A preacher I know wrote a book that was released April 17 (it’s called Finding Favor: God’s Blessings Beyond Health, Wealth, and Happiness, and it’s written by Brian Jones; I highly recommend it, and you will likely hear more about it in the next few months). In the book, he mentions a moment when his junior-high-age daughter called him from a teen conference; she wanted to give him the “good news” that, because of what the conference speaker said, she and her friends weren’t going to date boys but they were going to “date Jesus.” While the idea of not getting wrapped up in the drama of teenage dating seems like a good idea, especially to the parents of teenagers (am I right?), the idea of “dating” Jesus is all wrong.
While I think most of us would agree with that immediately, a quick look at many churches and at many Christians might reveal that many are still playing the dating game with Jesus. For many Christians, their relationship with Jesus is restricted to a once-a-week “date,” an hour or two encounter on Sunday mornings. They look forward to the date, and they get dressed up for it. They express their love and devotion, but after a short concert and a quick bite at the communion table, they part ways for the week. Sure, they might think about Jesus throughout the week, they might even call him occasionally in prayer, but in all honesty, they’re still playing the field. Even though Jesus might be at the top of their list, they’re not “exclusive.” At least there’s no “ring on the finger,” right?
While the New Testament does not use the phrase for the Church, there are several statements that often lead us to think of the Church as the “Bride of Christ.” In particular, Paul writes to the church in Corinth this warning:
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2, 3, NIV, 1984)
It’s this idea of “sincere and pure devotion to Christ” that ought to remind us that there really isn’t an option of “dating” Jesus, certainly not after we have made the Good Confession that “Jesus is Lord.” It might sound weird to read Paul stating that he is “jealous” for the Christians in Corinth, worrying about their fidelity to Jesus, to whom Paul refers as a “husband.” Paul certainly has it in his mind that Christians ought to be exclusive to Jesus, as a bride to a husband, and yet he is worried that the Christians might be deceived and be led astray from their “sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
How does that happen? How might sincere Christians be deceived and led astray? Paul hints that it might happen the way Eve was deceived. A quick look back to Genesis 3 shows us that the serpent’s deception of Adam and Eve began with casting doubt on God’s Word: “Did God really say…?” It was complicated by a lie (“You will not surely die”) and by the distraction of desire (Eve saw “that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom”). Sounds like a normal day, right? It’s way too easy to misunderstand and doubt God’s Word, especially when the world around us (not to mention Satan himself) deceives us with lies about God’s Word. It’s also easy to be distracted by the desires of our bodies and the temptations of the world. With all that leveled against us, it’s no wonder it’s so easy to play hard-to-get – or hard-to-keep – when it comes to being faithful to Jesus.
So what can we do to be exclusively Jesus’? First, stop dating Jesus; make a commitment and keep that commitment. If you have questions about what it means to trust and follow Jesus, to accept Jesus as Lord, ask me or our elders or another mature Christian. Better still, read and study the Scriptures and discover what God’s Word says about being faithful to God. Jesus promises that those who seek him will find him (Matthew 7:7, 8) and that those who trust and follow him cannot be snatched away (John 10:27-29).