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2 Tips to Date in A Loving Way

Does he like me? Did he just flirt with me? Does his reply mean something more?

Should I ask her? What does her silence mean? Should I confess to her?

When it comes to interacting with members of the opposite sex, it’s likely that such questions would’ve crossed our minds before. After all, a friendship blossoming into a tentative relationship is bound to generate a measure of uncertainty in our hearts: Is he the one? Is she into me? What should I do?

And with most of our conversations taking place through a screen—what with instant messaging and social media—we can miss out on subtle social cues that usually guide face-to-face interactions. Unfortunately, this means that misinterpretations and miscommunication are more likely to happen, creating even more anxiety over what our crush may have said (or not said).

These days, an entire vocabulary has been formed to document the amorphous nature of not-quite relationships and patterns of interactions.

There isn’t just ghosting—the act of completely disappearing from someone’s life after losing interest in them. There’s also benching, where you become a plan B for someone who wants to keep their options open; and cushioning, where you’re still in contact with potential suitors even after having exclusively committed to someone else. Not to mention other dating terms such as slow fading, breadcrumbing . . . and you get the point.

But what does God think about these situationships—where it’s more than a friendship but not quite an exclusive relationship? While the Bible doesn’t explicitly lay down laws for dating, it does give us commandments that can be applied to dating.

In fact, we need to look no further than what Jesus says are the greatest commandments in the Bible: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

American pastor Richard Phillips and his wife Sharon write in their book about dating, Holding Hands, Holding Hearts:

“In dating, this requires us to honor God first. Many Christians approach dating mainly in terms of pursuing romance and meeting their emotional needs. Far too few think of it as an opportunity to honor God and grow in grace.

“What about loving our neighbor? This commandment requires us to put our dating partner’s holiness ahead of our happiness. If you are dating someone and the relationship does not grow into marriage, the least you can do as a Christian is to ensure that dating you was a spiritually beneficial experience.”

In the light of modern dating, this means asking ourselves: What would the most loving action be towards him or her?

Here’s two points to consider when it comes to making sense of your feelings:

 

1. If you like (or don’t like) someone, make it clear.

Don’t leave someone hanging. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get to know someone better before expressing your interest in him or her. But be careful about what kind of impression you’re making on the other person, and consider how he or she might be feeling in the meantime.

Conversely, if you don’t like someone, make it clear. Don’t flirt with them for the fun of it, especially if you know that this might create unnecessary ambivalence. Song of Solomon 2:7 tells us not to “arouse or awaken love until it so desires”.

For example, if you know that someone is likely to feel terribly hurt if you openly reject them, a more loving option might be to drop more subtle hints. This might mean politely turning down offers to meet or waiting longer periods before replying their messages.

Similarly, you might want to consider gently and lovingly telling them that you’re not interested in a relationship, if the situation calls for it.

While you might feel uncomfortable, presumptuous, or afraid of hurting them, remember that it is our duty to honor them as a fellow believer, brother- or sister-in-Christ, and child of God. If that means causing some hurt now, it’s better than causing him or her even more hurt by revealing it only much later on.

Ask yourself: Am I relating to the other person in a way that honors God and him or her? Are my responses clear when I express how I feel towards this person? Or are my responses leading them to draw the wrong conclusion?

On the other hand, if someone you like is sending you mixed signals—ignoring you one moment while flirting with you openly the next—you might want to consider two options. Either frankly ask how he or she feels about you, or step away from the relationship if you feel that the other person may not have honorable intentions.

Treat others as you would want to be treated (Luke 6:31). Just as you don’t want to be left hanging—or ghosted, breadcrumbed, or cushioned—don’t do to them what you wouldn’t want to be done to yourself.

 

2. If you’re unsure about how you feel, commit it to God.

There may be occasions where the relationship isn’t always so clear-cut. You might be ambivalent about how you feel towards someone, especially where his gestures or her words might possibly indicate something more. Do you really like him or her, or is it something else that’s fueling these feelings—infatuation, desire, respect, loneliness, idealism?

I’ve felt this way countless times over the years, thanks to the adolescent longings and raging hormones of a teenage girl. How I pined, cried, and moaned for the affection of one boy or another!

It was only when I became a Christian that I found that there was a better way: casting my cares and worries at the feet of Jesus, who loves us with a love no boyfriend or girlfriend can offer us.

Before entering into a relationship or even entertaining the thoughts of entering into one, it’s important to seek the Lord for discernment and wisdom on how we ought to relate to the other person.

I wrote this in my journal a few years ago when I developed a strong crush on a classmate I had just gotten to know:

“I find it so difficult to see a trace of that spark or non-spark; in that I cannot tell whether or not he feels the same way. Surely if he did, I could tell? Yet no, I see nothing (and therefore continue to believe everything) that might come to be. And this is the worst part: not knowing yet believing it to be so. Since he has shown neither interest nor dis-interest, I continue to hold on to this hope, which is a potentially devastating thing to do. Already I catch whiffs of him everywhere I go, and he is continually brought up again and again in my mind, reinforcing the infatuation I feel.

Alas, what I feel for him has neither been encouraged nor discouraged. And so what I am left with is this budding of love, one that is continuously being fertilized by his frequent presence, watered by all that we have in common; and thus it grows just as our friendship grows.

Where this friendship will lead me, I do not know. But I pray with all sincerity that God will keep and guide me, that ultimately He will give me His stamp of approval or rejection; and in the meantime will reveal to me more about him, that I may decide for myself whether or not this can develop any further.”

God eventually did reveal something to me: this person was a non-believer who already had a girlfriend, which I only found out a few months later. Yet the process of committing this situationship to God daily—by choosing to commit my anxieties and uncertainties to Him, seeking His wisdom and will, and praying for Him to guard my heart—helped me to overcome the hurt and disappointment upon finding out.

It may be tempting to brood over whether the person you like feels the same way by overanalyzing every little thing they say or not say.

But don’t take things into your own hands. If it is meant to be, God will reveal it to you, and the other person (if he or she is a believer). If it’s not meant to be, God will reveal it too. I find that this is such a simple but deeply comforting truth, as someone who’s personally prone to overthinking and worrying.

So trust in the Lord with all your heart, and He will answer whatever desires, worries, and questions you have, in His perfect timing and according to His perfect plans.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make straight your paths.

Be not wise in your own eyes;

fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

It will be healing to your flesh

and refreshment to your bones.

— Proverbs 3:5-8

Hurtful Words I Needed To Hear

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

Every Wednesday, I meet with a team leader and my colleague Abigail* for lunch fellowship. Though it’s just the three of us, we thought to heed the call in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Two weeks ago, our leader was on sick leave. Deep down, I was not very keen on meeting Abigail alone as I found her a rather defensive and self-centered person. But Abigail was keen to meet so I relented.

That day, Abigail brought food from home to heat up in our office pantry before fellowship. While she was in the pantry, another colleague, Jacqueline, asked if I wanted to join the rest of the team for lunch. When I told her that Abigail and I were getting ready for fellowship, Jacqueline said in a friendly manner, “No, you should join us for lunch. You don’t have to go for fellowship since your leader is not here. Anyway, both of you don’t really get along, and you always grumble about Abigail anyway. You should join us, learn about the other gods and be open.”

Jacqueline’s words cut like a knife. Yet, I knew exactly what she was referring to. For the past couple of weeks, I had been complaining about Abigail behind her back, telling others about her selfish attitude and lack of team spirit. Still, Jacqueline’s words hurt me and made me feel like a failure. Though I had claimed to be a Christ follower, I had given in to my flesh and neglected the Spirit.

A few days later, I came across John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The words struck me and I thought of the earlier incident again. I knew for a fact that God was using this passage to speak to me.

I needed to love Abigail and accept her, not just on the surface, but completely. I had to stop pretending to be friendly with her, and complaining about her behind her back. This showed disunity between me and Abigail, and disunity between my faith and my actions. How then could others see that I am Christ’s disciple?

I had to change and start speaking words of grace, words that reflected Christ. I needed to fight against my flesh and allow the Holy Spirit to work in me to produce fruits of love, kindness, and self-control.

As I remembered how gracious and patient God had been with me, how He didn’t give up on me no matter how self-centered, mean, and defensive I had been in the past (Romans 8:1), I repented and stopped complaining. I told my team leader honestly about the struggles I had, and she arranged for Abigail and me to talk about it.

Initially, Abigail was upset at me. She felt that I had misunderstood her, and said that she couldn’t trust me anymore. We did not speak for a few days after that. Our leader was very concerned and spoke to us individually on a few separate occasions. Eventually, we both reached a common understanding.

In all of this, I had been too quick to judge and condemn. I also began to realize that Abigail is actually a very nice friend to have, because she is quick to forget grievances and does not hold grudges for long. Subsequently, I also noticed how her attitude towards the rest of us changed; she is a more helpful person now.

I realize now that condemning and complaining had prevented me from seeing the good side of Abigail and learning more about the grace of God. But now I am free. I am glad that Abigail and I both have learned more about one another from this episode, and we are now able to love one another through the grace of Christ. We are sisters in Christ, we have the same Abba Father, and we have the same eternal home.

 

*Not her real name.

Making a Difference this Valentine’s Day

Written By Hannah Spaulding, USA

I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day.

I understand dedicating a day to celebrating love, but somehow I’ve never been able to reconcile the ideal of love with the paraphernalia associated with the holiday. The deluge of teddy bears, chocolates, roses, and over-priced jewelry, all in alarming shades of pink and red, have often felt more like the trappings of a false and materialistic love rather than a symbol of true, authentic love to me.

Last year was the first time I celebrated Valentine’s Day with a special someone—not that I hadn’t cut out paper hearts, received chocolates and flowers, or exchanged gifts before, but the latter had always just been between friends.

I remember feeling an increasing sense of nervousness and anxiety about actually celebrating Valentine’s Day with a significant other. Approaching the day, I agonized over what I was going to get David, my boyfriend, and what I should write on his card.  We had only been dating a little over a month at the time, so this was the first exchange of gifts and cards for us. I was terrified of messing it up.

I finally settled on giving him a Lord of the Rings (LOTR) poster to spruce up his bare bedroom walls—a major contrast from my own poster-plastered room.  My card included a LOTR quote and a heartfelt message about the difference I had already felt in my life after one month of us dating. I received a bag of chocolates, fuzzy socks, and my own Nerf gun from David (for use in our frequent battles with his nieces and nephews). He also read me a beautiful poem that he had written, which I still have tucked away in the pages of my Bible.  My anxiety turned out to be unfounded; we both loved our respective gifts and cards.

Once this requisite exchange was conducted, we then set off on our planned adventure for the day. We had chosen roller skating for our inaugural Valentine’s adventure since we knew it would be an activity we would both enjoy.  True to our expectations, we ended our session sporting matching ear-to-ear grins.

I leaned against David as we sat on a bench taking off our skates, filled with warm fuzzy feelings and beginning to think my previous skepticism towards Valentine’s Day might have been misplaced.  Just then, we noticed an elderly man approaching our bench.

“Now,” the old man said as he held up his hand when he reached us, “I don’t want to offend your girlfriend or anything, but I just wanted to say that she has the prettiest smile I have seen in a long time.” David and I looked at each other in surprise.

“She does indeed,” David agreed, smiling at me.

“Don’t get me wrong or anything. I’m married, I ain’t a pervert, I promise.  I just wanted you to know that she has one of the prettiest smiles I have seen in a long time,” the old man said with a smile.

“She certainly does, sir, thank you.” David replied.

“Yes, thank you,” I added as the man shuffled away.

It touched my heart that a random stranger had taken the effort to compliment me on my smile, making that day just a little sweeter.

Reflecting on the episode, I believe that the old man embodies what Valentine’s Day should really be about. It shouldn’t just be a day for couples to celebrate; neither should it just be about the roses or the chocolates or the exchange of gifts, whether between lovers or friends. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone took time on Valentine’s Day to sweeten someone else’s day and spread more love in the world? After all, isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do—to love our neighbor as ourselves?

One year on, the old man’s kind comment still stands out in our memories when David and I reflect on our first Valentine’s Day together. And this Valentine’s Day, we want to pay it forward and sweeten someone else’s day as well.

5 Ways to Love A Stranger This Christmas

Written By M.D Valley, Africa

Once again, it’s Christmas—the season of merriment, goodwill, and cheer. For most, it’s a time for family and friends, and a time to reflect on the year gone by.

For believers, it’s the time we commemorate God’s gift to us—the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ (Luke 2:11-12). And just like how God showed love to us by giving us His son, we show our love to family and friends by giving them gifts.

Growing up in a northern Nigerian community, we have a tradition of preparing delicious delicacies such as a crunchy deep-fried snack known as chin-chin, cakes, donuts, meat pies, fried chicken and beef and other dishes in the lead up to Christmas. To show God’s love, we would wake up in the wee hours of Christmas morning to cook rice or some other dish, and deliver the piping hot food to our non-Christian neighbors and friends. They, in turn, would share food with us during their religious celebrations.

But how many of us extend this kindness to absolute strangers? And why not? This Christmas, how about making a conscious effort to show love to a stranger? Sure, there are countless ways, but here are five “gifts” that I think could help get us started.

1. The Gift Of Grace

As Christians, we are called to be gracious at all times—what more during the Christmas season? After all, this is the season we commemorate Jesus’ birth, God’s ultimate gift of grace to us (Ephesians 2:8).

So let’s try our best to exercise more grace and patience. To the person who interrupts our sentences, hold our tongues and respond with words of kindness. To the one who cuts our queue at the grocery store or into our lane on the road, let them pass and let our grievances go. To those who have offended us, whether it’s at work, in public, or at gatherings—let’s be quick to forgive them.

2. The Gift Of Giving

Some of us may already be involved in donating to charities and the less privileged on a regular basis. But how about paying a visit to an orphanage or old folks’ home?

Get involved in your local church’s charity drive. Donate blankets and warm food to those who have none. Remember, Jesus himself cared for the physical needs of 5,000 strangers (Mark 6:30-34).

3. The Gift of Prayer

The Bible tells us to pray for each other, and that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Maybe you tried to offer a word of encouragement or a gift that ended up being rejected despite your best efforts. In such instances, we can still pray for that person.

Pray for the hearts of those who have not received the good news of salvation, pray for the man you saw crying on the street on your way home, pray for your friend’s boyfriend’s uncle that you heard about but have never met, and pray for your leaders and the peace of your nation.

4. The Gift of Service

While we can show love to strangers by giving physical items such as gifts and money, we can also show love by serving others. There are several verses in the Bible that encourage us to serve others (e.g. Phil 2: 5-7; 2 Cor 4:5; Mark 9:35; Gal 5:13). Jesus himself came to this world to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45).

Serving strangers can come in many forms. It can be as simple as helping an old woman cross the street, stopping at the side of the road to help someone change his car tire, or offering a ride to someone on your way home. It could also be helping out in church or joining a group of friends to hand out food and warm clothing to the homeless on the street.

5. The Gift of Time

Most of us know how precious time is—once it’s gone, we can never get it back. And with our never-ending list of responsibilities, no one seems to have time for anyone anymore.  Giving time may therefore be one of the most precious ways we can show love to a stranger.

It could be taking the time and effort to get to know our neighbors over the Christmas season, having a meal with a student we have seen on campus or a colleague from a different team, or inviting an acquaintance who has no family to spend Christmas with to your home. You could also be a listening ear to a distraught mother at the supermarket, or offer a shoulder to the person crying on the subway platform.

Jesus took the time to visit those despised by the religious institutions of His time. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, and mourned with those who mourned. He prayed for His friends, enemies, and those He knew He would never meet during His brief physical sojourn on earth.

 

During the Christmas season, I have found joy in making the first move to start discussions with strangers—sometimes I use the opportunity to talk about the real reason for the season. Along with members of my local church, I’ve also visited homes for the elderly or the physically disabled to sing them Christmas carols.

To me, Christmas is the best time to emulate Jesus’ footsteps, as we give thanks for the Savior of the world who humbled himself to visit those who did not know Him (John 17:25-26), to make strangers His friends, and to reconcile the lost to God.