dating, courting, or waiting?

Dating is a big business—the Internet is littered with dating sights giving any kind of advice under the sun. Google “dating” and you will retrieve over 500 million hits. Dating is a hot topic. When it comes to being a Christian and dating you are in a pickle because the Bible does not talk about dating. This is lack of information has caused Christians to settle for the modern standard of dating, which has some obvious deficiencies that contradict God’s perspective of relationships. Can today’s way of dating be redeemed? Is there a better way to finding the “one”?

Thus far we have discussed three of God’s standards for relationships. First, both partners must be faithful follower committed to Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 6:14-16]. Second, marriage is a picture of a divine and permanent relationship [Ephesians 5:25-28]. Third, sexual intimacy is for the marriage bed only. Today we will discover from the Scripture that every relationship with the opposite sex must be viewed as sacred.

Statistics show Christian daters mimic non-Christians daters in terms of sex outside of marriage, living together before marriage, and adultery and divorce after marriage. The church and the world are mirrored images when it comes to relationships. This is a dishonor to Christ and the glory of His Bride—the church. In my opinion, the modern dating has a lot to do with this.

What are the Deficiencies of Modern Dating?[1]

First, dating often skips the friendship stage of the relationship. Second, dating often mistakes the physical relationship for love. The dating game assumes several test-drive relationships. Infatuation is not a true measure intimacy. Nor does sex equal love or commitment. Dating often fails to adhere to physical and emotional guardrails or purpose to run from temptation.

Third, dating often isolates you from other vital accountable relationships [friends, parents, teachers, pastors, etc.] making the one you are dating an idol. The idea of the man seeking the approval of the father has become a way of the past [Numbers 30:3-16]. Fourth, dating can distract you from preparing for the future. The biblical perspective of all relationships is for mutual encouragement to help one another become God’s kind of man or woman and preparing yourself for marriage.

Fifth, dating can discourage you from God’s gift of singleness [1 Corinthians 7]. As you become older you might think settling for any relationship is best because your biological clock is ticking. Maybe you think a relationship will cure your loneliness and make all your dreams come true. Human relationships are wonderful and helpful, however, no person can fill a relational void or loneliness quite like God. Your primary relationship will always be God. Therefore, waiting in singleness is not a waste of time; rather it is in moments of waiting that God’s infuses you with His courage and strength. Before meeting my wife, Sarah, I was a single man for many years. There were many moments when it was hard to wait, but God used my time of waiting to mature my faith and grow my faithfulness.

Sixth, dating can create an artificial environment to evaluate one another’s character [i.e. today dating is viewed as recreational—for the fun of it!]. Daters will ask, “Is there chemistry between us? Are they good looking enough? Are they fun?” This is the most important question you must ask, “Do I see myself committing to this person for life?” Finally, dating becomes an end in itself.

Is there a better alternative to dating?

Yes, I would propose courtship. Now many can argue that the Bible has nothing to say about courtship too. They are correct. Both dating and courtship were not part of the pattern of society in biblical times. Courtship and dating did not appear on the relational radar screen until the Victorian Era and WWII Baby Boomer Generation. Why choose courtship over dating? Courtship chooses: solid friendship before marriage, purity, and seeks wise counsel of parents, mentors, and mature Christians friends. Courtship does not pursue a romantic relationship until you are ready for long lasting love. Courtship prepares you for the permanent relationship of marriage, and it is content with singleness in times of waiting [Philippians 4:11-12].

The motives are often different between dating and courtship. Courtship focuses on being the right person, while dating focuses on finding the right person [cf. Matthew 24:38; Luke 20:34-35]. Courtship is the best move towards a marriage relationship today because it adheres to the most biblical relationship standard.

How do I come to this conclusion?

I believe the Bible is completely sufficient to give counsel for all areas of life, including relationships. Although the Bible would be considered ancient literature written in a different culture than ours, I believe the Bible transcends culture and people are just as sinful today as generations past. I believe the Bible is without error, authoritative, and inspired by Holy Spirit, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” [2 Timothy 3:16-17]

So how does the sufficiency of the Bible apply to our relationships? Christians today have bought into the current cultures standard for relationships, while the Bibles standard has become ignored or misunderstood. Even though the Bible says zilch about dating or courtship, it has a lot to say about personal relationships. Here are some key passages that talk about biblical relationships:[2]

  • I Corinthians 6:9-7:19 This is a command to be pure, and an exhortation on the seriousness of sexual sin and instructions regarding marriage. Biblical commitment precedes sexual intimacy.
  • I Thessalonians 4:1-8 It wrong to defraud one another in relationships—by implying a relationship or commitment by your words or conduct that does not actually exist.
  • Song of Solomon 2:7 “Do not awaken love before it pleases.” In other words, before the proper time, which is marriage.
  • Proverbs 6:20-7:27 This is a warning to avoid sexual sin and foolish relationships.
  • James 1:13-15 This shows the slippery slope of giving into temptation.
  • Romans 13:8-14 This is a command to love others, work for their soul’s good; don’t look to please self.
  • Romans 14:1-15:7 It is important to favor others, not self. Value what is good to their souls.
  • I Timothy 5:1-2 This is a command to treat single women as sisters in Christ, with absolute purity.
  • Titus 2:1-8 It is critical for young men and women should focus on self-control and godliness.
  • John 14:15 “If you love Christ, you will obey His commands.” Even above your own desires.

I have counseled couples before and after marriage. A common theme between each conflict within the relationship is not having a high biblical standard of the relationship before marriage. Sin complicates relationships. The Bible says that this kind of relationship can be restored through forgiveness and a commitment to change by following the example of Christ.

In summary, the Bible is our baseline for all relationships—dating, courting or waiting. God’s high standard for relationships is not to flex His divine muscles to crush our hopes and dreams, but to fill us with great Hope of His purposes and plans, which are for our good and His glory. First, the biblical goal of dating or courtship is marriage. Second, the biblical view of dating or courtship is purity and the spiritual growth of one another. Consider your relationship with the opposite sex as your brother and sister in Christ [cf. 1 Timothy 5:1-2]. Third, the biblical practice of dating or courtship is commitment always precedes intimacy. All of your relationships are sacred and an opportunity to shine the gospel to a sinful world.

quick question concerning dating & courtship:

How far is too far when it comes to sexual intimacy in dating or courting? This is not the right question. The right question ought to be, “How far should we keep one another away from temptation?” A counselor I know compares temptation to Niagara Falls. Your goal if swimming in the Niagara River is not how close to the falls before you reach the point-of-no-return. The Bible says the boundary is to do not touch or put each other in tempting situations. For the good of one another and the glory of God keep as far from the point-of-no-return as possible.

Great Resources for Both Men & Women on Relationships:

Great Resources for Both Men & Women on Singleness & Waiting:

Great Resources for Women on Purity:

Great Resources for Men on Purity:

[1] Adapted from I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris [Multnomah Publisher, Sisters, OR. 2003, 38-46]

[2] Adapted from Biblical Dating [Scott Croft]

why preparing for marriage matters?

Have you ever had a really difficult time picking out a new pair of shoes? It can take me months before I find the right shoe I will wear. Maybe I am just picky.  It is important for shoes to have the right blend of comfort, style, and functionality. You can’t go wrong with a pair of Chuck Taylor’s. They are classy and timeless.

Shoe shopping is a lot like finding the right relationship. It is not bad to have standards when it comes to relationships. We looked at last week God has a high standard for relationships—both partners must be faithful followers committed to Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 6:14-16]. Finding the right relationship can be difficult. Looking at a potential relationship can be like looking at a box of Crayola Crayons and thinking, which color do I choose?

Most men and women dream of the day they will whisk away their wife or marry their hunky husband, and grow old together. I marvel at my Grandparents who stayed married for over 50 years and still call each other best friends. Marriage is a relationship most long to be in, yet most do not prepare to endure. It is said that every date is a potential mate. Learn to look at all your relationships with the opposite sex as a potential husband or wife. Better yet view them as God’s creation and your brother or sister in Christ. Many come into marriage with sinful expectations.

sinful views of marriage [or any relationship for that matter]:

Marriage makes all my problems go away. Many think that marriage is the cure-all for sexual temptations, the need for compatible companionship, or desire for happiness and lure of romance. If this is your expectation for relationships you will be severely disappointed. Marriage can certainly help, but it is not the means to an end.

Marriage raises my social status. Do you view singleness as a curse? Do you feel pressured to be in a relationship and weird because you are not? Are convents and monasteries for people unfortunate not to find the love of their life? If you marry just to raise your relational resume you will marry for all the wrong reasons.

These are false assumptions many marriages and relationships are built upon but quickly crumble. More than half of all marriages fail. Even marriages within the church crash and burn alongside these startling statistics. There are many reasons why these statistics stand, but how can they keep from falling? Who wants to get married when so many seem to peter out? Is there hope for a healthy home or romantic relationship?

biblical views of marriage and why it matters:

Marriage is a picture of a divine relationship [Ephesians 5:25-28]. Every relationship—particularly marriage—is an opportunity to model Christ’s love. This is God’s goal for marriage. What does a loving relationship look like? It looks like Christ’s sacrificial love for His church. What came first Christ and the church or man and women? This is not like a chicken or egg question, since it is fairly obvious. Marriage came first [Genesis 2:22-24], and it pictures the church’s eternal relationship with Christ [Revelation 19:7].

Marriage is a permanent relationship. It is not as disposable as people make it out to be in our day. There is a miracle in marriage that two people become one flesh forever. This is why God looks down on divorce. In fact, God says He hates divorce [Malachi 2:15-16]. Now I am a product of multiple divorces. Divorce is always difficult. It affects so many, but it primarily affects the couple. Divorce does not erase the oneness of marriage. It is like ripping apart two pieces of metal welded together. It hurts the metal and will leave pieces of one another with each other.

dealing with the wear and tear on relationships

Like shoes, relationships take on wear. So what must be done? Get a new pair? This is not so easy when it comes to relationships. Relationships take a lot of work to keep clean because they are two selfish sinners. So what is a couple to do? Clean up and restore the shine. Couples must become like mechanics looking under the hood of a used car determining what needs to get fixed. How can I inspect the danger signs of relationships? Here are some great questions to ask:

First, who’s in the drivers seat? In other words, check under the hood of their heart to see what is pushing their gas. The heart is a persons control center. In order to peer into the heart you might ask: Are you committed to your relationship with God? Do you love the Word of God and live by it? Are your knees worn out? Do you love the church? Then it is good to watch if their walk matches their talk. If not, run. If they yes, you have the making of a good match.

Second, what’s in your trunk? The trunk is where the baggage lays. Usually baggage is sins you struggle with and carry with you everyday. Baggage is not a reason to not date someone. Everyone has baggage because they are selfish sinners. Yet you need to ask yourself, “Am I willing to love this person and live with them knowing what I know?” Baggage can be dealt with and overcome, but it will take a lot of work over a long period of time only by applying what we know from the Word of God [Matthew 7:24-27].

What’s your track record? Last week, I mentioned the way someone communicates and deals with conflict with their parents is how they will deal with it with you. People model their parents. The majority of problems in relationships are because of a history of not dealing with conflict biblically or communicating unbiblically as a family. Conflict in relationships is guaranteed [1 Corinthians 7:28]. It is not a matter of if but when. When you have conflict how do you deal with it?

Marriage matters, therefore, your current relationships matter as a pattern for your future relationships. If we create sinful habits before we get into our relationships it will be difficult to change that after we get into our relationships. Thus have a biblical perspective of relationships. See them as a picture of God’s long lasting love. Be prepared in your relationships by cultivating a solid friendship that asks questions to inspect one another’s heart.

quick Q&A concerning dating, singleness, divorce and remarriage:

Dating today does not an effect way of determining a future mate. Is dating defecting? Is there a better way? Modern dating does have many deficiencies:[1]

  1. Dating skips the friendship stage of the relationship.
  2. Dating often mistakes the physical relationship for love. Infatuation is not intimacy. Sex does not equal love.
  3. Dating often isolates you from other vital relationships [friends, parents, teachers, pastors, etc.] making the one you are dating an idol.
  4. Dating can distract you from preparing for the future. You need to prepare for marriage.
  5. Dating can discourage you from God’s gift of singleness.
  6. Dating can create an artificial environment to evaluate another’s character.
  7. Dating becomes and end in itself. It becomes a game and a means of control with no checks and balances.

A better alternative to dating is courtship. Why choose courtship over dating? Courtship chooses: solid friendship, purity, wise counsel [of parents and mentors], preparation [for permanent relationship], contentment with singleness, cultivation of godly character, and bridges true friendship with marriage. Courtship is the best move towards a marriage relationship in our day because it sets the relationship standard higher. Don’t pursue a romantic relationship until your ready for love.

What about singleness? Is singleness for more than nuns and priest? 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 and 17-40 describes singleness is a gift from God and a good thing. In fact, most of the New Testament writers were single, including Paul and Jesus [Matthew 19:11-12]. A single has the freedom to devote their relationship entirely to God. Singleness for the short-term or long-term can have a lot of benefits on your spiritual walk with God. I was single for about 3 years before I began a relationship with Sarah and I would not trade away those years.

For more information on living as a godly single check out The Rich Single Life.

Is there no room for divorce and remarriage in God’s plan? There are legal divorces that Jesus considers illegitimate [Matthew 19:1-9]. There are commands that call couples to reconcile rather than remarry [1 Corinthians 7:10-11]. And there are broken relationships that God gives freedom for remarriage [Matthew 5:31-32; Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, 39]. Each relationship is different, therefore, it is wise to search the Scriptures to understand what God has to say about divorce and remarriage according to the state of your situation.

A great resource to check out on the permanency of marriage is: The Momentary Marriage by John Piper

[1] Adapted from I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris [Multnomah Publisher, Sisters, OR. 2003, 38-46]