Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dating--Are We Going About It Rightly?

A while back, I asked our students what some topics were that they would like to learn about or discuss at church. And one of the students' response was simply "dating." There's a lot to think about when it comes to dating, so I dove in to some reading on the topic and have actually done a lot of thinking since then. Some of the articles that were most helpful to me were from Boundless Webzine. You can see the first of the series by clicking here--Biblical Dating: An Introduction

This author really challenged how I thought about dating. Dating, in our American culture, has almost become a given. It's just something we do without putting much thought into it and really evaluating how God would want us to engage in it--or if he'd want us to engage in it. So through this process of thinking about dating, a few things have stuck out in my mind. I think a good way to think about biblical dating is to contrast it with typical American dating. So here it goes--three significant differences:

1. What's the goal? For typical American dating the goal could by any number of things: fun, entertainment, playing the field to see what people are like, maintaining social status, fitting in, evaluating whether I'm "compatible" with someone, etc. But for biblical dating (if we're to engage in it at all), the goal should be marriage. Period. The Bible presents marriage as a serious endeavor that for most of us--unless we are called to be single and serve the Lord in a very unique way--is to be something to strive for. Yet in our culture today, marriage--and especially dating--are viewed flippantly. We love the dating process and stay in it for long period of time, but are hesitant to marry....And when we date tons of different people prior to marriage, it's almost as if we are practicing divorce. We're repeating a cycle of giving our heart--or our body--away, only to have that relationship severed. So biblical dating should always have marriage in view. Which means that age is an important consideration. If I am not ready to be married within a reasonable span of time (let's say a few years), then why should I date? I'd only be setting myself up for unneeded temptation.

2. Which comes first: intimacy or commitment? In typical American dating, intimacy comes first. In biblical dating, commitment comes first. 1 Thessalonians 4:2-6 warns us against "defrauding" others. In other words, it calls us to never act a certain way, when reality is actually far different. That "defrauding" is exactly what happens when we pretend to be married in almost every significant way (time, finances, attention, emotional closeness, etc.) without actually being married. In our culture, dating is viewed as this gradual rise in intimacy. We think of two people growing closer and closer and closer until they truly know each other inside and out--and only then is marriage appropriate. Intimacy precedes commitment. But this isn't exactly biblical. The reverse should be true: commitment should precede intimacy. We have this warped idea that we need to "test drive" a potential spouse for a long time before we sign on the dotted line. But the biblical picture of marriage is one in which you find an individual who meets certain criteria (they are a believer of godly character, their vision of life/ministry matches yours in general, etc.), and you marry them. It is after this commitment that emotional and physical intimacy are to grow and blossom to their fullness. But when we rush that intimacy and push it before marriage, we once again are setting ourselves up to fail. Instead of the long gradual process of dating, biblical dating probably would be more of an intentional short process...Song of Solomon has a good reminder for us:
"I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
by the gazelles or the does of the field,
that you not stir up or awaken love
until it pleases
." (2:7)

3. Is dating a personal decision or one that calls for accountability? Typical American dating is intensely personal. "You can't tell me who to love." "I'll date whoever I want to date." "Who I date is my business, not yours." Heard things like that before? You might even agree with that. But be careful. We can't just buy this American individualism hook, line, and sinker. The biblical view of the Christian life is one of accountability to others (primarily to our parents and to our church). We do not arrange marriages for our young people as used to be the case, but we should have a say in helping them evaluate potential mates and offering guidance. Young people who are genuine believers should respond well to this guidance rather than bucking against it.

Well, there's many more thoughts I have, but I'll leave it at that for time sake. Any thoughts, questions, comments???

1 comment:

Wilma G. said...

Marc,

I enjoyed reading your blog about dating in our American Society.

I can tell you put a lot of thought into this article.

Keep up the good work. Young people need to read and understand what you said in this article.
GG