The issue of dating versus courtship is one that the church does not often address. People tend to dismiss courtship as an old-fashioned notion in favor of joining the dating game of today’s society. But what are God’s people, especially teenagers in today’s world, called to when it comes to romance and finding a mate?
The problem with dating is not the dictionary definition, but rather the way in which society has defined it: a romantic relationship between a man and a woman for the purpose of personal pleasure and gratification while establishing a strong emotional attachment to one another. Dating typically does not support the eventual goal of marriage. Casual dating often causes people to become too physically, romantically, and emotionally attached to another person before marriage. The break-ups and short-term relationships of dating do not value men and women as creations of God, but support the discarding and tossing-aside of people at will. Dating seeks to satisfy the current fleshly passions and desires, instead of saving the sacredness of intimacy for marriage. Serial dating causes people to become untrustworthy of others and calloused because of the multiple times they have been hurt, betrayed and mistreated in romantic relationships. Dating contradicts many biblical principles because it tempts people to be sexually immoral outside of marriage, trivializes romantic relationships, equalizes lust with true biblical love, and may or may not include the goal of marriage. Also, dating does not usually support parental guidance, involvement and oversight of their children’s relationships.
Biblical courtship begins when a son or daughter is ready, physically, emotionally, mentally and financially to seek a mate and to be married. Instead of flitting from one relationship to the next and tossing their conquests aside like dolls when they are tired of them, the person is searching for a permanent life partner and mate to marry that shares their same Christ-centered beliefs.
Once a person finds a fellow Christian that meets the characteristics that Christians should seek in a mate (i.e., honesty, trustworthiness, patience, etc.), the two should get to know each other as friends before they begin courting with the goal of marriage in mind. Instead of spending the majority of their time alone, the couple will spend time with one another’s family and in chaperoned settings. The suitor, or the man, must be approved by the woman’s parents, and the engagement must be made with their approval. A biblical example of courtship is found in the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 24. Abraham’s family lived in a heathen culture, and in order to find his son a suitable mate, Abraham sent his servant to search for a mate for Isaac amidst his relatives. Abraham actively aided in the search for a godly mate for his son, and an important part of courtship is the involvement of parents in their children’s relationships. Christian fathers are responsible for overseeing their son and daughter’s search for a spouse and training them to be a godly husband or wife. Christian parents are responsible to help protect their son or daughter. In faith, Abraham declared in Genesis 24:7 that, “The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.” For further biblical reinforcement on courtship, see Matthew 24: 38, Luke 20:34-35, Numbers 30:3-16, Ephesians 5:25, 1 Thessalonians 4:6, and 1 Timothy 5:1-2.
But let it be clear. It is not about the terminology used; the real issues stem from the heart. Some Christian couples might say they are “dating,” when they are actually in a godly courting relationship. Courtship is sometimes referred to as “dating with a purpose” or “intentional dating.” Christians are called to glorify God in every area of their lives.
You must constantly ask yourself the following questions: are you honoring God and your parents in your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend? What does the Bible say about relationships? Are you preparing yourself and are you ready to be a godly husband or wife? Is the goal of your relationship to please God, or to please yourself? Let those questions be the guidelines of your relationships, no matter what you label your relationship as.
Madison is a contributing writer to the Good News. She can be reached at [email protected].