Is It Time To Update Our Romance?

romanceIs it time to celebrate open marriages and relationships? According to Carrie Jenkins who recently wrote an article published in Aeon magazine the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Championing her polyamorous position, Jenkins encourages repressed polygamist to boldly declare and to act upon their philosophical ideals. And though these ideas lack some societal acceptance, many people in today’s world have no problem with the lifestyle. For example, men have always had the ability to live and even to institutionalize the polygamist lifestyle. Western society permits men to ‘sow their wild oats,’ to boast about their romantic conquests, and to keep mistresses. But women are not allowed such freedom. Jenkins notes, “there is no word for a male ‘”mistress.'” Lamenting our current society’s enslavement to patriarchal thinking, the writer concludes that,

We must get beyond this. We need to question the limits we have placed on what counts as a “romantic” relationship. Freedom to love — the right to choose one’s own relationships without fear, shame or secrecy — is critical, not just for individuals but for us all collectively.

The times have changed, and it is time for our culture to change with us. Jenkins goes on to say,

Non-conformity is the mechanism that reshapes the social construct to better represent who we are, and who we want to be. Instead of forcing our relationships to conform to what society thinks love is, we could force the image of love to conform to the realities of our relationships.

Jenkins piece give us much to think about. And some on the fringes of Christendom may even agree with her. Most every youth group in America has had a sex-crazed teenager advocate for polyamorous relationships, citing the stories of Abraham, David, and Solomon. These men obviously did not embrace the monogamous relationship ideal found in today’s conservative churches. And still, God blessed those men of old.

But hidden behind both this biblical claim and Jenkins’ support for open relationships is a desire to radically redefine our family structure. They want to redefine the very core of who we are and who are neighbors are. As Jenkins notes, “Our ideals of “’romantic”’ love regulate not just our expectations about sex but also our conceptions of family and the nature of parenthood.” And so, we are left with the question: “Can we redefine love; can we redefine the very basis of human interaction?”

As Christians, we must respond with a resounding, “No.” We did not create the ideal of romantic love. It is not a social construct of our pleasing.

God originated the idea when he put Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen. 5:2). And, God placed one man and one women in paradise. From eternity, God has intended for monogamous marriage to be the bedrock of society (Eph. 5:22-33). All other expressions of sexuality are deemed to be unlawful.

The advancement of the polyamorous relationship originates via humanity after the fall. And Christ is extremely clear. Fallen humanity cannot improve on the perfection of the creator.

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. – Matt. 15:19.

As we seek to reform society to fit our new view of romantic love, we will not better society. We will not discover that long sought for happiness that has alluded us. We will find hurt, despair, and dysfunction. From our hearts come evil thoughts. There is nothing good within our souls.

Think back to all those men in the Bible who sought to improve upon the monogamous lifestyle. Abraham family winds up in never ending turmoil (Gen. 21). Samson dies because of his sexual exploits (Jud. 16). Shechem is murdered (Gen. 34). David’s kingdom is rocked by wars and calamities because of his infidelity (2 Sam. 12). And Solomon loses the very kingdom that David created because of the wise king embraced the polygamous (I Kings 11). Sexual freedom is never praised. It never has a happy ending. Self-discovery and new romantic norms do not liberate their champions. They destroy them.

However, I do agree with Jenkins’ point that men have been giving a different standard. As Christians, we should mourn this societal debacle. And, we should address it both in our churches and in our homes. But to be clear, the solution is not found in the redefinition of romance. The solution is found in a return to the biblical ethic.

If we champion the words of Scripture, we will no longer be able to tolerate this double standard. We call fornication and adultery what they are: sin. We will no longer excuse the men who are addict to porn. We will no longer look the other way when our men go to strip clubs and hire prostitutes while away on business. We will not allow boys to be boys. We will preach the truth boldly, decrying all sexual sin. We must do away with the allusion that God winks at the sexual sins of our sons, husbands, and fathers. As Paul writes:

Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, not adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. – Cor. 6:9-10

Now to be fair, Jenkins is not advocating for us to change the Christian ethic. She is advocating for us to abandon it. But as Christians, we must not. And we do not cling to our Bibles because we fear social uncertainty. We do not the fear growing pains of the next generation. We fear the God of the universe who offers us true hope. We abide with him for he alone has words of eternal life.

Guarding Your Heart Isn’t Just A Romance Thing

When we think of guarding our hearts, we think of relationships.  We think of the guy Heart blogwho spends more time talking about himself than his date, the girl who leaves her date in the food court to hangout with her friends, or the dude who has his mom apologize to his girlfriend. We tell our friends and children to, “guard their hearts.” “Run from these losers!”  And while there is some truth to this sentiment, guarding our hearts goes well beyond the boyfriend girlfriend paradigm. It’s a way of life.

What Guarding Your Heart Really Means

 Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” – Proverbs 4:23 

What Solomon is taking about here is not your emotions. He is not talking about the happiness that comes from your first kiss, an over sized  teddy bear, or a ridiculously expensive dozen roses.  In Solomon’s day, people thought your stomach or your bowels (if you are a KJV only Bible kind of guy) where home to one’s emotions.  Instead of saying “He stole my heart,” the Hebrews would have said, “he stole my stomach.”

When Solomon mentions the heart, he is talking about your command and control center. Biblically speaking, the heart accumulates, stores, and process the information that determines your actions. Solomon is saying guard your heart; guard your thoughts; guard your will; guard your life. Solomon is foreshadowing the words of Jesus found in Luke 6:45:

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

The heart directs our life. What we put into our heart – what we think about, what we mediate on – determines how we act and speak. We buy our spouse roses because we think her beautiful, caring, and intelligent. We snap at our co-worker in anger because we think him incompetent, selfish, and annoying. Our kids complain because they think that the Disney Channel is better than obeying their parents.  Out of our hearts flow, “the springs of life.”

2 Ways To Guard Your Heart

So how do we guard our heart? How do we keep our heart pumping out fresh water?

First, we trust God. Proverbs 3:5 says “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean
not to your own understanding.” When get angry, when we get upset, and when we complain, we stop trusting God. We are upset that God is not on board with our program. And, we sin to let him know that we know better. The solution to all this confusion is to trust God. And the only way to develop a trust in God is to spend time with him. We have to study his word and pray. To guard our hearts, we must fill them with the word of God. The child who knows that God wants her to obey her parents can resist the temptation to shout at her mom. Because the daughter trusts God’s word, she goes and cleans up her room without complaining, knowing that obedience is better than sitting in front of the T.V. If we fill our hearts with the Bible, we can walk by the Spirit and avoid anger, envy, and so much more (Gal. 5:16).  As the hymn says, “Trust and obey, /For there’s no other way/To be happy in Jesus,/But to trust and obey.”

Second, we stop trusting our heart. Is there anything more counter cultural? Pretty much disney-world-978134_1920.jpgevery Disney Movie ever made tells us to “Trust our Hearts.” And every Hallmark heroine solves life’s grand dilemma’s by “following her heart.” According to our culture, true love, goodness, and wisdom is said to be found within. But, the Bible says the opposite.

To guard our hearts, we must stop listening to them. In Proverbs 3:5, we are told “not to lean on our own understanding.” Proverbs 28:19 amps up the command stating, “He that trust in his own heart is a fool.” Why is God so against us following our hearts? Is he a romantic killjoy? No. God is a loving merciful, savior who understand you and me better than you and I understand you and me. God knows we are all sinners. He knows that our hearts are “deceitfully above all things and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). He knows that to listen to our hearts is to listen to a liar. We wouldn’t ask a Bernie Madoff to oversee our investments. Why would we trust our heart to guide us to true love? Similarly,  we would not ask Bonnie and Clyde to watch our kids while we went out on a date. Why would we trust our heart to tell us how to treat our kids when they disobey us? Our hearts are not the beautiful things that Valentine’s Day cards are made of. They are muddy pits of despair. Don’t listen to them.

Instead of listening to our hearts, we need to preach to them. We need to daily remind our hearts of God’s grace, wisdom, and mercy. Instead of trusting our feelings and emotions, we need to inform them. We need to compare them to scripture. We must make them match up to God’s words. To guard our hearts well, we must daily fill our hearts with the things of God.

Does God care about who we date and marry? Most definitely! But guarding our heart is not just a dating principle. It’s a way a life. It’s something we have to do every day. We have to guard our hearts!

How are you guarding your heart?