The past year I have seen a good friend of mine go through trial (and error) with a relationship with a young man and its effects on her relationship with Jesus.
Her story, while unique, is something I have experienced, both personally and vicariously through others. In a nutshell, a long time friend of hers has been on and off with his pursuit of Jesus but has always been on in his pursuit of her.
While her younger self made promises to him that she would give him a chance if he got his act together and started loving, following, and pursuing Jesus, her growing sanctified self realized that it was a promise she couldn’t keep. This brought on a very difficult time telling him no, despite the fact he appears to be trying to be more like Jesus. By God’s grace, she understands her identity is in Jesus and the gift of salvation on the cross – not by man’s approval (Galatians 1:10-11) – and is patiently trusting this as she is belittled and her character attacked.
All together, my friend showed great faith and perseverance as she has succeeded in loving and reflecting Jesus, and pushing this young man to the cross.
That said I want to give a few thoughts of what I’ve seen other’s do in the same situation.
1. Be leery of people who start pursuing Jesus because of a member of the opposite sex.
While it seems obvious, it isn’t to most people. Too many (young) Christians challenge someone they are interested in to follow and love Jesus, hoping they do, hoping they can eventually date, fall in love, and get married.
As soon as the other person starts to show signs of new life, the relationships starts only to see that the roots weren’t set in good soil and instead were like seeds thrown on a rocky path (Luke 8:4-8).
This nearly always ends badly, normally with one or both people returning to habitual sin, often times together, and it leads to a broken relationship with Jesus.
2. Jesus Redeems Bad Motivators
While I am strongly against jump-starting a relationship when someone starts to pursue Jesus because of another (see point 1), that doesn’t mean Jesus can’t or won’t redeem it.
Jesus uses a plethora of inspirations to bring people to Him (Philippians 1:18). Personally, I am a living example of this. I started to attend Bible study and church regularly because of a young lady. I started to read my Bible out of competition to show her I loved Jesus too (I was 14, give me a break.) Healthy? No. Ordained in God’s plan? Amen.
Fast forward 9 years later and by the grace of God I am attending a Bible loving university, serving in a Jesus loving church, and passionately pursuing Jesus! That young lady is happily married and is a part of a family (which will grow hopefully soon?) that is all about Jesus.
If a person is saying they will start getting their act together for you, encourage them to do three things.
· First, help them find a different Jesus-loving church than you, and attend regularly on their own.
· Second, encourage them to find a mentor (1x1) in this church and make sure they are going.
· Third, watch and see if they get into a community group (or life group, core group, whatever the church calls it).
3. You’re Not Jesus
People always try to become replacement parts. As Pastor Mark Driscoll says in his Trial Serieswomen often times stick around with boys because their maternal instinct kicks in.
For men, often times our “Mr. Fix It” side kicks in. We try to become whatever they need – Replacement Dad, Mom, Brother, Sister, Pastor, Mentor, etc. At the end of the day, it’s really a worship issue. We worship them as our idol, and therefore we try to make ourselves their idol.
You aren’t Jesus nor can you replace real Jesus. Don’t try.
4. Pray, Pray, and Pray Some more.
This seems obvious, but one area that I saw my friend really excel in was her dedicated prayer to this young man. She always trusted that God’s will would be done even if it was against her desires.
Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5 that we should “pray without ceasing” and James the brother of Jesus adds that we should pray in all situations and pray over people in all situations (James 5:13-18).
Whether this is prayer on your knees or prayer spent time journaling to God, be encouraged that prayer works in our best interests (even if we do not see it that way).
Finally, as much as prayer is talking and telling God where we are at, people forget equally and perhaps more importantly is to listen to God’s response. One book I found extremely helpful for this and other disciplines of being a disciple is Celebration of Disciplineby Richard Foster.
5. Live on Mission
What is your inspiration for others to come to Christ? Is it so they will use their skill set to somehow benefit your church and ministry or is it because you deeply care for their soul and eternal situation?
If you’re motivation for someone to love Jesus is for your benefit (aka so you can date them) then you should probably check out of the game and have other Jesus loving people surround your friend.
If you’re motivation is for their soul and advancing the Kingdom of Christ, then stop playing the game and be smart. Jesus knew His own physical limitations in ministry (read Luke for countless examples). He constantly left his ministry to spend time alone. If you truly honestly believe Jesus is calling you to minister into someone of the opposite sex’s life, do it wisely and don’t be afraid to wander into the wilderness to recharge.
If it’s a guy, surround them with brothers you can trust. If it’s a girl, find Jesus-loving girls to surround her and show her what a Godly woman looks like.
Remember that ultimately it’s Jesus who brings real change, and you have a limitation emotionally, spiritually, and physically and that your role is ultimately smaller compared to people of the same gender.
Never grow weary in doing good (Gal. 6:9). Realize your limitations, realize your actual calling, and don’t be selfish. Simple enough, right?
Matthew is a senior at Biola University studying Psychology with a minor in Biblical Studies. For contact information, questions, comments, or to drop a line, click here.