Spiritual Red Flags

By Glenn Lutjens
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Focus on the Family

Divorce

If your friend was married before, it’s vital to consider what happened in that former relationship and what factors were involved that caused the commitment to be broken. Society views remarriage as a given, but the Bible speaks to this important issue. Focus on the Family believes that Scripture addresses three specific situations in which a person does have freedom to remarry:

  1. The previous marriage ended as the result of sexual unfaithfulness by the person’s spouse. (Matthew 19:9).
  2. The person was divorced by an unbelieving spouse who was not willing to stay married (I Corinthians 7:15,16).
  3. The divorce took place prior to a person coming to faith in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17).

No matter what circumstances are given as the reason for the divorce, however, it’s crucial to get wise counsel before moving forward with a relationship. Pastoral care, professional counseling, and advice from mature Christians can be extremely valuable and help a person avoid unnecessary heartache.

And an additional word of caution: Typically, an individual will learn the details of a previous marriage from the person of interest. The problems that led to the demise of the relationship may be accurately portrayed, or they might be one-sided. It’s a temptation for a person to present themselves in a favorable light (Proverbs 18:17). It would be beneficial to speak to family and friends of the person you’re seeing in order to get a fuller, more objective picture of what took place and the dynamics that may have been involved. Becoming aware of potential unhealthy patterns can enable you to put steps in place to avoid their duplication, and the best time to tackle such issues is before the romance takes off.

Spiritually Distant

For the person who has come to faith in Jesus Christ, finding a mate who shares a similar commitment and spiritual walk is vitally important!  Since II Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers,” some have concluded that if a person is a Christian, he or she should only marry another Christian. It does mean that, but I think it runs deeper. If Paul simply wanted to convey that two people were heaven bound, he could have used a different word picture. He could have used a corral or field of oxen — creatures in proximity with each other. Instead, he uses an agricultural picture of a yoke, one that would have been placed upon the necks of two oxen as they pulled a plow or agricultural tool. The yoke would require two things of the oxen: 1) that they walk in the same direction. 2) that they walk at a similar pace. What happens when two yoked oxen walk at different speeds? It’s not pretty!

“He believes in a higher power.” “Oh, she’ll come to faith after we marry.” “He says he’ll come to church with me.” Those things may happen, but they are not guaranteed. Marrying someone who doesn’t share your faith in Christ is saying, “God, I think I can handle this one on my own, thanks.” But even if your friend knows Christ, is there a hunger to grow spiritually?

You first need to understand your own spiritual walk to see if being yoked together is going to work. Is God my delight? Am I growing in my understanding of His infinite love for me? Have I committed to follow Him daily? Do I believe and trust in His Word? Notice, I didn’t ask if you are perfect, all of us fall short. But yearning for a deeper walk with God will enhance a marriage, not hinder it.

Has your friend received God’s free gift of forgiveness through faith in Christ? If so, what impact does it have upon his/her daily life? Does he believe what the Bible says, or is there a more culturally correct worldview that’s held? Does she have a tendency to compromise when it’s convenient? Is he like the seed that fell among the rocks in Matthew 13: 20, 21 — quick growth, but no deep root system?

Time and again, I’ve spoken with people, who thought they were marrying a Christian, but once wedding rings were exchanged, spiritual interests fell like a rock. That’s why it’s so difficult to start a relationship with someone who subsequently receives Christ. You don’t know if the interest expressed thereafter is really about the Lord, or about one’s interest in you. You may need to see what your friend’s relationship with God would look like if you were not in the picture. Would the person attend church without your presence or prompting? Would the person walk with the Lord, or walk from the Lord if you were no longer involved?

© 2011 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Glenn Lutjens

Glenn is a licensed family therapist who’s been on the Focus counseling team for 23 years. Prior to joining Focus, he spent time in church counseling and pastoral ministry. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have three young adult children. Glenn loves Jesus, has an affinity for lasagna and cheers for the Oakland Raiders.

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