In Sex, Dating, and Relationships Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas point out that our marriage relationships were created to be illustrations of the greatest marriage relationship, between Christ and His church (e.g. Isa. 62:5; Matt. 25:1-13; Eph. 5:22-33). With this in mind, the authors write:
The need for romantic responsibility relates back to the image of Christ and the church. To romantically woo a woman, or to give your heart away to a man, prior to a marriage commitment is to paint and unclear portrait of Christ and the church. From the beginning of time, Christ has reserved his deepest affections and desires for the church, even before he met her. And from the earliest days of creation, the saints have waited with monogamous longing for the coming of the Promised One. This image must be expressed with our own wait for marriage. Christ was faithful in body and heart to a bride whom he had not yet met. He reserved his deepest affection for the one whom God had given him, and, likewise, we are called to the same faithfulness.
The implications of the Bible using marriage as a metaphor for our relationship with Jesus are huge. Marriage being created to point us and others to Jesus means that sexual intimacy has to be reserved for marriage (Christ reserves Himself for the church) and faithfulness in marriage is the standard (Christ is faithful to keep His covenant). Hiestand and Thomas also point our the implications for dating relationships, a term they argue against (they prefer the term “dating friendships”).
The standards set forth in this book, which are based off of the marriage metaphor, seem difficult to adhere to. The truth is: in our own strength these standards are too difficult. That’s the beauty of the gospel!
The ability to live a God-pleasing life, indeed, to inherit eternal life, does not stem from our dedication to God or vows of our wills; rather, it flows to us from the power of the divine life granted to us through our supernatural union with Christ. The very life of God through Christ via the Holy Spirit has taken up residence inside us.