How Can Christian Singles Decipher Between Love and Lust Before Marriage?

A Christian man and woman should not get married for the sole purpose of sexual intercourse. This is not the purpose of marriage. Marriage is meant to mirror the relationship that Jesus has with the church.

Couple embracing

There is a growing number of Christian couples getting married for the wrong reasons in the present 21st-century world. Christian couples should get married based on their love for each other — not lust. Firm biblical marriages will only stand if they are built upon God, the Bible, and mutual love for one another. Christian singles need to be aware of the difference between love and lust before they get married or it could lead their marriage to end in divorce.

Deciphering Between Love and Lust

There is a mega difference between love and lust, but often Christian singles can get so caught up in the haze of romance that it is difficult to decipher lust from love during dating. Lust is defined as an “usually intense or unbridled sexual desire.” Lust is extremely close to infatuation and could even grow into idolatry.

Love and lust are not the same thing. A person can lust after someone and not truly love them. Simply finding someone “good-looking” or attractive does not mean you love that person. When a person lusts after another, it can grow extremely dangerous very fast. David lusted after Bathsheba, who was a married woman (2 Samuel 2:11).

Despite already being married to multiple wives, David wanted to have Bathsheba as his own. The love affair causes God to be very upset with David and as a result, David and Bathsheba’s infant dies (2 Samuel 2:14-31). David did repent before the Lord and the Lord forgave David for his offense.

Even though David had sought out the Lord in prayer while his baby was dying, God did not answer his prayer to keep his child alive. David had sinned against the Lord and there were consequences for his sin. The lust of the eyes caused David to stray away from the Lord, covet another man’s wife, and even caused the death of Bathsheba’s husband in order to have her as his own wife.

As you can see, lust only leads to heartbreak, misery, and sin. Jesus warns us about lust when he says, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

In this statement, Jesus tells us that even just a stolen look at someone in lust is the same as committing adultery with the person. Christian singles need to be extremely careful as they navigate their feelings toward the opposite sex as it could lead to feelings of lust rather than love.

Love is the polar opposite of lust. Beautifully articulated by Elle Morie, “Love is about looking at a person and seeing them for who they really are. Love does not rely on fantasy and it’s about accepting your partner for their qualities and flaws” (Ibid.). True love is not based on appearance, socioeconomic status, or sexual desires.

Love needs to be rooted in grace, kindness, and forgiveness. Christians can distinguish between love and lust by weighing their feelings against Scripture. Jesus extended true love to us by dying on the cross for our sins in order for us to receive redemption (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 5:2). The Bible gives us the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13.

Paul tells us, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).

This is the biblical definition of love. Love is about sacrificing your own needs, wants, and desires for the other person. It is not based on sexual desires or cravings of the flesh.

Sexual desires, cravings of the flesh, and inappropriate sexual behavior towards others are rooted in lust and it is a sin. When Christians are dating, they should date with the ultimate purpose of marrying the individual. They should not “date around” in order to have a “good time” with many lovers.

Christians need to be intentional about resisting the temptation of lust and choose to allow God to direct their relationships. The Lord does not want you to lust after another individual because you will discover you were never truly in love with that person.

Lust will fade away, but true love does not. Many Christian marriages end in divorce because they were based on sexual desires rather than on true self-sacrificing love.

When you feel like it is difficult to differentiate between love and lust, run it through a simple test. Are your feelings for this person based on how they look, what they were wearing, or if you had sexual feelings toward them? If they are, then it is only lust. Sexual attractiveness does not equate to love.

Real love should stem out of genuine care, concern, and compassion you share for one another. Rightly stated by Christian writer, Jeff Laird, “Love is something we only feel for a person. Lust is something we only feel for a body” (Ibid.). When we are brutally honest with ourselves, we can normally deduce whether our feelings toward another person are based on love or lust.

This is important to decipher before you get married and not afterward. Marriage should never be done out of sexual desires. God created marriage as a good thing, but like other good things God has created, it can be corrupted. Sex is not the purpose of marriage.

A Christian man and woman should not get married for the sole purpose of sexual intercourse. This is not the purpose of marriage. Marriage is meant to mirror the relationship that Jesus has with the church. Purity culture can cause a male or a female to feel as if their entire worth is linked with their sexual purity, but your true worth is found in Christ alone (Galatians 2:20).

A Dangerous Road

If a Christian couple becomes wedded just because of sexual lusts for each other, their marriage will be rocky and most likely end in divorce. According to the Pew Research Lab, 74% of Christian marriages end in divorce. If more Christian couples were marrying each other out of pure Christ-like love for each other, these numbers would be dramatically lower.

The Bible clearly tells us God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). When two Christians become married, they become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Becoming one flesh is a huge commitment that Christian singles need to carefully, mindfully, and prayerfully decide on.

Christian couples need to get married only out of true love for one another as Christ loves the church — not out of lust. When you are in doubt, run in through 1 Corinthians 13 and the love or lust test in order to truly decipher whether your feelings are rooted in true unconditional love or lust. If you find that your feelings are only rooted in lust, it is time to end the relationship.

For further reading:

What Are the Dangers of Purity Culture?

Is Sex before Marriage a Sin?

How Can Sex be a Sin and a Gift?

What Is the Biblical Definition of Marriage?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/proud_natalia


Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Christian Ministry and is currently working toward her Master’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is probably embarking on an adventure.