Why Jesus Isn't Your Boyfriend: A Critique of Dating God
It's no secret that marriage is on the decline in the United States. The most recent Census revealed that 32 million Americans are now in single households, and that married people are no longer the majority. Some are single by necessity or life circumstances, others by choice or career aspirations. And then there those who are functionally single but married to themselves. Yes, I'm talking about self-marriage, complete with marriage ceremony, commitment papers, and vows. A recent CNN article points to a segment of single people who are choosing to "marry themselves" rather than another person. These are hardly lonely, disconnected people who simply cannot find a spouse. Instead, they are choosing self-marriage to show how happy they truly are as singles. As one woman put it, marrying herself allowed her to see that all the love she needed was inside herself. "I started discovering that the love I need, it's in here," Nadine Schweigert said, pointing to her heart.
As the article states, this is hardly a developing trend. It is doubtful that people will begin seeing "Karen and Karen Are Getting Married!" invites arriving in their mailbox this summer. But before we begin writing these people off as a fringe movement in self-love, we should note that Christians just as easily embrace false notions of what it means to be single.
My mom once told me about a girl she knew in college who would pluck petals off a flower, slowly reciting, "He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me." On the occasion that she would end with "he loves me" she would exclaim for the entire dorm to hear, "He loves me! Jesus loves me!"
Jesus, in her mind, was her boyfriend.
It was not uncommon at my conservative Christian college to overhear girls say that Jesus was their "boyfriend" until God brought the right man along. I once had a girl tell me she could not hang out on a Friday night because she had a "date" with God. In our churches, many of our praise and worship songs border on the "love song" language, leading many girls to equate those warm and fuzzy feelings that come with attraction with Jesus. This is a dangerous place to be. Not only is it an incomplete picture of who our Christ is, it also sends the message that the girls (and women) who are truly devoted to Jesus equate contentment in him with a romantic relationship with him.
Just as self-marriage misses the mark for what God designed marriage to point to, "marriage" to Jesus misses what his work accomplished. Marriage to Jesus while waiting for a husband can often trivialize our Savior in a way that makes him more like a sweet boyfriend who takes us out on dates, rather than the God-man who paid for our sin on the cross. Jesus did not accomplish redemption to marry us individually. He died for the church corporate, of which we are apart. His death accomplished something much greater than simply meeting our deep-seated desires for a significant other. That is what Paul is getting at in Ephesians 5:22-33 when speaks of the mystery of marriage.