(Crowd voices: “Oh boy, another post on dating!”)
I have four daughters (at the time of writing, all under age 8), so this topic feels super relevant for me, and the pace of life is such that I need wisdom on this issue, stat.
By way of preface, my wife and I dated in High School. We probably shouldn’t have. We committed sin together that we have repented of, but that still brings things up in our marriage from time to time. I also brought other baggage from other relationships into the game as well. I can personally attest to the destructiveness of sin in this area to marriages.
But I can also personally attest to the grace and mercy of God and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit’s work in a believer’s heart and life that has led my wife and I to have a very very happy and successful marriage, despite having it done it “all wrong.”
That said, I think there is wisdom to be had here. I recently had (yet another) great exchange on the topic on my Facebook wall. There were some helpful things shared by all. This is offered as an expanded reflection on the topic from that exchange.
Some preliminary principles.
- There is no law here re dating vs. courting / DWAPing (dating with a purpose) or any other format. They’re all problematic because we are sinners.
- Abstention from dating does not divorce-proof one’s marriage. Plenty of other ways exist to pick up baggage that could lead to divorce.
- You will bring emotional baggage with you into your marriage. We are fallen humans. Emotional baggage is what we do.
- It is impossible to “practice” with dating. Dating one human being does not necessarily give you wisdom or insight for a future relationship, because it is about knowing someone. You cannot practice knowing someone (your future spouse) by knowing someone else.
With this in mind, here are some…
Rules we all have to agree on:
- The relationship must promote absolute sexual purity (Ephesians 5:3). This is a decision between the two involved in the relationship, and their surrounding community, to be devoted to one another in encouraging complete purity in the relationship. A pro-active protecting of one another, rather than testing the boundaries.
- The relationship must stir one another on to love and good works within the church community (Hebrews 10:24). The relationship should not distract you from active service to the whole community, or segment you off from the community because of an exclusivity in terms of time and attention spent on one another.
- If you still are in your parents household, the relationship must honor your father and mother by seeking the blessing (happiness and approval!) of all parents involved (Ephesians 6:2). You are not Romeo or Juliet. God has placed your parents (all of them…) in authority over you, and submission to them (no matter how much they fail to understand you) is commanded by scripture. Important to note that it is likely you who do not understand them, not they who do not understand you, however you might feel.
Perhaps you see where I’m going with this. :) The relationship must actively glorify God, by obeying His commands toward us, and promoting lives of holiness. I have only seen a handful of relationships do this. The rest fumble through the wreckage of selfish, sinful behavior (such as I did). It is important to note that God’s Grace is always sufficient for our sin, if we are repentant.
The number one mistake possible in dating relationships:
Lack of repentance.
Lack of willingness to call sin what it is: sin. Dating does not give you a pass for sexual immorality, honoring of parents, service in the church, encouraging and supporting our brothers and sisters, or any other command of the scripture.
Sexual immorality prior to marriage is still sexual immorality even if you end up married.
Lack of repentance will destroy your relationship, your marriage, and your soul.