I want Naked Truth Relationships to be a place where people, with a faith or no faith, can get helpful and practical advice for relationships. But it’s unashamedly soaked in Christian teaching. The problem is, some Bible stories contain very bad examples of romantic relationships. We need to tackle these stories head-on, but place them in the context of God’s wider message as well.
I often talk about the need for faithfulness and commitment in romantic relationships, in both dating and marriage. In a culture that often downplays the value of commitment, I think it’s fundamental for any romantic relationship to thrive. (Read What Does Faithfulness Look Like When I’m Dating?)
However, when I draw on the wisdom found in the Bible, sometimes people point out the fact that some men had multiple wives. Some even think God commanded this practice! So how can we use the Bible and say it shows us God’s best?
There are stories in the Bible which serve as deterrents
Well, I think there are stories in the Bible which serve as deterrents rather than good examples. Just because it’s in there it doesn’t mean it’s what God wanted. And in the context of the wider message, we can often see what God really does want.
(The following extract is taken from page 80-82 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)
Whenever we talk about biblical faithfulness and two becoming one, there is a chance that some bright spark might respond with: ‘Hang on, there are plenty of men with multiple wives in the Old Testament. Were they being unfaithful?’ Well, let’s take a brief look at this.
While there are stories where much loved biblical characters have more than one wife at a time (like Jacob in Genesis 29), we need to understand that this wasn’t part of God’s original design of ‘one-flesh’ union in marriage.
God never tells anyone to marry more than one wife. As you would expect, it always caused trouble and arguments: Sarah drove Hagar away (Genesis 16:4–6; 21:9–11), and sister-wives Rachel and Leah were always at each other’s throats (Genesis 29:31 – 30:24).
The Bible even says that King Solomon walked away from God because he had multiple wives:
God had clearly warned Israel, ‘You must not marry them . . . ’ Solomon fell in love with them anyway, refusing to give them up. He had seven hundred royal wives and three hundred concubines– a thousand women in all! And they did seduce him away from God. As Solomon grew older, his wives beguiled him with their alien gods and he became unfaithful – he didn’t stay true to his God as his father David had done. (1 Kings 11:1–5 The Message)
Reminding us that it opposes God’s intentions for marriage.
The Old Testament doesn’t reject polygamy outright: instead, it always paints it in a negative light, reminding us that it opposes God’s intentions for marriage.
These subtle teachings gathered momentum over time, which is why the New Testament authors came to the natural conclusion that church leaders should have one wife:
‘The overseer [leader] must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife . . . ’ (1 Timothy 3:2 NIV).
But this wasn’t just for leaders; everyone had to pay attention:
‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy’ (Ephesians 5:25–26 NIV).
Love your wife, and not other women. Wives deserve love and respect. As obvious as this may sound to us today, it was radical teaching for the time.
God understands the damage that is brought about by unfaithfulness, which is why the Bible speaks so clearly about being committed to one person. (Genesis 2:24; Exodus 20:14).
Our Own Experience
But people still hurt one another. Even Christians can hurt one another. Some of us might have already experienced the pain of someone cheating on us, or of being in a family devastated by unfaithfulness. God is a loving Father, who can and does restore even the most broken situations.
As our good Father, he longs for us to lay different foundations for our future relationships.
So how do we start building some fidelity muscles? Think about what attitudes may lie dormant in you that, if unchecked, could grow into unfaithfulness.
Jerry and ‘The Wrong Girl’
Jerry had a hunch that there was always someone better around the corner. He was the only single guy in a church of lots of single women. He never meant to get so emotionally entangled with Esther while he was dating Emma.
He always started a new relationship with an embarrassing overlap
But he couldn’t shake off the idea that maybe he was with the wrong girl. The problem was, he had been with the ‘wrong’ girl a few times before, and he always started a new relationship with an embarrassing overlap from the previous one.
Focus Brings Freedom
Focus brings freedom. If we choose to make faithfulness a focus in our lives, we will be free to be in healthy relationships, or see more clearly the unhealthy ones we should walk away from.
Let’s ask ourselves: does this action or attitude demonstrate faithfulness to this person, or selfishness? What films, music or entertainment am I immersed in that undermine my desire to be faithful? How am I practicing faithfulness in my friendships and my family? How have I handled situations where I was the cheater? God is faithful in all his relationships, so by listening to his voice above the other noises, we can start not only to value faithfulness but to live out his high hopes for us here and now.
God is leading his people towards faithfulness, stability, and security in relationships.
Imagine if we trusted that our God, who is love, and the ultimate designer, wants and knows how to bless our romantic relationships. There are some stories that serve as bad examples, but God is leading his people towards faithfulness, stability, and security in relationships.
So let’s ask ourselves: does my action or attitude demonstrate faithfulness? (Read Dating Someone? Commitment Assumptions Can Cause Cracks.)
What else can we do to turn down the volume on unhelpful messages in our culture? Comments welcomed below.
Originally posted 29/1/2018