Mark Twain’s humorous testimony is not unique:
“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty- one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
Much harm can be done as teenagers walk through the fog, forgetting that their parents have once walked the same way. While there are many cases of ungodly parenting leading their children to ruin, a wise young person will be thankful for the wisdom of Christian parents as they consider their future. They will involve their parents in the big decisions concerning church, career, and family. The wise listen to the wise. “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). Safety is required in the realm of dating, and therefore, there is the need for counsel.
Remember—I’m using the term “dating” as a convenient word for an unmarried man and an unmarried woman spending social time together as a couple, to the exclusion of other people. Previous articles have argued that such interaction should have a marital focus. I’m not repeating that material, but it must be stated because it is that marital focus that will be the foundation for a parent’s godly answers to questions about dating.
Whom should I date?
In light of our foundational principle, you should only date someone you could (not will) marry! That will ordinarily involve a level of attraction. Such attraction is part of how God has made us. Yet, “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). Beyond physical attraction we should only date those with whom we are in spiritual agreement (2 Corinthians 6:14). When Paul taught widows about marriage, he told them to marry “only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39). If we are to marry in the Lord and if dating has marriage as its goal, then Christian dating will be in the Lord. But here you must use discernment. You should be aware that not all who profess to be Christians actually possess a new heart. Before dating you should want to see evidence that the other person actually loves the Lord, walking after the Spirit and not after the flesh (Romans 8:1-4). Every pastor will know someone who made a pretence of Christianity to secure the hand and heart of that nice Christian girl.
When should I date?
If marriage is the goal, then dating is best left until marriage is a near possibility. “Near” is clearly open to subjective interpretation. I know young people who are able to cite the example of Mr. and Mrs. So-And-So who started dating at age thirteen and have been married thirty years! In response, I know of many people who were involved in serious, train-wreck relationships before marriage. Given the solemn responsibilities of marriage, I think there should be a level of maturity and monetary stability prior to entering into a dating relationship. I think that’s at least part of the application from Proverbs 24:27, “Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.”
What should we do on a date?
As we are aiming at marriage, we need to remember that marriage is a covenant of companionship. Therefore, on a date it is important to talk a lot and listen a lot. The more you talk the less time there will be for other temptations. It will be very difficult to know someone very well before dating. Use dates to properly assess the suitability and character of your date. I said earlier– date someone you could marry, not necessarily someone you will marry. Beware of a person who loves to talk about themselves and has no desire to know about you. Also, beware of someone who doesn’t let you see who they really are! You want a spiritual marriage, so a spiritual foundation should be laid when dating. Couples should enjoy spending time together with the Lord in church meetings and in private times of prayer and Bible reading.
What level of physical affection is appropriate?
How far is too far? Allow me a double metaphor: don’t play with fire at the edge of a cliff! Young men—take the lead here, protecting the purity of the relationship. Young ladies—be bold and don’t be led into sin!
- Remember to guard your heart (Matthew 5:27-30).
- Remember sexual practices outside of marriage are sinful. (Study 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20; Romans 8:13, 13:11-14; 2 Timothy 2:22).
- Remember your date is not your wife and someday she might be someone else’s wife! Thou shalt not steal!
- Remember the biblical metaphors for sexual relations: lie, know, touch. They help us decide what is not wise conduct.
- Remember that no means no!
Dating can be fun and exciting. Under God, godly marriages will be formed for the good of Christ’s kingdom. But dating is dangerous if you’re not wise!