A lot of people keep asking me about a biblical perspective on dating and how to conduct oneself in this sort of relationship. It’s not an easy question to answer because the question assumes that “dating” is a ‘given’. As most of us know, dating is often seen as the normal route to move from singleness to marriage. Through dating we get to know the other person and find out if there is a good compatibility between the two people. For this reason, the alternative options of match- making, arranged marriages, blind dating, or simply rocking up to someone to ask their hand in marriage is so totally wrong. You have to ‘go out’ with them first before you take the plunge.
However, in today’s culture dating has has become something more than just a process of finding a partner. It has become in itself a third type of sexual relationship in addition to singleness and marriage. In this, when you enter into this relationship it brings with it certain entailments and ‘privileges’ which are part of the whole dating package. So it seems that once you start dating someone you are allowed to be ‘intimate’ with each other and by this I mean more than just D&M (Deep and meaningful). You are now allowed to be intimate physically – Intimate hugs, kisses, touching, pecking etc etc. Of course your not allowed to sleep with each other (Although it seems that is now part of the norm it seems) . Within this boundary then dating is more than just spending more time with each other. It is also an intimate relationship, both emotionally and partially physical. This is how the world views the dating game and I think it is confirmed by watching all the teenage movies popping up on TV etc.
Given this what is the biblical perspective on dating? Here are a few thoughts?
a. The first thing to note is that the bible recognises only two states of relationships – Singleness and marriage. (Divorce would probably be classed under singleness but that’s another story to debate on.) There does not appear to be any third type of relationship. Yes there is something called Betrothal but the closest parallel to that would be a notch higher than engagement. Remember that Joseph was betrothed to Mary and when he found out that she was pregnant he thought it might be best to ‘divorce’ her (Matt 1:19). That aside it seems that there are only two types of sexual relationship – singleness and marriage
b. The second thing to note is that within the bible there are many legitimate routes one can move from singleness to marriage. If you take out the dodgy one’s there is quite a diversity of ways one can travel
- Wait for God to deliver someone to your door steps -Gen 2: 22-25
- Get your servant to find a wife for your son – Gen 24:1-4
- Offer your daughter’s hand in marriage to anyone who can conquer the enemy for you – Judges 1:12,13
- Wait for your enemy to die of a heart attack and marry his wife – 1 Sam 25:39-42
- Girls – Don’t wait for the guy. Take the initiative and let them know your interested – Ruth 3:7-9
- Do a great feat for the father so that he will give you his daughter’s hand in marriage – 1 Sam 18:20-27
- Go to war with your enemy and if you find a women you like, take her for your wife – Deut 21:10-13
Now I’m not advocating to do what they did. For us guys the bible also warns us about the sort of women it would be good to stay away from. (See Prov 21:9, 19; 23:27; 25:24) and the sort of women we should be on the look out for to marry (See Prov 31). So while there are many roads that leads to marriage we still need to be wise and godly about it. Given the many routes, and the silence of the bible about dating, I would suggest that dating is one other such route that one can adopt when trying to find a soul mate for life. In short there are many ways one can legitimately move from singleness to marriage.
c. As with all cultural practices, dating included, these need to be checked by the teaching of scriptures. So even though Abraham told his servant to find a wife for his son there were clear boundaries of who his son was not to marry (Gen 24: 3,4). Similarly with God’s instruction to the people of Israel when going to war. They can take a wife from their enemies beyond the borders of the Promised Land (Deut 21:10-13) but but the women within the Promised land was out of bounds (See Deut 7:3,4)
Given all this, how does this apply to the dating game? Here are a few suggestion
a. If you are dating someone remember that you are both SINGLE. Sure you are dating but you are still SINGLE. You are not married yet. You are SINGLE. Dating is NOT a third type of relationship. Dating is simply a girl and a guy spending more time talking to each other. Is that wrong? It depends! it always depends. If you want to get to know each other to see if you are able to marriage each other – fine. If it is more than that or less than that – hmmm?
b.Dating is not the only way to getting married. You can, if you want, get someone to find you a spouse. If you’re game, you can try Christian blind dating agency. To make things even easier you could simply go straight from singleness, miss all the dating stuff and rock up to someone and say “Hey can I marry you?” I know a few friends who have done this and it has worked for them. They approached some of the girls in the fellowship and, out of the blue, asked them if they would marry them and they said Yes!. So it can be done. Again the bible still tells us to be wise but that being said the other routes are not entirely wrong in and of themselves. Part of the difficulty we have with the other approaches is because of our misguided notion that we have to find Mr/Ms Right. I’ve blogged on this previously so you can check out what I said about this – Finding Mr/Ms Right
c. Finally we need evaluate our culture and practices through the filters of the scriptures. What does the bible say? Being SINGLE means that all the sex stuff is ONLY for married people. We need to understand that sex is more that just sexual intercourse. Sex is so much more than this. All this stuff like intimate kissing and hugging and touching is part of the sexual act that ultimately leads to intercourse and finally orgasm. Is it any wonder that most dating couples I know struggle to keep their hands of each other. Why? Because they are playing with something that leads to something else ie intercourse. Always remember there are kisses and there are KISSES. There are hugs and there are HUGS. Paul has some good words to say here to all of us.
“1 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”
1 Timothy 5:1, 2, NIV.
Remember those words “ABSOLUTE PURITY”. He says something similar again.
“1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
Ephesians 5:1-5, NIV.
So how do we act in a dating relationship? With absolute purity. It is as simple as that.Remember that, even though you are dating you are both still SINGLE. Nothing more and nothing less. Therefore as SINGLE people keep all the sex stuff till the day when you both decide to get married.
More positively how should we conduct ourselves as a single guy and girl going out with each other? The bible has so much to say on this it is hard to know where to begin.
“15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
”Colossians 3:15-17, NIV.
Anyway these are some of my reflections.