DATING IN THE BIBLE
Dating, in general, is a fairly difficult topic to discuss as Christians. After all, the Bible has very little (basically nothing!) to say about it – or at least about our modern concept of dating. Biblically speaking, there are two main categories for male/female relationships: you’re either married, or you’re not! God’s Word leaves us very little room for the little extra benefits (physical, romantic, emotional) that we so often feel we deserve from a dating relationship. According to the Bible, marriage alone is the context for sexual enjoyment, commitment, and a permanent romantic relationship between a man and a woman. All other relationships – as romantic and loving as they may seem – are classified by the Bible as relationships between SINGLE people.
Jesus gives a wonderful summary statement of the God-ordained purpose and goal for romantic relationships between men and women:
He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.
DATING SHOULD BE ABOUT MARRIAGE
In other words, the basic direction of a romantic relationship should be toward marriage. Dating should be all about marriage. The biggest problems – sin, heartache, frustration – come when dating becomes about….dating. Dating should not be an end in itself, as it so often is for young people in college and the years after college. It can actually be incredibly destructive if it does not have marriage as its focus – the very institution that Jesus describes above as formed by God.
DATING GONE WRONG
To illustrate briefly the destructive potential of dating relationships that are not focused on marriage, let me tell you a story about a couple – we’ll call them Jack and Jane. Jack and Jane both grew up in Christian families, and went faithfully to churches that preached the gospel and taught the Bible faithfully. Both of them grew in their faith in big ways during college through church, Bible study, and Christian friends. Jack and Jane met each other 2 years after college; they immediately liked each other and began to date. After a year of dating, they began telling each other: “I love you.” However, while Jack wanted to marry Jane, he didn’t have a permanent job that would support her. Jane had a job, but wasn’t absolutely sure that she wanted to marry Jack. So they just kept on dating. The relationship progressed (as ALL relationships do!), and Jack and Jane became more physically involved and emotionally attached. After 2 years of dating, they still had not had sex, but they spent all their time together, and Jack even began regularly spending the entire night with Jane in her bed. While they continued to resist the temptation to have sex (they got close, though), a sense of shame began to grow in both Jack and Jane because of their relationship. They knew that they were all but living together, and still hadn’t moved any closer toward marriage. This began to take its toll on them spiritually; they stopped going to church and small group Bible study, and began distancing themselves from their strong Christian friends. Jack and Jane are still dating now at the age of 25. They have not gotten any closer to marriage, but are so emotionally and physically attached to each other that they don’t have the strength to break up.
Do you see the terrible SPIRITUAL toll that dating gone wrong can have on a person’s life? Obviously there are many issues going on in the lives and hearts of Jack and Jane, but a wrongly focused dating relationship is certain one of the key issues. It led them away from God and God’s people, toward shame, isolation, and neediness. It’s a very sad story.
PRINCIPLES FOR DATING
In light of what we’ve been discussing, I want to offer a few principles that I think are helpful (and biblical) for dating.
- “Short and sweet”
In general, dating relationships – especially after college – should not drag on and on for years. If the driving purpose behind dating is the pursuit of a godly marriage with someone who loves Jesus, dating should be a brief phase in this intentional movement. Still, it is in this phase that God-honoring ROMANCE should be embraced. This is the time for a man to (to use a very old-fashioned word) “woo” a godly woman that he wants to marry. The man – as the one who takes the lead in the relationship – should pursue the woman with respect, intentionality, honest, and God-honoring romance. This is the time for flowers, poems, opera, fancy dinners, and taking the woman home and LEAVING at a reasonable hour.
- “Involve your family”
There is perhaps no better context for quickly and accurately evaluating a relationship than the context of the family. Your family knows you well; your love interest’s family will know him/her well. If you come from a Christian family, they will be able to help you evaluate your relationship on a spiritual level. If you don’t come from a Christian family, then your church family should be able to help you do this…and you should let them!
- “Involve your godly friends”
This is similar to the above principle, but it is a somewhat easier one to bring into your actual dating activities. Invite your godly friends to participate with you in your relationship. Do things in groups. Invite your friends to observe you and your romantic interest together. If they love Jesus, and have your best interests in Him in their minds/hearts, you can’t go wrong with this.
- “Move it along”
Be intentional about moving forward with the relationship. If you are a guy, be intentional, honest, and forthright about your intentions. A dating relationship should have a clear direction and purpose. If you are a girl, hold the guy accountable to this kind of intentionality and commitment. Don’t let him rest in a dating-with-no-clear-plan state of being. This means clear communication, mutual respect, and physical/emotional restraint.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
It’s good to remember that dating for followers of Jesus should ultimately be about marriage, but it should also be about marriage with the right person. Below I offer a list of some good questions to be asking about any dating relationship. This is not a comprehensive list, but it should get you started as you evaluate the relationship and the person you are dating in a Christ-centered way.
- Am I ENTIRELY attracted to this person?
This question begins, of course, with physical attraction; that is a necessity. But that is only the beginning. You should be considering the personality, habits, and, most importantly, character of the person you are dating. Are you completely and utterly attracted to them as a whole person? Do you absolutely love who they are – as much or more as you love what they look like?
- Am I LOSING touch with godly community or GROWING in godly community?
In other words, this question is asking about how this person pushes you forward in service and involvement in the life of the local church, and in community with other believers in Jesus Christ. Are you serving the church and loving God’s people MORE because of this person, or do you find yourself skipping church because the person you’re dating isn’t too excited about going?
- Do I want to love Jesus more because of this person?
This is probably the most basic – and telling – question that you can ask about the person you are dating. This is an eternal question; it is a question about the effect that this relationship will ultimately have on your SOUL and your eternal destiny and standing with the God of the universe. You want to be with a person that DRIVES you forward in your relationship with your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is your everything – your ultimate and eternal SPOUSE.
- Do I ENJOY this person?
At a very practical level, you have to LIKE the person you marry, as well as LOVE them. Guys, are you physically attracted to the girl you’re dating, but can’t stand having to talk to her for an extended period of time? Girls, do you like the security and strength you find in the man you’re dating, but frankly find him boring and uninteresting? You should date – and then marry – someone you like…someone you enjoy. You’ll be spending a lot of “every day” moments with that person for the rest of your life!
SUMMARY STATEMENT FOR DATING
To summarize, let me put it in the following words. Christian dating should be:
*ALL about Jesus…
*Done in ALL purity…
*Moving will ALL purpose toward marriage…
*With the right person.