Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Message Regarding Dating

Everyone wants to be loved.  From a very young age "crushes" are a way of life for us.  Teens (and disturbingly even younger) are dating and adults "play the field" before "settling down."  This is even common in the church.  But what does the Word of God say about dating and relationships? What does the Word of God teach about seeking a mate in life?

I want to break this up into several parts.  I want to address when to start dating, dating as a Christian, and finally what the Word says we should be looking for in a mate.  The Word gives us much guidance in all of these areas. 

When should a Christian start dating?  First of all, I do not believe children should date.  They do not have the maturity to handle the emotions and feelings that their developing minds and bodies are giving them.  Even if your son or daughter believes that their virginity is to be saved for marriage, the line for what is appropriate sexually is often blurred.  The real clear Biblical line is complete abstinence from any form of sex, but when emotions and hormones are combined with an immature mind, compromise is all too common.  Furthermore, the young psyche is such that they will often make that boyfriend or girlfriend the most important thing in their lives, affecting their relationships with family and God.  We also know that young relationships inevitably end in heartbreak, sometimes tremendous heartbreak.  There is no need for children to date, and it only works to compromise their purity, emotional health, and values and sometimes with devastating consequences. 

As for the rest of us, I believe the Bible is clear.  We should not start dating until God is calling us to marriage. Playing the field and dating just for the fun of it are very new to us as a culture.  Up until the 1950's, dating was more like courtship and was predominately a process for choosing a spouse.  In the 1960's sexual freedom and feminism abounded and so dating around became popular.  In fact, it was not until around 1900 where love and romance became important in finding someone.  The new sense of dating around was borne out of sin and takes people from what the should be doing while still happily single.  Here is what the Bible says about being single:
But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:22-23 NKJV
When you are single, you should be focused on the things of God.  Being married and being in a relationship causes one to change that focus to the things of his or her spouse or loved one.  The difference is that, for the most part, we are called to be husbands and wives at some point in our lives.  We are never called to be boyfriends and girlfriends.  That is just the means by which we select a husband or wife.  As single, our focus needs to be on the Lord.  We do not have the ties of family and so we are free to serve the Lord in a greater capacity than those who are married.  If you are not ready to be married, you are practicing for something the Lord has not yet called you to and by doing that you are taking away from His service.  Anyone who has been in a relationship knows that it ends up taking much time and commitment. 

Furthermore, dating before you are ready to meet your husband or wife is an act of the flesh.  There is no spiritual benefit from dating around.  If you sow to the flesh, you will reap to the flesh meaning it will have no spiritual benefit and can in fact cause spiritual harm.  If you are not planning on marrying then any dating you do puts you at risk for compromising your purity - something that solely belongs to your future spouse.  I am not saying that if you date you will sin, but you are putting yourself at risk for no good reason.  Even King David, a man after God's own heart, fell into sexual sin.  Do not ever think yourself above falling.  And just like I wrote about children, there is that fuzzy line of what is appropriate and inappropriate once intense feelings are involved.  As the inevitable sexual feelings come as the relationship grows, will that line become negotiable or movable?  I dare say that it more than likely will.  I can tell you from personal experience, that dating before you are ready to marry does not give you some kind of education, it gives you baggage.  It gives baggage that becomes an unfair burden to whoever you do eventually marry.  Also, if you involve yourself in a physical relationship, you are allowing someone to steal what rightfully belongs to your future spouse and what is stolen is something you can never get back. 

So what is right in terms of dating as a Christian? Well it should be a time of evaluating whether or not that person you are dating meets God's requirement for a spouse and whether that is whom God has chosen as your future spouse.  I will address those issues a little later, but you should meet their friends and family, talk about the things of God, read the Bible together, and pray together.  Yes there will be dating and romance, but just as important (and I would argue even more important) are the things of God.  The picture of marriage in the Bible is the picture of Christ and His bride the church.  You need to evaluate if the man can be a spiritual leader and if the woman can be that help-meet.  But in everything, you need to remain pure.  God does not honor fornication even if you "plan" to get married.  It is sin no matter how much in love you are or how much you think you will definitely be married.   Sex before marriage is sin, plain and simple. 
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 NKJV
And again:
But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;  Ephesians 5:3 NKJV
Fornication is simply any kind of sex outside of marriage.  That is not negotiable.  It is always sin.

I want to take a moment to address the issue of cohabitation, that is living together before marriage.  I have already addressed the issue of having any kind of sex before marriage so I will not restate it here, but even if you maintain your purity, what image are you portraying and what temptations are you subjecting yourself to?  First of all, we are not just to abstain from sex, but we are not even to give a hint of sexual immorality and to flee from sexual immorality.  Living together gives the impression of impropriety and it exposes you to temptations.  It is certainly not "fleeing" from sexual immorality.  Read Ephesians 5:3 above.  Do not even let sexual immorality be named among you.  In other words, do not even give someone a reason to charge it.  Do not let it even be named, let alone done.  As for fleeing sexual immorality.
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.  Ephesians 6:18 NKJV
and again:
Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 NKJV
By "form", it means appearance.  In other words (and this is how it translated in other Bible versions), abstain from every appearance of evil.  Do not even look like you are doing something wrong.  Do not even give people the impression that you are involved in a sexual relationship by living together. 

So finally we arrive at what a Christian should be looking in a spouse.  First of all, and most importantly, you are looking for another Christian:
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people."  2 Corinthians 6:14-16 NKJV
A Christian has no place dating an unbeliever.  The Bible is absolutely clear on that.  There is no compromise on this issue.  If you are a woman, you are seeking a spiritual leader.  How can someone who does not even believe in Jesus represent Christ in your marriage?  How can someone who does not know the Lord raise your children in the admonition of the Lord?  How can someone who does not follow Christ lead you in the ways of Christ?  Quite simply, he can not.  As for men, how can one who does not know Christ represent his bride?  How can one who does not follow Christ, follow you as her leader in Christ?  Quite simply, she can not. 

Despite the clear word of Scripture, some still believe their wisdom is above God's.  I will take a moment to address a couple of the most prominent arguments.  The first is so-called "missionary dating."  That is the belief that you can win them to Christ during the relationships.  First of all, its wrong to even begin dating someone who is not a Christian but getting past that, let's look at the practicality of it.  First some scripture:
Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits." 1 Corinthians 15:33 NKJV
Your morals will be corrupted, not the theirs.  In fact, just by dating someone you have already corrupted your morals.  How can you be an example to someone when the very basis of your relationship goes against what God clearly tells you to do?  You can't share the importance of God when by your actions you make the unbeliever more important to you than God.  You already ruined your example.  If you are a woman, how can you show the man you hope to become Christian that you would submit to his authority if you do not submit to God's authority first?  Is God not greater than any man you can meet?  And if you are a man, how can you expect a women to follow you in Christ someday if you do not follow Him yourself now? 

The other argument is the "love" argument.  Claiming that God would not have given you those feelings if God did not want you to date that person.  By that logic, homosexuality would be right as long as the 2 parties were somehow in "love."  God will not act against His Word and so if you have romantic feelings for someone who is not a believer, those feelings are NOT from God. 

Other than being a Christian, what else is important?  For a woman, you need to find a man who is a strong Christian.  Remember that this man is responsible to lead your spiritual walk with the Lord.  If you have a stronger walk than he, you still need to submit to his leadership.  That can cause problems and an unnatural balance in your marriage.  You need someone to look up to spiritually.  If he is a weak Christian, he will be a weak leader.  He must be mature in the Lord.  He must be a strong man of God. As for men, you are seeking a woman desiring to always grow in Christ.  It is hard to lead a woman that does not want to go anywhere.  She must not be complacent in her faith, but desire grow closer and close to the Lord.  She must also be willing to submit under the authority of your leadership.  That is not easy to find nowadays. 

We all want to find someone to love.  It is reflected in popular movies that almost always have a love theme and music which is almost always about love.  We all want to love and to be loved.  But for us in Christ, God has a man or woman of God that He is preparing for you and He is also preparing you for them.  We can't become impatient and try to rush God's perfect plan.  Doing so only hurts us in the long run.  God has that person, just be patient and wait for the both of you to be ready.  If you want love, wait for God to provide it because I can tell you with all sincerity that finding that someone God has for you is a precious gift.  I can tell you with all sincerity that God's provision is so much better than what you can find on your own.  Love created by God is love indeed.  Love created by God is the only true love you will find and there is nothing sweeter on this earth.  Wait on God, it will be well worth it!
I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, Do not stir up nor awaken love Until it pleases.
Who is this coming up from the wilderness, Leaning upon her beloved? I awakened you under the apple tree. There your mother brought you forth; There she who bore you brought you forth.
Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, It would be utterly despised.  Song of Songs 8:4-7 NKJV

1 comment:

  1. As my oldest is now a teenager and the other three children aren't that far behind, dating (or rather courtship) will increasingly become an issue. Thanks for the good Word and the reminder to seek the Lord in all of our relationships.