A Warning to the Instigator
David chong | MARCH 12, 2019 | 3 MIN READ
We’ve all seen people instigate. It can be a look that is given to a brother when he is talking to a girl, sarcastic suggestions, trolling, and other immature behavior. It can be a form of fun and humor, but it is not completely harmless. It can be toxic.
People aren’t blind or deaf to instigations and jokes about potential relationships. They see the interactions and hear the talk. Although the intention may be innocent, the consequences can be painful and lead to people leaving the church altogether. The following reasons are why I think instigation can be toxic.
1) First, you’re not considering the “other”
You might be having a good time among your friends, but place yourself in the shoes of the other person. You are having fun at his or her expense.
Let’s say a newcomer comes to our church, and the first thing she experiences are guys looking at her, giggling with one another, and talking about her. You don’t know where she came from, what her past is, or if she has been burned by the church. She is not seen as a sister in Christ, but as a prospect, as potential.
There needs to be room in our churches for newcomers to find a community. But when people are looking just to date them, it suffocates those opportunities. Worst-case scenario, let’s say a relationship starts but it doesn’t work out. Then the newcomer is still alone and without a community to turn to. The instigation has led to isolation.
2) Second, space is essential for relationships to be cultivated - instigating makes that space very small
Having all eyes focused on a relationship or a potential relationship is a lot of pressure for both individuals. They can’t be relaxed or normal around each other because there is an air of expectation around them.
Relationships need air in order for them to thrive, but being under constant surveillance is stifling. It is exhausting and frustrating to have people whispering or pointing at them. Instigation kills relationships.
3) Third, an adverse reaction to this instigation culture is to keep relationships completely hidden from the church community
This leads to an unhealthy relationship for the couple because relational accountability in dating is important. If the instigation culture continues, no one will want to share anything with anybody. And if there is no trust, then there is no sharing of hardships or vulnerability. Instigation breaks community.
4) Fourth, instigation incepts the mind
People may not be ready to be in a relationship, but if the idea is planted into their heads, they may think they are ready. Instead of initiating after personal prayer and mature consideration, they are socially influenced to date.
Then if this socially-created relationship breaks down, the blame will not fall onto just the two people, but to the entire group that “formed” the relationship. Hurt feelings lead to hurt people. Blame and distrust will spread. The church itself could be blamed. Instigation damages all relationships.
This essay isn’t meant to stop any discussions about relationships in our communities. But we must consider your words and actions, and see if it is loving or is it actually damaging. Are we like Christ, building one another up? Or causing drama for our own amusement?
Relationships are costly, and broken ones have serious repercussions. There needs to be wisdom in how we behave as a church community. Love needs to govern our actions, speech and interactions, especially to newcomers and unbelievers. Church is a great place for dating relationships to develop but if there is a toxic culture where people are always put on the spot and talked about, church then becomes a no-fly zone to pursue meaningful relationships.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
I believe the church should be a place where meaningful friendships between men and women can be developed. But it takes space, maturity, benefit of the doubt, and genuine selfless love for these friendships to be cultivated. Let us decrease the culture of instigation, so that there can be healthier friendships but also fruitful dating relationships within the church.
David Chong oversees the missions and single adult ministries at All Nations. He is originally from the Pacific Northwest and a proud graduate of the University of Washington. He is also a graduate of Talbot School of Theology with a Masters of Divinity. Before coming to All Nations, David served as a college pastor in Cerritos for five years and staffed with a campus ministry called KCM. He loves Seattle Seahawks football, cooking, and plays every sport with a ball. He and his wife, Jane, reside in Pasadena with their beautiful children Deacon, Devyn, and Dylan.