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?
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:
- 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:
- Who Should I Date? [William Smith]
- I Kissed Dating Goodbye [Joshua Harris]
- Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship [Joshua Harris]
- Should We Get Married? [William Smith]
- Biblical Foundations Manhood and Womanhood [Wayne Grudem]
- Recovering Manhood and Womanhood [John Piper]
Great Resources for Both Men & Women on Singleness & Waiting:
Great Resources for Women on Purity:
- Lady in Waiting [Debbie Jones]
- Stay in the Castle [Pastor Jerry Ross]
- Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God [Noel Piper]
Great Resources for Men on Purity:
 Adapted from I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris [Multnomah Publisher, Sisters, OR. 2003, 38-46]