By studying 2 Timothy 3:1-5, we can discover at least 19 red flags that Christian singles should avoid if they hope to enter into a godly relationship. This passage of Scripture is for all Christians and applies to a much wider context than just relationships for singles. However, by applying this list specifically to a season of singleness and dating, we can also gather an immense amount of valuable insight to help you avoid bad relationships. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 states:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
The purpose of this list by Paul could not be clearer. He states that people who are defined by the qualities in this list should be avoided. So if you want to avoid a bad relationship, here are 19 red flags to watch out for.
1. “People will be lovers of themselves,”
When two people come together for self-centered reasons, the results are terrible. You should personally enjoy the person you are with. You should be satisfied with the relationship. But personal enjoyment and satisfaction are by products of sacrificial love. When someone loves themselves most of all, they will be incapable of being in a great relationship.
2. “lovers of money,”
1 Timothy 6:10 states, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Even if you don’t love money but you get into a relationship with someone who does, you will be pierced by their troubles as well.
Someone might truly be gifted in a certain area, but if they flaunt it in everyone’s face and use their gift to exalt themselves rather than serve others, their mere presence will be painful to be around. Nobody enjoys a boastful person. As Proverbs 27:2 explains, “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.”
One of the differences between being boastful and prideful is that pride is an inner character defect and being boastful is when you express that inner defect outwardly. While boastful people are annoying to be around, prideful people can often be dangerous to be around. If you get into a relationship with a proud person, they will do everything in their power to always be right, which usually means you will be required to always be wrong.
Abuse is the opposite goal of a godly relationship. God intends for men and women to edify each other, to build up each other up, and to value one another’s differences. When one person abuses the other, or when two people abuse each other, this is the definition of a bad relationship.
6. “disobedient to their parents,”
When people are still dependent on their parents and they are not full adults, the Bible requires obedience. When people are self-sufficient and are adults, God no longer requires obedience but he does still require honor. One of the reasons how we treat our parents is so important is because they are the first representatives for God in our life. God entrusts parents with authority to raise their children. When children rebel against their parents or adults dishonor their parents, they dishonor God.
As we have already discussed, the main source of joy in a relationship is serving the other person. However, this joy of service is robbed by an ungrateful person. You can be eager and happy to serve the person you are with, but if they are ungrateful you will feel disrespected and taken advantage of, thus losing the joy of service.
1 Peter 1:14-16 says, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”
When something is called “holy” in the Bible, it means it is set apart and dedicated for God’s special use. Christians are called to be holy so we can be used mightily by God. When you join with an unholy person who walks in sin, you will corrupt your life and miss out on being useful for God.
9. “without love,”
Sometimes bad relationships are formed not just because someone doesn’t really love you. Sometimes people don’t have any love to give. You can’t be loved by someone who does not have any love in their heart to give.
If you talk to any Christian married couple who has been married for 5 years or more that you admire because they have a healthy marriage, I can guarantee you they will tell you how important forgiveness is to a healthy relationship. Healthy relationships are not absent of issues. Rather, healthy relationships deal with issues in healthy ways. We all fail each other at times. Without forgiveness a long-lasting healthy marriage is just not possible.
Slander is when you say untrue things about someone with the intent to hurt them. Our words have so much power. When someone lies and says hurtful things about you, they are severely damaging the relationship, sometimes past the point of repair.
12. “without self-control,”
A lack of self-control is a major ingredient to almost every kind of sin. When people are unable to restrain their feelings even when they know what they are about to say or do is wrong, this person is not fit for a relationship and needs to mature before you can open up to them in a healthy relationship.
Some people go from zero to a hundred when there is even the slightest conflict in a relationship. When someone is a brutal person, they will constantly cross the line and be over the top in their words and actions. Even if what someone is saying is true, the Bible instructs us to make sure we also speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
14. “not lovers of the good,”
You don’t want to be married to someone who you have to nag and beg to serve at church, to tithe, and to care about the needs of those less fortunate. One of the greatest joys of a Christian marriage is serving side-by-side. But you won’t have that joy if you get into a relationship with someone who does not love doing good.
One definition of treachery is, “guilty of or involving betrayal or deception.” A relationship built on lies always crumbles sooner or later. The point of marriage is to be faithful to your spouse for your entire life as a sign of God’s eternal love for his church (Ephesians 5:22-33). A bad relationship is marked by unfaithfulness and deception.
Ecclesiastes 5:2 says, “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” When we are quick to speak, slow to listen, and quick to get angry, we are doing the opposite of what God wants (James 1:19).
Conceited is very similar to being proud and boastful, two qualities that Paul warned about already. It seems like Paul is trying to really make a point about the dangers of people who are self-exalting and proud. Quite simply, bad relationships are filled with conceit. Good relationship are filled with humility. There’s just no getting around the importance of radical selflessness if you want a love filled relationship.
18. “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–”
When you love pleasure more than God, you miss both God and pleasure. But when you love God more than pleasure, you will get God and the pleasure he gives. For as Jesus said in Mark 10:29-31:
Truly I tell you, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Marry someone who believes this so much that they will sacrifice for Christ rather than fall to the pressure at the most crucial points in life.
19. “having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
Perhaps the worst type of person to be around is a religious hypocrite. Rather than be honest about their sins and faults, they try to hide their flaws in religious appearances. They act one way in front of others, but behind closed doors the darkness always comes out. If you are behind those doors with this person, their legalism will lash out at you.
Rather than a religious person, what you really want is a person who values their relationship with Jesus Christ above everything else.
If someone truly loves Jesus, they will also be empowered to love you if you enter into marriage with them one day.