The majority of single adults who have the desire for a relationship with the opposite sex long for the day when they can get married. This yearning for companionship needs to be submitted to the will of God. When young adults love God with all of their being, God will direct them to marriage partners who love Him in the same way that they do. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn and the justice of your cause like the noonday sun” (Ps. 37:4-6 NIV). Christians should engage in pre-marital counseling to counteract those cultural elements that lead people to pre-marital sex. The minister who unites a man and woman in Christian marriage is responsible to instruct them concerning the purpose and responsibilities of this union. This will provide a sound foundation upon which the couple can build their marriage.
When couples are preparing for marriage, it is of utmost importance that they have knowledge and understanding in these four vital areas in order to have a happy and healthy married life.
1. Knowledge of God and loyalty to Him: Both parties should have the knowledge of God, the Creator of all things, including man. They should know the Lord God personally, worship Him and strive to be loyal to Him (Gen. 1:1,26; Dt. 6:4-5; Eccl. 11:9-12:1).
2. Knowledge of the biblical image of man: The Bible teaches that our personal image is rooted in the Godhead (Gen. 1:26-27). Man is “fearfully and wonderfully” created by God (Ps. 139:13-16). Only men and women, not animals, bear the image and likeness of God. Therefore, our relationship with the opposite sex is not and must not be governed by animal instincts. Christians derive their salvation, self-image and self-esteem from Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:3-6; Gal. 2:20). They have become sons and daughters of God through union with Christ (2 Cor. 6:14-18).
3. Knowledge of God’s Word: It is essential for all adults interested in marriage to have the biblical understanding of marriage as a permanent, life-long relationship (Gen. 1:27; 2:22-24; Mt. 19:4-6; 1 Cor. 7). Having a knowledge of Scripture will guard them against serious pitfalls, and also give them basic knowledge to overcome obstacles.
4. Consideration of godly parental counsel: Those intending to marry should seek advice about marriage from committed, experienced, believing parents. Normally, godly parents will offer pre-marital counseling that is biblically based. I believe that both Abraham and the parents of Samson offered godly pre-marital counseling concerning the marriages of their sons (Gen. 24:1-4; Jud. 14:1-3). My research indicates that parents in Nigerian cultures have a similar interest in choosing marriage partners for their children. The big question is: Does this pre-marital counsel come from godly or ungodly parents?
It is much easier to officiate at a marriage than it is to instruct the couple being married. Essential areas in which the couples will need guidance and counsel are their relationship with God, their concept of marriage and family, and their vocation and ministry. These areas are inter-related and inter-dependent, and will affect the couple’s whole life.
Initial attraction to the opposite sex
Individuals must avoid “falling in love” based on a superficial attraction to a beautiful body, dress, voice, education, family background, economic status or religious affinity. An instant decision, which lacks true love, can lead to a very sad marriage. As illustrations, both Shechem and Samson died painfully because of their instant sexual lust for women (Gen. 34:1-7; Jud. 16:1-30). The Book of James explicitly states that “each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death” (Jas. 1:14-15).
Frequently it is presumed that beauty and handsomeness represent good character, and that ugliness represents bad character. In reality, this is not true. Individuals must not allow their expectations to be based on infatuation rather than fact, lusts rather than love, feelings rather than faith in God, or one’s own will rather than God’s will.
After the initial attraction to a member of the opposite sex, it is important to observe and ponder his or her character and convictions. It is not advisable to immediately tell the person of your interest or love for them. Instead, it is better to be patient and tell God of your desire. By doing so, you will be kept from hasty promises. It is wise to take time to pray, observe and biblically evaluate the opposite sex before deciding to get married.
Once a couple has moved from the stage of initial attraction to courtship, they will face many temptations. To overcome these temptations they should set their minds only on wholesome, positive thoughts, actions and words regarding each other. The couple should take their desires prayerfully to the Lord and wait for His will to be done (Prov. 3:5). “Set your minds on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2).
Each one should think pure and godly thoughts about the opposite sex (Phil. 4:8). Each must resist youthful lusts for sex (1 Th. 4:3-8; 2 Tim. 2:22; Prov. 7:7-27; Eccl. 11:9-12:1). Pre-marital sex robs the future partner of his or her virginity that ought to be brought to marriage. Remember, God condemns sexual intercourse before marriage (Gal. 5:16-21). Some young people have been dismissed from schools, terminated from jobs, and even died (due to abortion or HIV/AIDS) as a result of falling into sexual sin before marriage. Waiting until marriage for sexual relations gives the couple mutual honor, trust, patience and understanding. Each one must strive to maintain the proper image in Christ Jesus and regard his/her partner as beloved in Christ (Jn. 13:34-35; Rom. 12:9-10).
Women should always be on the alert against men who want to take advantage of them during courtship. When she has refused a man’s advances, often he will say, “Why don’t you prove your love?” Or “If you loved me, you would …” Any man who says such things is not interested in the woman’s total person but only her body. A true lover will respect the woman’s rights, beliefs, image of God, and ideals. And he will recognize his own responsibility toward God, to keep himself pure.
The couple should observe each other in different situations in life. They should also spend time with other couples who are truly born again. It is essential that the following topics be considered by both parties prior to engagement:
Questions To Consider During Courtship
These topics should be considered as part of the process in choosing a marriage partner. It is expected that by this time the couple is in a better position to decide for themselves about a life partner and be responsible for that decision. It cannot be emphasized enough that both parties must know and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Each must love the Lord and demonstrate it by obeying His Word.
Each one’s love for the other must be evidenced in his or her thoughts, words and actions. Be sure that it is true love and not lust of the flesh. Both must have the mind of Christ, “having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” (Phil. 2:2). In other words, both should have the same world view and goal – to please the Lord, and to please one another.
It is not always right to marry a person just because he or she is a Christian. Seek God’s will for your choice. Guard against pressures from society and even churches to cause you to make improper choices in marriage. The final responsibility and decision for choice of a life partner should rest with the man and the woman concerned.
In 1 Corinthians 7:8, Paul states that “it is good … to stay unmarried.” However, because of the lustful nature and the inclination toward fornication in society, he instructs people to get married in order to avoid falling into sin. In this passage it must be noted that both the single and married states are gifts from God: “But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift (celibacy), another has that (marriage)” (7:7). Therefore, it is divinely approved for one to choose either to marry or to remain single.
Remember, God requires sanctification of your body at all times – during friendship, courtship, engagement and marriage. Immorality must be resisted because it can destroy the future marriage. Therefore, every woman and every man should seek to honor God with his or her body by maintaining virginity until marriage consummation. This forms the foundation for dignity, faithfulness and joy in married life.
It is always wise for those considering marriage to seek counsel from Christian parents, counselors, pastors and ministers. Doing this will give couples a chance to evaluate their relationship before finally committing themselves in marriage.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Danfulani Kore, PhD, received degrees from Igbaja Theological Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary and the University of Texas. He has spoken throughout Nigeria on marriage, family, church and educational concerns. He teaches at Jos Theological Seminary, Nigeria. This article is adapted from his book, “Culture And The Christian Home.”
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org