To Date or Not To Date

In our culture today dating is considered one of the most basic of human rights. In fact, tell the average person that you don’t date and they will look at you as if you are from another planet. The message our young children get through media, peers, culture, and even family is if you want a satisfying life date early and date often. It is not surprising to see girls as young as five wearing make-up and dressing provocatively to draw attention from the opposite sex. As Christians parents, this should concern us. Our pro-dating culture is powerful force. We must examine and understand how it challenges the sanctity and exclusivity of marriage. In addition we need to train our children to embrace Biblical values for relationships that support the sanctity and exclusivity of marriage.

What is dating?

I think all dating has two characteristics: some degree of mutual fondness between two people and private and outward expressions of that mutual fondness. Larry likes Sarah. Sarah likes Larry. This isn’t dating. Larry tells Sarah he likes her. Sarah tells Larry he likes him. This still isn’t dating. Sarah and Larry begin to act on their feelings. They hang out more in public places. They spend time alone. They hold hands and kiss. This is what the majority of dating is. Two people dating do not merely have strong feelings of admiration and/ or affection, but they act on these feeling by spending more time together as a couple publicly and privately and demonstarting outward expressions of affection privately and often publicly.

What does dating leave out?

Having a growing affection for someone and spending time privately and publicly are good things in the context of a committed marriage relationship. This is no longer good when it ignores or neglects God’s sacred purpose for relationships. When we leave the concept of marriage out of our relationships it is no longer distinctly Christian. We may try to Christianize it by going to church or praying with our partner, but if marriage or the possibility of marriage is irrelevant and not the impetus for a growing relationship, than the relationship is out of the bounds of what scripture clearly teaches.

Why do people date?

The idea of dating is man’s way of trying to circumvent the difficult timeline God often has his people adhere to prior to entering into a marriage relationship. God’s timeline is harder because he desires for people to be thoughtful and willing to prepare for a single covenantal relationship that is for keeps and for life. This is offensive to modern men who complains if his food at the local burger joint isn’t prepared in less than a minute. God is not a kill joy. Jesus said he came to give and life to the fullest. Reserving your heart for one person has and always will be a great source of joy; although it may not feel that way to begin with.

Relationships and Marriage

I am an advocate of strong relationships between male and females. Few things touch me more than seeing an elderly couple still affectionate and head over heels in love with each other. But the emotional and physically bonding characterized by much of dating in our culture was intended to be enjoyed and expressed in the context of a marriage relationship. I do believe that some levels of emotional (getting to know one another) and physical intimacy (hand holding) are permissible in courtship, but the degrees of this intimacy grow as result of a growing sense of God’s call to marriage.

The proverbs instruct, “Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” Our well being and the location of our heart are masterfully intertwined. When dating people often give away their heart without the full assurance that someone will cherish and not neglect or trample on this sacred part of themselves. Marriage is the safeguard against this. When there is a willingness to marry, there is an active commitment. Marriage is the shelter over one’s heart. When a husband says, “I do.” he is saying, “I am committed to you and the safety and purity of your heart.”

Courtship as Alternative to Dating

I am not saying that a woman or man should give themselves over to the first person that offers marriage. This is where courtship comes in. Courtship is the buffer or bridge between my heart and the heart of a potential spouse. Courtship is the process where a man and woman together actively seek God’s will for their life as a couple. If Larry is truly ready for marriage and tells Sarah he wants to consider marriage and if Sarah agrees, the two of them could begin courtship. Courtship is different from dating because it has the most essential ingredient of relationships in mind- marriage. Dating, on the other hand, steals the fruits of marriage- emotional and physical intimacy- without the commitment marriage requires. This leads to heartache.

Entering into a courtship does not assure a couple will get married. It is a discovery process. The couple get to know one another; not just the person that person wants to be, but the actual person. This requires getting to know that person in multiple environments, such as with family and friends. It also requires parental involvement. Many fathers of daughters will interview possible suitors to help their daughters discern if a suitor is compatible with her. Although this role must be secondary to what she learns and feels, it is an important aspect of courtship and if done sensitively and lovingly can be a great asset in the process of discerning God’s will for that couple’s future.

Personally I believe if two people are getting a strong sense that God is calling them to marriage and they are getting confirmation from trusted friends and family members, there is no reason to delay. Regardless of how strong one’s belief may be that they will be married, they should continue to put limits on expressing emotional affection and physical affection until that day. Couples that have reserved their first kiss for marriage will testify to how sweet and beautiful that kiss will be.

Having reserve and restraint in courtship sets the tone for a healthy and loving marriage relationship. If couples learn to delay getting what they desire in courtship, it will be easier to delay pleasures during marriage. Any married couple can testify to the need to delay gratification. Couples that date often make themselves , sex, or fun the focus of the relationship. If this is all that defined the relationship, when sickness, job loss, children, or other stressors come along the relationship is more vulnerable to crumble because the foundation of the relationship was built on emotional highs not a determined commitment to put the other person’s well being before our own.

Christian Dating or Courting

I know some may be following the course of courtship, but call it dating. The process of getting to know one another with the expressed interest of discerning God’s will for a relationship is traditionally called courting. If this is what you did, but called it dating, that matters little. God doesn’t looka t the outward tags as much as he looks at the heart. Whether you want to call this process Christian courtship or dating does not matter as much as how well the process aligns with God’s key ingredient for relationships- marriage.


About the Author

My name is Randy Saller. I am a special education teacher at Gavin Central in Lake Villa, Illinois. I have a BA in Special Education and an MA in Curriculum and Instruction. I have been married to Amy Jo for the last 18 years. God has blessed us with three wonderful children- Jonah, Gilbert, and Sadie. Some of my interests include spending time with family, running, fishing, and writing. I have written for Turtle Magazine, Chicago Parent, and The Old Schoolhouse. My wife and I are Christians with a passion for homeschooling and family discipleship. Two of My favorite verses are: He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers..... (Malachi 4:6). I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth (1 John 3-4). Amy and I believe that there is no more important ministry than the family ministry. It is our passion to help parents understand the importance of their role in helping their children understand and know God. Although parents will always be imperfect, God has chosen the broken vessel of parenting to have the most influential role (humanly speaking) in the spiritual life of a child. I invite you to explore some of the free resources on this website.

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