A bit off topic. But in lieu of Valentine’s Day I’ve decided to reflect on eight misconceptions Christians often believe about love, marriage and relationships. I admit that’s a fat generalization. My only frame of reference are my own misconceptions growing up, those I heard in church and Bible College, and those I’ve read in books and articles over the years. But if you relate, why not give this article a share.
Here are eight misconceptions that I have found Christians often believe about love, marriage and relationships.
Misconception 1. “You complete me”
In Genesis we learn that when a man and women are joined together they become “one flesh.” This is sometimes taken to mean that without having a significant-other in your life somehow you are “incomplete” (thank’s for that little nugget Mr. Jerry Maguire).
But what’s implied is that all the single people in the world “incomplete” until they find the right piece to the puzzle of their life. Problem? Not only does that thinking undervalue humans who never find “their missing piece,” but Paul seems to find value in singleness (1 Corinthians 7:8). Our “oneness” is not found by finding another person to fit the missing piece in our lives. Our wholeness is found when we unit with Christ.
Misconception 2. “Divorce is never an option”
I grew up believing that divorce is just never an option for Christians. After all, didn’t Jesus say, “what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:6)? But what is often forgotten is Jesus acknowledged that Moses allowed divorce because of, well, how broken and stupid people can be. Theologians have a phrase they use to describe this: “Already, But Not Yet.” We are “already saved” but we “will be saved” when Jesus returns. The Kingdom of God is “already here,” but not in its fullness until the consummation.
God’s ideal is what we should strive for (that we shouldn’t divorce), but we are broken and because of that, sometimes divorce is an option. It has to be. Otherwise we have a bigger problem.
Here’s the problem with the “divorce is not an option” thinking: Sometimes it leads to abusive situations in which an abuser feels his or her actions in the marriage have no real consequences, and the abused feels trapped and torn between their desire to honour God (by not getting a divorce) and enduring the abuse. The situation can escalate to the point where a divorce will occur and when it does, one or both of the individuals involved will be left reeling with guilt, even if the divorce was justified.
The “divorce is not an option” thinking can lead to overconfidence on the part of an abuser and entrapment on the part of the abused.
Misconception 3. “If I could only find the right person”
One of the best relationship books I’ve ever read is called “Love Sex and Lasting Relationships” by Chip Ingram. In it Chip distinguishes between Hollywood’s formula for relationships and God’s formula for relationships. It’s been a long time since I read it so I might be missing a step or two, but if memory serves me correctly, Chip says Hollywood’s formula looks like this:
Step 1: Find the right person
Step 2: Fix all your hopes and dreams on that person
Step 3: When that person fails you (and they will)
Step 4: Repeat step 1.
It doesn’t take a genius to know that we have a recipe for disaster here. There’s only one person who won’t let you down: Jesus. Instead of seeking out the right person and then setting all your hopes and dreams on them, you should strive to be the right person and fix your hopes and dreams on Jesus.
Misconception 4. “God has the one for you”
Honestly I don’t know if this one is true or not. But what I do know is neither do you. And when we confidently claim that God has “the one” person for everyone, not only are we overstepping, but as a universal statement, it is simply a lie.
Jesus himself said that some people are not meant for marriage (Matthew 19:12). Paul himself as far as we know never married. Some people, even contrary their deepest desires, never get married. “The one” seems so incredible elusive (just watch the Matrix). But it’s a promise the Bible never makes. So to claim that God has “the one” right person for everyone gives people false hope. It causes some people to worry and wonder if they “missed the one” or maybe wonder if they married the “wrong one.”
The concept of “the one” is wrong on so many levels and can be down right crippling.
Misconception 5. “Don’t date around”
If I could go back in time and slap myself silly over one relationship lie I told myself, it would be over this one. I fancied myself as the kind of guy who didn’t date around. So when I found a nice Christian girl and began to date her I told myself “she’s the one.” I looked past the compatibility issues we had and refused to acknowledge that maybe this relationship wasn’t working. Maybe we should have stayed separated (after one of our countless breakups). Maybe I should have allowed myself to see other women as potential suitors
But no. Instead I dug my heels into the “Christian’s don’t date around” lie which is particularly troubling when paired with the concept that Christians shouldn’t date until they are prepared for marriage.
If you’re in this situation let me offer you a liberating suggestion: It’s okay if the person you are dating is not compatible with you. It really is okay. It’s okay to acknowledge this fact with that person. It’s okay to say, “maybe we should start dating other people.”
Misconception 6. “We never fought in our marriage”
Have you heard this before? Because I have, numerous times. An elderly couple will show up at a young couples gathering and share how they never fought in all 60 years of their marriage. The girls in the room swoon while the boys shift in their seats uncomfortably, and everyone wonders what’s wrong with their own relationship.
Honestly I believe if a couple have never had a fight in their lives I think something in their relationship is broken. Someone has shut off their personality. One or both have given up their individuality. And the problem with reporting this lie is that it sets up false standards for other couples to model – and makes them feel like they’ve failed in their relationships.
I also believe that people who never fight in their marriage are missing out on something beautiful. Namely, the make-up session which, after a fight, has a whole different dimension of sensuality to it. My wife and I don’t fight often, but I thank God for when we do. Because while the fighting sucks, the make-up is awesome!
Misconception 7. “God needs to be first”
A friend of mine preached a stellar sermon about this once. And though it went against every inclination I have as a Christian (after all, isn’t God supposed to be first in your life?), after he gave me the lowdown of the sermon I thought, by-golly he’s right!
First my friend pointed out that once you place things or people on a scale of importance, what happens when you’re mad at them? It’s easy to drop them down the scale. For example, you might love your husband, but if he did something that really ticked you off, it’s easy to drop him down from a #2 in your life to a #7 (right behind, “gotta clean the house and do the laundry”). When you put God “first,” it’s easy to shuffle him around on your list depending on what’s going on in your life at any given time.
Secondly, my friend pointed out that God never once asks to be made “first” in your life. Not once. That’s not the kind of relationship God expects you to have with him. Rather, God himself calls you to be “in him.” You’re called to hide your life in Christ. God is not supposed to be #1 in your life, God is your life (Colossians 3:3; Galatians 2:20 etc).
So stop putting your partner down with a religious sentiment that not even the Bible backs up. I’m called to live a life that is hidden in Christ. But my wife and daughter? They are #1 in my life.
Misconception 8. “Infidelity won’t happen to me”
Trust me when I say, don’t let your guard down. Don’t stop guarding your heart. “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9) What a question! You do not know how vulnerable you are. It doesn’t matter how happy you are in your relationship. It doesn’t matter how attractive your mate is. An unguarded heart can skip a beat in a vulnerable moment, and in that beat fall into something that can never be undone.
Ain’t that the truth.
Question: What other misconceptions do Christians have about love, marriage and relationships? You can leave a comment by clicking here.