What does the Bible teach about Christian dating? This past week I had a young man sitting in my office asking me that very question. He’s young and trying to make sense of what our culture has manufactured as a normal ebb and flow of life. A few days later, on this past Sunday evening I was asked that same question in our pastoral staff Q&A. Perhaps you have never had someone ask you to defend your position on Christians dating. If not, I want to challenge you on this subject. It may save you and your children a great deal of heartache if you will take time to think earnestly about this important subject.
Back to the question – my short answer is simple – it’s not a biblical concept. The Bible doesn’t specifically address the idea of Christian dating. Some consider this to be an area of Christian liberty because we don’t see the subject brought up on the pages of Scripture. Could it be that it doesn’t appear in the Bible because it’s in violation to God’s design for His people? The idea of recreational dating is something that our culture has invented. God never designed His people to engage in the practices dating and that’s abundantly clear from the pages of the Bible. However, as we approach the subject, we must proceed with gentleness and a spirit of love toward others who may not share our same positions. Having a spirit of division and parting fellowship with people who don’t share the same convictions on courtship can be destructive for your local church. Be wise and proceed with a heart of humility. We must learn to embrace such positions with a spirit of charity.
Relationships Require Responsibility
I must admit, when I hear family members or even fellow Christians asking my children if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend – it makes my skin crawl. I respond – yes and no (at this point I answer for my children). If you’re referring to a friend that’s a boy or a friend that’s a girl – the answer is yes. If you’re referencing the idea of a friend that’s more than a friend – the answer is no. Why? Because they’re not prepared for marriage yet. I have received strange looks for making statements like this, but I stand by it. Relationships require a good measure of responsibility. If you’re not prepared for major life responsibility – you have no business entering into that type of relationship.
From the very beginning, we see that God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman. All of God’s creation was good, but it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2). God created Eve and presented her to Adam. In that very presentation, we see that God ordained Adam as the head of his wife Eve. Headship requires responsibility. Adam was to take seriously his responsibility to lead Eve. Additionally, it was God’s design for Eve to be submissive to Adam’s leadership. Eve was to take seriously her role of submission and support Adam as the head. What young teenager in middle or high school is prepared for such responsibility? Failure to recognize such responsibility has led to a staggering number of divorces and single mother homes across America.
Dating With a Purpose (hint: Courtship)
I “dated” my wife for 6.5 years before we married. The main reasons I gave for waiting so long to marry was because we both wanted to finish college and prepare to start life out well. I’m 4 years older than my wife, and we eventually got married during Kari’s senior year of college. If I had it to do all over again, we would get married much earlier. I had a plan – but it wasn’t well thought out. My purpose and plan for marriage was subservient to other plans such as graduation and the balance of my checking account.
Once again, I have trouble with the term “dating” in general because it’s simply not a biblical concept. Entering into a relationship with someone of the opposite sex should be done with a specific purpose to prepare for marriage. Recreational dating is out of bounds. This is where I have to say to my children, “Do as I say and not as I did.” I didn’t practice Christian courtship, but I plan to instruct my children to approach a committed relationship with the opposite sex with a specific intent and purpose of marriage. For my sons, this will involve charting out a plan and presenting it to the father of the prospective young lady as he seeks a biblical courtship with his daughter. I will also insist that my sons spend a good deal of time with her father in order to get to know him and show respect to him in the process. Regarding my daughters, I’ll require the same things from the young man who wants to pursue one of my daughters for courtship.
Voddie Baucham has rightly stated, “Christian dating is like going shopping without any money. You either leave frustrated or you take something that doesn’t belong to you.” Courtship is not the perfect solution. Yes, there are opportunities to fail in courtship too. However, it’s a good honest attempt to put a plan in place and set an end goal to the relationship. The relationship requires responsibility and demands a goal.
Avoiding the Statistical Doom
I’ve heard people make the claim that they need to follow their heart in the area of marriage and that requires dating to make sure they’re choosing the right one. First of all, it’s right to make sure you’re choosing the right mate. Secondly, you can’t trust your heart. According to the Bible, the heart is deceitful and wicked and can’t be trusted (Jeremiah 17:9). Therefore, it would be a foolish thing to trust your heart when it comes to making emotional or romantically influenced decisions regarding marriage.
The statistics tell us that about 50% of all marriages end in divorce across America. That’s a sweeping statistic. Playing the dating game involves giving yourself to someone only to practice breaking up and calling off the relationship over and over again. When playing sports, you learn early on that the art of repetition is the key to success. So, if you want to be caught in the numbers of the divorce saga of our nation, recreational dating and practicing the “breakup” routine will teach you how to be unsuccessful in marriage.
The church must do better to equip families in the area of biblical courtship. This involves better teaching from the pulpit on this subject, honest cultural critique from pastors and parents, and a good healthy filter on the television and movie industry that consistently normalizes what’s simply abnormal and foreign to God’s plan. Although courtship is a word that isn’t found in the Bible, I believe the God ordained principle is clearly visible all throughout the Scriptures. We would be wise to make adjustments in these areas in order to establish healthy relationships for our children as they grow and pursue a spouse in the years to come. We plan ahead for oil changes and we read the fine print in order to choose the right insurance policy for our family, so why would we not likewise put in the effort of preplanning in the area of courtship and marriage preparation with our family?
- I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris
- What He Must Be: …If He Wants to Marry My Daughter by Voddie Baucham
- Getting Serious About Getting Married by Debbie Maken
- Get Married by Candice Watters