Dating According to the Bible?: Dating and Marriage

I am so glad that I don’t date anymore! Dating is hard and confusing and crazy. Also my wife would be really mad if I were still doing that. But I help pastor a church full of young men and women which means that on an average I talk to at least one person a week about the subject of dating. After all this is, understandably, a major concern for young adults. But there is model of dating that has been floating around for sometime that I am not sure is healthy. It proposes that young men and women never date someone they aren’t ready to marry. But I believe this approach actually puts unbelievable pressure on couples and actually assumes things that the Bible doesn’t teach.

Dating is a relatively modern phenomenon. It does not have roots in the Bible. For some people, that is enough to make it completely immoral. There are advocates of the old “courtship model” that decry the horrors of modern dating. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of things about modern dating that I think Christians must avoid. Christians must absolutely strive to guard one another’s bodies and hearts in a relationship. But all the bad stuff aside dating is simply a cultural development. It’s just the way that we have learned, developed, and taught young men and women to find someone they are interested in pursuing a serious relationship with. The ancient model of arranged marriages is no more inherently moral or divinely ordained. It too is a cultural development. The Bible does not tell us exactly what process we should take to pick a future spouse. Dating, courtship, arranged marriages, drawing names out of a hat, the method is somewhat up to us.

That is not to say that the Bible doesn’t have principles for God-honoring relationships, and for markers of good husbands and good wives. That is not to say that the Bible just lets us do what we want in this realm, but it is to say that we have some flexibility in how we go about developing a relationship and how we pick the person we want to develop it with. The young Christian couple dating are not essentially married. Their relationship does not, in any way shape of form, mirror the ancient custom of pre-marriage (where an engaged couple was essentially married but had not consummated their marriage, see Mary and Joseph in the gospels to get a picture of this). Since they aren’t married they shouldn’t be acting like they are married. They are not bound to one another, not obligated to stay together, and may not even be preparing for an immanent marriage.

The reason I think this is important is that I am seeing far too many young couples destroy themselves and their relationships because they have unrealistic expectations and unbelievable pressure hoisted upon them. A young couple dating should be spending time getting to know each other, understand each other, find out how compatible they are. You might suggest that if they don’t know such things then they shouldn’t be dating, but that’s probably just a semantical issue. Calling it something else doesn’t really change the reality of what’s happening in the relationship. These couples should be having fun, growing together, and building each other up. They should not be discussing marriage right away, and planning for their future. They should be moving slowly and simply building a relationship that may or may not go anywhere.

It’s not that just dating around for fun is appropriate for Christians, I am certainly not intending to communicate that. Christians have a responsibility to care for each others hearts. It’s important not to mislead others or misrepresent your intentions. Be careful. But at the same time don’t be too serious. You can’t plan to marry someone you don’t really know yet. You can’t plan to marry someone you don’t really appreciate or understand. You can’t plan to marry someone you haven’t invested in. Take it easy and don’t kill your relationship with unnecessary pressure.

Dating is the cultural model we have inherited. It has its weaknesses, like any model does. But it isn’t necessarily immoral, and it doesn’t come with the necessary implication that who you date is who you marry. You can argue that you should be moving towards marriage at some point, but how quickly you move in that direction is at the discretion of the parties involved. I want to encourage our folks to have healthy, God-honoring dating practices. But I also want to encourage them to move slowly, be careful, and relax. Putting too much pressure quickly on a relationship is a sure-fire way to kill it.

A post like this opens up a host of related questions and I want to spend some time in upcoming posts considering these related questions more carefully.

Comments

  1. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m really glad me and Lisa went into our relationship with the intentions of marriage.

  2. I still dont really understand as us blacks everything is wrong … I’ve been asking around is dating a sin? And the person i dated is my future husband he gave me a covenant ring but i still feel its against Gods will so i decided to break up wit him and took the ring off but he still have my ring and he keeps on making read some scripture about a woman thats me …. So are we sinning?

  3. I enjoyed you’re post. I am taking dating to serious but it’s only Hecate I’ve been hurt and misled when neither party was clear about what was going on. It became friends with benefits too quickly and just stayed there. I’m trying to be in control but that isn’t working either. I want to just stop…but I don’t want to be alone

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