The Bible is very interesting in that it doesn’t give us too much detail into the process of courtship or what some refer to as dating. Stories like Ruth and Boaz or Solomon and the Shulamite help to give us a contextual framework about how relationships progress biblically, but there’s nothing directly set in stone on how it is all suppose to work. God’s clear on singles maintaining sexual purity before and during marriage but also shows grace even when that’s not the case, such was the relationship of David and Bathsheba. Now while this couple did suffer the consequences of their choice, God remained faithful throughout the history of time to His covenant with King David and his generational line which would eventually lead to the birth of Jesus Christ.
An issue of divide developing among Christians on dating is whether you should only move in this direction with someone you intend to marry. The motivation behind this thought is fear and insecurity. The Church, it seems, doesn’t trust their young people to handle getting to know someone with maturity and self-discipline. Hey, we all get it there are some ‘appetites’ that need to be kept in check, but should we go so far as to say that dating is only for those with marriage in mind? Maybe this is why we see so much sneaky and restrained young Christian dating behavior. We’ve taught them what to avoid but haven’t really taught them how to engage this process maturely with Christ. Secondly, who wants to be in “no man’s land” for years and decades with no signs of forward progression? Nope, that’s not the answer either because it leaves you more susceptible to enemy territory. Drifting in these dry parts for long leads to hooking up and behaviors that will leave both parties confused in soul and mind. Is there any middle ground here?
What if Christians took all of the legalism, fear and traditions of man out of the process and just looked at dating like cultivating any other normal relationship…just getting to know someone. It might look like this:
Snatch Off The Expectations
Avoid jumping into exclusivity right away, you’re just trying to get to know someone. Take the expectations off the table and allow yourself the freedom to navigate the relationship with normalcy. Expectations too soon create opportunity for big disappointment. When dating, your job is to guard your heart and use wisdom to learn about one another. Agree that the only expectation is to honor and respect each other and allow for organic growth, not forced.
Be God-conscious, Not Sin-conscious
Sin consciousness muddies our lens from seeing people as God sees them. It even blocks us from seeing ourselves as God sees us. Date with a God-consciousness and submit your time together to The Lord. Refuse to initiate a relationship thinking about all the negative things that could happen. Will some moments be awkward, yes absolutely! But if you consistently walk with God, apply wisdom and dedicate the outing to the Kingdom…you’ll be fine.
Friendship First, Not Marriage
Behind every good marriage is an even better friendship. Instead of thinking about dating with marriage as the end goal, focus on friendship. “Is this someone you can genuinely be interested in getting to know and enjoy spending time with?” is a better question than “Is this my future spouse?” Trust that if it is, God will reveal it when the time is right and if it’s not He’ll reveal that too.
Accept There’s No Guarantee
Finally, part of guarding your heart is not letting someone into the intimate areas of your life foolishly. Keep in mind when you’re dating that in a moment it could end. This is true with just about anything in life. Don’t put ‘death-grip’ type pressure on getting to know someone. If you stay close to God throughout the process, you will be safe. Allow the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to guard, guide and direct your dating path.
So I know some people will vehemently disagree with this viewpoint, but these are honest conversations we need to start having in the Christian community. The goal should never be to collect a bunch of girlfriends and boyfriends or an endless supply of free meals, but a BFF and life partner. Telling someone to date only with the intent to marry is erroneous, but so is casual dating with no end-game in mind. Relationships are tricky, but we have the Holy Spirit to help us navigate them wisely and in the best way possible. A legalistic set of dating rules won’t get us there. However, if we take God with us on the journey every step of the way, we will be in no greater hands.