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.