“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field, that a person found and hid. Then because of joy he went and sold all that he had and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he found a pearl of great value, he went out and sold everything he had and bought it.
These two parables from Jesus have such overarching applications I would like to use them as my justification on how I go about relationships, both romantic and plutonic.
A small prologue before I begin.
I have only used this approach once regarding a romantic relationship but it’s applicability is relevant across the board. I’ve been using it for a few years now with respect to all other relationships. How many of the points a friend may fall under doesn’t explain how good a friend they are, nor does it describe how I feel about them. With that said, if we are not intentional in every relationship we seek, as Christians, I believe we do a disservice to our gospel witness.
The approach I take has 5 points with a few sub-points under some.
3. Soul Seeking
4. Common Interests
5. Physical Attractiveness*
Each point naturally ends up touching the other, with the final point only applicable to romantic relationships. I need to preface the rest of this discussion with saying that I am not one to begin any relationship seeking it to become romantic. I am a large proponent of taking Paul seriously in 1 Cor 7, and don’t think a Christian can justify marrying just for being married’s sake. Nor do I think a Christian can be friends (or stay friends) with someone just because they “make me feel good”, or “we’ve been friends forever”, or even “my life wouldn’t be the same without him/her.” The parable cited above doesn’t describe the Kingdom of God in these terms. It is something of so much value, of such an unapproachable worth, that everything in this temporal life pales in comparison. To be a part of God’s kingdom is to be identified with and united to Christ, seeking to be constantly conforming to his image and likeness; in deed, word, and spiritual acumen. So with that said let me define my 5 points…
- Sanctification (becoming more Christ-like)
If the relationship you have with someone is not rooted in sanctification then it may be best to jettison said relationship. This has, to me, a logical progression.a) Does being around this person make you more like Christ?
b) While you are around this person are they becoming more like Christ?
c) Do you want this person to bring you to a more Christ-likeness?
d) Does this person want you to bring them to a more Christ-likeness?
This first point is something that works along the lines of any relationship. Even being around unbelievers may bring you more sanctification, while you being around them may surely bring them to become a Christian thereby making them sanctified. Only when “c” and “d” come into play is a friendship with an unbeliever something to question (they may be just fine with you preaching to them so using your best judgement is a good rule of thumb). It is also what everyone in a local church should be striving toward for each other. There should be no indication that a romantic intention is ever meant in this step.
- Conversant (Having conversations on diverse topics)
This, for me, is when my approach becomes slightly subjective. Not everyone may agree with it at this point.
I love to talk. I’d prefer talking to playing games or doing any other various activities. Activities are fine, but if I can’t have an extended conversation with this person (even while performing activities) what depth is there to the relationship? I can find out many things about someone by observing how they do something and what it is they are doing, but words communicate much more than actions in this regard. That is what I will get at when discussing the next point. However, I also love talking about diverse things, anything really. If a person has only one area of conversational significance our relationship will be limited. This is not a bad thing, in fact it is something that can be learned (I learned it). Here is a question to consider when thinking about this point; if a friend you only do physical activities with becomes paralyzed (or vice versa), how likely is it that they remain a friend when the subject of your friendship has vanished?
- Soul Seeking (becoming intimate with the entire person)
The Greek work for soul is ψυχή, transliterated this word is psyche. Does that look familiar? It should, but in english we only use a small part of its semantic domain. Under this point is getting to know the totality of an individual. If they are willing to learn, if they are willing to teach, what things do they like to do, what do they eat, what do they drink, do they have family, etc? It is closely connected to point number 2. So much so, that 2 and 3 are a tandem enterprise. To talk with someone in order to find out about who they are is to find out about their soul. And this is what will create a friend, as the archaic language of the Old Testament says, this person “is close to your bosom.”With all of the above points in close proximity and working together the next point should become effortless…
- Common Interests (being a foodie, walks in the park, hiking,bowling, cycling, rock climbing, various sporting activities, TV shows, movies, board games, etc.)
I find it disconcerting that this is where most people (Christians included) start their search for relationships of any kind. I used to be one of these people, and I’ll tell you first hand that it has failed me mightily. I come back to the text originally cited above, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field, that a person found and hid. Then because of joy he went and sold all that he had and bought that field.” This should be the foremost common interest, that is why physical common interest is what this point is about. Personally I can do and enjoy most any physical activity someone asks me to accompany them in doing. I only choose to do very few, in this regard I’m pretty boring to most. I prefer to accommodate to other’s interests, it is why this point is so far down the list.This brings me to my final point.
- Physical Attractiveness*
I put an asterisk here because, of all the points, this one is only applicable to romantic entanglements. I myself don’t have very much to contribute to the discussion on this point. Is there such a thing? Yes, but it is subjective. I’m of the conviction that if the first 4 points are not existing in your relationship with someone of the opposite gender, then the last point (which should precede a romantic entanglement) is a non sequitur, for the Christian especially. Finding someone to be attractive should be very important with regard to a romantic relationship only. However, it should be so far outside the purview, I feel it best to disregard it until the time comes to pursue the individual who fulfills the first 4 points to an undisclosed satisfaction. Have I confused you with regard to point 5 yet?
Well, what are your thoughts on my approach? It is subject to alteration. I think I’m done for now.