Rowina Seidler shares her thoughts
Let’s start by defining what we mean by a boyfriend.
A boyfriend is a guy with whom we are in a committed, exclusive, emotionally intimate, physically affectionate relationship. A guy whom we believe belongs to us even though he is not our fiancée or husband.
As far as the Bible is concerned, such a relationship is only permitted to begin at engagement and find its fulfilment in marriage. Pastor Efrem Buckle, Calvary Chapel South London, agrees and states: ‘We see no concept in the Bible of a girl having a partner and thus being coupled before betrothal (biblically, betrothal is a covenant)’. Until the early 20th century, the concept of a boyfriend did not exist in the church or in the world. Before then, we had the concept of a pursuer or suitor.
A pursuer is a man who is romantically interested in us and is pursuing us in the hope of marrying us but does not belong to us, and we don’t belong to him. We don’t think of him or treat him as a partner but rather as a prospective partner.
We will look at five reasons why having a boyfriend is unbiblical and unwise and why having a pursuer is the biblical alternative!
1. It’s very hard to guard your heart with a boyfriend
‘Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life’ (Proverbs 4.23).
‘I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases’ (Song of Solomon 8.4).
We are called to guard our hearts and not stir up love until it pleases. Such behaviour protects us from getting emotionally scarred and helps us to evaluate men wisely and soberly. In a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship we are growing in intimacy, trust and oneness with someone who quite possibly will never be our husband. It is very difficult to keep a guard on our hearts and keep love from being too stirred up in such a relationship. In a pursuer/pursued relationship there is far less emotional closeness and thus it is far easier to guard our hearts.
Some may ask: ‘With less emotional closeness how can a girl figure out if she should marry a guy?’.
I would answer that question the same way as I would answer the question ‘without having sex with a guy, how can a girl figure out if she should marry him?’. We don’t need to ‘try before we buy’! We don’t need to try a guy out sexually or try him out emotionally (by feeling what it’s like to be deeply emotionally bonded to him) to get to know him! In fact, such behaviour is more likely to hinder us from accurately assessing his character or our compatibility.
2. We are called to have absolute purity in our relationships with our brothers
‘Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity’ (1 Timothy 5.1-2).
Biblically, a man who is not our relative, fiancée or husband, is our brother in Christ. He is supposed to treat us physically as if we were his biological sister, in total purity and should not to lust after us. Sexual desire increases as love gets stirred up. With the growing oneness of a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship and the accompanying physical affection, it is far harder to treat our brother with all purity than it is in a pursuer/pursued relationship where emotional intimacy is kept to a minimum. Moreover, this verse prohibits romantic physical affection outside of the covenant of betrothal. By avoiding the physical and emotional closeness of a boyfriend relationship we are also helping him treat us as he should.
3. We can take away his role as pursuer
‘He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord’ (Proverbs 18.22).
‘For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands’ (Ephesians 5.23).
God has given men the role of the pursuer and leader in romantic relationships. One of the easiest ways to put a man off us is to take away his God-given role by allowing ourselves to be caught too early and by taking the lead. By becoming a guy’s girlfriend we can end up doing exactly that, because typically in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship the woman pursues the guy and leads the relationship as much as he does, especially once they are an official item. In a pursuer/pursued relationship we don’t get caught until the engagement ring is on our finger and thus he keeps his role as leader/pursuer.
Some may ask: ‘What if a girl feels unattractive and fears she will never have any pursuers. Shouldn’t she just pursue?’. I agree it can be very tough for women, but that doesn’t mean we should go against Scripture. We can however be cheerful around a guy as well as friendly, kind and attentive, so as to give him a little encouragement! By seeking God for the peace that surpasses all understanding and keeping our eyes on him, we will be better able to have the patience and joy not to take matters into our own hands and rather to let men lead!
4. We can become anxious about pleasing him
‘And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband’ (1 Corinthians 7.34).
If we are single or engaged (betrothed), we should not be spending the majority of our time, energy and emotion on a guy with whom we are romantically involved. Rather, we should remain anxious about the things of the Lord. With the closeness of a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, it is very easy to become anxious about how to please our boyfriend and hard to keep the things of the Lord our chief focus. In a pursuer/pur-sued relationship, where we are carefully guarding our hearts and keeping an emotional and physical distance, it is far easier to keep our priorities right.
5. Boyfriends are un-Christ-like
‘Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ’ (1 Corinthians 11.1).
‘Love does no harm to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law’ (Romans 13.10).
We are to be imitators of Christ. In Scripture we see that human romantic relationships clearly parallel Christ’s relationship with his church. Christ intentionally pursues us before we are saved, with the goal to betroth himself to us permanently (Hosea 2.19). As believers, Christ is our bridegroom (Revelation 19.7-8, Ephesians 5.31-32) and our husband (Isaiah 54.5). Never do we see the notion of Christ being like a boyfriend, who might reject us and harm us, but is happy stir up our love and to treat us as his own in the meantime. Rather we see Christ being rejected and harmed to wed himself to us permanently.
Moreover, Christ only treats us as his once we have committed ourselves permanently to him. In a pursuer/pursued relationship, through us not acting like partners until engagement, and the guy intentionally pursuing us, he is better able to imitate how Christ pursues his church. Furthermore, by us forming a far shallower bond than in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, we are less likely to harm one another and thus are better able to imitate Christ’s love.
Boyfriend/girlfriend culture has become normal in so many of our churches and a lot of us have not even considered that they might be unbiblical or not known of an alternative. Let’s pray that the Lord shows us how to reflect him better in our relationships with the opposite sex.
This article was first published in the April 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, check out our on-line version of the paper www.e-n.org.uk or subscribe to en for monthly updates.