Does The Bachelorette teach us about true love?
We know you watched The Bachelorette finale. Go on, admit it! At least, about 1.5 million of you tuned in for Sam Frost’s announcement that Sasha Mielczarek had won her heart.
This year, Channel Ten has had huge success with the reality TV format of one guy or girl being fought over by a house-full of members of the opposite sex. The Bachelor‘s 2015 season drew enormous crowds but The Bachelorette scored more, regularly flirting with one million viewers each episode. Whenever Sam dated and dispatched from her posse of suitors, social media would light up and countless commentaries by media outlets would erupt.
There was controversy when The Daily Mail Australia posted images of Sam and Sasha HOURS BEFORE the finale had aired. Gasp! The amount of online coverage and debate about The Daily Mail spoiling The Bachelorette finale reveals so much about the program’s runaway popularity.
The secret to The Bachelorette‘s success has something to do with the human desire and need for true love. Viewers seem to have embraced an opportunity to watch a televised quest for something that the vast majority of us want in our own lives.
But what kind of role model is a primetime TV show when it comes to looking for love? Should we take the Sam Frost approach or look elsewhere for guidance?
Christians have been turning to the Bible for thousands of years. Seeking wisdom and instruction from it on all kinds of life matters, including finding true love. Perhaps this can help us to work out whether The Bachelorette‘s approach to finding true love is worth taking into real life.
The Bachelorette plonked 14 guys in one house. These housemates all had the same goal: win over Sam Frost. Every episode, one or two blokes would get the boot because they failed to be special enough for Sam. Sure, life has many competitions, from trying to get a new job to Saturday footy or picking a school captain. We might even find ourselves in an awkward, painful tussle for someone’s affections. But should we want to be with a person who happily will have a small army fight over them all at once? Or, for that matter, should we be interested in a person willing to be a competitor in such a fight?
While it might be unavoidable that the object of our attention is being pursued by others, alarms should go off if our love quest is turned into a competition. Imagine if we actually were part of a group date or challenge like those on The Bachelorette? How confusing, frustrating and, potentially, humiliating.
Being part of Christian community — including when looking for true love – is described much differently in Philippians 2:3. “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” Rivalry and conceit are selfish motivations hard to remove when our relationship framework is modelled on The Bachelorette. Because, deep down, it will be more about us being the best rather than considering what is best for the other person.
2. Chivalry isn’t dead?
A weird thing happened on The Bachelorette, though. Despite the show’s competitive set-up, many of the blokes seemed to care about the happiness of Sam Frost. As in, they did put her interest’s first, ahead of their own. Wow. Hats off for being able to do that in an environment engineered to fuel rivalry, conceit and other “Me! Me! Me!” attitudes. Contrast such old-fashioned chivalry with this year’s The Bachelor and its regular presentation of bitchiness, hostility and self-centredness. Not that The Bachelor was free of backstabbing or aggression. But it was oddly offset by displays of apparent selflessness.
Often called “The Golden Rule”, Jesus was the one who first said “whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them” (Matthew 7:12). Jesus’ incredible teaching on how to selflessly love others calls His followers to put into action what they’d like for themselves. When looking for true love, then, Jesus endorses being the kind of people who don’t just want our special someone to treat us well. We’ve got to do likewise.
The Bachelorette blokes did something similar to this, without placing their actions in the crucial context of being anchored in Jesus’ love.
3. God so loved the world
Among all the tweets and posts about the lovey dovey stuff on The Bachelorette, were we stopping to think about what love actually is? As 1 John 4:16 memorably confirms, God is love. That’s a simple statement about a remarkably complex equation. Helping us get our hearts around it are what 1 John 4 reveals about this divine love. The best way to comprehend it is to know God sent Jesus to pay the ultimate price for human sin. As passages such as John 3:16 or Romans 5:8 also state, God is love to such an extent that he was even willing to offer forgiveness and salvation to those who did not love him. The way to do that was Jesus’ sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection.
All of that can sound heavy and off the topic of Sam and Sasha looking into each other’s eyes on a New Zealand hilltop. But it’s the opposite. We can be so easily distracted by our own visions of true love and what that looks like, we can forget the source of true love. Similarly, we can ignore how Jesus is the ultimate example of the love God pours out — and what that means for us and our own relationships.
On the night before Jesus was crucified, he said, “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. No has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12) Working through the implications of such love takes time, effort and commitment. But if we’re on the hunt for love and that’s what God is, shouldn’t we run in that direction?
4. Character profile
How do we go about choosing who to be with? According to The Bachelorette, we should line up a range of possible partners and get to know them all through different activities and conversations. But even if we don’t have cameras rolling like The Bachelorette, how can we be sure we are getting to know the real person? Are they just trying to impress by pretending to be someone they are not? Those on The Bachelorette claimed they were keeping it real and honest. But were they? Or was the lure of being on TV the biggest drawcard? Who knows?
One of the toughest things to accept about the Bible’s teachings is that every single human is in exactly the same position. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” is how Romans 3:23 describes the level playing field of us all. The good news is that terrible state can be transformed by repenting and believing in the gospel of Jesus. When it comes to dating or looking for true love, understanding where we all stand before God can provide an unexpected sigh of relief. When we accept the salvation Jesus offers, no longer do we need to pretend we are better than we are or we have it all together or, yikes, that we’re perfect. Instead, we can acknowledge our flaws while celebrating the difference Jesus makes.
That difference cuts to our core and points to why the Bible doesn’t contain the kind of checklist many people try to complete when looking for Mr or Mrs Right.
Instead of physical characteristics, bank balance or shared hobbies, the Bible focuses more on the inner changes brought by Jesus. When seeking someone to love, notice that the Bible upholds the kind of person who cultivates the fruits of the Spirit of God: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Why? Because such grounding in Jesus leads to the sort of flourishing attributes that relationships are made of.
While you’re looking for such a person, make sure you are also looking to be such a person for that person.
5. Happily ever after?
Reaching the finale of The Bachelorette is what plenty of us want in our own lives. Maybe not so much of the mushy music or ad breaks, but finding that person who loves you and you love them.
Sam Frost and Sasha Mielczarek declared their love for each other last night, and strongly indicated that the rest of their lives will be spent together. After Sam’s previous trauma from being engaged in the spotlight, it’s no surprise that a proposal didn’t happen last night. But The Bachelorette fans won’t be shocked when Sam and Sasha announce their wedding, and the online vibe is strongly supportive of the two getting married.
The Bible also is enthusiastic about the commitment of married couples. Ephesians 5 is a powerful chapter that ends with incredible encouragement to a husband and wife, around the love and respect that is to be embedded in their marriage. A notable point of difference with any “and they lived happily ever after” notions on The Bachelorette is how Ephesians 5 links the husband and wife’s relationship with how Jesus loves the worldwide Christian family.
Forget roses, breakfast in bed or putting the toilet seat down. According to Ephesians 5, marriage can be the lifelong domain of the kind of love Jesus demonstrates. And if Jesus demonstrates the pinnacle of God’s love, being a couple sharing in that represents a sharing in true love.
That thing we all seek, as The Bachelorette has so notably pointed to this year.