Choosing a Mate

How to Choose a Mate

Marriage is God's idea: one man and woman joined for life. There have been different ways to choose a spouse over the centuries. Our culture largely leaves it up to each individual to make this choice. What factors should influence your choice?


2 Corinthians 6:14-16 teaches that a Christian must not be joined to a non-Christian. A clear implication is that a Christian should only marry another Christian. At worst it would be a sin to marry an unbeliever. At best it would be incredibly stupid. How can you be one with Christ and also one with someone who rejects Christ? It's virtually impossible to be loyal to both.

Don't do missionary dating. It rarely works. It often backfires, dragging the believer away from Christ. Sometimes a so-called believer can end up leaving the faith entirely in pursuit of their new love.

Marrying another Christian ought to be obvious. I want us to consider something past this. Imagine a man has two different women. Both are solid Christians. Both obviously love the Lord and His word. Both are members in good standing of great churches. Both spur this man on to love and good deeds. All three are of marrying age and maturity. He likes both. They both like him. What's he to do? How's he to choose?

It is possible to over "spiritualize" this decision. Just because Christian maturity should be the main factor in consideration of finding a mate doesn't mean it has to be the only factor. At some point in dating, you'll probably have to move past the "spiritual" components and criteria. Most people don't finally choose a spouse based solely on who could memorize the most Bible verses.

When God made Eve, the Bible tells us He fashioned her. He crafted her to be a perfect fit for man. She was his counterpart, his completer. She was an equal peer who was different in all the right ways. Their bodies literally fit together.

When Adam saw her he delighted in her. You would have too. Remember, up until this point he's only been hanging out with dolphins and orangutans. Those are both lovely animals, but they quickly pale in comparison to a woman.

He'd been asleep. He woke up, saw Eve and greatly rejoiced. The first recorded human language is Adam singing over or writing poetry to his newfound wife.

Ideally, you shouldn't marry out of mere duty. You should be excited about marriage in general and the person you are going to marry specifically. This is one advantage modern dating has over arranged marriages.

You have a choice. Most people reading this book don't have to get married. If you choose to marry you should certainly choose to marry a Christian. Make sure you're on the same life journey they are on. Otherwise, you'll likely eventually part ways.

But if that issue is settled in your heart and mind then there is a second step. Make sure you choose someone that you are going to enjoy journeying with. Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Stack the deck in your favor. Make it as easy as possible for yourself. What do I mean? Ideally, marry your best friend.


A good dating process should be about trying to find the person of the opposite sex who you enjoy the most. Most of marriage is about doing normal life together. It's not about sex and romance. Best friendship is the cake of marriage. Sex and romance is the icing. Now, I love tons of icing on my cake. But man doesn't live by icing alone. If that's all you eat you'll eventually get sick and die. You need the substance of the bread.

Much of your time in marriage will be consumed with cleaning the house, going to work and parenting kids. It won't center around candlelight dinners and passionate nights in bed. Best friendship will win the day in the many mundane moments of tedious boredom life and marriage can bring.

In the normal monotony of life, you'll want to be doing it with your best friend. More than once, one of our kids has been sick in the middle of the night and thrown up all over the carpet. As my wife and I take turns nursing the child and cleaning the carpet at three am I've turned to her and said, "There's no one in the world I'd rather scrub puke up with than you!" It's not exactly a Hallmark Card but it's true!

First, choose a Christian. Second, choose your best friend. Then what comes third? Honestly, anything you want as long as it's not sinful.


It would not be wrong to pray "Oh God I'd love to marry a Christian girl who's my best friend who also has blond hair!" It's not sin to pray "Father, if it be Thy Will, I'd really like to marry a man who's godly and loves me but also has a fun job where we can travel a lot." The key is that these things really must be third and a distant third.

Nothing should trump their Christian growth as the primary desire of your heart. Best friendship really should be second. After that, you fill in the blank.

Physical Appearance

In this context, I'm often asked how much physical attraction should be a factor. If it truly is the third factor on your list, and a distant third, then it's totally fine. Seriously.

Our sinful world culture has made physical appearance way too important. Many people make it almost everything. I heard an actor say one time that a girl for him had to have the two H's: Hotness and a sense of humor. High standards. No wonder so many in Hollywood divorce so frequently.

The problem is that oftentimes in a response to our culture's hyper exaltation of sexual attraction the church swings the pendulum far in the other direction. If the culture is in the ditch on the left side of the road, too many Christians are in the ditch on the right side as an exaggerated response. We shouldn't make our standards as a reaction to sin's extremes. Rather we should let the Bible inform our ideas.

Beauty is not a bad thing. God invented beauty. St. Augustine taught that Satan couldn't create any new pleasures. He could only take good pleasures God had created and twist and pervert them. He has certainly done that with beauty and sexuality.

God wanted men to be attracted to women and vice versa. If you aren't attracted to the opposite sex that's not a good thing. Beauty in and of itself is not a sinful thing. It can be used in sinful ways when it's valued too much; when it's valued more than godliness.

Song of Solomon is a book in the Bible that celebrates physical attraction and sexual pleasure in the context of marriage. The first couple of chapters seem to refer to the courtship phase of the relationship before the honeymoon. Physical desire and attraction for one another was definitely part of the equation.

He refers to her more than once as "My beautiful one." Nature makes this plain. The Bible affirms it. You should ideally date and marry someone you are attracted to. That shouldn't be the main thing.

Some Christians still put far too much emphasis on this issue. Many guys are looking to marry a literal model. I've wanted to say to a couple of guys like this "Go look in the mirror. Models typically marry other models. It's not looking good for you."

It's not wrong to pray and look for someone who you enjoy looking at. You're probably going to be looking at them for a long time. But hold this desire loosely with an open hand.

Be careful that you don't slip into a demanding spirit. Far too many guys (and increasingly girls) have been exposed to pornography over and over. It has radically reshaped our expectations in what a spouse has looked like.

Much of what we see these days on the cover of the magazines has been airbrushed. We can easily develop unrealistic expectations of what a date should look like. You're setting yourself up for disappointment.

My pastor likes to say "Gravity wins." We are all going to sag after a while. I've been helping my son shop for a car. I've emphasized practical things like low mileage. All the while, I know having a cool looking car is important, especially for a 16-year-old boy buying his first car.

I can honestly say how the car looks is third on my list. I care first about how well it runs. Second about how cheap it is. Third, and a distant third, about how it looks. Meaning, compared to how well it runs I ALMOST don't care how cool it looks.

It's not the same for him. He knows low mileage is important but he really wants it to look cool. We landed on a great car for him, but not before he had to say no to a Lexus or two.

In searching for a spouse, don't undervalue attractiveness. But please don't overvalue it. Put most of your time and energy into finding a godly best friend. Once you start to get into that ballpark then you can start thinking about how cute he is. I'm not saying it doesn't matter at all. It certainly doesn't matter most either.

God invented beauty. It's not wrong to see beauty, acknowledge it and enjoy it. It's not wrong to want to marry someone who's beautiful to you. I want my daughter to marry a man one day who thinks she's beautiful. If a man came asking to marry her and said he didn't find her attractive at all I would have serious concerns. This is part of the way God designed marriage. When Adam sang over Eve, he seems as though he is filled with passion, delight, and desire. This is the way it's meant to be.

On the other hand, if my son was discussing marrying a woman and all he talked about was her face, her body, her legs I'd be deeply concerned. We can't let our love of beauty blind us to the deeper beauty of the soul. Spiritual beauty is so much more important than physical beauty in the long run.

Isaiah 53:2 seems to indicate that the Lord Jesus Christ was not a physically attractive man. But if you are saved, you are pledged one day to ultimately be married to Him, the true lover of your soul. But He does have a real beauty. The splendor of His holy character is His true attractiveness.

You can't read the gospels and not be drawn to this man. You can't read His words and not be awed and attracted. You can't see His love and justice side by side and not be smitten.

On the cross, we see His greatest glory when He was at His physical worst. He had been beaten to a pulp. He hung naked and bleeding, gasping for air. But in the marred appearance the greatest beauty of all time shown through. His love for us became clear.

It's not wrong to want to look across the room and like the way your spouse looks. That's totally normal. But the wisest thing you can do is make sure you find someone to live with who has been loved by this Savior and has His love and beauty growing in and spilling out of them.

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