Saturday, February 22, 2014

True Love Waits - Is It Biblical?


It took more than a decade since this term was coined. As far as I remember, though, the song entitled ”This Promise I Made” (subtitled “True Love Waits”) by CSM popularized it:

I will not break this promise I made
I will not take this treasure and throw it away
I will not break my future dreams for pleasures made of clay
For roses fade but love, but love is true
True Love Waits

TLW actually started as “an international Christian group that promotes sexual abstinence outside of marriage for teenagers and college students. TLW was created in April, 1993 by the Southern Baptists, and is sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources. It is based on conservative Christian views of human sexuality that require one to be faithful to one's husband or wife, even before marriage. ” [1] That’s how it began.

Nevertheless, my main agenda here is not historical but biblical.  Where do we find “True Love Waits” in the Bible? That’s what this essay is all about.

Definition of TLW

But first thing first. What do we mean by “True Love Waits”? Let’s start this with a negative definition.

1.    TLW does not just mean waiting for the right time to have sexual intercourse.

Let me clarify this.  The original TLW group has a pledge that goes this way: "Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate and my future children to be sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship." [2].

In other words, the classic TLW simply means “No to premarital sex”. But don’t get me wrong. That principle is absolutely biblical:

“But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:2)
This verse implies that sex outside of marriage is sexually immoral. And we have several verses condemning sexual immorality:  Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7.[3]

So TLW certainly encompasses refraining from sex until marriage. However, we will argue that the biblical TLW is more than just waiting for marital sex.  TLW involves refraining from all premature romanticizing thoughts, emotions and actions until the right time.  The rationale behind the wider definition is because the waiting part in biblical romance is not just sexual, although that certainly is included. Coz if it’s just waiting for sex, this gives a license to the playboys out there who enjoy winning the hearts of girls out of self-satisfaction.

2.    TLW does not mean you should always wait for a specific person.

1 Corinthians 13 says that true love “is patient” and that “it rejoices with the truth.” True Love is not presumptuous. It seeks the will of God. Christ Himself taught us to pray “Thy will be done”. David said “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) It is therefore too presumptuous to say that it is God’s will for you to wait for the day that you will court or marry a certain person.  More often than not, God wants us to live by faith in our love life, entrusting unto Him the uncertain. As Jaci Velasquez says, “Waiting for the day when I hear you say, here’s the one I have created just for you.” [4]

3.    TLW does not mean we have to wait passively.

We should not just lie in wait and do nothing like when we’re waiting for the train. Waiting for the right time to love means actively preparing for it. So we’re saying that True Love Waits because there are a lot of things that you should do right now before you can apply true love in the right context, that is, a marriage-oriented relationship. As we will see later, the biblical eros love will always be pointing towards marriage.

And when you’re already prepared, do not expect God to appear on your dream and say “Do you see the blond woman who walks by the door? That’s your destined partner.” God doesn’t act that way. As Dobson says,  

“I do not believe that God performs a routine matchmaking service for everyone who worships Him. He has given us judgment, common sense and discretionary powers, and He expects us to exercise these abilities in matters matrimonial.”[5]

So now, if TLW is neither a passive, presumptuous waiting nor being merely sexual abstinent, what is it?

TLW means actively waiting for the appropriate time to pursue a pure, godly, marriage-oriented relationship with the opposite sex.

With this definition, marriage is the goal of every romantic step we take. Exclusive dating, holding each other’s hands, and the like are therefore part of what we should wait for. For boys it means not asking the girl out until you both are “marriable”, that is, until there is a possibility of marriage. For girls, it means not entertaining any guy who is trying to woo your heart if he cannot yet marry you or at least until he is near at possibly marrying you.

Now, since we’ve properly defined TLW. Let’s try to establish its biblical support. It has been questioned many times and, to be honest, it is not easy to defend. This is because there is no single explicit verse for it. Again, let me say it: we don’t have any verse that explicitly teaches the principle of TLW. But we can still induce the principle from some biblical support.

Biblical Support for TLW

1. God has designed romance to be ultimately realized in marriage.

The whole tenor of the Bible speaks of romance (or eros love) as a good thing only when honored inside marriage. On the other hand, romance outside of marriage is often (if not always) condemned. Adam and Eve, the first couple, “held fast” to each other in marriage (Gen. 2:24, 25). Isaac, through his father’s servant, looked for Rebekah to be his wife. Jacob actively waited for Rachel to be his wife, not just girlfriend. The whole love book of the Bible (Songs of Solomon) is written in the context of marriage (4:8, 9, 10; 5:1). Even God himself often illustrated His love for his people as a Bridegroom to his bride (Jer. 2:2). Jesus calls us, the Church, his bride (Eph. 5; Rev. 19:7). Marriage is the sole romantic relationship which the Bible endorses so obviously.

The only premarital relationship that we see is actually betrothal (like in the case of Joseph and Mary). This is, however, cultural and is not an imperative pattern for Christians. We are not commanded to be betrothed. Same goes with dating and courtship. Proponents of either dating or courtship should acknowledge that their method will never be found in the Bible. But what I want you to understand is that even the Jewish betrothal points to marriage. In fact, in the Mosaic covenant, a man who lies with a betrothed woman is considered an adulterer and is to be put to death. (Deut. 22:23-27) On top of that, so marriage-oriented is the Old Testament that an Israelite man who violated an unmarried woman ought to marry her! (Deut. 22:28-30; Ex. 22:16)

The point that I’m making here is that if ever there is a romance that God wants His children to pursue, it is the kind of romance that intends to and is able to get married. If you do not possess both the intent and the ability to get married, it’s not for you yet. You wait.

Rick Holland stated it this way,

“Premarital relationships should serve one purpose:  to test the relationship for marriage.  Let me say it another way: There is no good reason to have a girlfriend or boyfriend until a person is ready to get married!  I hope the implications of this statement are obvious.  Readiness involves being old enough and mature enough to assume the responsibilities of marriage.  No romantic relationship should ever begin unless marriage is the possible - even probable outcome.  That said, it is difficult to justify the romances of junior high and high school.  If one is not ready to get married, he or she is not ready to date or court.”

2. The seasons of life are designed by our sovereign God.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Ecc. 3:1) One of the things we ought to remember is that waiting is not an alien idea to us. It’s a human thing. It even appears that every creature is designed with the nature to wait. We, humans, wait for “the time to plant and the time to reap” (3:2b) We wait for a lot of things. By morning we toil and wait for the night to rest. By evening we sleep and wait for the morning to come. Whether we’re studying or working, conducting ministry or just at home, we wait for certain schedules. Same goes with love. In fact, you don’t have to teach a 5-year old kid that true love waits because his nature itself is waiting to first grow. Why is it then that when it comes to romance, so many young people can’t seem to wait at all? The answers may be several.

One reason is that our generation idolizes romance. We live in a time where all forms of media sensationalize love for the opposite sex. TVs, radios, books, magazines and the Internet. All are filled with various, deceitful, worldly perspectives about eros love. While the bible says that love is a willful commitment to give your life to someone, the world says love is a feeling that you “fall into” possibly with just one sight. And, therefore, the sin within us goes against the seasons that God has designed for us to enjoy. It defies marriage and it hates waiting. It wants freedom to do whatever it wants right now.

Another reason is that our generation is accustomed to the instant. Instant foods, instant transportation, instant information and many automated human systems enabled through technology. On one hand, this is to our advantage and gives us ease. On the other hand, we’ve lost the virtue of waiting and patience. But true “love is patient”. (1 Cor. 13:14) We should not treat eros love like an instant noodle that you could grab any time you want. One good example is Jacob’s 14-year waiting for Rachel. Love is patient, therefore, it waits.

And, thirdly, we hate waiting because we distrust God’s sovereignty. In our unbelief, we worry whether we might miss out. In our pride, we want to take control and do things “our” way. Yet  the Bible is plain that God is sovereign over all things.

 “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, And You are exalted as head over all.” (1 Chron 29:11)

“The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.” (Ps. 103:19)

“For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36)

In reality, every passage of the Bible that declares “God is sovereign” ought to make us say that “I trust Him, even in my love life”. Every verse in the Bible that teaches God’s sovereignty supports the principle of TLW.

3. Inappropriate romance endangers brotherly love.

“Treat... younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” (1 Tim. 4:1,2) It was Timothy who was instructed by Paul in this passage. He was saying that Timothy, the bishop of Ephesus that time, should treat his members as family. Older men as fathers, older women as mothers, younger men as brothers and younger women as sisters. We should note, however, that Paul added “with all purity” after mentioning “the younger women”. The reason is obvious: men who deal with young women has this tendency to be captivated by lust or by charm. If Timothy is therefore warned, how much more with us?

This verse is not in any way directly teaching us to wait. However, if “not having absolute purity” includes “untimely romance”, this verse is supporting it.

To put it simply, absolute purity could include these:

absolute purity = {“gentleness”, “no malice”, “no adultery”, “no sexual immorality”, “honoring marriage”, “timely romance”, “no infatuation”, “no flirting/hinting”}

If that’s what absolute purity means then the verse could be telling us that we ought to view each other as brothers and sisters without the infatuating, the flirting and the untimely romance which are common among young people. It’s like saying “You are not treating a woman as a sister if you are developing a romantic relationship with her while you are not yet ready to get married.” Let me say it in another way,  “If you have no intention of marrying a Christian man/woman, don’t express and expect romance in your relationship with him/her. Treat him/her as a brother/sister.”


“True Love Waits” is a biblical principle that honors marriage, God’s sovereignty and brotherly love. Regardless of the method you use in finding the right one, waiting for God’s perfect time is God’s will for all of us. And, in ways that could differ among us,

“When God knows you're ready for the responsibility of commitment, He'll reveal the right person under the right circumstances.”[6] 


2.    ibid.
4.    This is from her song entitled "I Promise"
5.  Dr. James Dobson, Head over Heels, p.40
6.  Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye



Thank you for your article.

By any chance, would you have a copy of the music sheet of "”This Promise I Made”? I've been searching it for years but to no avail. We've sung this song back in high school, but I was not able to keep a copy of it. Now I am advancing in age, I wish to have a copy of its song as a musical lesson for my posterity.

Thank you very much.

It's a nice Plugin. True Love is about sex. True Love is something else that has the ability to make someone feel special. But still the mere thought to have someone in your life who is always there beside you to share it, makes the horrible time worthwhile.

I just came to your post and reading above thing it is very impressive me and it is very nice blog. Thanks a lot for sharing this.

This is very interesting. We have started something like this in our church, and I have seen many young people changing their lifestyle. It is an eye opener to me.

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