Should I slow things down with my boyfriend just because he is a new Christian? I recently began dating a young man whom I like very much and who seems to be a person of strong character. He accepted Christ about five months ago, and had been attending church and Bible study before we met. Although we both have expressed our affection for each other, a friend of mine has suggested that it might be a good idea to avoid diving in head-first until I'm sure that he's serious about his Christian commitment and that it's not just a passing thing. What do you think?
We think your friend is wise. Not that there's any good reason to break things off altogether at this point – that would be unnecessary and premature. But it probably would be a good idea to slow down and "cool your jets" until you can assess the situation more accurately.
New believers need time and space to grow. In most cases, it's best if they can concentrate on building and strengthening their relationship with Christ apart from other distractions, at least for a while. Think of Jesus' Parable of the Sower: the seed can't grow properly unless it's planted in good soil, kept free of weeds, and given a chance to put down deep roots. This is not to say that you are a "weed," but it is to suggest that, until he's more solidly grounded, emotional entanglements of any kind could have the effect of putting him off the track. It's also worth remembering what Paul had to say about the dangers of giving neophytes or new converts too much responsibility in the church (1 Timothy 3:6). Until he has time to mature from the inside out, a baby Christian isn't ready to fully invest himself in ministry to others. The same observation may apply to personal relationships such as dating and marriage.
It's especially important that you try to gauge the sincerity of your boyfriend's newfound faith. What is he doing to grow closer to Christ? How is he disciplining himself to become more faithful in his walk with the Lord? Does he attend church regularly? Read the Scriptures and pray? Is he part of a Bible study or small group fellowship? In asking these questions, we aren't suggesting that he needs to submit to a regimen of legalistic rules. We're just saying that you need to make sure that he isn't simply using his Christianity as a wedge to get into your good graces. Look carefully for evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in his life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23). Character is developed in the crucible of life, so watch to see how he handles himself in the middle of the pain and struggles of everyday existence. Be certain that he has a genuine interest in knowing God, and that this interest is completely independent of his interest in you.
In the meantime, you can encourage your boyfriend to continue growing in Christ by helping him find a strong male spiritual mentor. Sometimes the most lasting spiritual grounding and development happens within the context of a one-on-one relationship with another believer. But don't attempt to mentor him yourself. If you do, the romantic element between you will only confuse the situation, cloud his perspective, and make it harder for you to guard your own heart (Proverbs 4:23).
Remember, the choice of a lifelong mate is a matter of profound importance. It's second only to that of a person's relationship with God. Precisely because dating can lead to engagement and marriage, you need to proceed with caution. Our advice is to pray, seek the Lord's will, be humble, and listen carefully to the advice of those who know and love you best. You won't regret it.
If you think it might be helpful to discuss your concerns at greater length with a member of our staff, we'd like to invite you to call Focus on the Family's Counseling department at your own convenience.
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