Many people dream of meeting someone who has not only been greatly blessed in the looks department but who loves Jesus and follows him daily. And for some of us, we are dating such people. But what happens when they take the place of Jesus in your life - and more importantly, how can we realize that this is happening?
I remember wondering if I’d ever meet the man of my dreams - a Jesus follower, preferably with dark hair and olive skin, funny, doesn’t take life too seriously, a bit of a romantic - and low and behold, I believe that I’ve found him.
I’ve been dating my boyfriend for about 6 months now, and one thing that I would say to anyone who is entering into a relationship that wants to glorify God is this: it is a huge learning process. It really is a ‘learning-on-the-job’ experience. You can prepare your heart by becoming truly rooted in your identity in Christ and finding your value in Him before looking for a future husband, but there are so many things I’ve learned whilst dating that I could have never learned beforehand.
One of the biggest lessons for me is recognizing when my boyfriend is becoming an idol.
When I see the word idol, my mind automatically thinks of the big golden statues that the Egyptians used to worship. I often think to myself, “How could they have been so stupid?! It’s a freaking golden cat that they made, of course, it’s not going to answer them or help them! They can worship the Living God instead, the one who answers prayers and heals the sick and gives eternal life, so why aren’t they?!”
All too easily we laugh at the ancient world with their golden statues. And yet we do the exact same thing, but it just looks a little different nowadays. The world is worshipping anything and everything but Jesus. It thinks that satisfaction and worth come in having money, a nice house, a good career, a good reputation…and all too often, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a husband or wife.
I firmly believe that the healthiest place to be in a relationship is when you can say to the other person, “I love you, but I know that I can live without you.”
Sounds a bit harsh, right? But it’s so true.
Humans were designed to worship their Creator. When we worship something, we build an attachment to it. And when that thing is taken away, we feel like we’ve been ripped apart. Because that’s how it’s meant to be - we are meant to only worship Jesus, who will never be taken from us. We’re meant to build an attachment to the One who will always be present. So when we worship something else that is fragile, something temporary and mortal, we are replacing the One who never changes with something that can change in a split second. And that is never, ever the best way to live. We simply aren’t living how we were created to live. We were designed to live worshipping the One who is always constant and never-changing.
Jesus should always be the center of any relationship because that’s how God intended it to be, and that’s how a relationship is healthiest. It means that you’re not relying on a human being for your happiness; you’re relying on Jesus for your joy. And Jesus is the only one who could ever give you true joy in the first place.
So how do you know when your boyfriend or girlfriend is becoming an idol?
I think the best way to work this out is to first think about who Jesus is. For example:
•Jesus is the only one who can give you true worth and value.
•He is the one who is most worthy of your time and energy.
•Jesus is the only one who can truly satisfy your soul.
So when you start thinking that:
•Your partner is the one who gives you worth and value.
•They’re the one who should be spending most of your time and energy on.
•Your partner is the one who satisfies you.
…then your partner may have become an idol.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy receiving compliments from your boyfriend or girlfriend, or that you shouldn’t spend quality time with them. But what I am saying is that when you are putting these things above your relationship with Jesus, and when you feel all out of place when your boyfriend hasn’t complimented you today, then things need to change.
So how can you prevent your partner from becoming an idol?
The best thing that you can do is stay in God’s word. Continue in prayer and worship. Stay rooted in Christ, and it will become much easier for you to not only recognize when your partner is becoming an idol but to stop that from happening in the first place. When you have a healthy relationship with Jesus and you actively put him first in your life (whether that be by getting into a good Bible reading routine, or by praying regularly throughout your day or choosing half an hour with Jesus over half an hour on the phone to your partner), it becomes much more difficult for you to make an idol out of your boyfriend or girlfriend.
As for some more practical ideas:
•It’s always lovely to have a picture of your partner as your phone lock screen, but if you’re already struggling with constantly thinking and dreaming about them, why not change it to a Bible verse? (check out www.typographicverses.com!)
•Don’t just have pictures of your partner around your room, but have scriptures too.
•Don’t just listen to love songs, but listen to love songs about Jesus too.
•Make sure you spend some time in scripture every day.
•Remember to pray that God would show you when you’re not putting him first and that he’ll help you to change this.
•Also pray that God would change your heart so that you will truly want to put him above everything else (Philippians 2:13 “For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good pleasure”).
•At the start of every phone call/catchup/date with your partner, pray together.
•Do Bible studies together.
•Always remember that whilst Jesus wants you to have God as your number one, he also wants you to love your partner - he wants you to spend time with them, to honor them, to serve them, and to have fun together.
Recognizing when you are creating an idol out of your boyfriend or girlfriend is a constant battle, so don’t be disheartened when Holy Spirit convicts you. Living a life following Jesus is about learning how to become more like him and that takes time. You can trust that he knows the best way for you to live because he created you. Trust him when he says that he should be number one in your life. Your own life and relationship with your partner will be better because of it.
Something that my boyfriend and I often say to each other is:
“I love you, and Jesus loves you so much more.”
Remember that you can love your partner more than you thought was possible, but you can never love them as much as Jesus does.
The most loving thing you can do for your partner is to encourage them to love Jesus more than they love you. Always aim to push them closer to Jesus than to yourself, because our feelings go up and down but Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Alice is 18 and from England. She gave her life to Jesus about 5 years ago, and was baptized in July 2015. She feels that she is called to creative evangelism after receiving many prophecies from various people. She's a keen musician, photographer, writer, and speaker, and she hopes to involve all of these passions when sharing the love of Jesus to the world. She looks forward to moving to a city to attend university, engrossing herself in youth culture and wider communities.