As we wrap up this three-part blog series, I wanted to highlight some über-important things to remember when pursuing a Christian dating relationship. I hope you find them helpful!
ONLY WITH YOUR BAE AINT OKAY.
Yes you read that correctly—Only with your
Bae ain’t okay.
Any guesses as to where I am going with this one? A common temptation when dating is to dive head first into the relationship becoming so focused on time together that it is easy to ignore other relationships. Such intense focus upon one another can become detrimental to relationships with other friends and even family.
Because of this it is important to remember that when you are dating, you have yet to become one flesh—meaning you aren’t married. You have yet to make that other person the priority human relationship in your life, but often times we ignore this fact. As a result we ignore (often unintentionally) those in our lives who have helped us to get to where we are when we start dating, and to do so goes against the notions of how important Christian community is—not just for personal holiness, but also for the well being and nurturing of our romantic relationships.
Scripture has much to say about being in Christian community. I want you to consider a few passages:
Hebrews 10:24-25 states, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all that more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Proverbs 11:14 reads, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-13 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him-a three-fold cord is not quickly broken. Better was a wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice.”
So what’s the common thread in these passages? Well, the Body of Christ matters. Surrounding yourself with those who can offer biblical counsel is necessary for godly living, and I would say even exponentially more important for developing godly relationships! You need others in your life that can offer wisdom, hold you accountable, and of course offer you support.
Marshall Segal says it this way, “Just as in every area of Christian life, you need the body of Christ as you think about who to date, how to date, and when to wed…While it’s rarely quick or convenient, gaining the perspective of people who know you, love you, and have great hope for your future will always pay dividends…(staying in community with them) will force you to deal with things you did not or could not have seen on your own.”
Other people, especially your Christian community and friends, are integral for wisely pursuing Christ in every relationship, but especially in dating relationships. Do not ignore them. Do not neglect them either. Heed their advice, and their observations.
I can tell you from experience that having your friends and family on board with your relationship, and trusting that they have your back no matter what comes, makes it that much more exciting and, honestly, fulfilling.
WHAT’S OK IN MARRIAGE ISN’T OK WHILE DATING.
The main point you need to consider here is that you need to be careful about the pace at which you develop intimacy. A major pitfall we can experience in dating is becoming too intimate too soon.
Intimacy— as defined spiritually, emotionally and sexually in its sincerest expression between a man and a woman—is meant for marriage and marriage alone. Notice I said in its sincerest expression. When you date someone you of course want to progressively develop intimacy because it is a natural by-product of growing in the knowledge of one another, but too much intimacy too soon is dangerous. Instead, clearly defining why you are dating along the way keeps your focus upon what the Lord has for you in your relationship.
I want to turn to Marshal Segall’s writing again here. He says, “Intimacy is safest in the context of marriage, and marriage is safest in the context of clarity. The purpose of our dating is determining whether the two of us should get married, so we should focus our efforts there…In pursuit of our own clarity, we will undoubtedly develop intimacy, but we ought not do so too quickly or too naively.”
So how can you combat premature intimacy? Well, the major way is don’t marry him/her mentally before the rest of you can.
I may receive some push back against this, but I believe this includes one-on-one Bible Studies with the person you are dating, private prayer times just the two of you, etc. While studying the Bible and praying together are never poor activity choices, when done in private as an unmarried couple it is easy to allow our minds to begin prematurely picturing things that have yet to come to fruition, imagining what life will be like together, experiencing a depth of connection that cannot be expressed yet, etc. It fosters intimacy that should only culminate in marriage, which, depending on where you are at in your relationship could be a ways off, if at all. This is in large part, what is often meant by guarding your heart.
In pursuing a dating relationship I believe a wise pace of developing intimacy is key. So, be intentional to include others in your relationship. Plan group dates that help you experience how the person you are dating relates to other people. Attend small group Bible studies together and learn more how you each interact with the Bible as well as other believers. Sharing your time together with others early on will aid you in guarding against premature intimacy—whether it be emotional, spiritual, or sexual. Also, I believe you will find that being intentional in how you develop intimacy will grant you numerous opportunities to grow together in ways you might not have the chance to otherwise.
EVERY RELATIONSHIP YOU ARE IN SHOULD BE MISSIONAL.
We often joke about the term missionary dating—which is when we date those who do not know Jesus in hopes we can save them, or share the gospel with them—but I want us to kind of reorient that term. What I think we need to be intentional about is making sure that anyone of us who is dating are seeking to promote the gospel through our relationship in light of those around you. We need to be “missionally” dating.
Your relationship together becomes missional as you each individually seek Christ and the betterment of the other. That in turn shows others a picture of the gospel. As you prepare for marriage while dating, it is good practice to consider this truth and work towards exhibiting the importance of the gospel to others by means of your relationship now.
Matt Chandler states it this way in his book, Mingling of Souls: “What makes marriage worth having is that you, your spouse, and those around you see more of God and his love for us in Jesus. If you’re not experiencing that with your boyfriend or girlfriend, break up with him or her. If that’s not our priority, we need a new game plan…”
Your relationships should spur others and you toward Christ, and if you are not in a relationship that does so now, how can you expect this to magically change when or if you marry the person you’re dating? It’s not easy, but important to consider your relationships through this lens.
So, as we end this little foray into Gospel-Centered Dating, I do pray it has been helpful—at least as a springboard for deeper conversations regarding how to submit your romantic relationships to the Lord. I know it can be easy to allow notions of duty and even tinges of legalism into the processes of life, but please know that my hope is not to add another layer of merely duty-bound responsibility to your plate; rather, my hope is that you begin seeing how wonderfully privileged you are as a child of God in Jesus. You have the opportunity to serve him in every area of life. Relationships just happen to be an incredibly large area of our lives, but how much more so should we be encouraged to know we can serve him and trust him even in the midst of seeking someone to live this life with and serve alongside? I am praying for you as you seek to please the Lord in all things!
For more on this topic:
Marshall Segal, “When the Not-Yet-Married Meet: Dating to Display Jesus”
Matt Chandler, The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex and Redemption, David C. Cook, Colorado Springs, CO, 2015
Rev. RJ Voorhees
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