Recently I've been dealing with a situation regarding my boyfriend and our relationship, and I would love some advice from you concerning it. We've been dating for seven months, although we were friends before that. He's six years older than me, which puts us at somewhat different places in our lives, but so far it hasn't really been an issue. I'm in college, he's working, and we're happy. My parents fully support our relationship, and we have talked about marriage.
The problem has to do with the fact that he's only been saved and living for the Lord for the past several years. He was never completely crazy before that, but he did have a reputation as somewhat of a partier and for always being with a different girl. He's completely changed since then, and as I've only known him for about a year, almost all that I know about him back then is through him. I trust him implicitly and know he's been completely honest about everything.
My problem lies with friends of mine (and my family) who knew him back in the day but haven't since he's changed. They hear we're dating and automatically see it as a problem because of what they knew him as.
This is not in any way a deal-breaker for me. He's an incredible guy. I like and respect him a lot. He has a great assortment of Christian friends whom I really respect. I just don't know how to handle or respond to comments or assumptions made by well-meaning people who don't know better. Especially when it's people whom I respect. Any advice you have for me would be very, very appreciated.
Congratulations on your relationship. A God-honoring dating relationship that is moving toward marriage is always reason for celebration. But even more so is the news that a man once living a corrupt and unbelieving life has come to salvation! That, in a nutshell, is the reply I would suggest you have at the ready for critical friends and relatives.
Based on what you've shared, this sounds like a good problem to solve: a man so dramatically transformed by Christ's saving power that people have to see it to believe it.
Though I do wonder at some of the details you've left out. Namely, is your boyfriend under the authority of a pastor? Are you attending church together? Do your parents know about his past? Is he spending time with your dad? Is he being discipled by a godly mentor and growing in his faith? Are you able to talk with believers who knew him before his conversion who can vouch for his change? Is he willing to let you? These are some of the questions that came to mind as I thought about your question.
Still, the news of his salvation is cause for celebration!
says, "In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Who are we to be any less excited than God's angels?
Now this assumes of course that he has repented in the true sense of the word. Repent means "to turn away, to go a different direction." Has your boyfriend turned away from the sins of his pre-salvation days? Is he growing in his faith and maturity, actively invested in a Bible-believing church body, moving from spiritual milk to meat and following Paul's advice to Timothy where he says,
Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)
It's not enough for someone to say he's a Christian, especially in our culture. A true Christ-follower will have the fruit that is evidence of His beliefs. And in time, your family and friends, if they spend time with this man, will see that evidence if his faith is genuine.
I don't think you need to attempt to prove to them that he is sincere. Spending time with him should do that on its own.
The good news about this situation is that your family and friends care about you enough to ask hard questions and speak into your life. I suspect we'd have fewer failed relationships if more people had that kind of wise counsel. You can afford to give them the benefit of the doubt, believing they have your best interest at heart. Thank them for their concern, tell them the good news about your boyfriend's change of heart and change of habits, and then — and this is key — invite them to spend time with the two of you and to observe for themselves.
A good test of your man's character will be how he responds to such requests. Is he eager, along with you, to show a watching world how Christ has, and is, changing him? Is he open to mentoring? Is he willing to be in community? All these things are marks of transformation by God's Spirit and evidence you should want to see. If he resists people asking about how he's changed and wanting to see proof (especially believing family members), that is reason for caution on your part.
A man's reputation is priceless. Proverbs 22:1 says,
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
While discussing the requirements for church leaders, Paul notes the importance of reputation to spiritual endurance saying,
Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. ... He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
It's clear we're to treasure and guard our reputations and if it's tainted, work tirelessly to restore it. Thankfully that's not all on our shoulders. Proverbs 3:3-6 says,
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
What's most important is that your boyfriend is living a life of faith and obedience, trusting God to guide and defend him. This is certainly a matter for prayer. Both of you should be praying individually for wisdom about how to handle the comments and concerns coming your way. And together, you should be praying with your parents (ideally) and/or your pastor for transformation, restoration, protection and the truth. It's truth that sets us free.
Again, if your boyfriend's change is genuine, the transforming power of the Holy Spirit will be apparent and their fears will be relieved. You have nothing to lose.
Copyright 2009 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.