If there is one thing I have learned from movies about true love (and there isn’t), it is that true love is a feeling that comes upon a person unexpectedly, irregardless of the character of the one loved. Additionally, love is only really real when it leads one to defy one’s parent’s advice. Dads (unless they are hippies) are entirely too rational and bigoted to understand their child’s affections. This cliche is not just in movies but is repeated in countless sitcoms and popular songs.
She’s in love with the boy
And even if they have to run away
She’s gonna marry that boy someday
Unfortunately, this silly understanding of love does not simply exist in the broader culture but is often present among the children of Christians.
Aside from being stupid, the popular understanding of love, dating, and romance is a dangerous manifestation of dragon venom. From the beginning, Satan, that powerful serpent, has attacked mankind with poisonous words. Jesus tells us that the devil was a liar from the beginning (John 8:44). When Adam and Eve believed his words instead of God’s, they died. God promised a savior, a dragon-slayer, through the seed of Eve (Genesis 3:15). One of the themes throughout Scripture is the struggle between the offspring of Eve, God’s people, and the offspring of the dragon. The offspring of the dragon seek to conquer God’s people by destroying their offspring. The dragon is presented as a beast who loves to eat babies (Revelation 12:4,17). So, when Cain kills Abel, when Pharaoh kills Hebrew boys, or when Herod does the same thing, we see this struggle play out.
One might wonder, whether or not making babies is really a concern for Christians, after all childbirth is so earthy and dirty and the messiah has already been born so we do not need to worry about the Dragon keeping us from salvation. The truth is that our salvation is still linked to childbirth (1 Timothy 2:15). Salvation is not only personal, but has to do with a renewed creation. Jesus is reigning until He puts all his enemies under his feet and then comes the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:25,6). The command (and blessing!) given to Adam and Eve to be fruitful was given as part of their Great Commission to subdue the creation (Genesis 1:28). As we try to conquer, convert, and disciple a world filled with all sorts of unbelievers it makes a difference whether or not we have more offspring than the Muslims.
Problem #1: Selfish Concerns Blind Young People to Real Consequences
What I am trying to say is that the World’s understanding of romance (in this case the American form of it) comes to the Christian as an attack on their offspring. This is done, first and foremost by convincing all of us that our marriages are created primarily for our personal fulfillment. While, all Christians should find fulfillment in his or her spouse, to my knowledge, it is never given as the purpose of marriage. On the contrary, God gives us at least one of the purposes of marriage in Malachi 2:15, “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.” One thing God says He intended to get out of giving men and women in marriage is godly offspring.
The problem is, that young men and women in our culture find someone they think is cute and fulfills some insecurity in them and give no thought to the effect this person will have the future of their children and their grandchildren.
Let’s say a woman marries a man who is shiftless. She can look forward to lazy, irreverent children who are not discipled and to having to work rather than raising her children. She can look forward to children who do not want to expend the energy to go to church, and grandchildren that may have no concern for or knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Let’s say a man marries a complaining woman who cannot shut her mouth. Not only can he look forward to an existence that is a living hell, (Solomon says living with her is about as bad as Chinese water torture in Prov 27:15,6. See also 21:9, 19.) but such a woman rips down her household around her with her wicked tongue (Prov 14:1). You will reach the end of your life, and instead of looking upon the increase of your family, you will feel like you are standing in a heap of ruins, with contentious children who can barely even pretend they like one another.
Let’s say a woman dates a man who loves perversion. Trying to not loose his attention, she tells him she does not like the posters of nearly-naked women on his wall, but she ignores the fact that he is an unrepentant fornicator. Or perhaps, she allows him to have his way with her so that she does not loose him. She does not consider that this man, who does not treat sex as alone reserved for his future wife, will have no qualms with committing adultery, leaving her without a husband, her future children without a father, and their children without a grandfather. She does not consider that pornography often leads to child pornography. Although she might not let her children go on a Boy Scout trip with someone who wants to fondle them, she will allow this man unrestricted access to her future children.
Problem #2 Parents Do Not Exercise their Authority
The other area where Christians give in to the lies of the dragon is that most fathers think they do not play a role in helping their children marry a good person. In the movies, when a father sees the error of his ways at the end, he often tells his daughter, “I just want you to be happy.” Somehow, these words come out of his mouth as she is about to run off to a motel with the laziest, stupid, and disrespectful young man in the whole town! While, the average Christian father is not that bad (he will try to make sure his daughters marries the bum first), it is shocking how many fathers will not guide their children or try to forbid them from marrying certain people. It is not that they are not wise enough to give helpful advice; they just do not believe it is their place. I know a man who saw exactly what was wrong with his son’s wife-to-be before he was married, but did not say anything until after the divorce! Numbers 30:3-5 tells us that the Father has the right to annul an oath made by his daughter, and when he is giving her his approval and will be held responsible. No place is this authority exercised more appropriately than in making sure that one’s daughter marries a godly man.
Of course, sometimes dads are bigots or do not emphasize the most important things to their children. Unfortunately, many times the things that fathers are willing to tell their children can sometimes be wrong or just not the most important things. This does not mean there is nothing to be gleamed from their years of experience. If he thinks all white people are conceited and greedy, one should at least have other trustworthy people that can help one judge if this is true about one’s love interest. A father may have unreasonable expectations about money, and, while you may be able to live on less than he would like, it is a good idea to have people who can thoroughly and objectively examine these things (especially if this person handles money irresponsibly). It is important to have many wise adults who can help correct some errors, but a father’s advice should not be shoved aside lightly.
Correction #1: Teach Your Children Early and Often
The obvious problem with a father vetoing his children’s decisions regarding potential spouses is that most young people do not care what their father thinks. What we must realize is that this response did not come out of thin air (although it did in a way; see Ephesians 2:2), but is culturally conditioned. This reminds me of the whiny Mary from The Nativity Story. For some reason the scriptwriters believed that she would have been as dejected and pouty as if a modern teenager was told to marry an older Joseph. The fact is that our children only accept the culture’s approach to dating and romance if we raise them to.
For this reason, a father must start presenting the Christian understanding of dating, marriage, and offspring from an early age. Of course, the father must first know what the Biblical understanding is. So, he should read Elisabeth Elliot’s Passion and Purity, Joshua Harris’s I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and Douglas Wilson’s Her Hand in Marriage. If he is humble, he will learn to at least see major flaws in the current dating system and to want to give his son or daughter guidance in his or her future decision-making.
Then he must work his new understanding into his daily discipleship (Deuteronomy 6:7). As he goes about his day discipling his child, part of that must involve instruction regarding his or her future marriage. Communicate what kinds of qualities make a good spouse and about gender roles. Tell him or her not to be like the children around them who waste their time chasing children of the opposite sex before they could conceivably marry. Teach them that they are going to one day be fruitful to God and that they have been given a stewardship that will affect generations. Describe to your daughters how they will one day direct suitors to you so that they can make a wise decisions together and so that pushy young men cannot take advantage of them. Teach your sons how to be a defender of their sisters, how to respect all women, and how to one day pursue a young woman in a way that honors her purity.
Then, contradict every stupid thing you hear in the culture. Instead of asking your sons how many girlfriends they have, teach them to not get ahead of themselves. When you watch a movie, listen to a song, or read a book with a stupid view of romance make sure your children know why it is stupid. When your daughter’s friends are swooning over androgynous young men in a boy-band, teach your daughters not to make fools of themselves. Tell them stories of godly romance. They will have to learn Romeo and Juliet, but make sure they know by heart the story of Isaac and Rebekah, Christ and the Church, and Westley and Buttercup (maybe), etc.
Correction #2: Shape Your Children’s Values
Our affections are emotional responses to what we value. If a child values the romance they see in the movies, it will be nearly impossible to bring them to reality. A girl who just wants a young man to show her attention will not listen even if a hundred people tell her that her boyfriend is worthless. If a child values the romance they see in the Bible, they will make wise decisions. Teach your daughters to value hard workers so that when the lazy boy in the youth group starts trying to flirt with her, she has already started shuddering before he even opened his mouth. Teach your sons to fear contentious women so that when “miss thing” at the college starts looking at him, all he sees is a gold ring in a pig’s snout (Proverbs 11:22).
The father of proverbs is always working to make sure his children properly view the world around them. Reality is deceptive, and what seems good can often be deadly (Genesis 3:6). Part of growing up is (or should be) learning to judge things as they really are and not as they look. So, it is not enough just to try to keep your sons away from pictures of loose women, but to teach him how to think about women who might want to allure him (whether in person or the representative of some business on a commercial). She may look good, but she is a man-eater and those who fool around with her get swallowed down to hell (Proverbs 9:13-8). Years of reminding a boy of this might be enough for him to really think twice about the touchy-feely girl in the low-cut dress.
It may seem rude, but the book of Proverbs gives parents example after example of how to explain to your children the type of people they do not want to be or associate (Prov 13:20). (This must be accompanied by clear instruction regarding the difference between instruction and gossip and what is and is not supposed to be repeated.) So, when you see a man who sends his wife to work so he can afford a vacation you say, “A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the LORD will be enriched. (Prov 28:25)” Let your children know, “You have seen how uncle Bill has discouraged your aunt and cousins, now don’t you marry a scoffer like him.” “Did you hear how that young girl was talking to her father in Walmart? If you marry a disrespectful woman like that, you will want to kill yourself. Stay away from people like her.”
There are serious matters involved in whom a man or woman decides to marry. They are not just deciding who their life-partner will be, but they are deciding who will be the father or mother of their children, the grandparent of their children’s children, and so on and so forth. Marrying the wrong person has far-reaching consequences. The point here is not to be hyper critical of people’s faults. We all marry imperfect people, but young folks need to know the difference between who is marriage-worthy and who is not for the sake of bearing children for God. Our goal is to see God’s faithfulness from generation to generation as we bear many children and raise them to know Jesus Christ (Deuteronomy 7:9).