Recently Mike McKinley and Tim Challies both wrote articles which argued that young people, particularly men, should choose to be attracted primarily to a potential spouse’s spiritual beauty rather than physical beauty. I really respect both of these guys, love their gospel work, and usually agree with them, but as a pastor, both of these articles made me nervous. They made me nervous for two reasons.
First, the articles don’t fully appreciate the place of physical attraction in scripture. Yes, scripture is clear that in a marriage relationship, character is more important than physical attraction. But physical attraction matters. When Adam first laid eyes on Eve, there was a definite physical attraction. There was a flash of affection when he first laid eyes on her. He loved what he saw. When Adam saw Eve he burst into praise:
Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:23 ESV)
The Song of Solomon devotes chapter upon chapter to describing the physical attraction between a man and woman. Song of Solomon 1:9-10 says:
I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots. Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels.
Just a few verses later Solomon says to his spouse:
Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves. (Song of Solomon 1:15)
Solomon clearly delights in the physical beauty of his bride. He doesn’t go on and on about her quiet spirit and devotion to God, as important as those things are. He is enraptured by her beauty. He is magnetically drawn to her appearance, and can’t stop thinking about her. Throughout scripture there is an underlying assumption that a man will be physically and spiritually attracted to a woman.
If a young man came to me, and said he was thinking about a particular girl, I would ask him two questions:
- Is she godly? If yes, proceed to question number two.
- Do you think she is attractive?
If he answered “no” to number two, I would counsel him to pause, and pray, and wait before pursuing the relationship. I wouldn’t want to press him into a relationship based solely on spiritual attraction, and then later have him feeling trapped in the relationship. Scripture is clear that spiritual character is most important when considering a potential spouse, but physical attraction also plays a significant part.
This leads me to a second, pastoral concern, regarding these articles. As a pastor, I’ve seen difficult marriages in which one spouse felt pressured into marriage, even though they weren’t particularly attracted to their spouse. Basing a relationship primarily on spiritual attraction creates unhelpful, hyper-spiritual pressure in relationships. It creates an unsaid, unbiblical rule that only reason a relationship can end is for spiritual causes.
Yes, our idea of beauty has been distorted by media and pornography, and this should be a topic of conversation when considering any relationship. But we can’t dismiss the ideas of beauty and attraction all together.
A husband and wife should be spiritually compatible AND physically attracted to each other. This doesn’t mean that the man or woman is a supermodel. Beauty is fleeting, and charm is deceitful, which is why we don’t make those things the primary factors in a relationship. But God created us as both spiritual and physical beings. We are not sexless, spiritual beings. God made us to have flesh and blood. He created us to be attracted to the opposite sex.
If you are considering entering into a relationship, consider both the spiritual aspect and the physical aspect. Don’t let your values be determined by media or pornography, let them be determined by scripture. Find a beautiful, attractive spouse, who loves Jesus.