the same trajectory. Being unequally yoked doesn’t have to just mean believer w/ non-believer, it could also be spirit-led believer w/ carnal believer.

I believe God intends for the husband to be the spiritual leader in a marriage, but I don’t think this has anything to do with spiritual maturity. Being the leader means taking initiative and setting the pace, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the stronger Christian of the two.

On being “unequally yoked…”

Originally posted 2/8/2005 on bibleforums.org:

2 Cor. 6:14-18 does not refer specifically to marriage; certainly it can be applied to a marriage relationship, but it also pertains to other relationships and activities as well. The critical factor is that in order for two or more people to effectively pursue Christ, they need to be united in their motivation and direction. If two people have different life purposes, or are heading in two different directions, they should not be bound together in a relationship. This could be a marriage relationship, a business relationship, or even a social relationship. This does not mean we should not have non-Christian friends, or do business with non-Christians; it means we should not make a commitment to “do life together” with someone who will attempt to lead us in a direction that is in conflict with our desired path.

While the most obvious example of an unequal yoke would be a believer with a non-believer, I think the same principle also applies even for people who profess Christianity. Someone who is a nominal Christian with no desire to grow in their knowledge of Christ, could be a hinderance to a spouse who is trying to follow Christ with all their heart. The “level” of their spiritual maturity is a minor point; what really matters is the trajectory that they’re on.