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Apparently I am a few days late to this party. A post on the blog, The Transformed Wife, went viral earlier this week arguing for the biblical importance of being debt-, tattoo- and sex-free. According to the post, this is what Christian men like and, consequently, what Christian women should strive for.

First off, let’s call this what it is: a poorly written hot take from a little-known blog that went viral for its extremism. The author of the post fails to provide even one statistic to prove that the title is true. We are left having no idea if these are actually characteristics men are looking for in a wife. But the lack of empirical data provided is much less troubling to me than the lack of biblical wisdom demonstrated.

No, encouraging women to be “debt-free virgins without tattoos” so a future husband will find them more attractive is not biblical. Here are three big reasons:

1. God doesn’t call women to meet men’s standards. He calls both men and women to meet His.

The premise of the article is this: because men (supposedly) are looking for these things in a woman, women should try to fulfill them. This is problematic from a biblical perspective: nowhere in Scripture does God call us to purity and financial responsibility in order that we’ll be more attractive to a potential spouse. In fact, we are urged not to seek the approval of others. Galatians 1:10 asks,  

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Here Paul is speaking on the dangers of preaching a false gospel, and the principle he highlights is transcendent: we obey God and adhere to His Word because, as believers, we are bondservants of Jesus, not because others will find us more appealing.

While the Bible certainly calls us to sexual purity (1 Cor. 6:12-20) and encourages financial prudence (Prov. 13:22), we are called to these things for God’s glory, not to up our chances of finding a future husband, who isn’t even guaranteed to exist. He calls both men and women to holiness (1 Pt. 1:16) and self-denial (Lk. 9:23), because these things glorify Him. He is our pursuit, our goal, our prize. We are commanded to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33), trusting that He will provide for us according to His good and perfect will.

Being a virgin, debt-free or without tattoos doesn’t make someone holy—Jesus does. Therefore, pursuing these things rather than pursuing Jesus himself doesn’t make someone godlier or more worthy of marriage. A woman whose identity and confidence is in Christ, yet has had sex, has tattoos and has student loan debt should be far more attractive to a godly man than a tattoo-free virgin with no debt whose sole focus is on making themselves attractive for a future husband.

Yes, preferences may vary from Christian to Christian, but priorities shouldn’t. We women may prefer to marry a former-Eagle Scout, current-Navy Seal who still feels guilty about the time he said “dammit” when he stubbed his toe in 6th grade. But these things aren’t our priority in seeking a spouse—finding someone who loves Jesus is.

2. Your future husband is a sinner, and you are, too.

While we’d all love to marry a perfect person, the fall removed that option from the table. I’m sure my husband would have liked to marry someone significantly less annoying and selfish than me. Maybe someone who can let an argument go, who doesn’t leave wet clothes in the washer for two days and who has a better attitude about doing things I don’t want to do. But alas, that’s not what he got. He got someone who makes mistakes, and I did, too.

My husband and I both have sinful pasts we aren’t proud of. But, by the time we met, we were repentant and walking with Christ, and our lives looked differently than they had before. So, my question while dating him wasn’t, “How am I going to deal with all the stuff he’s done in the past?” But rather, “How is Jesus working in his life right now?”

I never wondered, “How much debt we working with here?” But rather, “Is his life surrendered to Jesus?”

It wasn’t, “Is he a virgin?” But rather, “Is he going to love me like Christ loves the church?”

I didn’t ask, “Does he have tattoos?” But rather, “Is he exemplifying the fruit of the Spirit?”

The fact that I could answer “yes” to the second questions was far more important to me than the answers to the first. So, for those who are asking “what’s wrong with having standards?” my answer is: nothing at all. In fact, I recommend having the highest standard there is: find a man or woman who is seeking Jesus first, and don’t settle for less. Everything else pales in importance.

Ephesians 2:1 says that apart from Christ, we’re all dead in our sins. Being dead pretty much disqualifies someone from being a good person. And there aren’t different levels of dead; you’re either alive or you’re not. That means that all non-believers are equally lost, equally hopeless, equally unrighteous in God’s sight, because they’re— well—dead. It is only in Jesus that any of us are considered alive, pure, whole and good.

If all of us apart from Christ are equally bad, and if in Christ God chooses to erase the bad and instead see believers as good, who am I to look at a fellow believer and say they’re not good enough? If we’re all dead before Jesus, who are we to say who’s worthy of marriage based on their level of debt or sexual sins from which they’ve repented? What excuse do we have, as formerly hopeless sinners, only made pure in Christ, to disqualify a person from marriage who was equally dead as we were? If in Christ we’re new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), whose place is it to call us unworthy?

Who am I to see someone any differently than how God, in Christ, has chosen to see them?

You might be thinking, “Sure, Allie, we can forgive people and see them as who they are in Christ, but we don’t have to marry them.” True, you don’t. But, before I completely agreed with you, I’d need to ask: why wouldn’t you marry them? Is it because you’re truly unattracted to these things, or is it because you wrongly believe these things are crucial indications of holiness? Is this really just what you prefer, or do you think you’re better than them?

Again, godly preferences are okay—as long as they’re subject to godly priorities.

3.  That’s just not how love works—especially not the Christlike kind.

If you’ve ever been in a dating relationship that has led to marriage, you know what it’s like: you start out passionately in love, unable to spend a second away from the other person. They’re perfect, you’re perfect, everything’s perfect! That person couldn’t do a thing wrong if they tried. You’re wondering how you could ever possibly want to do anything other than stare at their face all day and listen to them breathe. It’s amazing.

The obsession eventually grows into a companionship accompanied with a steadfastness that willingly withstands the conflicts and annoyances typical to ample time spent with a person. It’s no longer always easy to be with them, but it’s worth it, because you’ve chosen to love them, and they’ve chosen to love you, despite each of your bad habits and hangups and life’s unexpected challenges. This is an active, determined and sacrificial love—one that’s concerned more with the other person’s happiness than your own. It’s the kind of love that God outlines for marriages in Ephesians 5:22-33. It’s a love that reflects Christ’s unconditional, selfless, undeserved love for us. It’s the kind of love that lasts.

In both of these stages, love has this amazing capacity to overcome both superficial imperfections (like, in the opinion of some, tattoos) and serious physical, emotional and spiritual obstacles (like significant debt and past sins). That’s just what godly love does. It’s in its nature to give mercy, to lift up, to sacrifice. Tattoos? Acceptable. Student loan debt? Payable. Previous promiscuity? Forgivable. 

1 Peter 4:8: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

 

If you’re a Christian woman, virgin or not, with or without tattoos, with or without debt, know this: your worth is found in what God thinks of you, not in what a man thinks of you. And, because of Jesus, God calls you perfect, holy, chosen and pure. You are not defined by your body, your sins or how much debt you owe. Your identity is in Christ, who never changes, never wavers, and who will never leave you or forsake you. This irrevocable grace does not excuse us to sin but rather enables us to live out who we already are—a disciple of Jesus whose life is defined by love, obedient sacrifice and boldness.

If it’s God’s plan for you to be married, the Christlike man who falls in love with you isn’t going to be calculating your student loans, calling your past sexual partners or counting your tattoos. He’s going to see you how God in Christ sees you: worthy and lovable.  Don’t let anyone (especially not a stupid blog post that provides no statistical or biblically sound data!) tell you differently.

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