To Date or Not to Date
It happened once again. A young teenage couple in our congregation “broke up.” After spending months together, sending thousands of texts back-and-forth, and declaring their “love” for one another, they are now picking up the pieces. Their relationship is over, resulting in emotional (and maybe physical) broken ties that will take a long time to get over. One is left wondering how many times this young lady (and young man) will give herself away—emotionally and physically—before she finally walks down the aisle to marry an altogether different man?
I believe that even within the church our thinking has become poisoned in this arena. Dating has become such a major part of our culture that very few Christians even stop to consider what dating really entails. Dating holds such a “majority view” in our society that for many, this hot-button topic is not even up for discussion. Sadly, most parents have assumed a “we did it, so it must be ok” stance. As such, many homes focus on that magical age when a teen is finally able to go out on a date. Older Christians oftentimes don’t help the situation—as they are often questioning young people about who they like, further promoting this boyfriend/girlfriend mindset. After all, isn’t that what we do?
While it may be what the majority do, one should step back and ask if dating in modern times is a wise thing for Christian young people?
Here’s what I intend on teaching my children about dating.
Because my advice runs counter to our current culture, many Christians will take exception to my counsel to you. In fact, some may take personal offense. My effort here is not to offend but rather to encourage a paradigm shift on how we envision finding a future spouse. A large number of Christians have adopted a worldly perspective on finding a mate—never giving any consideration to God’s Word or God’s will in this matter. To the extent that the Bible addresses “premarital” relationships at all, it uses the language of men marrying and women being given in marriage (see Matt. 24:38; Luke 20:34-35). Some would argue that this was the cultural norm in the past, and that things have changed today. Since when have God’s people ever taken their cues from society? Have we forgotten that we are not to be conformed to the world (Romans 12:1-12)? While there are some success stories of dating, modern dating (even modern “Christian” dating) has, in many cases, become a means for sexual activity—outside of marriage.
Dating begins with a male or female initiating a more-than-friends relationship. “Dates” are normally conducted in private, or maybe with a small group of friends, and may or may not have marriage as its end goal. I believe honest evaluation recognizes that modern dating promotes lust and provides a doorway for fornication. Consider what happens when someone creates a strong endorphin bond with a girlfriend, and then they break up years later. What is the response ten years later when that young man is married to someone else and happens to see his “old flame” in the mall? Could it not be truthfully said that in many cases dating develops an appetite for variety, promoting dissatisfaction within a future permanent bond of marriage? Additionally, modern dating develops a very self-centered “feeling” oriented version of love. Can Christian parents look at these attributes and feel comfortable that our current dating system is biblically preparing young men and women for marriage?
In an ironic twist of fate, in the modern dating model, the father, who is supposed to be helping ensuring the purity of his children, is the least involved. Rather than protecting their purity, in many cases he is the one sending them out, as hormones race through the teens’ bloodstream. Sadly, the first time many fathers really meet the “boyfriend” is when he asks for the daughter’s hand in marriage. My question would be what is he really asking for? He’s already got what he wants! He’s already stolen the daughter’s heart—and maybe her purity as well. That’s not honorable—that’s poaching.
My hope is that rather than having a worldly checklist that characterizes the ideal fantasy spouse, you will look for a godly spouse defined by Scripture. I pray you will find someone who will help you get to heaven and someone who will help you in your walk with God. I look forward to meeting someone who not only will help you in these areas, but someone with whom you can service and honor God better together than apart!
Your mother and I would prefer that you not experience “divorce practice.” We believe that dating conditions individuals to break off relationships rather than teaching commitment. It also causes many young people to isolate themselves away from their friends. We have watched on many occasions where dating leads to intimacy, but not commitment, thus devaluing the true meaning of sexual relations and marriage. Our aim is to keep you honorable before God and help you remain both physically pure as well as emotionally pure. We hope that when you really do give your heart to someone that it is the person you will marry—the one who will help you get to heaven.
Paul declared to the church at Thessalonica, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, emp. added). Because of this your mother and I are trying to identify a better system for you to find your future mate. As you begin the important process of finding a lifelong mate I hope you will keep these key Scriptures in mind:
*1 Corinthians 6:9-7:19 (a reminder to be pure, the consequences of sexual sin, and instructions for marriage)
*1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (teaches the importance of not defrauding another in your relationships by your words or conduct)
*Song of Solomon 2:7 (“do not awaken love before it pleases” — i.e. before the proper time)
*Proverbs 6:20-7:27 (warns us to avoid sexual sin and foolish relationships)
*James 1:13-15(reminds us of that temptation can lead to death)
*Romans 13:8-14 (reminds us of the importance to put others first and not seek to please ourselves)
*Romans 14:1-15:7 (also reminds us to value others and do what is good for their soul’s)
*1 Timothy 5:1-2 (Paul admonishes young men to treat single women as sisters in Christ)
*Titus 2:1-8 (encourages young men and women to focus on self-control/godliness)
*John 14:15(true love to Christ is demonstrated by obeying His commands)
My children finding your spouse is an exciting and important step—as such, we don’t want you to miss-step. While your mom and I have not worked out all of the “kinks,” we believe courtship is a much better model for Christians today. We will save the principles of courtship for another day. Keep studying, and keep praying for your future mate.