If you choose to set up a profile on Facebook, one of the questions is Relationship. It has the expected options: Single, Engaged, Married, Divorced, Widowed. It has some seemingly off-the-wall choices: it’s complicated, in a civil partnership, in a domestic partnership, in an open relationship. And then there is the catch-all “In a relationship,” which could mean anything from going steady to what used to be called “living in sin.” It is a vague term that can mean pretty much what the person choosing it decides that it means.
Being “in a relationship” lacks commitment. Choosing this option means that you have not chosen, or will not admit to, marriage. It is the “one of the above” option, without committing to which of the above applies. It is like a married man introducing his wife as “my partner,” “my significant other,” or “my roommate.”
And these days we hear a lot of people talking about wanting to be in a relationship with Christ. They don’t explain what sort of relationship they want. It lacks any real commitment.
The Jews just before the Babylonian Captivity would have admitted to being in a relationship with God. They offered sacrifices. They sought advice from the prophets. And yet Ezekiel condemned them.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. (Ezek 14:4-5)
Hosea said that the people set up altars to their idols, and continued to bring their offerings to the Temple. And God told him, “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hos 6:6)
To their credit, many who seek to be “in a relationship” with Christ don’t want to maintain their relationship with sin. They want to change. They want what many who choose that option on Facebook mean by it. “I am committed to that person and they are committed to me, for now. We choose not to make a permanent commitment, but will leave our options open. We want a marriage without being married.”
Back in the sixties, some people called marriage “just a piece of paper,” or “inkstains that are dried upon some line.” They denied God’s plan for a family. Many people look at immersion in the same way. They want a relationship, but they deny the requirements of a real commitment. They want to be associated with Christ, but not be joined with him. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3:27)
In Ephesians 5, Paul writes at length about the relationship between a husband and wife. Some people don’t like what he said, at least about the wife being subject to the husband in the same way the church is subject to Christ. He also says that the husband must love the wife to the point of giving his life for her, because that is what Christ did for the church. The church is the bride of Christ. Jesus lists his status as married. How would he feel about his bride listing her status as “in a relationship?”