Joanna and Steve are active members of the youth department in their church. After getting to know each other, they committed themselves to get married to each other. Both of them had decided to keep themselves sexually pure and be obedient to God. They were in a steady relationship for about 10 months. While working together at church, they had a very serious argument which leads them to break off their commitment to each other.
Steve and Joanna were very much part of the church and probably never intended to cross boundaries in their relationship. Their emotions (probably feelings about themselves and each other) came in the way of certain decisions they may have made on how to handle their relationship.
We live in a time where sexual intimacy outside of marriage is very much possible. As young people who love Jesus, we need to make decisions for ourselves, ‘What are certain boundaries I need to keep for myself when I handle my relationships?’ The magazines and the movies we watch approve sexual involvement openly. Young people tend to feel that they need to be sexually involved with their partner to see if they are ‘compatible’ for each other. They also feel that there is no harm in sexual intimacy between two consenting partners.
Many young people tend to think that their happiness in a relationship is maximised when they are engaged sexually. But such pleasure is only momentary, and they fall into the trap of seeking that sort of enjoyment through multiple sexual partners or even pornography. Such pleasure is soon followed by guilt, shame and a repeated cycle of negative thinking.
It is genuine intimacy, inner joy and peace with God and healthy relationships that we all are looking for. Sexual experience outside the fence of marriage comes in the way of us experiencing that with God and others. One needs to see a lack of boundaries in sexual expression as a symptom of a deeper issue. A deeper longing. Jesus was easily able to locate this longing in his interaction with the Samaritan woman in John 4. After 5 husbands and a live-in partner, he knew what she needed to be receiving in her life (sense of purpose, significance, worth, dignity) from God alone. This is found only in the context of a relationship. No human has the capacity to meet that need. Jesus invited her, like he does each of us, to find our purpose, significance and worth in Him alone.
I personally see it as the ‘Devil’s schemes’ mentioned in Ephesians 6 to take us away from what Christ intends to give us- abundant life (see John 10:10). Satan tries to deceive people into thinking that another relationship or sex, or giving away our bodies is the answer. When we trust God with all our being, we need to allow God to rule over our relationships by showing us what love really looks like.
Seeing Sexuality from God’s Lens
Sexuality is part of God’s creative design of humankind which was unfortunately damaged. When God created man and woman, he said it was ‘good’. Even the sexual urges, attraction and arousal are part of God’s incredible design and he called it ‘good’. It was man and his poor choices that altered God’s perfect plan for sexual intimacy and that is why we see so much of sexual abuse in different forms in our society.
How does God want us to handle our Relationships?
In our relationships, God would want us to put Him in the centre of our relationships. We live in a time where we want to experience instant gratification. Unfortunately, the use of smart-phones and technology have stunted the growth of our relationships. This is because instead of going to God to meet our real need, we attach ourselves to the wrong things. We settle for the virtual instead of talking to our spouse, going out with a friend or taking care of ourselves. For us to handle our relationships in God’s way, we need to strive to love and bond with others by really knowing and loving them emotionally and intellectually.
What would a God-honouring relationship look like?
God in His infinite wisdom chose to create us as three-dimensional beings. He gave us a Physical body, a Soul which comprises of mind, will and emotions and a Spirit. The way He designed us is such that all 3 dimensions would have needs of its own.
- Physical Needs- which includes our physical outer body
- Spiritual Needs- this is realised when we know God truly exists and we need His breath to be spiritually alive. This can be met only with a relationship with God.
- Needs of the Soul- Our need for oneness, affection, security should be met in healthy relationships.
God created us such that we have a need to relate with people. When we don’t do things God’s way we make unhealthy and poor choices which grieve the heart of God. When we engage with relationships it’s important for us to keep God’s heart in mind.
- A couple that honours God would talk about their faith in God and their constant walk with Him. They would talk about what they have been learning from the word and their understanding of God. They may even pray together and discuss their journey as they strive to become more like Christ each day. Their relationship should encourage them to grow and mature into faithful followers of Christ. As young people, we could form friendship groups that would help encourage each other to grow in Christ.
- The intimacy of the soul would grow as they share their dreams, fears and their hopes. They journey together as they share their emotional struggles. They learn about their relational needs and learn each other’s language of love.
- Based on the case-study mentioned above, what boundaries can you have to make sure that your relationship is God-honouring?
- Are there things or people in your life that you expect to give you what only God can give you?
- What are some steps you can take today to nurture some of the important relationships in your life right now?