Books have been written about it. Podcasts have been dedicated to it. Sermons have been preached on it. It seems evangelicals looking to mingle are obsessed with the topic of “dating” or “courtship” and understandably so. Unless one is called to singleness, most Christians have to wrestle with the topic.
On this particular topic, the Bible is silent. What I mean by this is you won’t find a passage in the Bible that mentions “dating” or “courtship.” This is largely due to the fact that in ancient societies parents arranged virtually all marriages. So how should well-meaning brothers and sisters find a “boo” in a society far removed from those types of cultural practices?
Perform a quick Google search and you’ll soon discover that almost everyone has an opinion on how one should pursue a spouse. Although Scripture is silent on “dating” specifically, it is not silent on relationships and how we should engage our brothers or sisters. I’m no expert on dating and relationships. My résumé isn’t very impressive. But what I’ve learned from years of mistakes and errors is this: Dating decisions made in isolation and haste are dangerous and often unloving to those involved. Anything done in isolation and haste is often reckless, especially when circumstances don’t demand it and wisdom is screaming patience. This led to the majority of my bad relationships in years past.
I can’t help but ask: Why is it that so many Christians are dating without the benefit and gift of community? Perhaps it’s because we are taking plays out of the wrong playbook. Maybe mainstream pop culture is shaping the minds of many professing believers rather than the Gospel.
Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (ESV). It is selfish to date and keep the relationship just focused on the two of you. When you’re dating in isolation, you make all of your decisions based on what you perceive. However, what you perceive is completely based on what you feel. And that’s the problem. Just because something feels “true” doesn’t mean it is. God has given us Scripture, and if Scripture is silent, He’s given us the church.
Sadly, we have been hoodwinked and bamboozled into thinking that society’s way of relating to the opposite sex is not just the best way, but also the only way. But I want to propose a wiser way to handle dating relationships. I am not only submitting to you that this way is right, but I think it’s safer and more loving toward all of those involved. It protects your heart as well as the heart of the one you’re spending time with. I believe it is the wisest way to go about dating; that is, dating in community. Here are some reasons dating in community is wise.
Most have experienced the feeling of infatuation. You meet someone and they seem so legit. For a while, it’s like they can do no wrong. You love everything about them, from the way they smile to how cute they are when they get upset. The things they do that would normally annoy you don’t really bother you at all. They’re different. This person is “the one.” You’re done looking.
Unfortunately for all those involved, this lasts for about 1–3 months. Suddenly reality hits you like a ton of bricks and you’re saying stuff like, “This person isn’t the person I fell for.” Did they change? I don’t think so. In the words of that great singer songwriter, “Love is blind and it will take over your mind. What you think is love, is truly not…” You know the rest. Blind love formed in isolation leads to false promises and a lot of bad decisions.
This is where the perspective of community comes in. Christian friends and elders are able to provide wise words like, “Slow down,” or, “You realize this person is only human, right?” They’re able to do what you’re unable to do. They’re able to remain neutral. They care about you and have your best interest in mind. You should seek this from those in the life of your local church and your family if they’re Christian. You and the person you’re dating need the perspective of others.
This is important in our overly sexualized culture, a culture that’s moving away from traditional marriage and pushing young men and women toward extended adolescence. The culture dictates we linger in the dating season all the while wanting the benefits of marriage like commitment and sex. Christians are not immune to this type of activity.
Isolation is the gateway drug to sexual immorality for dating couples. Accountability allows for hard questions to be asked and asked continuously. However, singles need Christian community to hold them accountable not only on sexual purity, but also on dating for the sake of dating. Dating is a means to an ends, and the end goal relationally is marriage. It’s also important that the people who are holding you accountable are people you love and trust.
At the end of the day, accountability is useless to liars. Everyone who is seeking accountability must be prepared to admit that they have a problem. This is hard because it’s risky. But dating relationships are risky, and we take that risk over and over for the possibility of a momentary marriage. Consider what the relational risk of accountability provides. We get Jesus. We get an eternal marriage that fulfills our every need. This is the promise of the Gospel. The risk of exposing sickness to the rest of the body actually reveals that you are trusting in the Gospel. It shows that you trust the Gospel to cover your sins as well as heal them.
Death by Desolation
We were designed for community. It is in our nature as humans whether we are Christian or not. No one was designed to live on an island. The Christian has been uniquely designed to be a part of a community that will one day reign with Christ. We have been rewired for and grafted into the body of Christ.
Consider what happens to a limb that is removed from the body. Does it live? No, it dies. First, it becomes numb and then stops moving. Lastly it grows cold and dies. This is very similar to what happens to the Christian when he or she is separated from the family.
Dating in isolation may not kill you, but it can kill you. If it doesn’t, we should count it as grace and grace alone. The church is a precious gift from God that He uses to sustain those connected to it. Don’t neglect her; instead cling to her.