Study Guide: Say Yes to Arranged Marriages

Sunday November 6, 2011 | Christena Cleveland, Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

In ancient times, fathers would arrange marriages for their sons and daughters. In modern times, it is the individuals who broker their own marriage deals. We live in a consumerist dating era where people can pick their own mate. In this sermon, Greg and Christina Cleveland give a few guiding principles on how to date in the modern world, and they also give insight into who should really be brokering our marriage deals.

Extended Summary:

Good dating makes for good marriages. In our culture, dating has dramatically changed from ancient days. Back then people had their marriages arranged, but people now have a choice in whom they marry and why they marry that person. In the Kingdom, dating looks different than it does in the world, and there are some guiding principles to reflect that difference.

In today’s world, we don’t depend upon our fathers to broker a marriage deal for us. Instead, we broker our own deal. We choose someone to our liking, who makes us feel good, and who we want to compliment and make our lives better. This is the consumerist model of dating. We’re the consumer, and we survey the dating field and find the best product.

Modern and ancient dating are fueled by people’s emptiness. In ancient times, it was fueled by a father’s need to fill his own emptiness, whether it was political, social, or financial needs. In modern times, it’s fueled by our own need to fill our emptiness. This emptiness can come in many different forms, whether it’s emotional, physical, financial, mental, or spiritual. This is why it’s so important to seek fullness in Christ before we ever try to fill it with things of this world. Without that fullness in Christ, we will be sucked into the trappings of modern dating.

God wants dating to honor and carry out his will. Dating is meant to bring people to marriage, and there are several principles to invest in when it comes to dating. These are manifesting the Trinity, growing together in conformity to Christ, and functioning as dynamic duos for the Kingdom.

The first guiding principle in dating should be that couples should manifest the Trinity by sharing their fullness. The Trinity is the fullness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together as one. When we share in our fullness together, we represent the Trinity here on earth. No longer do we conform to the model of consumer dating, rather, we bring our fullness to enjoy the fullness of another person.

The second guiding principle is that we should grow in our conformity with Christ. Couples, whether dating or married, should help each other grow. Too often, people date and become married in order to fulfill a need to be happy, but God’s goal is character refinement. This can change dating mindsets. Instead of bailing on the relationship whenever a flaw is detected, people can help each other grow.

The final principle is couples should be a dynamic duo for the Kingdom. We should date and marry people that, together, make us better workers in the Kingdom. Greg is a good example of this. He would have an extreme amount of trouble keeping a schedule without his wife. Shelley also provides encouragement and insight that Greg has trouble seeing himself. Together, they are better for the Kingdom than apart.

While these principles are great guides, we want to give some practical advice. It is important to seek God’s will when dating. Pray and ask for guidance when thinking about dating a person. Ask God if it’s a match he would arrange for you. In addition to praying, find your own missional purpose in the Kingdom. Without knowing your own purpose, you will never know if another person will add or subtract to it as your spouse. Use imaginative prayer as well. While praying, invite God into your imagination as you invent scenarios of the future in your head. Pay attention to how God infiltrates those times and shows you his will. Finally, invite community into your dating life. Instead of dating and keeping things in the darkness, expose what your relationship looks like to trusted friends and family. In this way, you can help keep yourself accountable and also use the wisdom of those that have been there before.

Whether it is God’s will that we remain single, dating, or married, we should trust in his ability to arrange our marriages for us. Don’t let loneliness or failed relationships move you away from God. There are many more variables that affect relationships than God’s will. In all things, remember, God is seeking the best for you and wants you to build the best relationships for marriage.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What are some of the benefits of consumerist dating? What are the flaws?
  2. When you think about your past dating relationships, where might these principles of dating have helped you?
  3. In what ways are people unfulfilled in their relationships? How can Jesus bring fullness to these people?
  4. Community is extremely important for a healthy relationship. How might a community help bring light to a relationship in a healthy way?