Something I’ve been meditating on recently is the vital importance in dating, and especially in marriage, of choosing a person who fears God.
What do I mean by that, and why is it important?
“Fearing God” doesn’t mean necessarily trembling in terror, or living in a psychological state of fear. What it means is a healthy respect for God. This healthy respect is manifested by belief in, and obedience to, God’s word.
Yes, part of it is a healthy fear of the negative consequences of disobeying God, both temporary and eternal. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s also motivated by a love for God, knowing that his commandments are given for our benefit, and wanting to live in a way pleasing to him out of gratitude for the amazing salvation he’s given us. A person who fears God wants to live in relationship with God, and the way to do this is to obey his commands (John 14:15-24).
A person who truly fears God eagerly seeks what he says in his word, and puts it into practice. If something in his life contradicts God’s word, he corrects it by repentance.
This brings God’s blessing and presence into our lives. Isaiah 66:2 says: “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”
Why is this important in choosing someone to date or marry?
Because a person can live in one of two ways: self-ruled, or God-ruled. A person who is self-ruled will ultimately do what he or she pleases. They do not correct themselves because they do not fear God. They will cause a lot of damage to the people around them, especially the people who are closest to them. They won’t see a problem with behaviour that causes harm to another, if they think it benefits them. There is no brake, no bit and bridle, no restraint on their self-centred behaviour.
There is a lot of darkness in the heart of man. If it is not redeemed and brought under the rule of God, submitted to his Spirit and his word, it can and will bring darkness, death, and destruction into relationships. A person may look very good on the outside. He or she may even go to church and appear very religious. But if they are not a person who fears God, get close enough to them and you will begin to see the cracks appear. You will begin to suffer the consequences of their self-rule, and you will lose out time and time again.
This is incredibly important in dating and even more so marriage, because it is the most intimate relationship that exists. You are bringing your life and your body and your soul into total union with this person. That means that their spirituality and everything they do, affects you profoundly. They will make you suffer a lot, if they are a person who is self-centred and does not obey God.
On the other hand, someone who fears God and always seeks to obey him is a safe person. You can trust that he or she will always seek to do the right thing in any situation, and to honour, love, and respect you. They will not take advantage of you, disrespect you, take from you without giving back, or engage in behaviours that are harmful to you and to the relationship. They will certainly not be perfect, but they will be humble. When they mess up, they will admit their fault, rather than excusing or justifying themselves. They will repent before God, and they will seek to genuinely change, not just for you, but for the sake of their walk with God.
God’s commandments are all given for our benefit. They are designed to make life work in perfect harmony, with God’s blessing. We will prosper in life (spiritually, not materially) to the extent that we follow them. And the best bet for a good and healthy relationship is to be with someone who is living in this way. If they are not, you will be in for a lot of unhappiness.
Someone who is not a believer has no fear of God. This is why God prohibits marriage or close relationships with such a person (2 Corinthians 6:-18). Again, they may look very good on the outside. But make the mistake of getting closer to them, and you will find out why God says this.
But, it’s important to realize that someone may claim to be a believer, may go to church, may seem like a very good person, may be in ministry and leadership, and yet be a person who does not really fear God. Don’t trust someone just because they say they are a Christian. Get to know them. See if their life matches up with their words. If there are serious areas of inconsistency and disobedience in their life, no matter what they say, they do not fear God. If these things are pointed out and they justify themselves or make excuses or apologize without changing, they do not fear God. Don’t be deceived. It’s not enough for someone to claim a walk with God or to serve him outwardly; they must be a person who obeys him from the heart in all areas of their life. This way they will be a safe person to get close to, and perhaps to eventually marry. Make well sure of this before making a commitment to anyone.