Who Should I Consider Dating?
This is part 2 of a 3 part series. You can find part 1 here.
Several years ago, I was given a helpful analogy to illustrate the type of dating relationship I should pursue as a believer. Imagine a triangle where you are at one point on the bottom of the triangle, the person you will eventually marry is at the other point at the bottom of the triangle, and God is at the top point.
If both of you are seeking God (moving vertically), you will eventually meet at the top with God at the center of your relationship. But think about what happens when one of you isn’t seeking God. One person will head vertically towards Christ, the other will head horizontally towards the other person and there will be a disconnect. Again, look at what happens if you both head horizontally toward one another. You will find each other, but God will not be at the center of your relationship. This has always helped me understand the importance of seeking someone who is pursuing Christ and not simply a relationship status when dating.
The purpose of dating is to marry, and marriage is a picture of Christs’ love for the Church. So with this in mind, I would define dating as simply a period of evaluation with the goal of marriage. Before we get into the “how” we should date or go about finding a future spouse, I first think we need to discuss “who” we should even consider dating. If we would never marry a person, there would certainly be no reason to ever date that person.
Several years ago I read the book “Single. Dating. Engaged. Married.” by Ben Stuart and much of the advice that he gives in this book helped me formulate my framework of dating as a believer. So I am indebted to him for many of these considerations and thoughts. In this article, I am going to lay out 4 “non-negotiable” traits you should be looking for and 3 more “negotiable” traits to consider when dating. So what type of person should we date?
4 Non-negotiable Traits:
1. They must be a person of the opposite sex.
This probably would not have had to be said 15 years ago, but in today’s culture and with the rise of progressive Christianity, this must be said. Marriage is between one man and one woman. I am not going to get into all the details of God’s design for marriage for one man and one woman in a lifelong covenant relationship, but you can read more on the topic of homosexuality here.
2. They must be a believer in the Triune God of the Bible.
2 Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” This passage isn’t specifically talking about dating or marriage relationships, but it certainly applies. I do not believe in missional dating whatsoever. Missional dating is the idea of dating someone in an attempt to convert them to Christianity or in hopes that they do. I believe that this is extremely unwise. God is the only One who can change a person’s heart so we have no guarantee that that person would ever truly come to faith in Christ. Marrying an unbeliever will cause much marital strife down the road and hinder your personal relationship with the Lord.
To be clear, I’m not saying that we should not have friends who are non-believers. If there’s someone you want to be friends with and point them to Jesus, you should absolutely do so. However, we should not consider dating a person if they are not a true believer in the God of the Bible.
3. They must be actively pursuing Jesus Christ.
Not only should the person we date believe in God, but they should be someone who is walking with Christ daily and following Him obediently. A few good questions to ask yourself: Does this person lead me closer to Christ or draw me further away? Do they help me fight sin or am I more inclined to fall into sin because of them? We should seek someone who is wise and who fears the Lord. They should have the same desire as you to put Christ at the center of their life and be someone who seeks to grow in sanctification. Simply being a believer is not enough. Are they actively pursuing Jesus in their life?
4. They must be someone who can keep the same pace as you.
Imagine you’re going to run a marathon. If you want to do your best, you’ll want to run with someone that can keep a similar pace as you so you can push each other towards the goal. It wouldn’t be wise to run with someone who has a 3-minute slower mile time than you, right? What would happen in this case, is you would either get pulled apart as you run or you would have to greatly slow down in order to stay together.
Again, let me be clear. What I am not suggesting is that both of you have to be at the same spiritual maturity level. One of you may know much more about the bible or theology. One of you may have been a follower of Jesus for a much longer period of time. Those things are okay! What I’m saying is this, if you’re someone who’s willing to move overseas and live on the mission field and you marry someone who is not willing to do radical things for Christ but rather just wants to play church on Sundays, this is going to cause great friction in your marriage and eventually hinder your pursuit of Christ. Pursue someone who can keep the same pace as you seek the mission of Jesus together.
3 Negotiable Traits to Consider:
These three traits are things to consider and are worth having conversations about but may not necessarily be deal-breakers in your evaluation of a person.
1. Theological compatibility
This is what I consider 2nd tier doctrinal issues within Christianity. These don’t define whether or not someone is a Christian, but they are worth considering if there are major differences. Do you attend churches of different denominations? Where would you go when you got married? You may have different views on the methods and function of baptism. Once again, not necessary deal-breakers but undoubtedly worth discussing before moving forward.
2. Social compatibility
This one is pretty simple: Do you enjoy each other's company? Do you have a good time when you’re together? In most cases, there is at least some level of similar interests and hobbies but this does not always have to be the case. Christ is enough to bring people into God-glorifying marriage with each other. Examine your social compatibility and certainly know that you enjoy spending time with this person if you’re considering spending the rest of your life with them.
3. Physical attraction
Here’s the reality: you’re most likely not going to marry someone who you're not attracted to and I would even say that you shouldn’t. There should be a level of physical attraction to the person you’re going to marry. Should this be the most important trait or even one of the most important? Absolutely not. Physical attractiveness is great, but it will not last forever. We get old and our bodies change. We need to seek out traits that go beyond what will fade and focus on traits that have much higher value such as godliness and character.
Have you ever thought someone was really good-looking and then suddenly didn’t think they were nearly as attractive once you got to know them? Why is this? This is because physical attraction is much deeper than simply what meets the eye. People over time can become more or less attractive to us based on their personality or their character.
Ladies, if that man does not fear the Lord and isn’t going to lead you and your future family spiritually, he’s worthless to you. Gentlemen, the same goes for you. I don’t care how beautiful that girl you're attracted to is, if she doesn’t love the Lord, her beauty is worthless and deceptive. Physical attraction is important but spirituality is far more significant.
The process of evaluation in finding a future spouse can be frustrating at times and the pressure to settle may begin to creep in. However, as Christians, I believe there are some traits that have to be absolutely non-negotiable and others that should also be considered when dating. Hopefully, the categories above will give a helpful framework when considering who to date as you seek out a God-glorifying relationship. In the next article, I am going to move from the “who” to the “how” and give some practical recommendations when dating.
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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