The Countercultural Path

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While I’m in the process of reading through 5 Paths to the Love of Your Life (ed. Alex Chediak. Th1nk Books, 2005), I thought it might be helpful for me to share the summary from the end of each section.The five paths are explained by some of the top representatives of each viewpoint, and they each provide a solid description of what their paths entails theologically and practically.From the editor’s introduction, it is that their is no one right way of doing relationships, but hopefully we all can appreciate the strengths of each methodology. And by the Spirit’s empowering discernment, may we find our own niche and personal dating style from all the biblical principles described.


Chapter/Path 1 (Lauren F. Winner):

The Countercultural Path

Definition

Countercultural dating maintains that the real issue is not to determine a correct dating method but instead to live entire lives — including dating relationships — in obedience and devotion to Christ. Countercultural dating is chaste, it is communal, and it is oriented towards marriage.

Distinctives

  • When considering how and when to date, the most important thing to remember is that Christians are called to love first God and then their neighbor. All dating (and every relationship, in fact) should be centered around that command
  • Christians are called to avoid conforming to the world. Sensitizing themselves to contemporary trends will help them avoid turning the focus of dating from Christ and to themselves.
  • While dating should be oriented toward marriage, breaking up or even dating for the sake of dating isn’t necessarily improper. All things considered (especially age), dating implies marriage but doesn’t necessarily end in marriage.
  • A person’s Christian community can and should play a significant role in deciding whom to date and eventually marry.
  • Although chastity is an unavoidable call in Christian relationships, it is more than line drawing; instead, it should turn a person from self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness. Kissing can be an appropriate way of expressing sexuality without being sexually immoral.

Key Verses

  • Mark 10:29-31
  • John 7:7; Romans 12:2; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 John 2:15 (countercultural)
  • Hebrews 13:4
  • Lauren, however, is quick to point out that one must read Scripture not as a collection of key verse that can be isolated from one another but as a large, beautiful coherent story that reveals truth as much through the whole as through the component parts.

Key Benefits

  • Dating can be a godly way to not only meet the love of your life but also learn to love as Christ loves — which includes being hurt, a common symptom of love.
  • Dating builds character and can help you make smart decisions about your future mate as you learn to balance romantic love and practical love.
  • It’s fun! Dating, no matter your age, is an enjoyable way to spend time with another person.
  • When you date and even are infatuated, you are able to distinguish a unique love that can be selfless; it can give you a glimpse of what it would be like to love your neighbor all the time.

Potential Problems

  • There’s a thin line between having fun and getting to know each other and diving too deeply into premature physical or emotional intimacy. Walking that line can be a difficult exercise.
  • Depending on your age, stage in life, or call by God, dating may not be appropriate for you.
  • In the flurry of falling in love, you could loose the ability to make good decisions or lose sight of your goals. Whether it be through family, church, or godly friends, be sure you allow your community to play a role in your relationships to keep you accountable and available to Christ’s body.

Personal Reflections

I found Winner’s emphasis to be very challenging and convicting for myself. From the Christian community I have back at home / in my home church, this is the area that requires the most work and where much growth is possible. Winner urges that

“One particular way married people can do that (be transparent before one another) is by displaying the real work of their marriages — not just the sweet, light parts of marriage but also the hard, embattled parts — to unmarried folk (32-33).”

The couples from my home church all seem to be perfect, like they don’t struggle with much problems — because surely they do go through hard times (daily, weekly, and monthly) but they don’t make that publicly visible to others in the church. Winner hits home when she continues,

“This is important because it allows unmarried Christians to see what real marriage looks like. And it is important because marriage is a gift God gives the church. Marriage is not designed to benefit only the married couple. Rather, it is designed to tell a story to the entire church, a story about God’s own love and fidelity to us (33).”

I am disappointed that I have not learned much from those couples, and really wish they could proactively share their experiences with young unmarried folk like myself! I admit, I have failed on my part in pursuing them to share their experiences with me (though such has ultimately arisen because of the attitudes, environment and subculture that married couples erected over against the lesser valued singles subculture). And on this very issue, Winner speaks directly to those of us in these situations:

“The burden rests no just on single Christians to go and get to know the married people in their church but also on the church to work against the pervasive ethic of demographic segregation… And the burden is on married people to open their homes to their single friends. […] It means Christians inviting other Christians into their homes and into their lives.”

In reflecting on those words, I am left wondering why nobody has told me this before!? How come the unmarried and married have not been taught such biblical principles of love and care between the single and married? Or if the couples have been taught this, then why have they rejected such biblical principles and commands of mutual discipleship?SDG

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