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]

Advertisements

what about sex before marriage?

Imagine a world without standards or limits: no traffic laws, no standards for society, or no code of conduct. There would be chaos. There are limits, governing rules, morals of right and wrong, and standards of living for the purpose of our protection. Rules are to be abided by not broken or bent. The speed limit law is not a simple suggestion and codes of conduct are not recommendations—they are requirements. Just as there are standards and rules to adhere in our country, so there are standards God gives towards our relationships.

Thus far we have discussed two 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]. Today we will discover a third standard God has set for marriage: sexual intimacy is for the marriage bed only.

Waiting to have sex until marriage is certainly not a popular message in our world today. Sex education classes promote safe sex and condom usage. TV shows and media, flaunt sexuality outside of marriage as normal. The idea of waiting until marriage to have sex is passé and seems to spoils the fun. Has chivalry gone out of style along with chastity belts? How do we reconcile God’s speed limit to wait on sex until marriage?

The Bible has three commands concerning sex [Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8]. First, do not give yourself to adultery—having sex with anyone other than your spouse. Second, do not give yourself to fornication—having premarital sex, even with someone you intend to marry. Third, do not give yourself to sexual immorality [Grk: porneia]—having sexually stimulating activities [i.e. pornography, oral sex, masturbation, sex-ting, flirting, etc.] outside of marriage or in marriage with someone who is not your spouse [cf. Matthew 5:27-28; Proverbs 6:27-28].

sinful reasons to have sex before marriage [1 Corinthians 6:12-14]

There are many reasons people justify breaking the limits God sets on sexuality before marriage. Paul says something very wise in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but not all thing are helpful.” In other words, sex might seem ok, but is it really going to help the situation? Here is some common reasons people sin in order to have sex outside of marriage:

We love each other.” Many people have equated love with sex. Love does not equal sex; rather it is the gift of committed love. Real love does not tempt one another to sin. Real love is willing to wait and commit.

We need to see if we are sexually compatible.” The plea for compatibility seems good, but compatibility is not tested—it is learned. You can be compatible with anyone. Test-driving is meant for cars not relationships. 70% of women who test drive are seeking a long-term relationship [i.e. manipulation]. 90% of men who test drive are seeking a short-term solution for their sex drive [i.e. self-gratification]. Sex is not a reliable test for compatibility.

Everyone is doing it. How could it be wrong if it feels so good?” Let the truth be known: not everyone is. Even if everyone was that does not make it right. Many people do choose to wait. Peer pressure and cultural acceptance are not always right. People who have sex before marriage have a far higher divorce rates, feelings of insecurity within marriage, and greater chance of unplanned pregnancy or STD’s.

We do not have the same values as you, so stop making us feel guilty.” This is especially true in an age of tolerance, which says “Don’t push your agenda’s on me. You can believe what you want but let me believe what I want.” However, the value of waiting for sex until marriage is not meant to pour on guilt or showcase a man-made value, rather it is God’s value for your good and His glory. He is the one who created you and created marriage. He even created sex. All with their purpose and place.

Sex within marriage might seem to be helpful for fitting into culture, finding compatibility or fulfilling love, but this is not the way God intended intimacy to happen. Two questions to ask: Is it helpful? Is it enslaving? [v.12] When we bend or break the rules this leads to chaos [vs.13-14]. Disobedience brings danger like jumping the guardrails hugging a cliff.

God’s reason to save sex for marriage [1 Corinthians 6:15-20]

God gives one reason to wait. He knows how sex is multi-dimensional—physical, emotional, and spiritual—but when two people have sex they become “one flesh.” [v.16] Even within causal sexual flings this occurs. Sex creates a miraculous bond between two people. Sex is superglue that keeps two together. God did not intend for “one flesh” to be shared, except with the one person you are faithfully committed to in marriage.

Paul bases his sexual purity on his identity in Christ. First, if you are in Christ you are a “servant of Christ” [v.12]. Christ has freed you from the bondage of sin and you are at liberty to choose what is right [cf. Romans 6:1-14]. Second, you are an “eternal being” [v.14]. This world is not all there is. The joy of sex does not compare with the joy of being with Christ. Third, you are “one with Christ” [vs.15, 17]. Followers are married to Christ. Remember, marriage pictures a divine union between Christ and His church [cf. Ephesians 5:25ff]. Finally, you are the “property of Christ” [vs.19-20]. God owns you. You are bought and paid for by the blood of Christ.

Sex is a gift from God. It is something that He created as “good.” [Genesis 1:31] Sex is great in so many ways–relationally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Sex is a gift that is greatest when waited for within the marriage relationship. When we abuse or misuse what God created by using it our way rather than His way it complicates our relationship rather than compliment.

Sexual immorality not only affects your relationship with the other person [vs. 17-18; i.e. Psalm 51:4; 66:18], but it primarily affects your relationship with God. Sin creates a roadblock between you and God. You can try all sorts of things to get rid of the roadblock, but until you deal with the sin and commit to change it will be a barrier that you will not be able to budge. Give your sexuality to God and commit to His standard for relationships. It is for your good and God’s glory [v.19-20]. Purity is the greatest gift you can give yourself and your future spouse.

quick Q&A concerning sex:

What happens if you already had sex before marriage? Can I be forgiven? Yes. Repent and restore [1 John 1:8-10]. Recommit to purity and saving sex for marriage. I have a good friend had a sexual relationship in high school, the gal got pregnant. He lived with the guilt of his sin for years. He later tasted the forgiveness of God and recommitted to God and is being used of God in mighty ways. He is now married with beautiful children. God is faithful to forgive. Be faithful to seek His forgiveness through repentance and restoration.

Is sex in marriage really better than sex outside of marriage? You bet. Being pure is always better than settling for second best. Think of how much better it is to drink mountain spring water versus drinking from a sewer pipe. Purity satisfies completely, while sinfulness leaves you empty craving more [Jeremiah 2:13].

How can I fight the temptation of sexual immorality? Toying with your sexual desires is like a pyromaniac playing with fire. Feeding the fire of desire does not calm the temptation; it only intensifies it. You will get burned [James 1:14-15]. Pushing the limits is dangerous. Basing decisions based on feelings of right and wrong can be just as dangerous. Sex feels good, but it was never meant to fulfill what only God can. Sex was never meant to be worshiped [Romans 1:18-27; Ephesians 5:3-7].

Here are some helpful ways to fight the temptation to give into sexual immorality: First, commit to obey God. Second, learn from the Word the joy of waiting. Third, be accountable to God and a strong Christ-follower. Finally, create and implement a battle plan [purity contract]—do not touch [1 Corinthians 7:1], do not look [Matthew 5:28; Job 31:1], and do not be alone [cf. Genesis 39]. Purity never happens by accident. Make a plan to fight for it.

Great Resources to Check out:

Sex Before Marriage: How Far is Too Far? [Timothy Lane]

Guidelines for Sexual Purity [Randy Alcorn]

Sex and the Supremacy of Christ [John Piper]