4 alerts that call for a change in course.
For anyone intending to enter into a committed and Christ-centered relationship one day, discernment over one’s spiritual character is important. You want someone who will put God first, and love you with their whole heart.
And, as you read that first paragraph , your brain most likely just shut off. You’ve heard it a million times, already. Right?
Well, I still bring it up, because, after a number of different conversations, I’m not convinced many of us have a clear idea of what we mean when using the phrase spiritual character. Responses have ranged from “I don’t care, as long as he goes to church with me,” to others, who more or less feel compelled to find a doctrinal twin.
To diffuse drama, I believe that developing a rough framework (while your head is clear and the only chemical buzz you get comes from your morning coffee) will make decisions much easier on yourself later on. Don’t get me wrong, romantic attraction is a wonderful thing, but it also has a tendency to skew one’s perception to the point that a wolf can appear dressed in sheep or lamb of God clothing. It might seem discouraging to evaluate red flags, but in order to recognize green lights, we have to be able to properly stop at the red lights too. Frameworks may vary, but below I have outlined my personal 4 theological red flags.
- The Cotton Candy Christian: Speaking in scripturally unsound platitudes, they treat Jesus like a vitamin C pill product who came to make life easy. On a road trip, if I asked about getting directions for a 1000 mile trek, he might reply, “God won’t give me more than I can handle, and He helps those who help themselves, so I got it.” Then later, as the road gets icy, he will lift up his hands and say “I’m letting go, and letting God! Jesus, take the wheel. Trust me, Chrissa, I feel peace about your safety.” The sweetness quickly dissolves under trials, and also, I can run home from there.
- The Pharisee Mindset: More concerned about appearing right than about seeking Truth, they are easily offended by anything they do not agree with. Speaking in condescending tones, they might attempt to prove obscure points such as how the wine from Jesus’ first miracle was actually only 3% alcohol, and if I had read the Greek I would have known that, and this is actually a salvific principle. Yes, admitting our questions can feel awkward, but pretending to be perfect, or have all of the answers is more deceiving.
- The Martyr: To put it simply, they forget the news is good. Sporting bracelets that say, I have decreased to nothing or I am a wretch, the guilt of their sins overwhelms them into helplessness. When the time comes to pop the question, he’s likely kneel down on one knee and say something to the effect of “so…I’m going to be very careful not to word this in a way that makes you think I love you too much, because that would steal glory away from God, but would you like to spend the rest of our lives feeling sorry for ourselves, together?” Sorry I’m not sorry, but I believe we can do powerful things in the name of Jesus while on earth, so that’s just not going to work.
- The Timothy Tyrant: 1st Timothy mentions how women should neither wear braids nor pearls, and that they also should remain quiet. As a talkative woman–often in braids, and always in pearl earrings–those verses taken out of context frame me as a rebel. If this ever became an issue, I suppose we could read cross references together, but otherwise, maybe it’s just not a good fit.
All this being said, don’t ignore the good things and green flags out there– a positive growth trajectory, a dual dynamic of flourishing in God-given identities, and a shared vision for the Kingdom, to name a few! The green lights, however, will have to wait for a future blog post.
Click on the audio above for an in-depth discussion on the subject with my brother in law Jesse Newton.