By Lanette Zavala, author of Marriage Vows Under Fire and A Single Woman’s Journey Through Marriage Preparation
Let’s face it. We are living in a time when sex is treated as being somewhat casual. It is no longer perceived as the sacred seal of a new marriage. And if you outwardly discuss it from a Biblical standpoint, expect to be ridiculed and even scorned. Regardless of how we have tampered with its God-given purpose in our entertainment, in our advertisements, in our educational system, in our fashion, and in our society, we cannot escape God’s standards just by shutting our eyes. He has a plan for sex.
The Lord also has a plan for dating. That plan is to reserve dating for His children who are married. When I first heard this, I was a college student in 1990 or 1991 listening to my pastor explain this. I was tempted to think that maybe this was just a concept within the Church of God In Christ denomination, which I belonged to in Atlanta as a college student and still love dearly today. Courtship is a plan, while dating is a trial that imposes the risk of wounded hearts.
The Lord’s standards for courtship can spare us heartache – as many of us have gone down the road of yielding ourselves to someone who only trampled upon a moment that was given to them as a priceless treasure. To Jesus Christ, our sexuality is a treasure. He reserves it for a husband and his wife. So, what is an unmarried Christian couple supposed to do in the meantime? Wait.
Court with one person in mind under God’s direction. Shun Dating.
Rest assured that God’s plan is not to make us miserable in the area of male-female relationships. For a lot of young and/or single people, this is hard to believe when hearing that one way to abstain from fornication is to abstain from being involved with someone whom you are just dating. (You can also refer to Paul Washer’s messages on courtship for more thorough Biblical insight on this subject.)
Within the parameters of courtship, there is more purpose in dating. As you court, you date – meaning go places together for non-sexual bonding. Most of the time, this is wisely accomplished in group dates. And within that courtship, engaging in conservative dates like those contained within a group, there is a commitment to move forward in the relationship without the fear of one of you saying, “Oh, I gave it a try and realize I don’t really like this person enough to stay with him or her.” There have been exceptions. Some God-fearing men and women have realized, through the Lord’s correcting direction, that they are with the wrong person before allowing them into marriage, where it would be too late to determine it’s the wrong person. But it is not God’s plan for His children to go to and fro dating different people to just give it a try. (A Single Woman’s Journey Through Marriage Preparation elaborates on this.)
In Godly courtship, there is opportunity to date in order to communicate purposefully with each other. It’s a time to get to know your boyfriend. (I’m blogging to sisters.) It’s a time to adjust to each other’s personalities in various settings – at restaurants, other believers’ homes, gatherings, picnics, sporting events, recreational places like bowling, clean theatre, Godly Christian concerts, and other places in addition to church, which I wouldn’t consider a place for a date.
I realize that this is an old and ongoing debatable topic among Christians alone. One challenging question would be, “Well, where in the Bible does it say that Christian singles shouldn’t date apart from courtship?” Nowhere does it say in God’s Word, “Do not date,” any more than It says, “Do not use drugs.” Concerning courtship, the Word gives us instructions on using wisdom and setting parameters for ourselves in every aspect of life. But if we seek the Lord diligently, we will learn how to apply that wisdom and discretion because He will lead us.
As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.
Don’t think the wording “fair woman” was loosely used here. It’s not described this way for nothing. A “fair woman” is noticeable by a man. And without discretion, she can make herself incredibly vulnerable with one wrong decision concerning that man.
I Thessalonians 5:22
Abstain from all appearance of evil.
You might say, “Well, dating isn’t the appearance of evil.” I would have to say that you are correct if all there would be to see is the surface. But how evil would you consider this? A guy decides he’ll take you out on a date and, because he’s only human, see how successfully he can be in winning your heart. He may even plan to do this in the back of his mind without one kiss from you. Now, next week, he takes someone else out and does the same thing. He’s not likely to tell you or the other woman all that he’s planning to do in order to give you a heads up on guarding your heart. What if both women fall for him?
Now, is this the appearance of evil? The motive is. Even if we as humans couldn’t see that, God can. God sees ahead what could wound a heart. He sees deceptive motives. He sees deceptive, self-seeking motives.
Here’s another point about what actually is the appearance of evil in God’s eyes. (Paul Washer often points this out.) To just date without the commitment of courtship is an opportunity for a person to scope out whether the other person measures up their self-serving desires. This is not to say that singles shouldn’t look for certain qualities and attractiveness in their mates. Certainly, beauty is what drew many people in the Bible together. But dating does not place a person in the mindset of self-examination. Motives are rarely examined during dating because the focus is more on the other person’s performance and qualities instead of self in a corrective light. During dating, no consideration is given to loving a person at all – let alone loving a person despite certain flaws or inabilities.
As you study the Holy Bible in prayer for your entire life, study God’s outlook on sex.
Unless you are a eunuch, which is someone called to remain in abstinence as a single, you are likely to be curious about this subject. If you study the subject of sex in the Bible, you will learn the standards of Jesus Christ for His beloved children, you will learn the rewards of waiting, and you will learn the consequences of fornication. (And yes, Jesus does forgive you for your sins, including fornication. But don’t put yourself on the line *just because* of His forgiving nature. Jesus is not a doormat, as many have perceived Him at times. Read Romans 6th chapter on taking grace for granted.)
Some scriptures that discuss sex (in marriage and as fornication) are the following:
My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding: That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge. For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell. Lest thou shouldest ponder the path of life, her ways are moveable, that thou canst not know them. Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth. Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house: Lest thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruel: Lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labours be in the house of a stranger; And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!
[Notice the severity described in these passages about being in the arms and even path of a seductress. You might say, “But that’s not me.” In our standards, this may not look like us if we were just fornicating with one person (even with some boyfriend with whom we’re in love). The Lord views sin in a different way than the human mind. We make provision for it in our human nature. But the Lord hates sin – even the sins that seem so minute to us. So, no woman or man in fornication could justify themselves as being any better than the man and woman in these passages- not in the eyes of God. But the Blood of Jesus Christ set His children free so that this won’t have to be an issue. It’s temptation, but nothing that someone who abides in Christ is enslaved to.]
Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words. For at the window of my house I looked through my casement, And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house, In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart. (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.) So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him, I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows. Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee. I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves. For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey: He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed. With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life. Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth. Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.
I Corinthians 6:13-20
Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Sisters, we’re not able to live for Christ in obedience to His Word unless we truly surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, believing that He died on the cross as an Ultimate Sacrifice for our sins. Believing that He alone is the only Way, Truth, And Life and that no one can come to the Father except through Him (Jesus) alone. Receiving Jesus Christ through faith in all of His Word, we have power to be God’s children. Whoever receives Him has this power. (St. John 1:12). But receiving Him means receiving His Word completely. Jesus is His Word according to St. John 1:1, 14. There is no way to truthfully say, “I have Jesus Christ in my heart and have surrendered to Him by faith, but I don’t believe He minds if I fornicate.” But His Word commands us not to fornicate. “But I believe that He understands I’m human and am not going to be able to obey all that Bible.” But He says in Matthew 4:4 that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
Jesus tells us to abide in Him and let His Words abide in us. Doing so, we are continuously cleansed (sometimes painfully) by Him throughout our lives. As we read, embrace, meditate on , and study His Word, He is cleansing us so that we will bear more fruit. Before relationships and abstinence become an issue in your life, surrender to Christ; and live according to His Word. Reading all of St. John is a good starting point, as I have read and learned. And of course, you can just start by opening your Bible. But starting and returning always to those four gospels is a priceless way of learning all of that Word.
Be Equally Yoked
Before you begin thinking about your attraction and sexuality concerning one special person in your life, understand that as a Christian, make sure your boyfriend or girlfriend shares your commitment to Christ.
There is an old heathen saying that is still spoken too often among singles of all ages: “If you really love me, you’ll do it.” When you’re really in love with someone who is willing to pressure you to lay down your commitment to Jesus Christ, your stomach harbors pain and your mind cannot focus completely. This is one reason why Paul warned in II Corinthians 6:14-18 that born-again believers should not be closely linked in a non-kindred relationship with unbelievers. (Yes, we can spend time with them for the purpose of ministering to them as did Jesus with the publicans and sinners. Women ministering to women and men to men unless there are groups.)
Being in a relationship with an unbeliever, you can find yourself at a crossroads toward either compromising your faith or sabotaging an ungodly relationship for which you could have had high hopes. And of course, for Jesus, we as believers are called to lay everything on the line for His sake, according to Matthew 16:24. Only a surrendered believer is able to do that through Christ alone and only a surrendered believer is even willing to heed to that without making excuses or provisional detours.
Jesus also wants to spare the Lord’s daughters that heartache by linking us with a husband who shares with us that same love and commitment to Him. Anyone who is on that common ground with you will not pressure you to fornicate.
I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris
A Single Woman’s Journey Through Marriage Preparation and Marriage Vows Under Fire (which also addresses courtship) by Lanette Zavala
Many people who have attempted to read the Bible with understanding have closed the Book saying that it can’t possibly be true due to the contradictions found within it. Even many Christians are confounded by the seemingly conflicting statements found in the Word of God. There are explanations for this:
1) The King James Version of the Bible is a translation as are the others. The original Hebrew and Greek languages of the Bible have many meanings that do not translate in a parallel way. Words such as love have more than one meaning and usage in Hebrew and Greek. While our English Bibles may use one word love – or in the case of King James use also the word charity – the original translations use a number of words in place of our English word “love” depending on context.
Again, this is the case with numerous words in comparison to the original languages. So, reading a passage may be interpreted with our modern English intellect when, in actuality, it may have been written with a completely different meaning in accordance with an Hebrew and/or Greek understanding.
If you read the King James Version of the Bible or any other version, you must pray to its author, God Himself, for understanding. And if you can buy a Hebrew/Greek dictionary from a Bible bookstore or search the Internet for these types of aids, your study of God’s Word can be more enlightening than before.
2) Some statements are allegorical or figurative and are only used as illustrations. But because of the tendencies of the natural mind, statements are bound to be completely misinterpreted. One example would be Jesus stating, in front of a temple building, that when the people would tear down “this temple” (meaning His body, but the crowd understanding the temple as the nearby building), He would rebuild it within three days (referring to His death, burial and resurrection).
In another passage, Jesus explained to a crowd that they must drink of His blood and eat His flesh. That statement confounded many people. But He was referring to the LORD’s supper and all that it represented. [According to prophecy spoken by Isaiah in Is 53, Jesus bore our infirmities (the consequences of our sins – even illness and disease) in His body. He received the punishment due to us being our Ultimate Sacrifice. And His blood cleanses away the sins of His believers.]
On another occasion, Jesus had to answer Peter in a way that made those standing by completely misinterpret. After receiving instructions from Jesus about what he was to do after His Savior’s ascension back to heaven, Peter asked what would become of the other disciple John. In so many words, Jesus responded by telling Peter to mind his own business. He said it this way: “If I have him tarry until I return, what is that to you? You follow Me.” Hearing this, many thought that Jesus meant that John wouldn’t die. But all Jesus said was, “IF he tarry…” not “he WILL tarry…”
When Jesus made these and other statements, there was no language barrier. But the people listening to Him, listened according to their natural understanding instead of seeking Him to find out exactly what He meant. They listened presumptuously. They never did dig for clarity, like His disciples did. Jesus’ disciples constantly approached Him asking questions like, “What did you mean by that?” “How is it that You say this or that will happen?”
Just as the disciples asked for clarity when they heard Jesus speak, we also have to pray constantly whenever we read God’s Word for clarity. The Word of God is too advanced and too spiritual for comprehension by the natural mind of a human being.
When studying God’s Word, the ultimate way of understanding it and receiving clarity on what seems to be contradictions would be first to believe on Jesus Christ as the Son of God Who died and rose from the dead as a Sacrifice for the whole world. John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Believe this.
Believe that Jesus died on the cross as the Ultimate Sacrifice for the death-bound life that was separating us from God and believe that He rose from the dead with all power in His hands and that He is seated on the right hand of Jehovah Father (Yahweh). Believing includes repenting (true sorrow, asking of forgiveness, and a lifetime commitment to changing toward a Biblical lifestyle), receiving the knowledge of Jesus as truth, and abiding in Christ. (Romans 10:9-10, St. John 15:1-10)
If you truly abide in Jesus Christ, you’ll love His Word so much that you will care about obeying It and understanding It despite questions birthed from your humanity. There is no way to comprehend God’s Word in our humanity.
My next novel, due within eight weeks, is a sequel series of books that center around the marriage of an African-American woman and Hispanic man. Marriage Vows Under Fire captures experiences in the lives of Joseph and Natalie Reyes as well as the experiences of other couples on both sides of their families. Throughout much of their plots, the characters’ ethnic background differences are basically depicted without being branded as such.
I’ve been married to the love of my life on Earth for eighteen years. I’m African-American and he is Hispanic. We have four children together. We have found that an abundance of differences in an interracial marriage could spill from our tongues within a matter of a minute. Over the years, I have found the adjustments in our marriage to be challenging yet adventurous, painful yet character-building, discouraging yet promising, tearful yet loving. I would do it all over again.
Against all odds, a couple from different ethnic backgrounds can have a strong marriage with a realistic outlook in their optimistic world. And while the rest of the world might be a mixture of pessimism and optimism, a couple can be feel various impacting differences without succumbing.
Growing up watching my African-American mother and father raise their children while nurturing a marriage that has lasted even to this day, I learned early that marriage is an incredible challenge. The laughter, the upsets, and everything in between, within the boundaries of what I was familiar with, formed my image of family. This image that I had was structured by what I observed in my surroundings, and it was somewhat romanticized as the entertainment we watched in the pre-1990’s primarily paired couples according to race. Of course, I had learned to accept mixed married couples as normal and had even dated outside my race.
But the day when I realized that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with my Hispanic boyfriend, what I was mostly familiar with concerning family had become a complicated inner battle that I felt I could share with no one. Only my Holy Bible could assure me that my next step in life would not devour who I was and what I aspired to accomplish in my future. On the day my husband and I married, I knew what stepping out on faith meant in a new way.
Eighteen years later, we and our four children are a picture of a typical family. In fact, we live across the street from an African-American man with his Hispanic wife and their three children. To see a bi-racial married couple today is no longer rare. But as my husband and I are often reminded in the midst of occasional circumstances, we still face our distinct challenges – one, because we are in a marriage (which often compels battles as part of the territory) and two, because we are from very different backgrounds that have so much to do with our races.
Common Causes Of Bi-Racial Marital Problems and The Solutions
Certainly, there was a time when society’s views on bi-racial couples could strain those marriages. Now, as those issues – though not gone – have far less impact than they did in the past, many couples still face other obstacles that are less likely to affect same-race couples in the same way:
Different preferences in styles of food, music formats, and other cultural values can cause problems after a spouse’s build-up of constant tolerance, intolerance, vocalized objections, and silent objections alike. A series of small irritations here and heated discussions there can lead to outbursts. Sometimes impulsive decisions about a marriage can be made after a person convinces himself or herself that these types of differences are too unbearable.
Solution: As my husband and I continue to face these little hurdles, which do build up often, we are still learning to stop expecting perfection from each other living in an already imperfect world. As long as we live, there will always be an opportunity to complain about something. The task of dealing with people at work, waiting in traffic, standing in long lines with frustrated people combined with slow blase cashiers, and tolerating troublesome relatives or neighbors will still wait for our energy. And these outside nuisances build up on us, too, whether we stay married or not. So, there is no escape from any build-up of problems. They are everywhere and in every relationship.
Learning to compromise the compromiseable values like preferences and even cultural familiarities can develop patience in a person. Can you detect when you’re in the presence of someone who is rarely inclined to adjust or bend their way? And when things don’t go their way, they show a spoiled, bratty-type side of themselves. Many of these types of people are accustomed to having their way somewhere and can’t deal with giving that privilege up in other territory. We are still learning to sacrifice and give up what has been familiar to us if it threatens the household peace. Likewise, we are learning to embrace unfamiliar practices for that peace. Doing that is not harming us. It is, however, molding us.
The home environment is where character begins to build. But it builds under pressure – challenge. A person’s character cannot develop well if he or she is accommodated most of the time. If we can’t compromise and learn to adjust within our four walls of shelter, we won’t be able to function effectively once we plunge back among a mixture of good and evil forces the next business day. So, if my husband and I can start at home and weather these storms at base where it’s safe, we can both prepare for the world that encircles us.
Comparisons To Same-Race Couples
Living in a world where people constantly subject each other as well as themselves to individual comparisons, married couples are likewise subject. More so, mixed couples are subject – to the point of becoming victims of comparisons to same-race couples. And many times these comparisons are not just imposed by someone making a comment to them but also by the couple themselves making the comparisons.
Solution 1: I had to lean on Jesus Christ, my Personal Savior. Both Black and Hispanic friends of mine have made sly statements to me alluding to their conflicting views on bi-racial couples. Friends share their views with each other. So, I was okay with them sharing their views. My problem was that, at some point, I had begun to let their views tamper with my perception about my relationship with my husband, the love of my life on earth. In doing so, I was at fault for my own insecurity.
At some point, early in my marriage, I had to listen to the comparisons and then make some other comparisons of my own as a result. When I’d hear people imply that my husband and I could not measure up to other couples, because those couples were more fortunate to be in same-race marriages, I had to lean on a Bible chapter (Numbers 12). Almighty God Himself had to intervene on behalf of Moses, who had married an Ethiopian woman. In fact, I began making comparisons between God’s disapproval of Moses’ critics to His disapproval of mine with their motives.
Solution 2: I had to look at a bigger picture that no critic was capable of pointing out. Someone pointed out to me that a bi-racial couple, with whom we used to gather at church, had divorced. He proceeded to point out that racial differences were likely their cause. This friend had always found some type of opportunity to lightly point out why couples should not mix. And he was doing it again – pointing at this former couple’s racial backgrounds as the probable underlying reason for their break up. To look past this heart-breaking news for a more objective view was not that hard to do. From the mouth of a man, who himself had once divorced from his wife of a same race, was a point at the failure of a bi-racial marriage. I had to take this route. When someone points out to me the failure of a bi-racial marriage, I have to reflect on the many same-race marriages that have ended in divorce as well. At the same time, I’m grateful for knowing one Black and Hispanic couple who have been married almost 40 years already. I have made up my mind that I must not be bound by narrow-minded comparisons but instead look at a much broader picture.
Racial Offenses Within The Marriage
No type of stereotyping can interrupt sleep like what was said between a husband and wife of different race in the heat of an argument.
“You are just like the average Hispanic man doing this and that!”
“And you are just like the average Black woman with this way and that way about you!”
Many times when loved ones argue, as we all know, things that can’t be taken back are blurted out in wrath. And we want to be able to take back hurtful words once we calm down. Sometimes we long to have that past moment again to do over. But all we’re left with is the present and an opportunity to be more humble. In a bi-racial couple’s case, any time there is an exchange of words that point out each other’s ethnic-based flaws, we can slip into civil war right in our homes. And how is a territory restored once the war is over? Not in one day.
Sometimes those differences that attracted you to your mate in the first place can drive you straight up the wall when you find yourself on edge for various reasons. In an interracial marriage, if you admire your mate’s unique and outspoken points of view, it could all be disrupted by one national racial divide constantly being broadcast on the media. Having an outspoken spouse whose unique views bend more toward a direction in which you disagree could create a problem from both your sides.
America’s broadcast airways are often used as a bully-infested playground full of instigators and one-sided babblers who seek to discredit anybody who does not share their views. And they clash among one another, having their different takes on almost everything. Those of us with less-heard and even no public voice are caught in the middle surrounded by many diametrically opposed positions on so many issues – many of these issues causing significant racial barriers.
Sometimes in the middle ground among everyday citizens, quarrels and accusations arise resulting from controversial events as well as statements made by public commentators. Again, many times, these create racial tension in this country. So, imagine the strain such issues can cause between a bi-racial couple who are so in love yet vulnerable to one another’s views about their racial differences. Arguments can arise abruptly and unapologetically at the mention of critical racial topics that stir up defensiveness. And all of a sudden, that sense of danger, that many bi-racial couples have felt from time to time connecting with someone so opposite yet so attractive, now just ticks them off because that danger translated from being lovingly open and exciting to something untrustworthy and even a reason to regret.
Solution: My husband and I have more immediate control confronting differences between the two of us than we have over resolving those same differences on a global level. I still sometimes have a hard time coping with the fact that he is going to think the way he was raised – as a Hispanic male. And he still sometimes finds it difficult to see that I am going to think the way I was raised – as a Black female. But we are who we are and will form many opinions accordingly – sometimes being swayed by what we see and hear in the media. If accepted, that fact does not have to be so intimidating. It’s certainly not a betrayal but the opposite; it’s transparent. And our differences don’t have to be such a threat to us individually or as a couple.
How have I dealt with unique differences with my parents when I lived with them? Sometimes very boisterously. But they are still my mother and father. I have to carry that over to my relationship with my husband.
Our one sure common ground on which my husband and I can always meet is Jesus Christ, where our faith abides. So, Bible discussions tend to mellow us out and bring us together. Outreaches and church projects bring us together.
And there are other projects which we have found to be instrumental in helping us be more agreeable with one another. Together we love to watch clean comedies, we love little leagues ball games in which our three boys participate with my husband as coach, and we love group dating with friends and family. We have taken road trips together to attend wonderful Christian marriage seminars conducted by Jimmy Evans and his wife Karen Evans (from Marriage Today). Reading Evans’ book, Marriage On The Rock has brought us into agreement during very crucial times. Also, we have written our own book, Just When You Thought They Were Your Friends.
For every time that we spend arguing our points about an ethnic-based issue or pointing out stereotypes that irritate us, we have to bring to the table of discussion things that would also make us laugh, cry, work together, and pray – together. We seek to find the balance between the pros and cons in our relationship. Even some same-race couples have not been willing to do that.
In-law conflict can sabotage any marriage and certainly a bi-racial one if given the chance. Compared to one or more resentful in-laws fuming over your marriage into their family, society’s view on interracial marriage is like a race against tricycle riders.
Growing up, I was taught to shun ignorance because of its powerlessness yet also because of its shabby influence. But ignorance does feel powerful when you’re battling it in its form of prejudice by a key person in your life – a result from an initial choice that is yours as you walk onto that battlefield as opposed to moving on without the one whom you’ve fallen in love with.
Of course, this issue does not exist in all bi-racial marriages. But I would have to wonder if it does exist in most – especially in all states of the South. After hearing many stories about the way families have mistreated newcomers of different races into their worlds, I can honestly say that my husband and I have been blessed with our own in-law experiences that could have been far worse than they were. Was there ever tension? Were there ever nagging questions about our relationship? Were there comments? Yes. They were some of the same questions I myself had once asked, some of the same concerns I once had, and some similar comments that I had once made – minus any malicious intentions – when I was in their shoes before my love came into my life. And there were probably things said about us behind our backs by certain family hecklers. But I also believe that my God positioned advocates that spoke on our behalf on each side of our families.
When visiting with in-laws of a different race, what can sting more than a blunt challenge about the relationship is the sting of passive aggression. Those unspoken disapproving glares speak loudly. They penetrate the gut like a knife, and they are intended to do so.
Feelings of isolation during gatherings with those in-laws are more common than anyone outside the relationship could ever imagine. As well, there can also exist those feelings of discomfort and unexpressed shamefulness when someone mingles his or her own prejudice relatives with the ethnically different mate. These are silent battles that can neither be easily confronted nor easily resolved.
The start toward resolving any kind of in-law issue begins with a team mindset between the couple. That is in every marriage. After that team of twosome has been established…
Solution 1: If the personality permits, a spouse must learn to put people (including family members) in check and tell certain people, except their parents and elders, completely off in defense of his or her spouse in a tactful and God-fearing way. (I didn’t read that Moses did this when he was challenged about his wife to the Ethiopian. Although he was meek with seemingly no interest in giving a rebuttal, he certainly could rely on his God to answer for him – so much that he had to ask God to take that leprous punishment off of one of his critics, who was his sister.) No one has to disassociate themselves from their family members just because some clear rules have to be set. It simply helps when a spouse will address his or her own side of the family in defense of the mate when necessary. This is more effective than a person having to fend for themselves against one or a brewd of in-laws full of venomous intentions.
Solution 2: Hanging out with other couples (the friends) on a more frequent basis provides a very neutral environment after struggles in a hostile environment.
Two Races But One Marriage
During the exchange of vows, a bride and a groom make a very serious decision to incorporate who they are as individuals in order to live as one. Living with my husband for thirteen years, although I see two ethnic backgrounds, I see one institution that we formed before our God. This institution is vulnerable to outside attacks as is any other relationship. But we have to nurture it as one institution and not as two conflicting backgrounds. The backgrounds are going to always be there. The backgrounds will always have their place of regard in both our lives. I accept that he will understand and regard his background more when forming opinions – as I do mine. After all, he regards the needs of a man more than the needs of woman because that is what he is more in touch with. Likewise, I regard the needs of a woman more. The issue of race is similar.
I’m curious about the future. From here, it looks like the mulato offspring of bi-racial parents won’t experience in their relationships the same challenges their parents experienced. But theirs are bound to exist in a different way – in a racial way. But that should never intimidate those who have fallen in love. If treated as just another difference in line with all the other differences in the world, then that is the only way race should be regarded by two people who have set their hearts on being together for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, til death parts them.
By Lanette Zavala, author of Marriage Vows Under Fire and A Single Woman’s Journey Through Marriage Preparation
It is so discouraging to see extramarital affairs or to hear that a marriage is being impacted by an affair. Of course, this is especially true when the person involved is, if not your spouse, someone else whom you love dearly. In an extramarital affair, there is far more drama than pleasure to gain.
So many times we hear the saying, “Live and let live.” During times of witnessing loved ones or close friends blindly engage in destructive behavior, anyone cornered by the “live and let live” practice in our society can so easily walk away concluding, “Well, I’m not one to judge.”
But what if we know certain details about someone we love? What if we know they’re on drugs? National campaigns encourage us to reach out and speak out to help save their lives. Or what if we know a loved one who is violently wrecking havoc on somebody else’s life? Are we supposed to walk away and mind our business while somebody is in danger? Not according to the standards of our society’s values.
Adultery is approached differently – if at all in certain cases. We’re taught not to throw stones; and this is Biblical. But a person can be falsely accused of throwing stones for bringing to someone’s attention that he or she is in need of repentance for adultery. The ministry of repentance is never one of condemnation if done according to the standards of Jesus Christ. However, if adultery or any other sin is called out with motives other than promoting repentance (and the reasons for the need to repent), then stones definitely are being thrown.
As the other woman or man, consider the advice to leave an extramarital affair without wondering what the motives are for telling you. These reasons are too crucial to doubt: 1. You do not have a right to someone else’s spouse. 2. The marital problems associated with your lover can be transferred into your relationship if you succeed in stealing him or her from the previous marriage. 3. Jesus Christ offers a way out, forgiveness, and a new life after an adulterous lifestyle.
You Really Don’t Have A Right
Beware of subjecting your conscience to a haunting passion. A passion for a married person will convince you that you have a right to fulfill the desire of your heart. But that right that you feel is false. In the arms or gaze of that married person, you will evaluate all angles of your relationship and fail to perceive clearly. Those goose bumps, warm snuggles, soft kisses, sweet whispers, and convincing promises are the ingredients of a sweet-tasting poison right off the lips of someone in the very act of cheating the person to whom they made a vow. And you allow yourself to be the outlet of this person’s decision to cheat?
Jesus gave you the right to a better life. His offer is salvation to all of us who don’t deserve His forgiveness. But by believing with a genuine heart, we can be forgiven, cleansed, and be saved from the judgment He preserves for a world that rejects His love for it.
It is completely your choice to accept or reject Jesus’ offer that was made to us all in our sinful conditions. But if you choose not to accept Jesus’ offer, go on ahead and think you have a right to take somebody’s spouse. But while you feel that false right to shake up another relationship, your own deeds are leaving an invisible trail behind you. Remember that. So, if somebody on your job succeeds in taking your position, don’t forget to congratulate the person. In your book, they had a right. If anybody unfairly cheats to take anything from you, you ought to admire them.
Many people who seek to take someone else’s spouse convince themselves that their lovers are like fair game. And the wives or husbands should just except that. Well, those are the rules of an adulterer or adulteress. And those rules are forced on the victimized spouses. Well, just like you have your rules on cheating, when someone cheats you (the adulterer) they are going to cheat you according to *their* rules, not according to yours. Overly ambitious co-workers who want your job have their rules, scammers have their rules, thieves have their rules, waiters who spitefully tamper with your meals have their rules, and other cheaters of all kinds have their own rules.
There is far more than one way to reap. You may not reap adultery. But you could reap your very own attitude found in someone else willing to impose their rules of cheating you. God, who refuses to be mocked in any way concerning His standards for us, designed the sowing and reaping concept to be stiff – not lenient. That right you feel to take that married person from his or her spouse also entitles you to all that comes with the territory of an adulterous relationship.
Problems Are Transferable
When you break up a marriage for a relationship of your own, don’t think you’re simply going to marry a person. You are going to marry a problem and find yourself positioned at a new side of it. You’d better be prepared for the battleground that the other spouse was on. I stress *the battleground that the other spouse was on.*
There is nothing fresh about marrying someone who left his or her spouse for you. There is nothing romantic about it. And you will learn the hard way if you succeed in taking that person from the previous marriage. The challenges that belonged to the previous spouse will now belong to you. Do you think you were the only challenge in that man’s or woman’s previous marriage? Eventually, you will find out the other challenges. Those challenges may not necessarily be people. Those challenges may include keeping your looks in tact. So, you’d better be on top of your game. You’d better keep oiling your mind for more stimulating conversations. Who is to say that no one who looks better than you or no one who holds better conversations than you will ever come along?
You did not steal a faithful husband or a faithful wife. You stole a cheater. You stole a scatterbrain who really does believe that, after some time, yes, the grass is greener on the other side if things don’t work out as planned. Outside the saving grace of Jesus Christ, there is no glue in the universe that can hold this type of person down – unless he or she reaps a serious, agonizing problem that will force you to stick around and take care of it. It will be then when you will learn that you have a job meant for the first spouse. It will not be what you planned. It is never what a self-seeking cheater plans. “For better or worse” was intended for those under the original vows, unless severed by death.
Jesus Is The Way
Jesus is your Way out of a hurtful relationship or out of a relationship that can eventually hurt you. Jesus is your way out of a relationship that could possibly involve hurting children from the cheated marriage. More importantly, He is your Way to eternal life if you believe on Him as the One and true Savior Who died on the cross and rose again so that we can be saved by believing on Him.
Marriage infidelity is a very deceptive attraction that leads to a grave risk of spiritual death. The reason I say “risk” is because repentance is available to all who are willing to surrender. But there is an unspeakable danger in treating the grace of God so lightly as to go and sin with a motive to “repent” later. That’s just not repentance. That’s a sign of not knowing Christ at all.
When our former president was publicly confronted for his adulterous affair in the Oval Office, he was under the fire of modern day Pharisees. People wanted to see him out of office and shed light on that man as if no one else had any sin. But had someone close to the president, someone just outside the door of the very affair itself, or someone who had just gotten wind of what had happened could have privately pulled him aside in secret to let him know that he would answer to Almighty God of the universe (The King of kings, the LORD or lords Jehovah), then we can trust that God would follow through on that warning. God punishes yet He loves to an everlasting extent. And we can rest assured that He forgives those who ask for forgiveness with a sincere heart if motivated to completely change with complete effort and reliance on Jesus alone.
It happened to King David – the Old Testament man who killed Goliath under the old covenant law and who triumphed over many in other wars. In Biblical studies, David is known as a man after God’s own heart. Yet he committed the sin of adultery with Bathsheba. He slept with her, impregnated her, and eventually placed her husband on the front lines of war where he was likely to die for his country. And that’s exactly what happened to Bathsheba’s husband.
Well, David was privately confronted by a man who truly represented God. This man, Nathan, did not publicly make this affair known. He did not demand that David give up the crown for that sin. God did not empower Nathan to do that. (That’s not the power we are ultimately given.) Nathan approached David as a humble vessel of the LORD – so humble that perhaps he could have known his own well-being was on the line for confronting the king with such humiliating news.
Nathan told David that there was man in his kingdom who had many sheep and another man who had only one little lamb. He informed the king that the man with many sheep unjustly took for his own possession the only lamb of the other man. Nathan proceeded to ask David what should be done of the man who had taken that lamb away. David boldly declared that the man who did the wrong deed should be punished greatly. This angered David. Nathan then broke the news to the king by telling him that he (David) was the unjust man. And David repented sorrowfully suffering through years of consequence yet unfailing love for the LORD who forgave him.
Where is that wisdom, which God had given Nathan, during our time when adultery is practically celebrated and glamorized on one end yet used as a weapon of knowledge to publicly humiliate somebody? We are a confused generation because we have not embraced scripture the way God intends for us to do. So, we transfer our confusion in the media. The media is full of mixed messages about adultery.
In America, we have too many opportunities to handle adultery irresponsibly. Our society makes subtle accommodations for it. Producers of media hot topics like to dig for clues about affairs in order to capitalize on scandals. Do they really care about it being morally wrong? Celebrity fans applaud their icons for relationships that stemmed from extramarital affairs. (On the other hand, people in the same society throw stones at political figures for doing what some celebrated, glamorized superstars have done.) Movies and television shows present storylines that justify adultery in a number of ways.
But the resulting scars from infidelity can never be glamorized. People play games with their own marriages and with other people’s marriages so quickly and blindly that they fail to grasp how greatly outside parties can be impacted.
To see a mistress or an unfaithful husband exposed (and vice-versa) can tempt many of us to throw stones. Look at what many in our nation did to the president in the 1990’s. Because I have sins myself to take before Jesus Christ in repentance, I present this subject carefully. My intention is to offer a wake-up call to those who have not considered the repercussions of spending inappropriate moments with married people.
One of the many marital issues within the storyline of Wedding Vows Under Fire Book Series (due to release in March, 2013) is adultery and the hurtful results it imposes on a betrayed spouse.
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