There has been a lot of buzz in Christian circles in recent years about the pros and cons of dating. If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen and read posts or books on whether Christians should date or court, what Christian dating should look like, or what the Bible has to say about dating.
Despite the ample discussion and opinions on this issue, however, it often seems like we, as Christians, are still unsure about the best course of action when it comes to honoring God in relationships.
Marshall Segal, writing for Pastor John Piper’s Desiring God website, offers some solid biblical advice for Christians who are seeking to cultivate Godly relationships in his article "Does Dating Prepare Us for Marriage--or Divorce?"
First of all, Segal does not say that Christians shouldn’t date. He acknowledges that, at least in the West, dating is simply the way people get to know their potential spouse.
However, he gives this advice: “Wait to date until you can marry.”
He goes on to talk about how instead of teaching us valuable lessons of how to relate to others, how to communicate in meaningful ways, or how to express affection effectively, dating without intention to marry and before you are ready to be married often sets us up for failure.
“Experience almost always teaches us something. The problem is that at the end of each relationship, we have learned how to love someone, but that someone wasn’t our spouse,” Segal writes. “We prepared ourselves to marry our ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, and then we never got married. We cultivated love emotionally and exclusively, learned specifically how to love each other practically, and then we walked away. And then started the whole process over with someone else.
So, instead of preparing ourselves for marriage,” he continues, “we actually prepared ourselves, practically speaking, to walk away from marriage. Dating really prepared us for divorce.”
So, if the kind of dating that is the norm in our culture isn’t a good way to cultivate a Godly relationship and prepare us for marriage--what is a good way to date?
Segal offers four helpful ways to prepare us to develop Godly relationships that will last:
1. Prepare yourself to love exclusively.
This is something that takes effort and does not magically happen once we are married.
“Instead of treating each new relationship like a mini-marriage, cultivate a ferocious and truly exclusive love for your future husband or wife — even though you do not yet know who he or she is. As you relate to your boyfriend or girlfriend, always assume they are not your future husband or wife until he or she is your husband or wife.”
2. Prepare yourself to serve others selflessly, and not satisfy yourself.
Self-sacrifice is important for the health of any relationship.
“If we want to love our future spouse well one day, we must learn to live for someone other than ourselves now. We are all born knowing how to take care of ourselves (Ephesians 5:29). We all need to learn how to set ourselves aside for the sake of others — to postpone our own gratification in order to protect and serve our current boyfriend or girlfriend (as well as our future husband or wife).”
3. Prepare yourself to wait patiently.
A good, Godly relationship may be something we have to wait for, so let’s use that time to wait well.
“Impatience drives as many of our missteps in dating as anything else. Romance, marriage, and sex are really good gifts from God, and like every other good and perfect gift we receive, we have to submit to God’s timing and God’s terms to truly enjoy them.”
4. Prepare yourself to pursue purity fiercely.
Purity is more than simply a physical thing. It is a heart issue. The pursuit of purity also doesn’t end after you get married.
“Prepare your heart to treasure Jesus more than love, sex, and marriage, and you will date, marry, and make love differently. And the differences will make all the difference for your happiness, and for your future husband or wife.”
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Veronica Neffinger is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com.