How Should I Go About Dating?
In the previous article, we discussed the type of person we should consider dating and some important traits to examine during the period of evaluation. In this article, I want to move from the “who” to the “how.” Dating is not something that is explicitly described in the bible and therefore has caused many Christians to conform to the modern-day cultural method of dating rather than taking a biblical approach.
Today’s method of dating has resulted in people giving themselves away earlier and earlier and waiting to get married longer and longer. This causes pain, unnecessary heartbreak, confusion, and regret. There’s a false sense of commitment with actually no commitment at all. We give ourselves away emotionally and physically to someone who is not our husband or wife. This is not how God designed male-female relationships and you won’t see this prescribed anywhere in the bible.
With this in mind, I am going to give 6 recommendations on how we should date as believers. I will note that since we don’t have Bible verses that speak directly about dating, Christians may differ on some of the specifics of what I’ve written. I don’t write this from a place of having it all figured out, but rather by learning from mistakes I’ve made along the way. These are recommendations that I wish someone had given to me early on in my life. I’ve had many unhealthy dating experiences and I have caused a ton of pain for myself and others in the process. I pray that this advice would help you as you pursue marriage and healthy God-glorifying relationships.
6 recommendations when dating:
1. Don’t date until you’re in a position to get married.
If the goal of dating is marriage, why would you start the race only to not be able to finish it? I would recommend not beginning to date until you “could” get married within the next 18-24 months. This doesn't necessarily mean that you will. Relationships in today’s culture start way too soon, last way too long, get serious way too quickly, and because of these things, they cause way too much pain. Dating before being in a position to get married brings a lot of chaos and confusion because there can be no God-glorifying intimacy or true commitment. Some of you reading this probably won’t agree with or take this advice, but I truly believe that if we want to glorify God in our relationships, we shouldn’t start dating until we’re in a position where we can get married.
2. Date Prayerfully.
This should be a given but unfortunately, we oftentimes forget to ask the Lord for direction and discernment. We should be praying both before we start dating and during the dating process. Ask the Lord to give you contentment in your singleness and to give you wisdom on when you should start seeking a future spouse. We need to ask the Lord for clarity, guidance, and direction in seeking after the right person and pursuing them in a God-glorifying way. Failing to ask God for these things shows that we think we can do it on our own. If this is our posture, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. Ask the Lord for wisdom and direction throughout the entire period of evaluation and dating.
3. Pursue Christ first and find a mate as you’re living on mission.
The time available during the season of singleness can be used as a gift from God to do radical things in the work of ministry. Don’t miss the opportunities to live fully devoted to Christ now because you’re worried about finding a spouse later. Marshall Segal says it well in his book, Not Yet Married, “Focus on the harvest, and you’re bound to find a helper.” If you want to find someone who is running after Christ and making Him known in the same way you are, put yourself in biblical communities and situations to do so. Dating apps, bars, and nightclubs are not likely the place where you’re going to find someone who truly loves Christ. Live on mission and by doing so, you will prepare yourself to become the type of person, the type of person you want to marry, would want to marry.
4. Date to evaluate, not to find intimacy or status.
One of the biggest problems with dating in today’s culture is giving away a huge part of ourselves and our hearts to someone who isn’t our husband or wife. Way too many people date just to date. We like to say we have a boyfriend or girlfriend so that we can feel a certain level of validation and worth. However, as Christians we should be dating with a view of marriage in mind. My mom always told me “never date someone you wouldn’t marry.” I believe this is simple, straightforward, yet helpful advice. If there’s ever a point where we know we would not marry a person we’re dating, we should get out of the relationship immediately. Dating should simply be a time of getting to know someone and evaluating whether or not they are worth pursuing marriage with. It’s important that we provide this type of clarity to the other person up front to avoid any unnecessary confusion.
5. Spend your time in public places when alone.
During this period of evaluation, there will be times when you need to be alone to get to know the other person on a deeper level. Always let this be done in public places where other people are present. Go out to eat at restaurants, go to church together, attend sporting events, or hang out in friend groups. The moment you put yourself behind closed doors with no one else around, you’re walking to the ledge of the cliff of temptation and expecting not to fall.
As believers, we are called to live above reproach. This simply means living in such a way that others cannot even question your morals or character. We should also not give our flesh the opportunity for unnecessary lust; this is simply a recipe for disaster. We must establish boundaries with the other person and be on the same page in our expectations physically. We should pursue purity at all costs, and it's often helpful to bring community into your dating relationship. Others can bring accountability and helpful advice about your relationship.
6. Be patient in evaluation, but don’t drag it out.
We need to spend a certain amount of time to truly get to know someone and their character. We need to make sure that their relationship with the Lord is legit. In the honeymoon stage of relationships, we are often blinded to the true character of a person. We need to spend a long enough time with them to see how they deal with conflict and difficulties. However, once you both know this is the person you should marry, I say get engaged. Don’t put it off. Don’t wait until every single little thing is in perfect alignment. If you followed recommendation number 1, you should already be in a place to marry.
Guys, ask her to marry you, have a fairly quick engagement, and glorify Christ in your marriage. Be fruitful and multiply and create other image bearers of Christ who are being brought up in the ways of the Lord. This is another command and purpose of marriage. I see no good reason to date someone for years and years or have long engagements. If you know you’re going to marry someone, then do it. The longer you wait, the harder it is to remain pure and obedient in your relationship to Christ.
The goal of dating is to marry. And the purpose of marriage is to be a picture of the gospel and Christs’ oneness with the Church. Jesus only gives his affection to His bride. He is only united and one with His chosen people. So if you’re dating now or when you do, consider these questions: Is your dating relationship pointing others closer to Christ? Are you making disciples together or living for your own pleasure? Do others see Christ at the center of your relationship or do you look just like the world? I pray these recommendations help you to live above approach, pursue holiness, and live on mission as you go about finding a spouse and honoring Christ through your relationships.
Hunter is the Director of Young Adults Ministry at The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN. He is married to Cheyenne and has one child, Lofton.
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