Lately, I've been giving a lot of thought to how Christian teenagers and young adults of the opposite sex should treat each other. I've been asking a lot of questions like, Is it okay for me hug a teenage girl? Are side hugs more appropriate or just a cop-out? Why do some people come up with so many rules for teenagers that restrict how they can physically interact? I even had a reader comment on a recent post and ask me what I thought the proper conduct and rules should be for how the opposite sexes interact. I'm glad this reader asked because it got me thinking about what my standards are, and just as importantly, how to decide what my standards need to be.
The real question that I and many others are asking is: What should my convictions be? Like I said, I've given this a lot of thought this past weekend and am proud to say that I think I've come up with the answer to that question.
And so I'm going to start a new series called Servant Romance. It's a concept born from combining servant leadership with romantic love. Not only will this series cover how to interact with a boyfriend/girlfriend or a fiance, it will also cover the Christlike way to interact with friends of the opposite sex. In Servant Romance, there will be five key qualities that I will constantly be referring to. As with the servant leadership series, each quality of servant romance will be covered in its own post. Those five qualities are:
There's one last thing I want to note. If you are someone who thinks the best way teenagers of the opposite gender can interact is if they follow strict rules or a bunch of dos and don'ts, then I ask you to keep an open mind because servant romance does not rely on rules or regulations. Our relationship with Christ is free from laws and rules and checklists, so it only makes sense that our relationships with other people are the same way. Jesus said that the greatest thing we could do is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37). There's nothing better we can do with our lives than to bring him glory, honor, praise, and attention. But do you know how to do that? How can we bring God glory, honor, praise, and attention? To answer that question, we have to understand the second greatest command that Jesus gave us. Do you know what it is? Jesus said that the second greatest command is to "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:39). Christ says it again in John 13:34 by saying, "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." If our relationship with Christ doesn't depend on a check list, man-made rules, or a bunch of dos and don'ts, what makes us think that our relationship with others is any different?
Now please don't misinterpret what I'm saying. I'm not saying there shouldn't be guidelines or restrictions. There are some God-given commands pertaining to how the opposite genders interact that we should follow since they are from God. Can you think of any? The most prominent in my mind is to be pure from sexual immorality. Now this makes sense because sex is designed to stay inside marriage. Thus, any sexual actions outside of marriage are not what God wants and thus are sin. So yes, there are some rules, and we need to follow these rules. Rules like these are there for our benefit. If a rule is there to protect us, and if breaking that rule is sure to result in negative consequences, then that rule is good and it is good to follow it. Sex is a perfect example of this type of rule. But if a rule does not really protect us from anything, and if there's not a guarantee that negative things will come if that rule is broken, then that rule is useless and pointless, and it doesn't need to be followed. For example, if a youth pastor told his youth group that the young men and women in the group will not be allowed to hug, I would definitely say that rule is a joke. Why? Because it doesn't actually protect you from something (whereas abstinence protects you from STDs, heartache, guilt, shame, childbirth, sin, etc.) and it doesn't bring about negative consequences (who doesn't like a good hug?!).
So as we look at how servant leadership and romance combine, keep an open mind. I've learned a lot of new things and redefined some of my own personal boundaries and convictions just by evaluating what purpose my convictions serve and also where I got my convictions from. I promise that if you keep an open mind and an open heart, you'll be amazed at what you find.