‘He Doesn’t look a thing like Jesus…’

This song seems to be about a relationship that helps heal past mistakes. What is it we hope to get out of our relationships?

Listen to the first verse. Can we really expect a relationship to sort out all of our problems and baggage? Or is it more realistic to realise we need to do it with the help and support of someone else? Why is that hard?

The third verse talks about the ‘devil’s water’. It seems to say that we are allowed to make some mistakes. Do we hold on to past hurts too much that affect our future relationships? Do we need to forgive ourselves, or others?

Listen to the very last line. This song is about forgiveness and redemption. How important are these things in a relationship?

How can we make sure we are fostering these ideals in our relationship, but remembering that ultimately we rely on God first and foremost?

Banksy, Romance and Smartphones

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What is your first reaction to this picture?

How is technology affecting our relationships in positive and negative ways?

On social media, people often post pictures or statements about how great their relationships are – but never about an argument or bad stuff. Do you think it’s helpful to only hear about the good bits?

Often this ‘great and easy’ picture that the media teaches us about relationships can make us value real relationships less, which take hard work. Have you ever experienced or seen these effects?

Why do you think people post about their relationships? Is it to improve their relationships or for other reasons?

Read 1 Corinthians 13. Clearly, showing love to our friends, and people we are dating, is hard. What’s the one thing we can do today to make sure we are being more loving?

Look at the picture again. Is it easy to be in a relationship, but wonder if there is something better out there through the touch of a button? Why?

Technology brings good effects and bad effects. What can we do to make sure technology and our use of social media is helping instead of hindering our relationships, and the way our friends view relationships?

Are you sure relationships matter?

It suddenly dawned on me the other day that it will be just over a year ago that the book I co-wrote with my good friend Rachel, ‘The Dating Dilemma’, was released. I remember the build up to it, the release date being pushed back on numerous occasions, and now, it’s been out for a year.

The people who have read it have by and large said it has helped. As you write, you often wonder if you are writing anything useful, but the response has been incredible. Students, teenagers, 20 somethings, 30 somethings, single people, new Christians, ‘veteran’ Christians, mentors, church leaders, people who have dated for years and people who have just started dating, have said it has helped them think about their relationships, God and how they can date well. It has been humbling to know that it has helped people connect with God more.

But do relationships really matter?

Off the back of the book I started a charity in order to help people think about their singleness, dating choices and theology of relationships through courses, our website and speaking engagements. It has been tough in many ways. When it gets hard, when the funds are not coming in and the opportunities to help people are not as frequent as I want, I wonder if I heard God correctly, or if relationships do matter as much as I think they do. Anyone else worried that they may be missing the target sometimes?

A few Sundays ago I was leading a course with some teenagers at a church about dating. One person asked me ‘what is your definition of a perfect relationship?’.  Usually you can guess what sort of questions are going to be asked – we Christians seem to face similar issues and problems – but I had never been asked this before.

However, I didn’t have to think and I found myself speaking without needing to pause to form an answer. I said something along the lines of ‘often we see on TV, or on Facebook an example of the “perfect” couple smiling, laughing, showing us how in love they are. But it is easy to be perfect in a moment; it is easy to be perfect for a quick picture or for a tweet. So let me save you some time, there is no perfect relationship.

We all have things about our bodies we don’t like, we all have things about our personalities that aren’t great, we’re all trying to seek God more and cut things out of our lives. There are no perfect people, so there is no perfect relationship. Rather, a good relationship is when two people realise they need to put the work in, that it won’t always be easy but will work at it, make sacrifices for each other and enjoy each other as we learn to be honest about who we are.’

As I drove back home, hoping I was more inspiring than crushing, I felt sure that it is true. Relationships are important, romantic relationships can make us feel secure, happy, and impact those around us in a positive way. But relationships of all kinds are at the core of everything, even if it doesn’t look like it to begin with.

Business deals are done over dinner. Politicians need summits to meet and chat. Job interviews are done face to face, team meetings over skype are cost effective but no substitute for chatting by the water cooler.  In a world that says we can connect through social media, and we need to raise our individualism and ourselves above all else and rely on nobody, the desire to connect authentically is still prevalent everywhere we look.

Am I sure relationships matter? Of course! If we can learn to build good friendships and date well, we can learn to marry well, parent well, treat others well and be good colleagues and neighbours. Dating well and avoiding hurt is important, and building good relationships are needed in order to make us thrive. Knowing that we can’t just wait for the perfect Facebook relationship to come along, but that we can learn to maintain a loving relationship is key.

So through the doubt, frustrations and worry I will continue to teach, write blogs and promote the book, because seeing people’s eyes light up when they know that God cares about their relationships and wants to bless them with good ones matters. Showing people that singleness is not a disease matters. Showing people that God wants a relationship with us and wants us to love our neighbour matters. Relationships matter.

By André Adefope
Follow us @RelationDilem

Bringing God into Dating: Arranged marriages to continual whispers?

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Firstly, an apology: this is long overdue. I won’t attempt to make any excuses, other than to say two words: World Cup.

Last time I wrote a few thoughts on the general idea of bringing God into our dating (read them here). I hope you found that helpful and thought-provoking. Today, I am casting my eye over the portion of Andre and Rachel’s book that reflects on the history of dating culture. As an amateur history aficionado, I found this particularly interesting. They do a great job of charting the evolution of relationships from a logical choice of the most economically beneficial option available, to the advent of courtship and genuine feelings. What really got me thinking though is this idea of arranged relationships.

The statistic that 55% of marriages today are still arranged genuinely shocked me. At face value, this is an alien concept, living in the post-modern western world where choices are ours and ours only, and criticism of them is unacceptable, however good or bad they may be. However, the more I have reflected on Christian community today, there are some unsavoury elements of arranged relationships that linger, albeit unspoken.

Let me illustrate this with a story about two of my friends: Max and Isabel (I have used fake names for discretion). They are both well respected, well liked members of their church community. They are very good friends. They share similar interests and are from similar parts of the world. They are both single. Inevitably, the whispers started to begin. “What’s the deal with those two?” said some inquisitively. “When are those two going to get it on?!” another demands after several pints in the local. Others are more diplomatic: “I think they’re just a great fit for each other.” One day I speak to Max about it. His response is unequivocal: “It’s not a thing.”  So that is that. Or is it? The whispers continue.

My point here is that in this situation, there are real Pressures on both Max and Isabel from their community, and pressures that arguably reflect those seen in traditional arranged marriages. There are expectations of romance, when the reality is that both parties aren’t even thinking about that. And that can be damaging and dangerous.

This post doesn’t come as condemnation; after all, I’ve been just as guilty as anyone else of this in the past. My hope is that it gets us thinking about how we can support each other positively, both in singleness and in relationships, as ultimately this is what God calls us to. Jesus wants us to speak words of affirmation and encouragement to each other. Who knows, maybe Max and Isabel may end up together. But that isn’t for us to decide or to arrange. Rather, we need to encourage and support, and let each other genuinely walk in the freedom that God has given us. I’ll leave you to talk to God about the following:

‘Who can I encourage and support that may be feeling pressure, either in their singleness or their relationship, and how can I do this?’

Once again, thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it.

By Tim Emerton
Follow me @TimEmerton

This blog is part of a series that is discussing the book ‘The Dating Dilemma: A Romance Revolution’ written by Rachel Gardner and André Adefope. For more info on the book, or to order a copy, click here.