CONDUCT, ORDER AND COURTSHIP
By Bro. Barry Coffey
Outside of the experience of the new birth, the second most important decision that any person makes is the choice of a husband or wife. The right choice will bring years of happiness and meaningful experiences that strengthen you and even promise you a little of heaven on earth. The wrong choice, on the other hand, can make life most miserable - “water in your veins”, as the Word teaches.
Marriage is natural and God ordained. There is everything normal about being attracted to a member of the opposite sex. It is truly “built-in”. There is everything normal about a young man, at the appropriate time, wanting to work and provide for a wife and family, and to desire a leadership role which is his rightful position. There is everything normal about a young woman, at the appropriate time, thinking about the prospects of marriage, and a home and children. God absolutely knew what He was doing when He installed those desires in us. What is important for every young person is that we understand God’s will and His advice in making such an important decision.
“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.” (Proverbs 18:22). Surely, God knows a few things about courtship for it was God that discerned Adam’s need for a helpmate, and He created His own Bride (Seven Church Ages, pg. 336), which He shall present to Himself at the end of the road. It is a sacred thing, a life-long and life-changing proposition. And so, we should naturally look at His Word for guidance and instruction concerning courtship.
Courtship is a time period during which young people find a companion for life. It affords them an opportunity to study closely the attitudes and conduct of their friends. (It would certainly be foolish for people to suddenly marry without ever having paid any attention to each other, or without sharing a mutual attraction). So realizing that every Church is sovereign and the conditions in every Assembly are unique, there are some basic guidelines I wish to offer for consideration.
To begin with, start to pray that God will lead you to the right person as your companion through life. You absolutely do not want to get involved with the wrong person, or a person who is not a true Christian. (A true Christian knows the miraculous experience of the new birth and is much more than a bench-warmer!) It is evident that the Lord wants to guide you through this life, and He desires the very best for you. Often we have not, because we ask not. Seek Him with all your heart over this matter and accept His leadership.
The Bible is crystal clear in teaching that Believers are never to consider marriage with
unbelievers under any circumstances. It will not work. From the beginning, God commanded the Godly line of Seth not to intermingle with the family of Cain. Old Testament law commanded Israel never to intermarry with the surrounding heathen nations, although the opportunities to do so abounded (Deut. 7:5). In 2 Cor. 6:14, Paul clearly teaches the same thing, and to disregard this basic law of Scripture has caused immense suffering in many homes. Sound judgment would never convince you to choose a mate because of their beautiful features, or pretty, brown eyes.
When a man’s love is based solely on the qualities of youth and physical beauty, that love will not last long, because those qualities too soon fade away. Look for qualities that stand the test of time. I will tell you seriously that there’s a lot of things worse than being an old maid or a bachelor, and one of those things is to marry the wrong person! Never consider the marriage relationship lightly.
There are many, many dangers for young people during the courtship years. The devil stands at the ready to drag you into the immortal liberties that are so freely practiced among people today.
Paul warned that ”…fornication (which is illicit sexual relations among the unmarried), and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be named once among you as becometh saints;” (Eph. 5:1-7). He also taught “…it is good for a man not to touch a woman.” (1 Cor. 7:1) These two warnings are not unrelated; the most serious problem of fornication will always have had as a starting point the more “harmless” act of touching. My own feeling is that it is far, far better not to begin any physical contact, than to begin and then try to find a stopping place! Remember, your flesh is not born-again. Step by step, (if you start) you will push back the barriers of what you permit. So, for your own sake, for the Word’s sake, for the sake of your future and your testimony, make a pledge early in life never to practice habits that are clearly condemned by God.
“We should naturally look to His Word for guidance and instruction concerning courtship”
A person told me one time that before he was married he was explaining to an unbeliever that he had never kissed his potential wife. This person was absolutely shocked and declared, “What if you kissed her and you didn’t like the way she kissed? That would be terrible.” He explained that a real believer didn’t marry on the basis of how well a person kissed. He believed she was the girl that God would have him to marry, and all those other minor details would take care of themselves!
A final word about physical contact. According to Sis. Rebekah Smith, Bro. Branham’s daughter, before any courtship began, Brother Branham clearly defined for his children what he expected of his family and what kind of people they should associate with. There was to be no physical contact of any kind in the same way that Paul instructs us in 1 Cor. 7:1. The word “touch” there means to “handle with intent” – a touch that is intended to lead to another touch, being provocative and designed to stimulate. The message was clear: outside of something as simple as a handshake, hands off!
One way to uphold your testimony is to remember that this person who has expressed an
interest in your fellowship may not be the person God has for you. Therefore, don’t do anything that would hurt or compromise your testimony in any way. Don’t become involved in anything that someone could “spread around” about you. Whatever you do and wherever you go, remember you are a member of the Bride of Christ, and our desire is never to bring any reproach against Him.
Perhaps there are some people who are reading this who feel that they have made mistakes and engaged in things that are clearly wrong. After having repented of the wrong, make it your solemn prayer that such things will never happen again.
“There’s a lot of things worse than being an old maid or a bachelor…”
Allow me to tailor a few specific suggestions for young men and women. First, the man is ordained to be a provider, a head and an initiator. Thus, the burden and responsibility of leadership is squarely laid on your shoulders. It is important, when you reach the age of responsibility to find out whether indeed marriage is a part of His plan for your life at this particular time. (Are you ready to accept His answer?) It may be to your advantage to wait for a time when you are making a suitable income, to finish school or training, or perhaps for a few finishing touches in the area of maturity. Seek out someone whom you know that has wisdom and common sense (a parent, pastor, or elder) to pray with you and for you at this important time of your life.
When you feel an attraction toward someone, watch from a distance. A lot can be learned from observation or in a group setting inquiring about her from others who are able to keep such matters to themselves. (Good Luck!) Is this a godly Sister? Does she have that “wild stare in her eyes?” Is she running every boy in the country, or are her purposes more serious? How long has this person been truly serving God? At this point you should proceed with caution and ask the Lord to lead like Eleazer in Gen. 24:14, “Let it come to pass that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher…and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac…” Before anyone starts talking “relationship” or expressing your innermost feelings, you should be asking the Lord to help you know His will about this person. It is not the end of the world if you decide that this may not be a person you would like to become further acquainted with. Learn to give yourself time here, to think and to pray over what happens next. That does not mean mouthing a quick prayer as you bolt across the Church parking lot after service! If you get a chance, talk to her in a casual setting or within the group about general things, but try to learn as much as you can about the character of this person.
It is the privilege of the man to be the initiator of any further contact. I believe that as a Christian and a gentleman, he should consider this person as a Sister, one whom Christ died for, and therefore worthy of respect and proper conduct (Yes, even opening the door for her!) Treat her like a lady, and never give anyone, anywhere, cause to doubt that you both are Christians, holding to a Biblical standard of conduct. In time, and with the Lord’s help, you can know if this is what you have been praying for. Ultimately, you will have to make that decision, and indeed, it is a serious one.
One last word, brother. Tread softly around the man who raised this precious Sister who has captured your heart. His energy, resources and prayers have helped make her what she is. In Bro. Branham’s home, he always insisted on meeting the young man who would associate with his daughters before any courtship began. Give honor where honor is due, and treat her father as her head in the very same way that you would want to be treated if it were your daughter.
And just a few words to the Sisters. Women are made to respond and not to initiate. This means simply that the burden of responsibility for seeking and courting a mate does not belong to you. To you belongs the waiting. To you belongs the responding. That does not mean inactivity and daydreaming, but literally placing your trust in Him who understands the very desires of your heart. It means practicing a continued obedience in whatever God has placed in your hand to do today. It is perfectly natural and normal, as stated earlier, to have the desire for a God-given marriage and the opportunity to raise a family. But it is pointless to dwell so much on the future that you are rendered useless in the present.
The time of courtship for a young woman is a period to learn to communicate with the members of the opposite sex. It is a time when, quite naturally, your thoughts go beyond just female friends.
So, like many other things that have to be learned in life, it is a good time to learn how to behave around boys. That doesn’t mean that you must associate with everyone who comes along, because you must learn to make very careful choices and get to know the character of any boy who expresses an interest in you. We all know of tragic instances where dashing young men arrived in Church with a less than wholesome desire. Please don’t assume that it will never happen to you. It pays, oh how it pays, to qualify that boy’s experience before anyone gets “involved”. Bro. Branham wanted to meet any boy who would associate with his girls, and he clearly specified that they should be real Christians and live a clean life.
“Rather than concentrating on finding Mr. Perfect, seek for Mr. Perfect Will.”
To spend time with a young man in the right setting should be a happy and joyous experience, and as with a man, you have a right and responsibility to make an all-important choice. That choice must be made on a good sound judgment of the young man’s character, conduct and respect for the Word of God and not on his looks, his car or his flattering speech. If he has no regard for the Word while single, don’t count on marriage to convert him! Seek your parents’ advice and opinion of this boy, preferably before anyone starts talking about ”relationship,” and try not to let the whole world know that you have a feeling toward this person. Admittedly your parents will be concerned and most often it is only because they want the best for you in marriage. (They do have a little experience at it, and hopefully they have learned from a few mistakes which we all make.) It is unfortunate that a lot of Church members will practically push a young couple down the aisle or offer advice on suitable wedding music simply because they saw each other twice! We are often too quick in our conclusions, and inadvertently we create an unnecessary amount of pressure on singles.
It is not the end of the world to decide that this may not be the “special” person for you, and you may not wish to accept him as your partner for life. As a matter of fact, it is an answer to prayer if you’ve been praying about it. Don’t ever let anyone, especially some overly-ambitious boy, push you into a hurried acceptance of a proposal. As a matter of fact, don’t let anyone pressure you to make that decision. I pray that when the time comes for you to decide that your family would be like Rebekah’s in Genesis 24:57 & 58. They called on her to decide whether or not she would go.
Seek wise counsel that you can trust. Good advice is always worth listening to. In time, and with the Lord’s help, you can know just the same as he will know.
Many times a lot of hurt feelings and confusion could be avoided if young women would not allow too many liberties or make themselves too available and press for commitments when it would be better to keep their feelings to themselves. If, in your better judgment, you feel less than comfortable with this young man, withdraw quickly and back away, rather than send the wrong signal to him. It is a great mistake to put too much stock in physical attractiveness or smooth speech. Neither has anything to do with a sound relationship that will go the distance.
The love that makes a marriage last and endures the storms of life is based on unselfish giving and respect. It has little to do with a glandular response!
It is so important to choose wisely and protect your God-given virtue. Bro. Branham taught that both parties in the courtship have a choice. If any young man feigns to be a dedicated Christian in front of you in order to impress you but can act contrary to God’s Word, what is to stop him after marriage from acting contrary to God’s Word in another more serious way? I have heard some say that the aggressive and “forward” kind of girls always gets the boys. Sister, if the boys are only interested in the flashy girls and beauty without character, those are the kind of boys you sure don’t want. Remember, too, that a dedicated young man doesn’t want a girl who dresses in a manner which is “worldly” and designed to attract the attention of the boys. Look for a proper expression of his interest and respond accordingly. (Fainting or melting would be inappropriate).
You, too, have a right to look for character that will not be difficult to submit to and look for the kind of man who is capable of being a leader and a good provider. Leave yourself open to one possibility, and that is God’s design for your life. Rather than concentrating on finding Mr. Perfect, seek for Mr. Perfect Will!
The goal of our lives is to follow Christ and that translates into an unselfish obedience to our Beloved Bridegroom. Allow Him the control He wants and be willing to put your veil over His shoulder first before you place it over some other man’s shoulder. Somewhere out there a young person is praying that the day will soon come when you shall meet and never part ways again. Be ready for that day and face it with the testimony that you have done all that was required of you according to His Word.