By Matt Steltenpohl, Resonate Pocatello
My wife and I got engaged in January of 2016. We had been best friends for 2 years and were dating with the intent to get married. We were excited to get married and could feel the “single life” fading as our wedding approached. We were engaged for six months, and within that span I began to notice a few things as a single Christian man learning how to become a Christian husband. Here are 5 truths I noticed and some lies that I felt tempted to believe:
1. How you are engaged will reflect how you will be in marriage
Putting a ring on your finger doesn’t change your patience levels. It doesn’t give you more of a desire to sacrifice for your spouse. Becoming a husband or a wife doesn’t fix your problems, it amplifies your problems. If you and your affianced girlfriend or boyfriend think that putting a ring on your finger will make you more compatible, I promise you, you will be disappointed.
2. Ephesians 5 doesn’t apply to you… Yet.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.... In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. -Ephesians 5:22-25, 28-30
If you grew up in the church, you probably have read or heard this in a wedding. It’s a beautiful way that Paul shows the covenantal marriage reflecting the relationship that husbands and wives should have with one another. But did you catch the audience of the commands? Submission in covenant belongs to the wife alone. Sacrificial love in covenant belongs to the husband alone.
It’s easy to live as if marital commands apply to you when you are pointing your lives in that direction. If you’re engaged, you’re on your way but not there yet! Don’t make the mistake of prematurely taking on what is God’s alone to give within marriage. This brings us to the sweet topic of sex before marriage.
3. Be wise, flee from sexual immorality
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. -1 Corinthians 6: 18-20
The key word here is flee. Run from this sin. Like actually, physically get out of the house, apartment, or wherever you find yourselves. “Mind over matter” will not work for this one. If you read the context that surrounds this text, you see Paul condemning both the actions of the Corinthians towards sex and also their theology of sex. God created sex as a way for two people to become “one.” Once you become one with someone, you are claiming them as yours and they are claiming you as theirs (see 1 Corinthians 7).
It’s so easy in engagement (and even dating) to convince yourself that the quality of your relationship or commitment to one another is what gives you the right to each other physically. But I would argue that God gives us this access through the covenant (or life long promise) that we have to one another through marriage and nothing else. God treasures marriage so much that he created it in the image of the gospel- the Church’s submission to Christ and Christ’s deep love for the his Church that he’d die for her.
If you have had sex before marriage, repent and turn from your sin. Love the Lord and turn to your community (like a village leader) and seek your utmost happiness in God. This is so important, you are not too far gone. If God can redeem the lost and rebellious, then how much more can he redeem your circumstance?
4. Engagement reflects the “already, not yet” of the Kingdom
We as believers experience both the promise of our world being made new and the reality that we have heaven on earth now in Jesus. In other words, Jesus claimed that the Kingdom of God has come (Mark 1:14-15) and yet also promises the glory of the Kingdom to come in the future (Romans 8:29-30).
In the same way, getting engaged creates a period of “already, not yet” in marriage. You have both agreed to spend the rest of your lives together, and yet don’t get to experience the fullness of marriage until a true covenant is made. This provides opportunities to experience the anxieties of creation that desire so deeply for Jesus to return and bring about the fullness of the glory of God (Romans 8:18-30).
5. This is a unique time to leverage for the Kingdom of God
As soon as you set a date for your wedding, the countdown begins for the end of your singleness. The assumption is that once you’re married, you will never be single again. Leverage this reality! Use your home and late nights for mission. Learn how to live missionally as a couple alongside married couples who do it well. Every moment of your life is to be poured out for the Kingdom of God. Your season of engagement is short so use it for God’s glory.
To read about Dating, check out this blog