undefined undefinedAs reality TV shows cram the airwaves, one can’t help but notice the superficiality of our American dating process.  For example, Evan, the fake millionaire, must choose a mate from a lineup of 25 beautiful women.  Or, Trista, the gorgeous blonde, tries to find a husband by sharing a hottub with a string of cute hunks.  Notice how your average guy or plain girl never appears on these programs.  Not surprisingly, most of these TV relationships experience the painful “reality” of a breakup.

In addition, the boom of online dating services hasn’t improved the decision-making process for singles.  Go online, and you can find someone with brunette hair who likes sushi and long walks in the rain.  However, notice that these companies cannot guarantee that you will find a person with character.  No matter what a dating service claims, they can’t verify the integrity of anyone in their database.  Yet, without this key ingredient, couples cannot build lasting intimacy.

A person has character when he or she chooses to love you ? even if there is no immediate benefit. Unfortunately, people do not wear signs around their necks informing you that they possess honesty, loyalty, or compassion. Therefore, it is your job to determine the virtue of the person whom you date.  You cannot assume or take someone else’s word on the matter. You must draw your own conclusions.  But, how do you discern character in a person whom you’re just getting to know?  The answer lies in observing whether someone looks out for the needs of others, rather than concentrating on himself or herself.  In other words, is he or she willing to love sacrificially?

If you are seriously dating someone, these are the types of issues you must consider.  Take the time to ask your date each one of these questions, because character can have many flavors, but it always stems from the sweet desire to love sacrificially.

The willingness of a person to sacrifice sheds light on their level of character.  And, as you examine someone, don’t forget to ask yourself, “Do I consider the needs of others, or do I usually look out for #1?” Sometimes, integrity may even include telling someone “no,” such as when you are tempted to go too far sexually, waste money, or spend too much time together.

However, if we are honest with ourselves, we must confess that a problem exists when we try to love sacrificially — we cannot consistently do it. All of us possess some measure of loyalty, mercy, and self-control. Yet, as conflict, disappointment, or the routine of daily life affect our relationships, the desire to care for another person tends to disappear. If we are called on to sacrifice, we usually expect something in return or wait until the sacrifice feels convenient.

Sacrificial love, however, is not about convenience or getting something in return.  A romantic relationship is supposed to represent the way Christ gave Himself up for us (Ephesians 5:22?33). Yet, if you and I cannot consistently love in this manner, what hope do our relationships have of experiencing lasting intimacy?

Jesus Christ presents hope by offering to live His sacrificial love through you (Galatians 2:20). He displayed the ultimate act of character by dying innocently upon a cross. Through His resurrection, Jesus can now live His integrity through your life. By His power, you can extend sacrificial love to another person — even when you do not feel like it. No fancy prayers are necessary; you simply invite Him by faith to live through you. By His grace, He will take over and impart His character through your circumstances (Titus 2:11-12).

Too often, though, our human pride attempts to water down the definition of sacrifice to make it easier for us to attain. For instance, we might define sacrificial love as a man paying big money to take his girlfriend to a sold-out concert. That’s a nice gesture, but Christ might define sacrifice as that man paying big money for concert tickets, only to skip the show upon discovering his girlfriend is drained from a terrible day at work.   His focus is to support and encourage her, which might also mean not turning on the TV while she is talking.   To a human, those actions may sound unreasonable.  When you yield to Christ, however, He can give you the desire to change your plans, sit patiently with someone, and listen to their problems.

True love means laying down your wishes to profit another person. Your spiritual union with Christ makes this kind of behavior possible. You can try to love in your own strength, but you will eventually burn out. Until you ask Jesus to live His sacrificial love through you, loving another person will always be a struggle. That’s why it’s important to learn to rely upon Christ as your source of character.  Likewise, it’s imperative to discover if the person whom you date has learned to depend upon Christ as his or her source of integrity.

As you discern someone’s character, take your time, and do not expect perfection. Everyone makes mistakes, slacks off, and acts selfishly on occasion. Be very careful, however, if a person’s integrity appears erratic. Honesty, humility, and forgiveness should be normal traits, rather than rare. You want to date someone whose virtue is consistent.  This does not mean that integrity should be boring or predictable. On the contrary, dating someone with good character should free you to have a blast together.  So, sweeten your romantic relationship by making sure it is flavored with sacrificial love!

Copyright © 2005 Rob Eagar, Used by Permission.

Rob Eagar is the author of “Dating with Pure Passion” and speaks full-time to over 10,000 singles and young adults each year. His message has been featured nationally on the CBS Early Show, CNN Radio, and The Los Angeles Times. Rob resides with his wife, Ashley, in Atlanta, GA, where they encourage single adults at North Point Community Church. For more details, visit www.RobEagar.com.

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