There are two areas that everyone claims to be good at. The first is
that that they are a better than average driver and the second is that they are
a good judge of character. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’m just terrible at
figuring out what a person is really like.” Even the woman on her third husband
will insist that she is a good judge of character. The problem is always that
“he changed after we got married.”
I am different. I admit that
I am only an average driver. Right there you know that I am more honest than
most people. So on that basis you have to believe me when I tell you with
conviction that I am a good judge of people. Within a couple of minutes of
meeting someone I can tell you what their top major flaws are and I am right
every time. And this does not just apply to character. I can listen to a sermon
and at the end of it I can tell the pastor every grammatical mistake he made
and after any church event I can pinpoint to the leaders everything that could
have been done better.
But this ability is not
something that I can take credit for. I truly believe that it is a gift of the
Holy Ghost and I want God to get all of the glory. But as with anything that
comes from The Lord there is certain to be persecution. I’ll give you a couple
After a message on how to evangelize I took the speaker aside and
humbly pointed out how his delivery was stiff and that he left out four major
points that should always be included in any presentation on evangelism. He
then had the audacity to tell me that I had a critical spirit. I was stunned.
Here I was full of the Holy Ghost and being as gentle and humble as anyone
could ever be and he turns around and insults me. Well, I put him in his place.
As quick as a whip I shot back at him that he is clearly prideful and
unteachable. He just stood there in silence like someone hit him with a big
rock right on his forehead. I bet that he went home that night with something
to think and repent about.
Another time I told a
husband that he needed to control his wife better because she wears too much
red and her shorts are several inches above her knees. He got so angry that I
thought that he was going to hit me so asked myself what Jesus would do and
then I put my hand on his shoulder and closed my eyes and prayed out loud that
“God would take away the sin of anger from this man’s life and to convict his
wife of her sin of being a seductress.” I guess that the Holy Ghost spoke in a
very loud voice through me because when I opened my eyes everyone in the room
was staring at me. I’m sure that they were adding their “amens” to my prayer.
I just don’t think that
people really understand that I am only trying to help them to be better
people. It is only those who care the most who are willing to go up to someone
and help them understand their flaws. Most people are so afraid of conflict
that they are willing to let others wander around merrily committing the same
sins over and over again. But not me. I have a Holy Ghost eye for what is wrong
and I’m not one to let God down when it comes time to using it. If God has
given you a talent then you should use it every chance you get. That’s what I
believe with a faith that can pull down mountains and cast the dust into the
sea. But it’s a gift don’t forget; I claim no credit for it. I can only point
my finger up to God.
Christian circles there has been a bandwagon of condemning dating and purposing
courtship or some other method as a means for Christian men and women to get
together for marriage. Kevin Offner in the
newsletter Life Matters wrote “And my
conviction is that American dating needs more than fine-tuning or gentle
corrections—instead, dating should be abolished.”
Joshua Harris wrote a popular book called I Kissed Dating Goodbye.
something like this anti-dating campaign strike a chord among us? Probably
because we have all been hurt because of some dating situation and we would not
mind a pain-free way of achieving the same end. It seems especially appealing
when we can be convinced that this way is actually Biblical and, therefore, has
God’s stamp of approval on it. The result has been Christians developing a
method of relationships and then trying to validate them as being Biblical. But
what does the Bible say about how men and women are to get to know each other
in a way that might lead to marriage?
There has been a
spate of books on this topic that have come out in the last few years and it
seems as though everyone has their own opinion on what is the “right” way to
meet another person.
But why is this
even a concern to us? Unmarried people can read any number books or articles on
how advantageous being single can be. Five of the more popular advantages are:
Freedom. You can generally do what you want, go where
you want, spend your money however you want to and so on.
Time alone. If you need time alone it is not hard to
Productivity. 1 Corinthians 7:32 is usually referenced.
“But I want you to be free from concern.
One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may
please the Lord.” The thought is that singles have more time and so can be
involved in more ministries and in serving other people.
Friends of the
opposite gender. It is certainly more possible to do something with someone of
the other gender when you are single than when you are married.
responsibilities. If you lose your job you do not have a family to worry about.
There is less stress being concerned about providing for only one. You can get
by with much smaller living quarters.
These are all
true and good. And yet, for most single people, no matter what they do or how
they try and alter their thinking, there is always that tugging at the heart;
that gnawing feeling that something is missing. You can try and suppress that
feeling by serving your guts out and being very, very busy, but it is still
there lingering. It may shoot to the surface when you pass a young married
couple with a newborn or when you are lying alone in bed trying to fall asleep.
So what does the
Bible say about this feeling and what should we do about it? Philippians 4:11
says, “Not that I speak from want, for I
have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Paul said that he
learned to be content in whatever circumstances he was in and since singleness
is a circumstance we should learn to be content in it—Right? And yet, for the
most part, it is a real struggle. No matter how hard we try to be
content that loneliness and lack of fulfillment keeps creeping back in.
1 Corinthians 7:9 is an
interesting verse. It says, “But if they [referring the unmarried mentioned in
the preceding verse] do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better
to marry than to burn with passion.” Notice what this verse does not say. It
does not read, “But if they do not have self-control then they should learn
contentment.” What is God’s solution to a burning desire to marry? It is not
forcing yourself to become content. God’s solution to a burning desire to marry
is to—What? Marry! We should be content in all things as it says in Philippians
4:11. But contentment is not the solution to an overwhelming desire to marry.
In fact, the phrase “let them marry” is a command and not merely permission.
Paul did not consider the suppression of this desire to be more spiritual, as
some people may say.
This does not
mean that we should use this as an excuse to become desperate and hit on every
woman or every man that we come across and then marry the first one that says
“yes.” There must be a degree of waiting and patience. But there must also be
an attitude of availability and trying. Dr. Diane Langberg, who is a Christian
psychologist and author, writes, “waiting on God doesn’t necessarily mean doing
nothing. It’s more an attitude that says what God wants is more important than
what you want so you’ll constantly seek him in your choices…. While it’s hard
to long for something and have no idea whether it will ever happen, everyone
lives with uncertainty in life. None of us knows what awaits us tomorrow, and
many people long for things in life they never get. Ultimately, the only
certainly any Christian has is knowing the God who sees what tomorrow holds.
God continually asks us to trust him—even in the midst of uncertainty.”
Nor is 1 Corinthians 7:9 an excuse to
allow lust to run rampant. Any sin, no matter what the cause or reason, is
wrong and must be repented of. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, said in Matthew
5:28, “but I say to you that
everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery
with her in his heart.”
1 Corinthians 7:9 does not
give anyone the freedom to be obnoxious, rude, desperate, annoying, lustful, or
As best as I have
been able to determine, there are four general methods for how we might meet a
Betrothal or Arrangement
We are first
going to define each of these and then we will take a look at each one using
the Bible as the reference. All of these methods have variations and hybrids,
but we will try to define and utilize the most general understanding.
With dating the
intentions are clear from the beginning that you are both interested to some
degree in each other and want to see if there is any potential for marriage.
Dating usually begins when one person approaches the other and asks for a time
out together or two people who are friends may mutually decide to take the
relationship one stage further. It is basically a trial relationship. There is
generally a feeling of exclusivity in that neither party would likely go on a
date with someone else. Fairly early on there may be some physical intimacy
such as holding hands or kissing. If all goes well then at some point a
proposal is made and, if accepted, then the couple is engaged. The engagement
period generally ends with marriage unless they break up, of course. For the
most part, it is expected that the man pay for all of the expenses.
So there is
generally three stages: dating, engagement, and marriage.
This is the most
common means of people getting together for marriage in Western countries. It
has been observed by historian Beth Bailey, that dating, as we know it today,
is a fairly recent phenomenon. In the past, if a boy wanted to get to know a
girl, he had to wait until she invited him to her home. Then between 1890 and
1925 young women began moving from the farms to the cities. With many women
possibly living together in one apartment it was no longer practical for a
woman to invite a man into her parlor (or living room). As a result, ‘a good
time’ became identified with public places and commercial amusements.
Bailey says that
the move from private parlors to public dance halls “fundamentally altered the
balance of power between men and women.” Men no longer had to wait for women to
invite them into their homes. Instead, women now waited for men to invite them
on dates. This “moved courtship into the world of the economy. Men’s money was
at the center of the dating system.”
Here is what
seems to be most people’s definition of courtship. A particular man and woman
work hard at being good friends. This develops into being serious, deep, and
sacrificial friends. There is no exclusivity or physical involvement. Since
this is not dating both parties share in expenses. At some point the man determines that this relationship is
headed towards marriage. So he gets counsel from his parents, pastor, friends,
and other significant people in his life. If they all give the “OK” then he
goes to the woman’s parents or guardians and tells them his intentions. If they
also give the “OK,” then he informs the woman that they are to begin courting.
Sometimes the woman must also give her approval before the courting is begun.
After courting for some variable length of time they would then become engaged
which would, usually, result in marriage.
generally four stages to courtship: friendship, courting, engagement, and
marriage. Throughout this whole process there is always a community of
believers that supervises and guards this relationship.
Some of the
advantages of courting are billed as follows:
The woman is protected from giving herself too
emotionally and, in some possible ways, physically to a man without any
commitment on either of their parts.
It forces men to be responsible to think through the
consequences of their actions before he vows his commitment.
It keeps the relationship within a group of people who
can supervise and watch over the couple.
This is the most
common type of marriage setup in the non-Western world. These two terms are
The Encarta Encyclopedia says, “Betrothal is defined
as engagement or formal agreement to marry, which may take the form of a verbal
promise or a written contract between two individuals. The betrothal is an
ancient custom dating from biblical times when marriages were arranged by one's
parents or guardians. During the Middle Ages arranged betrothals were used to
strengthen royal dynasties, establish diplomatic alliances, and increase
estates and fortunes. Until recent times, it remained common for parents to
arrange marriages in much of the world, especially the Eastern and Muslim
countries. In some societies, the custom still exists.”
Dictionary of Theology says this about arranged marriages in the Bible.
“Marriages were frequently matters of convenience for the family and rarely a
concern of the heart. They were arranged by parents, and in some cases were
even considered invalid if parental permission was lacking. Discussions
concerning the marriage took place between the parents without the presence,
consent, or frequently the awareness of the prospective bride and groom.”
In some versions
of betrothal there are no friendship, dating or courtship stages. A man gets
permission to marry a woman first from his parents, then from her parents, and
then he goes and asks her to marry him. If she says, “yes” then they are
engaged and cannot break it off without getting the equivalent of a divorce and
only for infidelity since they both consider engagement to be as binding as
marriage. Jonathan Lindvall in his article “Youthful Romance: Scriptural
Patterns” says that God’s best is for people “not to allow themselves to
cultivate romantic inclinations toward anyone until they know God has shown
them this person is to be their life-long mate.”
In his own experience before marrying his wife, Connie, he said, “with my
parents’ blessing I visited her parents and asked their permission to marry
her. I had to explain that we had never gone on a date, I had no idea of
Connie’s interest, and that Connie was completely unaware of my interest… I
began to get a bit excited when they gave their blessing.”
This form is
rarely used in Western cultures anymore although some Christians do teach it as
being more scriptural.
This is basically
where neither person makes any effort or, at the most, minimal effort to find a
mate. The idea is to let God handle the situation and to let Him work on
bringing the two people together. Some may describe this method as a triangle
with God at the point at the top, the man at the bottom left and the woman at the
other side on the bottom right. As both the man and the woman draw closer to
God they will be drawn closer to each other also. Eventually they will be
brought together as a couple. Usually there is minimal or no dating or
courtship involved although there probably would be a good friendship.
A verse that is
sometimes used is Proverbs 18:22, “He who
finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.” The
analogy is drawn in that you are walking down the sidewalk doing whatever
business you are supposed to be doing when you suddenly see a twenty-dollar
bill on the sidewalk. You were not looking for money on the ground, but since
it is there you fortuitously pick it up and it is yours. In the same way, the
claim is made, as you are obeying God and doing what God wants you to do, He
will put the man or woman that He wants you to have right in front of you even
though you were not looking for it.
The clear benefit
to this system is that it takes no effort, no chances, probably no hurt, and
you are guaranteed that it is God’s best. Those are all rather good things.
were some quick, basic definitions of the four ways that a man and a woman can
meet with the hope of leading to marriage.
Let us take a
look at each of these in more detail by examining advantages and disadvantages
and, especially, what does the Bible say.
bandwagon among many Christians is to discourage or even abolish dating. Don
Raunikar in his book Choosing God’s Best
says, “Dating has a self-centered focus” and “Dating quickly leads to emotional
and physical involvement without development of a deep, lasting friendship.”
And, yes, dating can oftentimes be nothing more than an ego-trip for some
In the current
war against Christian dating here is a definition of dating from someone who is
opposed to dating and is proposing betrothal. Jonathan Lindvall defines dating
as a “Temporary romantic relationship focused on current enjoyment/pleasure
without future commitments; usually one of series of relationships.”
What is wrong with this definition? He is presenting his opponent’s argument in
such a way as to make it very easily defeated. Generally this involves
exaggeration, omission, or misstatement of the other’s argument. This is called
setting up a straw man and this is a good example of one.
Is all dating
temporary? Certainly not since many times the people do get married.
Is it necessarily
“focused on current enjoyment/pleasure”? Many are but certainly many simply
involve two people who are honestly trying to determine if they are right for
each other and if there is enjoyment or pleasure involved then so much the
better. Christians are not (or should not be) stoics who believe that all joy
and pleasure is bad.
“without future commitments”? Many people are dating for the very purpose of
hoping that this will lead to the future commitment of marriage.
shows the kind of dishonest rhetoric that is out there on this topic. As we
examine this subject we must be careful to cut through the misrepresentation
and hyperbole and examine the issues from a neutral starting point using the
Bible as the ultimate guide.
Of course, many
people “recreational date” where there is intimacy without commitment. These
are people who date because they like having a boyfriend or a girlfriend. They
genuinely like the person but marriage is not even a distant consideration.
Oftentimes these people just want companionship. Unfortunately, though, the
other person may be hoping for more than that and may be devastated and feel
used when nothing more comes of the relationship. Many times this relationship
ends with the “I just want to be friends” assertion.
“sport date” where the motivation is usually something egotistical like wanting
to be seen dating the best looking or most desirable person. The goal may be
nothing nobler than to make as many people as possible envious. This person is
using people to fulfill his or her own desires with little regard for what the
other person is feeling. They may even think that since this person is so
attractive anyway they should have no trouble finding someone else and so it is
no big deal to drop them whenever the “game” is over.
There is also
“revenge dating” where someone has developed a hatred for people of the other
gender and so will do whatever he or she can to hurt those people. This may
involve dating people just to break it off at a particularly painful time. Or
it may involve flirting just to turn the person down when he or she finally
asks. Revenge dating can also occur when one person wants to get back at
someone else. For example, a guy hurts a good friend of yours and so you date
him just to mess around with his emotions. Revenge dating is always wrong. It
starts with a motive of hatred and wanting to deliberately inflict hurt
oftentimes on someone that has done you no personal harm.
dating and especially sport and revenge dating are wrong. They are both
focusing on self and are not sensitive to the other person’s feelings. If the
other person is hurt when the relationship ends then often the justification is
something like, “Well, I never said that we were serious.”
We are going to
take a look at some arguments against dating and discuss them.
1) Dating focuses on the
potentiality of marriage rather than on being friends.
assumption to challenge is who says that there must be a “friendship” stage?
All of us can probably think of many couples that skipped the “friendship”
phase of dating and are still together after 20, 30 or more years of marriage.
It did not seem to hurt them. The Bible never states or shows by example that
there must be a friendship stage before marriage.
Also, there can
be a big glitch when two people become great friends and that is when, if at
all, to pull the trigger and discuss moving from the friendship to the courting
phase. I know of several situations where a man and a woman were great friends
for years and then he became more interested in her than just as a friend, but
he was afraid to initiate bringing up that next step for fear that the
friendship would be ruined if she was not interested. So he never did and they
never moved beyond being just friends.
is the situation where you are interested in someone whom you normally never
have contact with and you are not in touch with any of his or her circle of
friends. How then do you become friends with that person? You would have to
maneuver into his or her circle of friends to really just become friends with
that one person. Is not that a bit manipulative and deceptive? And if you just
walk up to someone and say, “Let’s be friends” how much different is that from
asking them out on a date?
Dating can be
manipulative, confusing, frustrating, and painful. But then so can a friendship
if one person is trying to maneuver it to courtship and the other thinks that
it is just a friendship and nothing more.
first may work out great for a lot of people, but since the Bible does not list
this as a necessary prerequisite then neither should we. In fact, many of the
marriages in the Bible did not start out with the two people being friends.
Isaac and Rebekah were not friends before they got engaged.
2) Dating brings people together
but does not necessarily encourage commitment
This tends to be
the big bug-a-boo that is causing many Christians to disparage dating and
oftentimes it is a big concern. This point is what is causing many to say
courtship is better than dating. In courtship, there are two phases before
engagement. The first phase is friendship where there is no physical or
emotional intimacy. Both people are really just good friends. The second phase
is courtship where marriage has already been determined and so intimacy is
allowed. So what makes this method superior to dating? It is claimed, and
rightfully so, that most of the time two people become intimate in dating
before there is any commitment and so if the relationship breaks up, as many
times happens, there is greater pain and heartache. In courting there is no
intimacy until the commitment is made and by then it is less likely to break
up. Therefore, less pain is likely because the emotional depth is not developed
as quickly as it does in dating.
This is well and
good but there are a few points to consider.
a) In the
friendship phase of courtship, would it not be true that as the friendship
deepens into something more than your run-of-the-mill friendship that emotions
can be just as strong as in dating? In fact in the period just before the
commitment phase should not the emotions be rather involved and developed? The
big difference is that in courtship these emotions must be suppressed or denied
because, after all, it is only a friendship. Yes, it is true that emotions can
develop more quickly when things become physical as they might in dating or
there is not that restraint of “remember, this is only a friendship.” But it is
not true that dating forces emotional intimacy whereas courtship necessarily
manages them nicely. So emotions are going to be strong in both dating and
courtship. The difference is that in dating they are more in the open whereas
in courtship they are more suppressed.
b) Is developing
intimacy before commitment such a bad thing? Just because two people are great
friends that does not mean that they will be great spouses. Marriage just is
not two good friends now living together after a ceremony. Intimacy is an
important part of marriage. There is intimacy in communication, intimacy in
emotions, intimacy in encouragement, intimacy in admonishment, and so on
(physical intimacy is not included here and should not be explored). Would it
not be wise to know if the two of you are compatible in these deeper levels of
intimacy before a commitment is made?
c) Dating will
often end in pain but then so will other types of relationships. There is a
thought that dating should be abolished because it leads to hurt. But all
relationships once they reach a certain level are going to cause hurt at some
times. That hurt might be because the relationship has ended. Or, if the
relationship continues, there will disappointment, insensitivity, selfishness,
and so on. If you want to avoid hurt in relationships then you would have to
Think about the
One who knows how to form the greatest and most perfect relationships. That
would, of course, be God. Has God eliminated hurt from His relationships or was
He willing to endure the greatest hurt because of relationships? In order to
have a relationship with us, God was forced to make the greatest sacrifice and
endure the infinite pain of becoming sin on the cross. You may argue that that
was a one-time event due to extraordinary circumstances. But even today, God is
still enduring hurt in order to maintain intimacy with us. Ephesians 4:30 says,
“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by
whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
3) People who are dating often
isolate themselves from other people and relationships.
Kevin Offner says
in defense of courting and against dating, “The couple is unashamedly a public
‘item’ (none of this sneaky individualism where the community at large is
intentionally kept in the dark).”
is a legitimate problem no matter what the relationship is. Even a married
couple can foolishly isolate themselves from other people. The Bible tells us
that it is important to be with other people, to minister to others and to seek
counsel from others. Any relationship that takes you away from other people
needs to be revised. Dating can do this. Courtship can do this. Marriage can do
this. And if the only relationship that you have is with yourself and you are
isolating yourself from other people then that is also wrong.
But it is
important to spend time alone with each also. Many Christians propose that all
dating should be done in groups or with at least a few other friends so as to
prevent the possibility of wrongful physical involvement. This is a valid
concern, but when two people are married most of their time will be spent alone
together and not in groups. So if you want to see how you respond to each other
you will need to be alone. This does not mean that you have to be alone in a
house or in a living room; it could be in a park or in a restaurant. But how
someone reacts to you in a group is going to be different than how they react
to you alone. This is important to understand. And besides, the Bible never
says that two people who are contemplating marriage should never be alone
But notice how
dishonest Offner’s definition is. Is dating necessarily sneaky? Are other
Christians always “kept in the dark”? Most of the people that I know have dated
openly with no shame or guilt about doing so; other Christians were aware of
the situation and counsel was gladly sought and accepted. Once again we see a
4) Dating generally focuses on the
here and now and not for the future.
First, where in
the Bible is there a distinction between the tasks of young adults and other
adults? Titus 2:3-8 is about the only place that discusses a difference between
old and young. “Older women likewise are to
be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine,
teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their
husbands, to love their children, to be
sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so
that the word of God will not be dishonored. Likewise urge the young men to be
sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified,
sound in speech which is beyond
reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say
First, in all of
these cases this is dealing with developing character; something that should
occur all throughout our lives. But notice that even here for young women it is
not telling them to be single and not date and prepare for the future. On the
contrary, it is assuming that they are already married and have children.
Second, in Bible
times people generally married quite young. The minimum age for boys to get
married was 13 and for girls it was set at 12. To be married at 15 was not at
all unusual. Some believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, might have been
around this age when she gave birth to Jesus. Of course, this is not something
that I would advocate, but you will hear many people who try and use the
culture of pre-marriage relationships in the Bible to valid their theory on
courtship or betrothal ignore this little, inconvenient fact.
Third, what are
two of the greatest tasks we can do but to know and serve God and to develop
right relationships with other people? Dating certainly has its flaws but as we
stumble through many of these types of situations it does help us to understand
other people and to understand ourselves. It is certainly a great way to find
out what a jerk we can be.
5) Dating can cause discontentment
with God’s gift of singleness.
This is in I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I find this one
to be odd since the only possible mention of there being a gift of singleness
in the Bible is 1Corinthians 7:7, “Yet I
wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift
from God, one in this manner, and another in that.” The general feeling of this
verse from most commentators is that the gift of singleness means that you are
not interested in getting married and, therefore, dating is not going to be an
However, the probable intention of this argument
is not discontentment with the gift
of singleness as much as with the state
of singleness. To answer this I would refer back to my earlier comments on 1
Corinthians 7:9, “But if they do not have self-control, let them marry;
for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” The Biblical solution to
a burning to be married is not to learn contentment but to marry.
6) There is a greater possibility
of a physical relationship in dating substituting for love.
This is not a
problem of dating; this is a problem of relationships in general. In any
situation you must always be careful not to go beyond certain boundaries. That
issue is not so much with the method as it is with self-control and purity. You
can argue that this is more likely to happen in dating than in courtship where
all physical touching is prohibited and that is most likely to be true.
In any situation
we need to be mature enough to recognize that physical activity is absolutely
no indication of how well any two people will do in marriage. The two of you
may be great at holding hands or kissing but does he or she have the godly
characteristics to make a marriage work? Is there trust, faithfulness, honesty,
selflessness, respect, understanding, and a commitment to Jesus Christ? These
are the things that will build a solid marriage.
you determine if your relationship has Biblical love in it? Compare it to 1
Corinthians 13 and see how it matches up.
If you are so
shortsighted and immature as to think that romance or physical enjoyment are
the keys to a successful relationship then you are doomed.
7) Dating creates an artificial
environment for evaluating another person’s character.
In I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Joshua Harris
further says, “People who sincerely want to find out if someone is potential
marriage material need to understand that typical dating actually hinders that
process.” He also states, “They need to see each other in the real-life
settings of family and friends. They need to watch each other serving and
working. How does he interact with the people who know him best? How does she
react when things don’t go perfectly? When considering a potential mate, we
need to find the answers to these kinds of questions—questions that dating
Harris says regarding the need to see how the other reacts in different
situations is valid, I beg to differ with his accusation that dating hinders
this. To restate what has been said before, intimacy is a key component of
marriage. There is intimacy of emotions, intimacy of communication and so on
(since compatibility of physical intimacy is not a pre-marital issue, discussion
or experimentation it is not included in this list). It is probably advisable
to know if you are compatible in these areas of intimacy before you decide to
get married. It is unlikely that you are going to develop that just being
friends and hanging around in groups.
Yes, it is true
that when on a date people do tend to put forward their best side and may act
artificially, but that is true in friendships also. I believe that the key is
to date long enough to get a complete enough grasp of the key issues (see the
section on “How to Know the Will of God in Marriage” especially regarding
“Time”), and that will vary between couples. The longer you are together the
harder it is to maintain a fake exterior. The true person will begin to crack
through that mask eventually. The question is, “Are you willing to date long
enough for that to happen?”
dating is not perfect. It certainly has its problems. People can use dating to
stroke their own egos, they can turn dating into experiments rather than
relationships, and they can use dating to hurt other people. Dating can more
easily lead to physical intimacy quicker than the other three methods and
dating, for some people, is nothing more than a means for physical or sexual
dating does have its pluses. The relationship is more clearly defined in the
beginning; there is no pretense that it is something other than what it really
is. The relationship can flow more to how the couple is relating to each other
rather than through a perhaps forced and artificial set of stages (friendship
then courting). The couple is able to get to know each other better in many
different situations (alone together and in groups) before making a commitment.
dating we have already looked at a number of aspects of courtship also.
certainly more structured and stricter than dating but less so than betrothal.
Courtship generally forces more input from family and friends into the
relationship. This is a good thing. Too many couples make such an incredibly
important decision of marriage without consulting anyone else.
tends to define and maintain emotional and physical boundaries better. When two
people, especially when they are younger, are left to figure things out on
their own there will probably be more experimentation, more stepping over wise
boundaries, and more mistakes. Courtship starts at the base level of friendship
and then carefully brings the couple through each new phase.
does have its problems. In his article “Kissing Nonsense Goodbye” Rob Marcus
says, “People who courted were doing so because they wanted to be married.
Under courtship systems, there was never any agonizing about when to have that
other most dreaded of dating talks—the ‘define the relationship’ (or DTR)
conversation—because that’s how you began the courtship in the first place. If
the relationship wasn’t defined as ‘likely leading to marriage,’ then you
wouldn’t court. All those misunderstandings and hurt feelings were minimized by
having them at the beginning.”
Then he goes on
to say, “However, the strictures placed on courting couples under these systems
gave them little privacy to be open with each other.” And this is one of the
biggest problems regarding courtship. By definition, courtship is touted as
being superior to dating because it avoids romance, intimacy, and physical
involvement before commitment. This is usually accomplished by not allowing the
two people to spend much time alone and by discouraging any talk or actions
that would be beyond a normal or typical friendship. But these supposed
benefits are what force two people to commit to each other without having
explored the advisable world of non-physical intimacy. Marriage is not just
friendship with commitment. It is more than that. And as intimacy is developed
while courting, the two people may be found to be incompatible and so the
courtship may be broken off. Then, here too, there is much pain and sorrow.
people should deepen their understanding of who they are and who the other
person is. If you want to go the route of friendship, courtship, engagement,
and marriage then that is fine. Courtship can and does work. However, it is
probably more useful for those who are in their late teens or early twenties.
Older adults generally have a better feel of who they are and what they are
looking for. For them it is probably not necessary to force them through
phases. Of course, everyone, no matter how old, should always seek counsel and
guidance from parents, guardians, pastors, and friends in something as
important as marriage.
As we have seen
under “dating” courtship can become awkward when one person wants to take the
friendship to the next level but has no idea what the other person is thinking
and so is afraid to push the button lest the friendship be possibly ruined.
assumes the easy accessibility of starting the friendship phase. However, that
is not always easy and can lead to deceit and manipulation in order for one
person to force the start of a friendship with someone that they are interested
in for greater reasons.
has its place but it is probably more useful for younger adults who are still
living with their parents or are only recently out of their house. It is also
more beneficial for adults who may have problems with self-control or with
making wise decisions.
is a bit of hybrid between dating and courtship. Two people may just naturally
become good friends for quite a while. Then they may realize that their relationship
is more than just being good friends so they start dating. Then they get
engaged and marry. This can work well.
One may argue
that there was one overall method of singles coming together in marriage that
predominates the culture of the Bible and that was arranged marriages. And that
would be right. But that was the method that the people in Biblical times used.
However, we must not confuse God’s commandments or methods with the customs
practiced by the people during the Old and/or New Testament times. Our example
of Biblical living is not the culture of sinful people who happened to live
when the Bible was written. Our example of Biblical living is what God Himself
tells us. We learn righteous ways from the Bible; not from the culture of the
This is a common
mistake made by those who are proposing arranged marriages. So as we examine
arranged marriages from a Biblical viewpoint we must separate what God says
from what the culture back then did.
marriages can and do work. There is nothing necessarily wrong with them. The
decision making process is certainly more skewed to relying on the experience
and wisdom of older adults such as parents and pastors rather than the
potentially impulsive choices of younger people.
In dating or
courtship the newlyweds may have a tendency to rely purely on romantic or
passionate emotions to carry them through the marriage. So when tough times hit
and these emotions have left the room they may not be prepared to fight through
the crises. But the bride and groom in an arranged marriage know from the
beginning that they will have to work at making the marriage successful since
the emotions initially may be embryonic or even non-existent. At some point a
married couple must realize that the factors that determine a great, long-term
marriage will not so much be emotions but, rather, will be an attitude of
commitment, love, and faithfulness. In an arranged marriage this may be more
obvious from the start.
marriage, since it was determined by the families, will oftentimes have more
continual support from these same families then will be a marriage whose
families were merely told of the engagement with little or no say in the
matter. This can be of great benefit during times of struggle or crisis.
But in our
Western culture where children, most of the time, move away from their parents,
go to college, develop careers, and meet people that their parents have never
met arranged marriages are not usually practical.
are several aspects of arranged marriages as characterized in the Bible that
would not function well in most modern, Western societies. In Biblical times
arranged marriages were generally kept within the tribe or clan. For example,
Rebekah was Isaac’s wife. Isaac’s father was Abraham. Abraham’s nephew was
Rebekah’s father. So Isaac and Rebekah were second cousins. In Genesis 29:12
Jacob told his future wife Rachel “that he was a relative of her father.” It is
interesting though, how anyone pushing Christian betrothal tends to either
ignore this point or tries to spiritualize it by saying that the clan is now
the church. However, no where in the Bible does it state that the Old Testament
clan or tribe is now the New Testament church. Besides, whereas there was many
tribes within the one nation of Israel
there is only one true church. The analogy breaks down.
Many of the
arranged marriages in the Bible were done for political reasons. Solomon
married Pharaoh’s daughter because of a political alliance. 1 Kings 3:1 states,
“Then Solomon formed a marriage alliance
with Pharaoh king of Egypt,
and took Pharaoh’s daughter.” Today most Christians would be rightfully
horrified at the idea of marrying someone purely for the purpose of political,
social, or financial gain. Yet this is what occurs in many arranged marriages
also see at least one arranged marriage that failed. Saul gave his daughter
Michal to David and eventually she came to despise David (2 Samuel 6:16) and
then God made her barren.
with betrothal is that it relies heavily on parental suggestion and consent.
Usually this is purposed as one of its advantages. But suppose that the parents
are not Christians? In that case then they are not open to God’s guidance and
so there is no guarantee that their approval will ever be correct. And you
cannot glibly claim that God will still guide them anyway even if they are not
Christians because no where in the Bible does God ever give this promise. In
this case you may try to substitute a Christian guardian or pastor instead of
the parents but that is assuming that either of those exist for this person or
know him or her well enough to make a wise decision.
marriages do not rely on dating or friendship or courtship to determine
compatibility this leads to another problem. Arranged marriages assume that all
parties involved are accurately tuned to God’s guidance and will. For such an
important and permanent situation do we really want to rely on such shaky
ground as knowing without a doubt what God just said without any other
verification or support? Today, God does not usually speak out of winds or
pillars of fire or by using the Urim and the Thummim or by drawing lots as they
did in Acts 1. Nor does God walk among us like Jesus did. Today we must rely on
recognizing the different ways that God might reveal His will regarding a
situation. Most Christians do not even read their Bibles on a daily basis and
pray less than five minutes every day. So should we bet the rest of our lives
on them suddenly being completely in tune with the Holy Spirit regarding
marriage? I would certainly be hesitant.
with all of these methods arranged marriages have their pluses and minuses.
However, in a culture where children move away from their parents and people
marry later in life this method may not be as practical. Many parents may not
know of a suitable Christian man or woman especially if they attend a church
that is small or has a small single population. Also, many parents do not
manipulation relies on a strong sense of God’s leading. This may take the form
of a distinct, unquestionable impression, an audible voice, some obvious sign,
remarks by other Christians, or some other clear guidance from God. Some people
thinking that they have heard the voice of God in this matter have become
engaged within two weeks of meeting the other person.
A clear advantage
to this method is that if God is giving such clear instruction then the
relationship or marriage is bound to be blessed and supported by God. This is
no small advantage. Marriages will succeed or fail based on how much God is in
them. A relationship that begins by God taking each person in one of His hands
and then bringing them together is off to a tremendous start.
This method also
relieves the two people of having to struggle through all of the time and
emotional energy of initiating, dating, or courting. Those stages may take
place but there is a greater confidence to the relationship.
There may be a
greater commitment to each other since no one can ever do better than God’s
number one choices. If the two people are thinking about breaking up each will
know that anyone else will be, at best, God’s second choice.
The main thrust
of this method is that Christians should not be out looking for a husband or a
wife; that God will work it out and bring that ideal person into your life.
Those who advocate this method will discourage people from attending Christian
singles groups or will tell people not to seek out a mate. They will tell
Christians not to strive or that when the person stops trying then God will
bring them the right person.
As was stated
previously, a verse that is sometimes used to validate this method is Proverbs
18:22, “He who finds a wife finds a good
thing and obtains favor from the LORD.” The claim is that a person
“finds” a wife in the sense of finding money on the sidewalk. One of the many
problems with this is that the word “find” in the Hebrew means “to reach, to
arrive at, to attain.” It is the same word used in Proverbs 3:13, “How blessed
is the man who finds wisdom.” This is not a happenstance occurrence; wisdom was
found because an effort was made or some activity brought you to it.
people use Genesis 2:18-24 as a Biblical reason for why Christians should not
be out looking for a mate.
18Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will
make him a helper suitable for him.”
19Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every
bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them;
and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.
20The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to
every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable
21So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept;
then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.
22The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the
man, and brought her to the man.
23The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
The logic is that
this was the only perfect time in history and, with Adam doing nothing, God,
knowing his need, brought him a wife. This passage would supposedly support the
idea of Divine Manipulation. That would mean that while we are simply obeying
God and doing His work He will then bring us a mate.
Here are six
reasons as to why this verse is not valid to apply to finding a mate today.
Adam was the only created human being. He did not even
know that such a thing as a woman existed. It would be ludicrous to expect him
to go searching for something that he has absolutely no clue about. This would
conjure up an image of him searching behind every rock and tree, scratching his
head saying, “Is that what I’m missing?” Today, we know what someone of the
other gender is.
There were no other human beings and there was no way
for Adam to reproduce on his own. So there was absolutely no other way for him
to get a mate other than for God to miraculously create one. We can reproduce
today. There are other people out there.
God did not bring
Adam a wife—as the teaching must be applied to today—God created Adam a wife just for him. To equate bringing with creating
is to violently strain the text.
At that time everything was perfect, there was no sin.
At the fall, everything changed. At that time God walked and spoke freely with
Adam so God’s perfect and clear guidance could be known just by asking Him.
There was no pain or sin or death. There was no need for a Savior. There was no
confusion or need for purification or sanctification. Today none of that is
true. You cannot take a situation that is totally different than it is today
and decide that the way that something was done back then is the same as it
should be done today simply because you want your pet doctrine to be true. That
is simply bad theology.
God never says anywhere in the Bible that this is an
example of how relationships should work today or at any time, for that matter,
other than that one time.
This never occurred again in the Bible. So if God never
used it again or even any semblance of it then why should we?
that because the first marriage occurred while the man did nothing and God did
all of the work should be applied today is nothing more than someone trying to
find a Scripture, any Scripture, to turn man’s doctrine into Biblical doctrine.
The fact that this is the verse that is used demonstrates nothing more than
just how desperate and non-Biblical the theory is to begin with.
There is also a frequent
teaching using this same passage in Genesis 2:19-24 that we must first go to
sleep emotionally before God will bring us a mate. It follows along the same
lines as “God will give you a spouse only when you stop looking.”
Here are six
reasons why that is a wrong interpretation of this Scripture.
In this passage Adam simply went to sleep physically.
To then say that this represents going to sleep emotionally is to twist the
scripture into saying more than it does simply to try and give some kind of
scriptural support to a pet theology.
In the Bible, Adam did not put himself to sleep; it was
not a choice that he made in obedience to something. It was God who put Adam to
sleep. Those who claim that we must put our emotions to sleep seem to
conveniently forget that.
God put Adam to sleep physically because God wanted to
remove a physical part of Adam to create the woman. To keep the analogy
consistent what part of our emotions does God remove when we are emotionally
asleep to bring us a woman? There is none. The analogy falls apart.
No where else in scripture, for all of the times that
God brought people together, did God ever command or even recommend that they
had to go to sleep emotionally first.
It contradicts 1 Corinthians 7:9 in that this verse
does not read, “But if they do not have self-control then they should put their
emotions to sleep.”
God does not give us a right and good desire and then
tell us to spend energy trying to suppress it.
If this is the
only verse that someone can use to support their case for going to sleep
emotionally then it is a poor case indeed.
problem with divine manipulation is that it forces people to give up trying. By
doing this many people will miss opportunities that God has provided simply
because they were waiting for something spectacular rather than being willing
to work for it. It is similar to the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5. Here Naaman
was the captain of the army of the king of Aram, but he was a leper. He was
told that Elisha the prophet in Israel
could cure leprosy so he went to him. In verses 9 - 11 we read, “So Naaman came
with his horses and his chariots, and stood at the doorway of the house of
Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan
seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you and you shall be clean.’
But Naaman was furious and went away and said, ‘Behold, I thought, “He will
surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and
wave his hand over the place, and cure the leper.”’” Here Naaman wanted
something spectacular to happen, some great miracle of God. Instead, God told
him to go do some mundane task. In the same way, we can want God to bring us
someone in a spectacular and clearly miraculous way. But most of time God is
saying, “Go down to that Singles Ministry,” or “Go serve in that ministry.” We
would rather have hand waving than work. But usually work we must and that
applies to relationships as well.
is a concept that goes hand-in-hand with divine manipulation and that is the
idea that there is one and only one person out there for us. The Bible does not
ever say this and so I think that should eliminate that theory immediately.
But also rubbing against
this is the Biblical concept of God allowing people to go against His will. In
Genesis 19 God wanted Lot to flee into the mountains but Lot
begged not to have to go into the mountains and asked to go to a small nearby
town called Zoar instead. God allowed Lot to
do that. Of course disaster occurred, as it will when we do not listen to God.
God has His perfect will and His permissive will. He will let us do things that
go against His will. Relating this to marriage, if there is one-and-only-one
person for you but because of rebellion he or she refuses to marry you and so
goes against God’s will, are you then stuck for the rest of your life being
single because now God cannot work something else out with another person? I
doubt it. All relationships require adjusting, compromising, and changing. I
believe that there are many people out there that any one of us could have
perfectly wonderful marriages with.
Yes, God can speak
to people and clearly tell them His will for their lives. I believe that there
have been times when this has occurred in the realm of marriage for some
people. But for the great majority of people this will never happen. Why is
this? Perhaps it is because for most people God would prefer a constant seeking
of Him for His will regarding a relationship and a humble seeking of others for
their counsel. Some people may get such a great revelation, but for most of us
it is not this easy.
Bible simply does not give any indication that we should wait for the
miraculous. We can pray for the miraculous, but in the meantime we should work.
The farmer must plant the seed, the soldier must prepare for battle, the
athlete must train for the competition. Even in the spiritual battle Ephesians
6 urges us to put on the full armor of God.
believe that divine manipulation or any other similar philosophy that may go by
another name may work for a very few but is dangerous for most in that it
discourages Christians from making an effort and relying on the miraculous
instead. It is method that may be adopted by some more because of laziness or
fear than because of any Biblical basis.
We just took a
deeper look at each of the four main methods of how people might come together.
But as with everything in life and death, the seen and the unseen we need to go
to the Bible and see what it says, if anything, on this subject.
several instances in the Bible where God brought people together for marriage.
Maybe we should then use these as our example of how we manage our
relationships today. Let us take a look at some of them.
God spoke directly to Hosea and told him exactly which
women He wanted Hosea to marry. Now that sounds like the way all of us would
like to have it happen. But whom did God tell Hosea to marry? It was a
prostitute named Gomer. And why did God want this? It was for Hosea to be an
analogy of how Israel
was acting like a harlot to God. Hosea 1:2 says, “When the Lord first spoke
through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry
and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry,
forsaking the Lord.’” This was a Biblical way and reason for God bringing two
In Judges 21 the remaining members of the tribe of
Benjamin were told to hide in a vineyard and when some women came by to dance
they were to run out and each one was to catch a woman for himself to marry.
This certainly does eliminate a lot of the fuss that any of our four methods
We can see in Ruth 4 that if someone bought a piece of
land that was associated with a childless widow then he must marry that woman
so as to continue the name of the deceased. So in this situation if you bought
a certain piece of land you got a wife along with it. This was Biblical. But,
today, only the most desperate or the cheapest would see this as a good method.
In Deuteronomy 21:10-13 we see in God’s law that if you
conquered an enemy and found a beautiful woman among the captives you could
take her home, shave her head, trim her nails, give her new clothes and then
In Genesis 28 we see that if your brother dies
childless you had to by law take his widow as your wife. Now that could be a
problem today for some.
In Genesis 2:19-24 God put Adam to sleep and then took
out a rib and created a wife for him. Convenient but certainly not practical
for today as we have already seen.
In Genesis 24 we see Abraham sending out his servant to
find a wife for his son. The servant set up a test involving specific words and
actions and if any woman met this test exactly then she was the one for Isaac
to marry. If we all tried to do that today to the same exact degree the human
race would end rather quickly.
These are all legitimate
ways that God brought a man and a woman together in marriage yet you rarely or
never hear about anyone using any of them as a way for God to bring people
together today. Why is that? They are all Biblical. They all worked. It is
because they are all too impractical or too miraculous to tell the singles in
the church to use today.
But there is a
key point that can be learned from these stories. Certainly in the Old
Testament, God did not have one and only one way of bringing people together.
He used whatever method worked the best for the situation. In some cases the
men had to go out and search for the wife. In other cases the wife was
more-or-less brought to the man. In some cases the man and woman were brought
together directly. In other cases there was an intermediary who determined who
was to marry whom. The point is that you cannot propose a particular method of
dating or courtship or whatever as being “the Biblical method” but ignore the
cases that contradict your theory.
You do not see in
any of these cases or in any other case God saying, “Go out and make friends
with a woman. Then, when the time is right, commit yourselves to each other and
start courting.” God did not say to Hosea, “You’ll find a prostitute down on
the other block named Gomer. Go and make friends with her. Then ask her parents
if you can marry her.” Nor did God say, “That prostitute that is down on the
corner; I want you to ask her out to a movie and a nice dinner.” None of those
are what happened yet there are some people out there pushing their own method
of singles coming together and acting as though that is the only or best
There is another
passage of Scripture that can be misused and that is 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7.
this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain
from sexual immorality;
each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,
in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;
that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord
is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and
solemnly warned you.
7For God has not called
us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.
word “possess” in verse 4 literally means “to acquire.” Some say that “own
vessel” is referring to a wife and so claim that this Scripture is giving some
rules or instructions as to how we should obtain a spouse. The claim is that
this verse could be translated as “that each of you [men] know how to acquire
his own wife in sanctification and honor.” In this case the preceding verse and
the following three verses give us some instructions of what to do and what not
to do in this process.
The question is
what does the word “vessel” refer to? There are two schools of thought. One is
that “vessel” is referring to a wife. The second is that “vessel” is referring to your own body.
Examining at the
first interpretation, you can say from verses three and four that acquiring a
mate should be done with sanctification and honor. There must not be any sexual
immorality and it should not be done in lustful passion. This is all certainly
But then coming
to verse five the interpretation is that you should not acquire your mate like
the Gentiles do. They claim that this means that we should not date since that
is how the non-Christians (equating Gentiles with non-Christians) acquire their
mates. There are several problems with this interpretation.
The verse is not saying that Christians should not
acquire their mates the way that non-Christians do. What it is saying is that
we should not acquire our mates in lustful passion as the Gentiles in
Thessalonica did. The Greeks at that time were very sexually immoral.
Prostitution was considered a priestly prerogative and sex was sometimes a way
of worshipping a deity.
The Bible was not written only for modern Western
culture where people date. It also applies to cultures that practice courtship
and those that practice betrothal. So to apply this claim in a culture that
practiced betrothal, Christians could not be betrothed and in cultures that
practiced courtship Christians could not court. The whole thing then just
Following in this
viewpoint in verse six some say that the defrauding is referring to flirting in
that to defraud is to deceive and flirting is nothing more than temptation
without being willing to fulfill the ultimate commitment. We will see as we
examine the second interpretation of this passage why this application is
interpretation is the more likely one in that “own vessel” is referring to your
own body. The word “acquire” or “possess” then means to gradually develop
complete self-control regarding your body. We need to keep ourselves holy and
flee lust and sexual immorality. This passage then has everything to do with
personal holiness and nothing to do with dating relationships.
The defrauding in
verse six then is referring to sexual immorality as originally referenced in
verse three. When we do commit immorality with another person we are defrauding
that person in that we are causing them to share in the wrath of God because of
interpretation is much more consistent with the Greek words used and is
smoother and less forced. So 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 is not a passage that should
be used to validate any theory of how God brings people together. It is not a
set of rules or instructions on dating relationships.
We looked at four
possible methods of how God might bring people together. These were 1) dating,
2) courtship, 3) betrothal or arrangement, and 4) divine manipulation. We
defined each of these methods and then examined each one in detail. Each one
has its pluses and minuses.
We looked at
statements of exaggeration and misinterpretations of Scripture from people who
had an ax to grind about one certain method or who were heralding the glories
of another. One thing that we have hopefully learned is not to quickly believe
anything that someone says about this subject without first taking it to the
Bible and also being careful to think it through ourselves.
I have a problem
with Christian theories that are developed with the primary goal to minimize
hurt. The goal in relationships is not to try and figure out a formula for the
most pain-free ones possible. Any method of relationship building can have
hidden landmines of confusion and hurt. Even the most perfect marriage, that of
Adam and Eve, had terrible grief when their oldest son, Abel, was murdered by
Because we can be
a stubborn people God uses trials more than anything else to shape us into His
character. I would bet that if I asked any Christian what the worst trials were
in their lives, nearly everyone would list something that was related to a
Of course that does
not mean that we should seek out abusive relationships just so that we could
grow to be more like Christ. But it does mean that we are going to have to
expect these hurts to come. We are going to have to grieve over them, learn
from them, and grow because of them.
To base the
Biblical validity of pre-martial relationships on the litmus test of how
pain-free it is seems to be an idea in search of Scripture rather than letting
Scripture developing the idea.
initially selected courtship over dating until he heard stories where people
still got hurt while courting. He says while relating one situation, “She still
experienced repeatedly what I call the ‘broken-heart syndrome.’ How could
courtship not work?”
So he dismissed courtship simply because one person had her heart broken and
now he advocates scriptural betrothal but notice his conclusion. “I submit the
betrothal model as a more scriptural and much less hurtful pattern of youthful
romance than the typical dating game.”
Where in the
Bible does God say that we are to base our theology on what produces the less
hurt? If that were the case then we should not be godly because 2 Timothy 3:12
says, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly
in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Persecution hurts.
not evangelize. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul talks about being stoned, shipwrecked,
hungry, thirsty, cold and so on. Getting knocked about with stones hurts.
And, of course,
returning to our most glorious example of all, before God could make the church
His bride He had to suffer the greatest hurt of all by becoming sin and dying
on the cross. The real problem is not the emotional wounds as much as what we
do with them. Will we let them simmer and become bitter? Or will we let God
bind up our wounds and heal us as He promised?
One reason why so
many Christians are getting up in arms over dating and even some over courtship
is because our society is becoming more and more permissive and selfish. You do
not have to watch too much TV before you realize how dating has become nothing
more than a way to hop into bed with someone. There is a growing sense that
dating is no longer primarily a way to possibly meet your future spouse but
just an activity to keep you entertained. And if hearts are broken then so
what? But just because the world takes something and corrupts it does not mean
that as Christians we cannot take it back and redeem it. The goal is not to
abandon what the world ruins but to show the world how it should really be
So why is any of
this important? It is because too many people hear some teaching on dating or
courtship or something else and then latch onto it as though it is the only
right way; as though this is the method that God has chosen above all others.
So then they lock into thinking that if a right relationship happens at all
then it must happen this one way and only this one way and if it appears to
moving according to one of those other methods then it cannot be from God and
so it must be avoided. And so we have put ourselves into a straightjacket.
But what we are
insisting on following is not God’s one and only method but some person’s one
and only method.
God will not
funnel Himself into man’s teaching no matter how sincere. God will do what He
knows is best and if we are blinded because we are following man’s teaching
instead of God’s then that is not God’s fault. God will not necessarily say,
“Well, he’s deceived, but I’ll honor that deception anyway and do things the
way that he thinks they should go.” No. God is sovereign and if we are
misinterpreting the Bible then the solution is not to expect God to conform to
our deception but for us to align our thinking with what the Bible really says.
Many of us might
have missed a good opportunity because we were too caught up in methods rather
than just flowing with what God may be doing. This applies to relationships, to
serving, to ministry, to prayer, to evangelism, and to anything else that
pertains to God.
conclusion is that there is not just one way for two people to get together and
then get married. God knowing full well what the future held regarding Western
style dating still did not put into the Bible any “best” method. What it comes
down to is what works best for you in your situation. If that is dating; then
great. If it is courting; then go for it. If it is arranged or appears to be
the result of some divine manipulation; then praise God. And if it is a mix of
any of these or something all together different then that is great, too.
Courtship is not better than dating.
Betrothal is not better than
courtship. And divine manipulation is not
the best of all.
statement is worth repeating eight times, but I will spare you by writing it
only once. The best method regarding a pre-marital relationship for you is the
one that God is using in your life personally.
What is most
important is not the method but whether or not God is in it and that you both
conduct yourselves according to Biblical principles and exercise godly
character. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “And if
one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands
is not quickly torn apart.” That third stand, of course, is God. Any
relationship that is built on the foundation of the Bible with God as one of
its members must succeed no matter how it started.
You can respond properly to another’s
grief if you:
care and concern
focused attention even if they are being repetitive
regarding their loss
Can adjust to
their roller coaster emotions
Do not belittle
their comments at the early stages of grief
them that they are not to blame
Can allow them
to be alone when they need to be alone
Do not use the
deceased person’s old age to soften the blow
hold, or hug the grieving person
Do not treat
them as though nothing happened
determine how they should grieve based on how you would grieve
Do not claim
that you know how they feel unless you have gone through the same loss