Don't Count on a Wedding to Change Bad Character - Part 2
Condensed from Chapter 6 from Dr. Tim's book "Marriage and Family: Wisdom's Way"
2. Corruption is More Easily Transmitted than Sanctification
There’s always a possibility that the negative person we’re interested in can change, but what’s more likely is that the healthy will get sick. There’s a theme from Haggai 2 that illustrates this thought. God uses a common earthly circumstance to teach Israel how to be careful in the matter of separation from the world, “If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No” (Haggai 2:12). If a person has a sanctified garment and is eating sanctified meat and drinking sanctified drink (that is, items that have been given to God), and then touches somebody with the item, does that make them holy? Everybody who heard this case study knew the answer…no, of course not, it doesn’t make them holy. The primary context of Haggai 2 was that His chosen people were not to imagine that because they were Jews or priests, that automatically that gives them a guaranteed place in heaven. Nobody gets to heaven because they just hang around someone that is holy.
Then, we are given a second scenario, “Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean” (Haggai 2:13). Let’s talk about the opposite issue. Let’s say that someone who is holy according to Old Testament ordinances touches a dead body, does that dead body affect them? Yes, that is true. If I’m around somebody who’s healthy and let’s say I’m sick does that make me healthy? No. It’s possible that their lifestyle might help model some good choices for me, but I don’t automatically get healthy. However, the opposite is true…sick people make the healthy get sick!
In churches we sometimes have used the “buddy system” to help in Christian formation. That is, we assign a mature Christian to a new or struggling believer to help them. But this concept has proven to be a stick of dynamite for us. It might work, but it also might blow someone’s head off! Let me explain: I believe that if you have a ratio of ten sanctified to the one unsanctified person in a buddy system, then it might work. But if you have one sanctified person and one unsanctified person and think you’re going to give them good help, then I’m telling you the likeliness of that is just not very high. The more likely scenario is that the struggling person is going to start telling you all their woes and you will get sucked into the issue. You get too close and are therefore unable to stay objective. And you might even be tempted to get involved in the sin. “I’m stronger than that”, you say? I have seen the mighty fall, and I can tell you it is a flawed system. Does it work sometimes? Absolutely! Hallelujah, praise God, it works! But it is a stick of dynamite and the likeliness of that explosive going off and something tragic happening is huge. Corruption is more easily caught than holiness. Sanctification and spiritual formation is a process. It’s not an event that occurs by hanging around someone.
3. Don’t be Blinded by Romance
We see how that in Proverbs 30:23 the odious woman was that way before marriage. She was already crabby, and the guy went ahead anyway. I was counseling a distraught husband once and he was telling me what kind of situation he was in, and boy it was frightful! I said, “From the things you are telling me and from the quickness that it showed up in your marriage, it sounds to me like you were aware of the situation before you were married.” Sadly, he admitted it was true. I said, “Man, this is a tough go…but God is able!” How much easier it would have been for that brother to have avoided the problem altogether by just backing off before marriage. The point I’m making here is to not be blinded by romance. There’s certainly a great amount of appeal and charm that happens in our emotions when affection starts. Romance triggers all these amazing hormones, which are wonderful and God-given. But God also calls us not to be stupid! Romance is one thing, but stupidity is something else, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). Here God gives a pretty clear concept doesn’t He? Don’t be unequally “yoked.” Don’t get into an unequal partnership. Some Christians will say, “The person I am interested in is a believer so everything is ok.” This verse is not just about unsaved or lost people.
An “unbeliever” could also be a saved person that doesn’t believe and follow the principles of God. Some might protest saying, “But they’re so nice.” The fact is though if that “nice” person that you’re dating does things that are unbiblical or immoral then the best plan is to just walk away. Taking some time is going to be a good thing for you. Don’t be afraid to let them go, fear never makes for a good marriage. Even if you have had improper physical relations and feel ashamed, you don’t need to carry on out of guilt. It is better to bear the shame for a few bad choices than endure a lifetime of heartache. Bad things happen when people are in bad relationships.
One of the best things you can do if you’re seeing some possible red flags or having second thoughts is to have a season of prayer about things. Maybe you ought to slow down your time together and even fast for a few days and ask God for discernment. Talk to godly people (not just your friends as they want to make you happy and will say whatever they think you want to hear, or whatever is going to be best for them because they don’t want to lose a friend). Talk to your parents. Go to a spiritual authority, and lay out the matter before them. Seek out somebody who you think will be honest enough to give counsel you don’t want to hear. The last thing you want to do is just hear things that you want to hear when it comes to the serious matter of a lifelong marriage.
God cares about us and He wants us to have wonderful and peaceful relationships that are good for the kingdom of God and our future. Always remember that if this potential mate doesn’t like something about God in you, that is they don’t like the fact that you want to go to church all the time or they don’t like the fact that you pray or they don’t like that you are quoting the Bible or they don’t like that you give so much money to “the church” then they are not against you they are against the Lord in you! If that’s where your heart is and that’s the direction you’re going, then that is where their heart needs to be too.
“Tempered steel” is steel that has been heated up and cooled down repeatedly. Steel that is not tempered is soft and malleable, and so it can bend quite easily. But tempered steel that has had the impurities burned and beaten out of it becomes strong! That’s the way character is. It’s forged in the heat and from the hammer of bad times and good. God says to marry because you see character and not because you feel hormones! lt is character that counts. When it comes to marriage God is very clear that a wedding doesn’t automatically change bad character. Let’s purpose to have good and godly character and to only draw close to those who are in love with Jesus!