There I was in my first relationship. Although I had only known the young woman for a short time, she seemed to be a godly gal. She professed faith in Christ, attended church regularly, and served in the church. Yet, it became apparent she lacked spiritual maturity. She failed to take responsibility in pertinent areas and ignored wise counsel. Soon, our relationship was over.
It was during this time, too, I began to notice a repeated refrain echoing among my fellow unmarried Christian brothers and sisters. When considering the type of person they were looking to pursue, the common answer was, “I am looking for a good Christian”. While the desire to find a good Christian is commendable, it is insufficient unless one describes what a good Christian looks like.
Upon dealing with my first true breakup, I intentionally set out to think through the type of person I was looking for. From my time searching the Scriptures, 5 overarching characteristics became my framework: holiness, humility, honesty, hospitality, and humor.
1. Someone Who Pursues Holiness
The Christian life is a call to pursue holiness. In 1 Peter 1:15–16 we are commanded “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” As Christians, we are called to imitate our God in our conduct by keeping His Word and living distinct from the world. In living holy lives, we are to prioritize purity.
Someone who pursues a life of holiness is seeking to please God with their lives. Their life will be characterized by confession of sin and dependence upon Christ. The one who pursues holiness will prioritize time with God in Scripture and through prayer as well as commitment to the local church. Look for someone who is committed to their own sanctification.
2. Someone Who Displays Humility
The reality is we all fall short of this first characteristic. Holiness doesn’t mark every moment of our lives. The second characteristic takes this into account. Our response when we sin is not to give up on pursuing holiness or to simply try harder. Our response when we fail in this pursuit of holiness is to look to Jesus Christ. The cross of Christ reminds us we are not justified by our own righteousness or holiness. We are saved by the grace of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ in the gospel.
The person who displays humility has a repentant heart and a teachable spirit. They don’t argue with the truth of God’s Word, but they submit to it. This begins to show through their response to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). A mind of humility strives to be like Christ, thinking of others and looking to other’s interests first and God’s glory ultimately (Philippians 2:1–11). Find someone who has been humbled by the gospel.
3. Someone Who Speaks Honestly
The gospel not only changes our attitudes; the gospel also changes our words. After introducing the subject of the new life in Christ, the Apostle Paul begins to detail what this new life looks like, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:25). While the immediate context is to the church, the principle can be applied to any interaction we have with others.
Speaking honestly means more than just not lying; speaking honestly means speaking truthfully as well as speaking transparently. As you consider someone as a potential spouse, have conversations on the importance of transparency and accountability in a relationship. Honesty is a crucial element in a relationship that prioritizes holiness and displays humility.
4. Someone Who Practices Hospitality
The pursuit of marriage is not meant to be focused on self. The biblical vision of relationships is Christ-centered and others-oriented. One avenue this outward-focused life can be seen is through the practice of hospitality. Hospitality is about having an open heart and home. One of the qualifications for a church leader, someone who is to be an example to the flock they oversee, is that they be hospitable (1 Timothy 3:2). 1 Peter 4:9 tells us how we are to do this, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling”.
The person who practices hospitality opens their heart to others and welcomes them into their life. They have a caring heart and a generous spirit. If they are considering other’s good and God’s glory, then they will be a person who practices hospitality. Pray to God for someone who cares like that.
5. Someone Who Values Humor
If you are striving to be the type you are looking for by pursuing these first four characteristics, then you are doing well. But I believe one necessary characteristic remains: humor. While Scripture may not explicitly uphold this characteristic on the same level as the previous four characteristics, humor still has an important place in a relationship. Proverbs 31:25 mentions laughter and Proverbs 17:22 values a joyful heart as good medicine.
A person with a sense of humor is able to bring some ease during tight situations and keep things in perspective from time to time. When couples both value humor they are able to joke around and laugh together during high and low seasons of life.
Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, as you look for a person who exhibits these five characteristics, make the same commitment yourself. If you desire a spouse who pursues holiness, displays humility, speaks honestly, practices hospitality, and values humor, be sure you are striving to be and grow in those areas too. May these characteristics mark you both and your future marriage!