How can I be sure your relationship advice is actually biblical?

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How can I be sure your relationship advice is actually biblical?

Jun 21, 2011 |John Thomas
Question

It seems like much of the relationship advice you give is based more on the culture of Jesus' time than what the Bible actually says. How can we be sure that guidelines such as male initiation, talking to the father, etc., are actually prescribed by God? Jesus wore a robe everywhere; why should I not defy my culture to follow the biblical standard in this instance?

Answer

Great question! It's one we all wrestle with when thinking through applying Scripture in present context. Maybe I can help with a few suggestions.

To limit our topic and try to cover it more fully, I’m going to stick to the area of relationships. There are so many areas we could talk about like media, diet, government and so forth, but I’ll narrow it to one and give some guidelines that will hopefully help with other areas.

In the area of relationships, we have some clear mandates from Scripture that shouldn’t cause too much confusion. They apply easily from one generation and culture to the next:

  • Do not commit adultery.
  • Do not lie.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.
  • Wives, respect your husbands.
  • Fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath.

While we could discuss how to follow these and other similar mandates best, they are fairly straightforward and easy to figure out from one culture to the next. Telling the truth today means the same thing it did in Moses’ time. Love means the same thing now as when Jesus talked about it. Respect means the same thing now as when Paul wrote to the Ephesians about it.

Where Scripture doesn’t speak specifically to a present-day relationship context, we then try to find the themes that rise out of Scripture, or more specifically out of God's heart and nature, and see how they might speak into our context.

You mentioned Boundless' encouragement of men being intentional in relationships. We derive that not so much from one particular mandate, but from a theme that rises out of Scripture regarding God’s design of men, and what of His nature and character He desires to express through the male gender. That doesn’t mean that any one trait is exclusive to either sex, but generally we see certain traits built by God right into creation of male/female.

Books have been written on what I’m about to explain in a couple of paragraphs, so please note I’m only scratching the surface.

Throughout Scripture, men primarily are the leaders. They lead nations, armies, families and religious activities. They initiate. God expects them to do so. Do women lead sometimes? Yes. But primarily we see this expectation in greater ways upon men more than women.

Paul goes as far as describing men as the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church, and to love their wives as Christ does the church. So a man is to lead in loving, to lead in serving, as Christ leads.

Negatively, it shouldn’t surprise us then that the great crisis of manhood seems to be either passivity or heavy-handed "lordship," since Satan always attacks God’s design in order to distort our picture of who God is.

The reason we call young Christian men to be intentional in relationships is because right now in our culture male passivity is epidemic (maybe not so much among Boundless readers, but in the larger context of society), and the results have been devastating. The impact spreads far beyond the individual male, but also to women, families and the culture at large.

When we reject God’s design, in this case for males, there will be repercussions.

So back to your point, where the mandate is unclear, we look for themes in Scripture. Does the Bible say, “Men, thou shalt ask thy girlfriend’s father for her hand in marriage”? No. But we find in Scripture mandates about honoring parents, respecting God-placed hierarchies of leadership and authority, loving others as ourselves, receiving blessings from the generation before us. Those themes inform our actions in relationships, so we seek how we might best walk in those themes to bear good fruit in our lives and relationships.

To your other example, Jesus wore a robe because that was the clothing of His culture, which was in part guided by the larger theme of modesty and purity. So we might not wear robes in modern-day America, but we seek to wear something that honors the larger themes of modesty and purity.

I know so much more could be said on the topics I’ve touched on, but maybe this will help you think through them with a little more understanding.

Blessings,
JOHN THOMAS

Copyright 2011 John Thomas. All rights reserved.

If you have a question you'd like us to consider for this column, please send it to editor@boundless.org. Please note that all questions we select for this column may be edited for clarity and privacy and become the property of Focus on the Family.

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