5. Does he or she speak naturally about a relationship with Christ?
It is very tempting to evaluate a person's faith by how involved she is in church activities. But my experience is that church attendance is not always a reliable litmus test for Christian maturity. A better way to evaluate the substance of a person's faith is to observe how easily and comfortably she speaks about Christ in her life. A regenerate young person who is allowing God to transform her life will speak of Him naturally. Hebrews 13:15 captures this well: "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name." If a person truly has an authentic faith, Christ's activity will naturally come out of her mouth in the activities of daily life.
As you train your child/teenager to examine these character traits that they might begin to notice in the opposite sex, the big message you want to communicate is that the opposite sex is pretty cool. They do not, in fact, have cooties. When your daughter notices a good-looking and charming guy, we should celebrate it with her. When your son starts paying attention to an attractive girl (and paying attention to his own personal hygiene) we should celebrate with him. We should teach them that it is very likely in God's plan that they will one day marry. Thus, it is worthwhile to start exploring and observing what it is you are looking for in a spouse.
Realize that your goal as a parent should be to affirm their natural interest in the opposite sex. We must be careful not to demonize it. At the same time, we must coach our kids to guard their hearts very closely. They can look and observe and learn in ways that will serve them well in the long run, but that will enable them to avoid some of the drawbacks related to an overly emotional (and physical) relationship.
While the questions above can serve as a great filter for your kids to examine others, they can also serve as a guide for themselves. In addition to looking for the right person, you can also train them to start becoming the right person. This is probably the most important preparation lesson you can teach them.
Barrett Johnson is the Minister to Families at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He is also the founder of INFO for Families and the author of The Talks: A Parent's Guide to Critical Conversations about Sex, Dating, and Other Unmentionables.
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