I am sorry for Manti Te’o and for the media frenzy surrounding his online girlfriend, who never really existed. Manti Te’o is a 21-year old, college football player, who met a woman on-line and fell in love with the idea of her. They never met because she was never real. There have been thousands of jokes, thousands of stories and even more accusations since this private news became public. It appears the truth lies mostly in the fact that he is a 21-year old college football player, who was deceived into believing he had a real relationship with someone, who was never real. It is not possible to have a personal relationship with an idea. A personal relationship requires a person. That is why “God so loved the world, that he gave us his Son, that whoever believes in him, would have everlasting life” (John 3:16). What can online dating teach us about our relationship to God?
Current statistics report that there are 54 million single adults in the United States and 40 million have tried online dating. Half of the 40 million singles in the country are members of e-Harmony, a dating website designed to match people who want “long-term” relationships. I think that number is telling. People want a real, lasting, loving relationship in their lives.
According to the survey, 17% of last year’s marriages resulted from an online relationship. Americans spent more than one billion dollars hoping to find a true love. 71% percent believe in love at first sight and 64% say that common interests matter the most. I’m curious – how many of you experienced “love at first sight?” (I’d love for you to tell your story in the comment section!) Personally, I just “liked” Jim at first. My first memory of Jim is meeting him at the college library. His roommate had mentioned, “I know this guy, and if we study with him we will do well on the test!” I was always one to sign up for good help, so I went to the library to study – with Jim. I remember he was 10 minutes late. Jim sat down at the table, opened his notebook, proceeded to tell us what he thought would be on the exam and how we should answer. When the test arrived two days later, it proved what Jim’s roommate had promised. We all made “A’s.” My first memory is glancing at Jim’s notebook, studying with him and thinking…WHO IS THIS GUY!!! (In case you didn’t know this before – I landed a BRILLIANT husband!) But…I don’t remember falling in love with the guy who helped me get an A. I fell in love with the Youth pastor of my church who really loved those teenagers…and who eventually really loved me. I liked Jim at first – but love is what the relationship “grew” to be.
OK…it isn’t Valentine’s Day yet so I’ll move on! I’m not sure I believe in love at first sight. I’m not sure Manti Te’o was really in love with the woman he thought he was e-mailing. I think love requires a personal relationship – with a person, not just an idea or impression of a person. And I had never really thought about it before – but isn’t that why God became a man?
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). So how can people have a real relationship with God today? We believe in the resurrection. We still have a relationship with a living God. That is why Paul told Timothy, “This is a trustworthy statement that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:9-10).
A lot of people you know have an “online dating” type of relationship with Jesus. They love the idea of Christ, but have never really met the person. Real relationships require a personal encounter. I will always be grateful to Jim’s roommate for introducing us. It wasn’t love at first sight, but the more time I spent getting to know Jim, the more I came to love him. The same is true of my relationship to God. I hope you get the chance to introduce someone to Jesus today, and, in the future, help them grow to have a personal relationship with him. There are a lot of people looking for real love. We should help them find God’s. A personal relationship with Christ lasts forever.