Dating: But Make It Biblical
It’s great to be here with you again. How are you feeling? If you’ve been here through this marriage learning journey, you’ll know we’ve spent November to now discussing the Biblical design of marriage and what that looks like for us today. It’s my hope that you’ve been edified, encouraged, and empowered to employ God’s marriage design for your life!
Now, by a show of hands, are there any single ladies in the room? Okay, now single men! Let me be specific: if you haven’t put a ring on it, I mean YOU.
I’d be hard-pressed to move onto a new topic without addressing the modern-day conundrum: dating. So, my dear friend, you know the drill. Grab your coffee, let’s get comfy, and jump right into DATING: BUT MAKE IT BIBLICAL.
THE SHORT HISTORY OF DATING
Dating became popular around the turn of the 20th century, following the Industrial Revolution and creating what we know today. Once the change from an agrarian and handicraft economy to one of industry and machine manufacturing began, both men and women accepted this new way of life, placing work and production over the family unit. Previous to this, terms like courtship with the final goal of marriage would be appropriate. Prior to courtship, from ancient times to around the 18th-19th century, arranged marriages were commonplace.
With that said, we won’t find anything in Scripture about dating because dating is not a biblical concept.
Fast forward to our modern day, most teens and young adults (as well as 30s, 40s, and even 50s) have forsaken the 20th-century dating practice for “hook-up culture” instead. If you’re unsure of what “hook-up culture” is, it’s basically random, casual sex with no strings attached. Unfortunately, for the single believer, we find ourselves in a pretty big mess.
COMPLICATIONS OF DATING CULTURE
This swift progression poses complications both obvious and not-so-much. Let’s break down a few issues.
An issue of biology & physiology: During biblical times, as well as before the revolution, young men and women would marry in their teen years. In fact, once a young man owned a plot of land, some animals, and knew how to provide, he was ready to pursue marriage and to start a family.
Biologically and physically this makes sense, as this is when the human body matures and develops into a sexual being. Relationships with others as well as sexual desires evolve with the maturation of the body and this reality is seen even in our culture today. However, the acceptable age for marriage has increased from 25 years old, to 30 years old, and even 40; which comes with some complications.
Let’s look at it from a biblical lens. When the acceptable age for marriage is prolonged, you create a large gap between the biological and physical readiness of the body that has entered into adulthood and the arrival of the God-given outlet in which to express that need wholly and purely.
Sex was created and designed by God to be pure and holy when done in the confines of the marriage covenant. In fact, sex between a husband and wife mirrors the covenant made between Jesus Christ and his bride! Ephesians 5:31-32 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (ESV)”
Sex in marriage is the most intimate, bonding, and connecting act that can be done between the husband and wife. In parallel, it is an intimate, bonded, and connected Bride that Jesus Christ is coming back for! If you are feeling uncomfortable, take a deep breath. It’s okay. Perhaps part of our problem as a Church is that we’re so shy to discuss the topic of intimacy, as He designed it. When we rest in the truth that sex within marriage is a gift from God made to both bring delight to and consecrate our marriages, it’s not so embarrassing but joyous.
An issue of creating quasi-marriages and quasi-divorce:
In essence, what are the base requirements of a biblical marriage? To commit oneself emotionally, spiritually, and physically to only one person: a husband/wife.
Vice versa, what are the cultural base requirements of dating? To commit oneself emotionally and spiritually to only one other person: the boyfriend/girlfriend. Keep in mind that this is just for the believer. For unbelievers, the commitment would also be physical.
By dating, we have created a relationship that has the tendencies of marriage but is not yet marriage. The intimate act of dedicating oneself emotionally, spiritually, and physically to one other person is itself the hallmark of marriage. When people enter into these exclusive, committed relationships (that mirror the marriage relationship) they are essentially “playing marriage.” In other words, dating creates quasi-marriages. Once the dating relationship goes south and breakups happen, they are left with a soul wound, a quasi-divorce, something we were never meant to experience.
What’s even more devastating is that these quasi-divorces happen multiple times throughout the course of a young person’s life. Our culture glorifies having many relationships so we might find the right one and never settle for less. But what we don’t realize is that in our many relationship pursuits, we’re essentially getting married and divorced – over and over and over again.
An issue of temptation:
If we know that, first, God designed us to be sexual beings and gifted us sex within the confines of marriage and, second, that modern-day dating creates quasi-marriage relationships, we can arrive at this conclusion: dating can become a dangerous game of temptation for the believer.
You see, the spiritual and emotional commitment found in marriage was designed by God to manifest itself physically. God didn’t design us to commit ourselves conveniently to another person only partially. When the believer dates, he or she is committing themselves emotionally and spiritually to the other, whilst constantly fighting the biological and biblical design to express their physical commitment in marriage as well. No wonder sexual purity is so hard for young adults and adults alike!
With these issues in light, it’s easy to see why dating is so difficult and the deviation from sexual restraint is the norm. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not advocating for arranged marriages or a return to the ancient ways. I am however advocating for us to understand why the modern cultural idea of dating is so hard to navigate. It is because, you guessed it, God never intended it to be this way.
Understanding these variables gives us the tools we need to fight back against a culture that, often, favors deception and is almost always, in disagreement with our faith. Just as with all things post-fall, sin has crept in and blurred every line. Praise God that we have Him to help us navigate these murky waters!
WHAT NOW, THEN?
Although scripture does not address dating specifically, we can still find good and applicable truths for our journey. Since we live in this fallen world, we must be encouraged by the words of Jesus found in John 16:33. Jesus encourages us himself that we would experience hardship during our time on earth but to take heart and have peace, for He has overcome the world! So, how should a single believer address dating: but make it biblical? Here are some tips:
Understand the “gift” of singleness:
In 1 Corinthians 7:7, Paul calls singleness a gift! Some may interpret this verse as a call never to marry or a lack of interest (which brings up all new problems!) but this is not what Paul is referring to. You see, Paul found joy in his current state of singleness because it allowed him to serve and minister for God and others in a capacity that would be impossible if he was married. Furthermore, Paul found his peace through his identity and commitment to God, being fruitful in a single state. Simply, it is walking with grace and peace through the single season, abiding in the Lord which in turn prepares you for a future marriage.
In this season, make the pursuit of your relationship with Christ the ultimate goal. Learn what it means to pray, abide in Him, and walk with Him daily. By abiding in the Lord, you will be both preparing and protecting your heart. If you allow Him, God will use this time to consecrate you and prepare you for your future spouse. Enjoy this season and spend it cultivating relationships with friends and family and taking time to better understand your own strengths and weaknesses. Maybe even get some bucket-list items out of the way!
Educate yourself on biblical marriage:
There is no surprise why young people and adults are struggling with what marriage means, what love is, and what God intended for it all. As the Church, many are struggling in this area! While culture and the world is loud and relentless, the Church is not always ready to have these difficult conversations because these truths may be uncomfortable. Simply look at the culture we’ve discussed and the pressures we all face. But we are called to speak the truth in love, nothing is more loving than to tell someone what they need to hear, even if it makes us uncomfortable.
The biblical marriage design is a robust, beautiful gift given to us by God to teach us unconditional love so we might become more like Jesus Christ. We have discussed this topic heavily these past few months and I would suggest studying up on them if you haven’t yet. The best defense a single man or woman can have is to understand God’s intention for marriage and begin to prepare their hearts accordingly.
Commit to sexual purity:
1 Corinthians 6:18 says, “Free from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” Take a moment to let that sink in. When sexual sin is committed, i.e. lust, sexual acts, pornography, masturbation, erotic novels, visualization – it’s a sin committed to the body. The consequences of this are significant, as this sin lives inside the body, chipping away piece by piece.
We live in a culture that praises promiscuity and body count. I know that sexual sin runs rampant around us, waiting for us like a thief in the night, ready to strike. Do not be disheartened, there is HOPE in Christ! For in our weakness, His strength is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). In order to resist the sin of the world, we must rely on God’s strength and walk with the Spirit constantly.
It is important to note that if you have fallen into sexual sin, lay it before the Lord. He is gracious and eager to forgive us our sins, as he understands the weight of sin and death, and has crucified your sins on the cross already. Remember, that culture and His ways will usually be in direct opposition so it may be difficult to commit to waiting to marry before being intimate; especially if you have already set a dynamic in a dating relationship where intimacy is taking place. My friend, He is faithful and safe. His ways are meant to protect you and He can be trusted. If you are reading this and feeling His nudge, ask Him to help you navigate the situation. He is faithful and will guide you.
You can make the choice, right this instant, to lay down sin, lay down shame and guilt, and choose the redeeming power of forgiveness and redemption in Christ. If you do so, you will be made new, and you can continue your single season with purity and grace, ready for the future at hand.
Pray for your future spouse:
You may not know them yet, but unless God has called you to a life of singleness and abstinence (which is few and far between), then your spouse is out there – somewhere! Do not wait to pray for them, begin your prayers today. Pray for wisdom, joy, and a selfless heart. Don’t wait, pray for your future spouse now.
Do not be unequally yoked:
As believers, it is essential to make sure you are not unequally yoked. Scripture warns against this and for good reason. If you are truly a child of God, marrying an unbeliever will cause great heartache and struggles for you and your family. It is not biblical to marry in hopes of a spousal conversion to Christ, nor should you choose that heartache for yourself.
However, if you are married, reading this, and DO find yourself in an unequally yoked marriage, practice the previous step. Pray for your family and your spouse. God is a miracle-working God, and remember, you are sanctifying your home through your faith (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Jesus tells us that they will know us by our love. By loving unconditionally as Jesus does, we shine the light of Jesus wherever we go. I pray that your spouse will see this love and begin to question where it comes from.
Protect your heart at all costs:
Lastly, protect your heart at all costs, my friend. When we know that dating creates quasi-marriages through emotional and spiritual commitment, we can protect our hearts by minimizing this. First, don’t date simply just to date. Find an applicable, Jesus-loving other, and date with the intention of marriage. If marriage is your final goal, your intentions will be aligned correctly. By committing yourself first to Christ, then to your chosen other with the intent of marriage, your heartache will be far less.
DON’T LOSE HOPE!
The hard work it takes for a believer to navigate this dating culture is both doable and worth it in Christ. I used 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 earlier but I think we need to hear it again. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness! Rely on the Lord my friends, pursue and abide in Him, and He will draw close to you. This is His promise!
“Dogs are how people would be if the important stuff is all that mattered to us.” – Ashly Lorenzana, author
When does the sniffing part take place in a dating relationship? I didn’t see that on the list. #askingforafriend #dogsdatebetter
Exciting news! Enjoy our recent family photos taken by another dear friend, and sister in Christ. Next newsletter will continue to showcase the lovely work of Irita Reagan and then add her info.
Much love, Luz.