I’ve had a number of ideas swirling around in my head for some blog posts, but haven’t had time to write anything. I’ve been in the States for the past month and am heading back to Tanzania tomorrow. Hopefully I will get back to regular blogging soon. In the mean time, I wanted to share a great article, if I do say so myself, written by my husband. This article appeared in the September issue (if I recall correctly) of THINK magazine.
On November 10th 1483 Martin Luther was born. He entered an Augustinian cloister in mid 1505. “A loyal son of the Catholic Church, he was later to shatter the structure of medieval Catholicism. A devoted servant of the pope, he was later to identify the popes with Antichrist.” His religious journey proved to be one of migrating away from the staunchly held Catholic dogma and toward biblical truths. Admirably, he was willing to challenge the well entrenched beliefs of his piers. Regrettably, his journey ended having never fully abandoned all vestiges of his monastic past. How hard it can be to free ourselves from long and widely held notions!
Fast forward about five centuries and we turn our attention to a different topic. We find a well established practice, particularly in American culture, whereby many approach mate selection only after protracted “dating.” Teens, and even pre-teens, are seeking “trial” and “recreational” relationships, often with the coaxing of gloating parents. Parents who seem eager to have their teen and his/her date be the hot topic of tabloid-type discussions.
Amidst this backdrop of the “dating game,” voices began to be heard which challenged the status quo. Among these was Joshua Harris in his book titled: “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” Serious concerns began to be discussed about the whole dating scenario. Some, with a Martin Luther-like courage, seemed willing to question a long standing practice. However, equally reminiscent of Luther, some seemed reluctant to totally abandon the paradigm. They seemed to realize the need for change, but were unwilling to make radically deep alterations.
Some parents find themselves in a thorny dilemma. Their children are already well practiced at “starting relationships” and “breaking them off.” It seems well nigh impossible to call for a complete abandonment “in the middle of the stream.” Many see the need for more emphasis upon purity, but are reluctant to give up all the trappings related to dating. For example, some Christian parents know their teens want to attend “the prom.” Their improvised solution is to “sanitize” or “Christianize” the prom experience. These well meaning parents offer a special boy-girl banquet, often held in the church building’s fellowship hall, where their not-yet-ready-for-marriage child can bring their date. Each participant arrives in formal attire and enjoys a prom-like atmosphere, minus dancing and alcoholic beverages. The entire evening however, is still stirring the “feelings” for the opposite sex, when no fulfillment is intended, nor should it be. These youths are set up to “play the part” of a couple out for the evening. The emphasis is upon the guy/girl, romantic evening together, and attention to outward beauty. The attendees are in no way anticipating an eminent wedding ceremony. He may not even have a job, and she may have agreed to attend even though he was not her first choice.
However, such small changes in thinking are not really addressing the underlying issue of recreational/trial relationships before one is ready for a mate. Even though some are verbalizing they are no longer in favor of “dating,” in reality, their offspring are still following the same basic dating approach. Hence, notice the title of this article. In actuality, some have merely kissed the term dating goodbye!
Dating versus courtship ought to be fundamentally distinguished. Not merely semantically, but in application. Courtship ought to be a period of “final investigation” on the part of a single man and a single woman, who are in a position and disposition to marry. Prior to the beginning of the courtship there should be thoughtful and prayerful consideration; primarily of the spiritual qualification of the prospect. Dating in contrast, might be characterized by having a boyfriend/girlfriend before one is really ready for marriage and/or without the serious intent of finding out whether the person would be a suitable mate. One is purposeful, with a specific goal in mind. The other is more casual with no stated or implied expectations.
May I respectfully suggest that many parents in the church are really not yet ready to broach this issue, since their training approach first needs work on a more fundamental level. Parents must begin with a deep resolve to present a personal example and teaching which flows from a spiritual-first paradigm. Romans 12:1, 2 might have become shallowly overworked in cliché style, but it contains the key. From their youth (cf. 2 Tim. 3:15) the souls entrusted to us must see that purity and spirituality are our foremost concern. There must be no doubt in the minds of our children that we want them to know the Bible, even more than we want them to excel academically or socially. There should be no doubt that “as for me and my house” we will serve the church above all sporting events, music and art performances, etc. Parents must speak often and passionately about being different from the world.
As mentioned above, many Christians are reluctant to completely abandon the practice of dating. Therefore, parents must also be willing to speak with knowledge and passion about being different from some brethren. They must show their children, based upon Scriptural principles, why certain “norms” are unchaste and harmful. When we hear brethren debating whether a young person should date a non-Christian or not – it indicates a lack of resolve to have Christ fully enthroned as Master. The question “to date or not to date” is still too advanced for such a questioner. Children who have not been given the sure foundation, from their youth, of spiritual priority, devotion and purity, and being different from the world, will be hard to steer into a path of “waiting – not dating.” See Proverbs 22:6.
We plead with our readers to open their minds to the possibility of complete abandonment of the modern methods. Realize that to do so also opens the possibility of abandoning the sad consequences that have been so closely connected with dating, i.e. teen pregnancy, later failed marriages, apostasy from the church, etc. Let’s not mimic the world while we call it something different, let’s be different than the world!
George Jensen, 2011
 Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand – A Life of Martin Luther (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1950), 15.
Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 1997).
A short perusal through history will reveal that the white wedding dress is generally a tradition that has become more prominent only in the last 100 years or so. Before Queen Victoria’s wedding in 1840, most brides wore popular colors of the day. At that time, blue was a symbol of purity, and therefore many brides wore blue on their wedding day. Since Queen Victoria wore a lavishly decorated white wedding dress, trends turned at that point. Fancy white wedding dresses were still reserved for the wealthy; ordinary folks certainly could not afford a dress that would only be worn once. After department stores became commonplace, white wedding dresses were much more available and attainable for your average person, and by 1890, the white wedding dress was the acceptable norm. In the early 1900′s, one might have worn a simple white wedding dress, but have it dyed after the wedding, so that the dress could continue to be used.
Although human traditions come and go, white does represent purity in a biblical context. Revelation 3:5 states that those who overcome are wearing white, and their names will not be blotted out of the book of life. Revelation 7:14 refers to someone whose garments had turned white, because the garments had been washed in the blood of the Lamb. These are just a couple of verses indicating that God chose white to represent individuals who had their sins washed away; those who were spiritually pure.
What about brides today? White, and sometimes ivory, are still the color of choice for a wedding dress. While white traditionally symbolizes purity, the reality is that sadly, for many brides the color is meaningless. How many young women who stand before God in marriage, have already given away their most precious gift, which should have been saved for her husband, to present to him on their wedding day? How many young women stand before God on their wedding day, with a child already growing their womb? In other words, how many young women are outwardly adorned in white, but their spiritual garments are stained by sin?
There was a time when becoming pregnant prior to marriage was shameful. In fact, many times the pregnant young woman was sent away in an attempt to avoid shame and embarrassment for the family. Unfortunately, often there was more concern about how people might view the reputation of the family as a whole, rather than being concerned with and addressing the spiritual needs of the young couple.
In this day and age, we’ve had a huge shift in thinking, including in the church. Let me be clear: forgiveness certainly needs to be extended towards those who demonstrate repentance. Young people need to be encouraged and supported as they deal with the consequences of their sin. The child brought into the world is completely innocent and in no way should that child be held responsible or punished because of the sin of his or her parents.
However, it is not appropriate to minimize the seriousness of the sin and turn it into a celebratory event, complete with baby showers and a constant stream of “Congratulations..I’m SO happy for you!” On one occasion, a mother who had recently had her third child related to me how much fun it was to go through pregnancy together with a young unwed mother in the congregation. On another occasion, I witnessed a quick walk to the front pew to make the obligatory confession, and then by the next service, the unwed mother was proudly rubbing her belly. On yet another occasion, I was aware of a young woman who became pregnant, and in no uncertain terms let her friends know that she and her boyfriend were happy about it, and furthermore, she did not want any negative feedback. She professed to be a Christian. Somewhere along the way something has become very skewed.
Both men and women, young and old, will be held accountable for their own choices. To those who are older and ought to be wiser, what are WE doing to help our young people adhere to biblical standards? Are we helping them or hindering them? Are we setting an example of purity? Are we teaching them? Do we hold them accountable for their sins or do we reward them?
When it comes down to it, the actual color of your dress on your wedding day is rather inconsequential. Colors have meant different things throughout the ages, and to this day they still symbolize different things in different cultures. What really matters? The color of your spiritual garment. Your purity. Determine that no matter what, you will save your gift and give it only to your husband, after you are married. However, if you have given away your gift but you are not yet married, do not despair. Through genuine repentance, your tainted garment can be restored to white once again.
What will be the color of your spiritual garment
on your wedding day?
Our new year began in a most wonderful way. Friday night, January 1, our family traveled to the airport to meet Lee Parish, who has been courting our daughter, Julia. Lee had only met Julia, up to this point, and so it is probably pretty safe to say that Lee was nervous getting off that airplane, and we were nervous, as we stood there waiting for him.
Three days later, he and George had a heart to heart talk for several hours, and less than 30 minutes after they returned to the house, Lee and Julia took a little walk, and ..well, what do you know..they came back engaged. Maybe one of these days Lee and Julia will write their courtship story, but until then..I must say they both have shown amazing maturity and faith in God throughout this process.
We are very happy to welcome Lee into our family. We are confident that he and Julia will be do wonderful things together in service to our Lord.
George and I have been praying from the time we were married for our children, and for their futures. A couple of our children have reached adulthood, and the other two are almost there. It makes sense then, for George and me to look at various young people with closer scrutiny – “Could this be a possible mate for one of our children?”
It saddens me to see the lack of personal conviction and spiritual depth of many who have chosen to open their lives up for display via avenues such as facebook. People are revealing far more than they intend to. Facebook can be a great way to keep in contact with people. It also provides an instant window into people’s character, which otherwise may not be discovered so quickly. Additionally, it has made us, as parents, keenly aware that we must remain vigilant in the standards we have set for our children.
Sometimes parents get the reputation of thinking that no one is good enough for their children. Truly, George and I don’t want to be unreasonable, and expect the impossible. But don’t we have the right to expect future mates to measure up to certain standards? Some might claim that we are too strict in our qualifications. Are we, as parents, asking too much, regarding standards we expect for the future mates of our children?
• Are we asking too much to expect young men/women to keep their mouths from course jesting, bywords, and speech that does not give God the ultimate honor and respect that He deserves? (1 Tim. 4:12)
• Are we asking too much to expect young men/women to demand the same clean speech from friends? (1 Tim. 5:22)
• Are we asking too much to expect young men/women to demonstrate careful discernment about the music they listen to, the movies they watch, and t.v. programs they choose to view? (Phil. 4:8)
• Are we asking too much to expect young men/women to dress their bodies in such a way that they do not show to the world what ought to be saved for only a future husband or wife to see? (Matt. 5:28;1 Tim. 2:9;
• Are we asking too much to expect young men/women to save their sexual expression – both physically and mentally – for the institution of marriage? (1 Tim. 5:2; Heb. 13:4)
• Are we asking too much to expect young men/women to demonstrate the ability to handle money wisely: both in generous giving to God, as well as wise stewardship of what remains? (2 Cor. 9:7)
• Are we asking too much to expect young men/women to show proper respect for authority? (Rom. 13:7; Eph. 6:2; 1 Tim. 5:17)
• Are we asking too much to expect young men/women to be people of prayer? (1 Thess. 5:17; James 5:16)
• Are we asking too much to expect young men/women to be students of the Word, not because they are expected to, but because they want to grow in knowledge and increase their ability to discern good from evil, right from wrong, and be able to discern the teachings of God from doctrines of men? (Col. 2:6-8; Phil. 1:9; 2 Pet. 3:18)
• Are we asking too much to expect young men to act like men – prepare to be spiritual leaders of their homes, prepare to love their wives like Christ loves the church (which means he will act honorable to all young women), and prepare themselves to provide for future families? (1 Cor. 16:13; Eph. 5:23; 1 Tim. 5:8)
• Are we asking too much to expect young women to behave with a gentle and quiet spirit, to demonstrate a submissive attitude, and to show an earnest desire to develop skills that will help them be keepers at home? (1 Pet. 3:4, Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5)
Are we asking too much? I think not. We are asking no more than God does. We are not looking for perfection; none of us can lay claim to that. However, these character traits that we expect in young men or women who may be interested in a relationship with our children are not negotiable. Those individuals who end up as life-long mates to our children will have great bearing on whether or not our children, our children’s children, etc. go to heaven, and that is something that we do not take lightly.
Broader than our concern about future mates for our children, we have great concern about many young people who claim to be children of God. The evidence is clear. Many have become so saturated by today’s culture that they do not even realize they ought to be ashamed. (Jer. 8:12).
So, I challenge you: when you are alone, be completely honest with yourself. Lay down the pieces of your life next to the Scriptures. What do you see? Is there a stark contrast, or are you a mirror of godliness? Are you willing to make drastic changes if your life doesn’t measure up?
It is time for a revolution against the culture of today, which promotes self-indulgence. Be willing to transform yourself so that Christ can be seen in you, “to which end we also pray always for you, that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire of goodness and every work of faith, with power; that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thess. 1:11,12). Are we asking too much?