5 reasons to rethink long engagements

February 26, 2016

In today’s culture, many couples choose to have lengthy engagements, using the extra time for wedding planning, financial planning and relationship building. Though these are important aspects of the engagement period and though every engaged couple has differing circumstances, I’m wondering if it’s time for us to rethink the idea of long engagements. I’m extremely grateful for godly mentors in my life who helped me think through this all-too-common practice. Faithful Christians might disagree on this, but I think there are four reasons to rethink a long engagement:

1. Once there’s a ring on it, temptations intensify.

Ask any Christian married couple how daunting their engagement period was. You would be hard pressed to find a couple who would recommend a long engagement. Many of those whose engagement was long would not encourage it. Engagement is a special and fun season, but waiting much longer than six months will be miserable for you and your fiance.

One of the greatest joys of marriage is sexual intimacy. Sex is a good gift from God to be enjoyed in the context of marriage. Sex unites you to your partner. Until you put that ring on, you truly have no clue the power of the temptations ahead. Long engagements compound the difficulty of escalating temptation. The pressure, from the Enemy, from your own natural desires, and from the culture can overwhelm you and your fiance in extraordinary ways. Unnecessarily long engagements only increase the likelihood of yielding to sexual sin.

2. You aren’t as strong as you think you are.

As Satan begins to attack you during this phase, even the most righteous can fall. Most often, we are the first to believe in ourselves and oftentimes to a fault. Do not fall into the temptation of pride, assuming sheer willpower will get you through a lengthy engagement without sexual temptation playing a major factor. One of Satan’s best weapons is his ability to deceive, and once he deceives, he accuses, bringing about guilt, shame and hopelessness. Long engagements can deceive even the most sanctified of couples. When entering this phase of life, you will need someone who has waded the waters that you will be entering; someone that can hold you accountable and help you and your fiance navigate through the engagement period.

3. Purity prior to the engagement does not guarantee purity after the engagement.

I recently had a conversation with a college sophomore who was recently engaged and was planning a two-year engagement. I cringed as he talked about how they had been successfully pure throughout their lengthy dating relationship and as he naively assumed the two-year engagement would be a piece of cake. I wish I had taken that opportunity to challenge him on his assumptions. I would walk him through the previous two points and share with him how hard a mere five-and-a-half months was for me and my wife. I cannot begin to fathom how treacherous the next couple years will be for the two of them as they continue to seek purity. I hope and pray that the Lord blesses them with that accomplishment, but I can assure you it will not be done without a great deal of outside help.

4. If you’re putting a ring on it, then you should be ready for the wedding bells.

From a kingdom perspective, one that subverts worldliness, purity matters more than planning. Planning is a virtue (don’t get me wrong), but when elevated above holiness, it becomes a vice. There are no hard and fast rules for Christians regarding the length of an engagement period. However, if you are not in a place to get married within a short period of time, you’d be wise to reconsider whether or not you are ready to enter that phase of life. You cannot be overly cautious when entering into the engagement period. This does not mean waiting for the perfect job, making the right amount of money and having the right house in the right neighborhood. It’s unlikely that will happen. No one is ever perfectly prepared for all the challenges that come with marriage. Once you think you’ve arrived, something else will replace that dream. We, by nature, will always be longing for something bigger and better. You do not have to be rich to get married.

Neither my wife or myself had full-time, well paying jobs when we got engaged. She was still in school (and still is), and I was working part-time as a College-Age Minister. By doing it this way, we knew that we were going to be forced to rely on the Lord to provide for us, and it turned out far better than relying on our own power. Had we waited until all of our “ducks were in a row,” we would not have been so aware of how the Lord provided for us. We now have an amazing story of God’s faithfulness in our lives, and I cannot think of a better way to begin a marriage than by relying so strongly on the One who provides.

5. Engagement increases the tension between couples.

Regardless of the length of your engagement, tensions build once you begin this phase of your relationship. Suddenly, you are removed from the “everything is wonderful” phase of your relationship, with its dreaming and dating and few worries, into the pressurized season of wedding planning, financial considerations and the stress of wedding two lives into one. This is the “already, but not yet” phase of relationships. So many things, beyond sex, await you in covenant marriage, but you are unable to take part until the two of you have committed your lives to one another before God and the church. While it may be appealing to have a year to two-year-long engagement, you are only lengthening the inevitable tension that comes with it. Marriage allows you to begin to work out the inevitable relational conflicts as one flesh.

As you think about your future engagement, I hope you will use this as thought-provoking material to drive a healthy conversation with your significant other and those around you.

Matthew Herriman

Matthew Herriman is the Political Director the the Tennessee Senate GOP Caucus.  Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24