The Betrothal Path

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I actually finished reading this chapter over 3 weeks ago, but didn’t get the chance to write this up until now. This is the 4th installment in my blog series on the book, 5 Paths to the Love of Your Life (ed. Alex Chediak, Th1nk Books, 2005).?? I have been very much looking forward to posting this, since the topic and issues related to this fourth path could easily be controversial and a turn-off to many in today’s culture of dating — even within Christian and Southern Baptist circles.When I began typing up the summary and reflection to this chapter, I actually had to pause and really examine my heart and intentions. Simply put, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the height from which I had fallen from grace — the distance so many of us Christians have departed from how Scripture commands us to treat one another in romantic relationships. Like the church in Ephesus, Jesus’ Spirit revealed to me this one sin that is somewhat hidden from our public Christian persona: that we have abandoned the love we had at first, namely Jesus Christ. And like in Revelation 5, Christ Jesus calls us to remember the place from where we have fallen; repent of our sin of idolatry — making all our earthly loves greater than our love for Jesus; and to return to do the things we did when we first fell in love with Jesus — communing with Him in daily devotion and prayer.Having rededicated ourselves to Christ as our sole-sufficiency, let us now take a look of the long-forgotten betrothal path.


Chapter/Path 4 (Jonathan Lindvall):

The Betrothal Path

Definition

Betrothal is a covenant relationship that defines the process between singleness and marriage. The covenant is as irrevocable as marriage (no breaking up), but it does not authorize physical union. The betrothal period is a season of preparation for marriage — particularly preparation of your heart.

Distinctives

  • Breaking up is unacceptable. Once you are betrothed, marriage is inevitable. Therefore, careful seeking of God’s will is necessary. Your parents should be involved in this process, helping you seek God’s Word and His leading.
  • Human marriage is metaphorical for the church’s marriage with Christ. Although our wedding feast with our Bridegroom in heaven has not yet happened, we are betrothed to Him right now, and that covenant cannot be broken.
  • Although the covenant is as irrevocable as marriage, sexual union isn’t permitted until you are actually married.
  • If you date or flirt with someone you are not betrothed to, you are defrauding him or her, his or her future spouse, and your future spouse.
  • In betrothal, the motto is not “Marry the one you love” but rather “Love the one you marry.”

Key Verses

  • 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:22-23; Revelation 19:9 (bride of Christ)
  • Matthew 1:18-20
  • Deuteronomy 22:22-29
  • 1 Corinthians 7:32-33
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:9 (defrauding)

Key Benefits

  • Betrothal helps protect against emotional and physical damage because you are giving your heart and body solely to one person.
  • Unlike dating or courtship, betrothal is prescribed in Scripture. So if you’re looking for a way to follow Scripture more explicitly, betrothal is a good option.
  • In Betrothal, you enter a committed relationship from the get-go, instead of anticipating or being insecure about a breakup.
  • “Falling in love” is a by-product of betrothal instead of a requirement for marriage.
  • Betrothal, like courtship, creates an environment for obeying God by honoring your parents.

Potential Problems

  • You have to be careful when making this crucial decision because “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). You could make hasty decisions if you’re following your heart only and not tapping in to Christ’s words and will.
  • Betrothal requires that a bride and groom make an effort to set good communication patterns during their betrothal, as they are to have had virtually no intimate conversation prior to covenant.
  • Betrothal could be used as a manipulative tool for selfish people who are not surrendered to Christ. It is a good protection only when practiced by loving people

Personal Reflections

Right at the beginning of this chapter, Lindvall outlines what betrothal actually is (as outlined above) : “betrothal is intended to be the time when a bride and groom begin to draw one another’s hearts and release their hearts to each other. […] the decision of whom to marry is not made on the basis of emotional attraction but rather on on some other basis” (124). When I first read that, I wondered… on what basis should we then decide whom to marry? After reading through the chapter, I could not find any other basis on which we’re to make such an important life-decision — except to just trust God and put our faith in Him for this person we become betrothed to.Biblical betrothal. Lindvall gives biblical support for betrothal from the example of Mary, mother of Jesus, and her betrothal to Joseph (Matthew 1:18). However, the most insightful example of betrothal I was reminded of was that of Christ and the church — who “are not yet married but are already in a covenant relationship, so a betrothed couple is in a covenant relationship, though they are not yet authorized to be one flesh. We can already be confident in our position as the bride of Christ because our relationship with Him is not probationary or experimental” (126).This was a new insight I had learned. I have heard, learned and read continually that us/the church is married to Jesus Christ. However, it is very clear that there has not yet been a wedding that has taken place, for the marriage feast has not happened yet (Revelation 19:6-10). This certainly affirms our marriage-like covenant with Jesus Christ in the form of betrothal and thus our designation as His bride despite there not having been a wedding ceremony.How do you enter a betrothal relationship? After examining betrothal and the consequences of sexual sin between betrothed in the Old Testament, Lindvall finally answers the question that was boggling my mind for the 10 pages leading up to this: how does one actually become betrothed? Let me just say that I was not satisfied with his answer (134): 1) commit yourself to bring pleasure and glory to the Lord Jesus in every aspect of your life, 2) give your heart in honor to your parents, and 3) commit to save yourself, both physically and emotionally, for the one you will eventually marry. To me that was just not satisfactory, for it appears to be only principles to godly relationships between Christians that were similar to all those already outlined in this book. This was kind of disappointing, because when I asked a 40-something year old former pastor, he tells me that betrothal is simply marriage engagement. Period.And thus such betrothal (engagement before there is any significant relationship) is quite frankly non-existent in the our times.Parental involvement. Lindvall says that if you begin to wonder about a particular person as a potential spouse, that you should tell your parents. Who in the world does this these days!?! At the first sign of “interest” in another as a possible wife, I’m supposed to tell my parents?! First, my parents don’t want to know about every time I have an interest in any girl — they don’t have the time or have the time for such nitty-gritty momentary details. Second, they know me well enough that they only want me to tell them about “her” when the relationship becomes “significant”.The level of parental involvement that Lindvall commends puts the responsibility on parents to practically decide for their child whether or not this person is the one he/she is supposed to marry. While I think it is very necessary that parents be involved in such a significant decision, and that the man must ask the woman’s parents’ blessing before marriage, I don’t think parents should be making such decisions for their children. Certainly, we should seek our parents approval and consent before marriage, and I could even agree that parental consent be required before a girl’s parents lets a boy take her out, but I don’t think Scripture affords parental authority to such an extent that it’s basically like the parents deciding everything. The boy or girl is getting married / betrothed, not the parents.Avoiding the sin of hurt. I definitely understand the place from which Lindvall writes his position; for it comes out of a desire for young people to avoid the sin of hurting each other. In his research, Lindvall finds that dating is a simply a temporary romance and that it implies that there will be an end to the romance, leading to “broken-heart syndrome” (137). And thus, in seeking to avoid the pains that come along with break-ups, he concedes that in the Bible, “single people got married through the process of betrothal” and that one’s primary preparations for marriage was emotional (139).In all this betrothal talk, I do not find betrothal being commanded, that is, didactically in Scripture. One could deduce hermeneutically that throughout biblical times that betrothal did occur and was the cultural norm/requirement, but I do not find that one can precisely exegete out of historical/narrative examples a didactic command for betrothal. If betrothal were found exegetic ally to be a biblical command, then I am certain that the Protestant church would have done it and it would be recommended by today’s churches and ministries (e.g. Focus on the Family).Courtship vs. betrothal. Concerning falling in love and the difference between courtship and betrothal, Lindvall admits that culture tells us to marry the one we love. However, he suggests that Scripture rather tells us to love the one we marry (citing Ephesians 5:25,28; Colossians 3:19; Titus 2:4) (140). I agree with the author that we must avoid the process of defrauding each other, that we should not be experimenting with various romantic partners until we find the right person to marry. However, this is exactly the issue today’s discussion on Christian dating/courtship is trying to speak biblically to, and why Joshua Harris’ books on courtship & Cloud/Townsend’s books on biblical dating have become so popular. If it is best not to be experimenting, how we should we thus go about finding a spouse? The command to love the one we are in covenant relationship to is very important here, and I do agree that regardless of who it is that we are involved with at any given moment, that we should love them with brotherly affection and sacrificial love.Lindvall then appropriate makes the distinction between courtship and betrothal. He says that the emphasis in courtship is “on embracing the protection of parental authority” (141), while the key element missing in courtship that is present in betrothal is commitment. Furthermore, courtship “allows, or rather encourages, a probationary period of romantic experimentation prior to commitment, whereas betrothal implies an emotional preparation period following commitment.” This is a significant difference and the most powerful benefits of betrothal, Lindvall concedes — “eliminating romantic experimentation in favor of saving your heart for the one person you are confident you will marry.”I heartedly agree that we have been brainwashed by mass media and the fallen western culture towards experimenting with various romantic partners to determine who we are compatible with. This chapter has brought from darkness into light a respectable sin that we all, to one degree or another, have problems with: trust in God, and putting our faith in His will for our lives. It is very difficult to literally just leave it all in God’s hands, for we are human and we are getting ourselves into a life-long relationship another fallen person. We have this dire, human need to be sure that he or she is the one, that we are “compatible” with each other, that we are the right “one” for each other. The fallenness of our heart and minds moves us to trying to figure relationships out ourselves through our own trying. And here, I am in no place to to agree or disagree whether or now this should be happening. In these days, we suffer from original sin while we are still in these fallen, finite bodies — we have no ability to do any other (do we?!).I do not want to discredit the power and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He certainly does things in our lives that our beyond our greatest hopes and dreams. However, I think that it is in our obedience to His commands to phileo (love) and timao (honor) one another that He causes our relationships to work together for our good and for His glory. “God has given us not only the physical ability but also the emotional capacity and personal flexibility to be joyfully compatible with whomever He calls us to marry” (143). Let us then lovingly listen to each other in conversation through koinonia (fellowship), and subsequently listen to His Word through the Spirit to discern if and when we should commit ourselves to each other in a life-long covenant.

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