As if dating weren’t complicated enough, when two people who are seriously commited to their Christian faith decide to begin dating, tons of new issues arise.
Christian dating brings up questions about appropriate intimacy, maintaining a proper relationship with Christ, honoring God through your dating relationship, and following the teachings of Christ while remaining a happy couple. Some wisdom on proper dating can be gleamed from the Bible, and other advice on Christian dating comes from our clergy, our parents, and even our Christian friends.
Let’s take a look at some of the big issues involved in Christian dating.
Does God Want Me to Date?
Obviously God intends for human beings to marry and procreate. It is part of His plan that men and women should marry and be physically intimate with one another in order to advance His kingdom. The question is — does God want us to date, and if so, at what age should we begin looking for our spiritual life partner.
Nowhere in the New Testament of the Bible are “arranged marriages” suggested. It was common in the Old Testament for men and women to be married by arrangement, but after the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, a new covenant was made. Now, marriages are arranged by God only. This means that prayer and serious meditation must occur when a Christian is choosing when to date and who to make that date with. If it were only as easy as asking God to send you the right mate, none of us would ever have to date. However, as we know, God doesn’t usually communicate that directly. You can talk to God in prayer and let God know your feelings and questions — that you want to know if you are ready to date, and that you’re wondering how to decide who to date — but you must be willing to listen to the “still small voice” for your answer. It is not likely that you’ll pass a burning bush on the street one day and instantly know who it is you need to marry. What is likely is this: if you live your life according to Biblical principles, and if you pray earnestly for guidance from God, you will get your answer.
God wants us to date and to marry, and God wants to guide us in this process — but there are still some issues that come up in Christian dating that can’t be addressed through prayer alone.
Should Christians be Intimate?
This is an issue that divides many Christians. In general, the more conservative and more evangelical a Christian is, the less likely that Christian is to want to involve intimacy in a dating relationship. There is a growing movement among very Fundamentalist Christians toward something called “courting”. “Courting” means you spend time with a person that God leads you to believe would be a good marriage partner, but you do not touch them, kiss them, or even have intimate feelings towards them. This belief is based on a literal interpretation of Biblical verses that warn against the “sins of the flesh” — the belief is that God doesn’t want any physical intimacy to occur outside of sacred Christian marriage.
At the other end of the spectrum, many Christians (especially the more liberal or “open” congregations) are accepting of the fact that we live in a very different age, an age of openness and sexuality that it would be foolish and counterproductive to ignore. Some Christians even feel that non believers are less likely to convert if they think they will not be allowed to have intimate relationships outside of marriage — an idea that is supported by anecdotal truth. For instance, I know I would be less likely to be involved in a religion that forbids me to have an intimate relationship — much less if that religion forbids me from even touching or thinking about a woman I have feelings for.
These kinds of decisions are very personal, and should be made on a case by case basis. If you believe God is calling you to avoid sex until marriage — do so. If, on the other hand, you don’t think you are breaking a covenant with God by being intimate with someone you’re dating, don’t feel guilty about your decision. The underlying message of the Bible is that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Pray about the decision, and consider the specific beliefs of your Christian sect. Talk to your partner, and make the decision together. Again, seek the advice of a pastor or trusted church member.
Does my Christian Boyfriend or Girlfriend Have to Belong to My Church?
This is another question with multiple answers. According to some sects of Christianity, you shouldn’t date a Christian that doesn’t share your specific beliefs about Christ, God, the Bible, and the teachings of Christianity. Specifically, Charismatic or Evangelical Christians tend to want to date only other members of their specific sects. More important than what your church tells you is what God tells you. When you pray about the person you want to date, does God lead you toward them or away from them?
Christian dating doesn’t always even happen between two Christians — the person God leads you toward may not even be a Christian — there are many instances in the Bible, both Old and New Testament, where God led someone to marry a non believer, and that marriage led to conversion and salvation and happiness. As with the other questions here, Christian dating should be based on answers received from honest and heartfelt prayer.
If you feel drawn by God toward someone who doesn’t belong to your specific denomination, you should pursue that relationship. God is, after all, the ultimate authority — your pastor, your parents, your friends, and members of your church should not feel compelled or allowed to tell you what kind of person to date.
Taking all of these lessons into consideration, approach your pastor or an elder at your church with any questions you may have about Christian dating. It is always wise to seek the counsel of others, and the Bible often instructs us to seek multiple sources of wisdom. Keeping God first in your life may be difficult when attempting to date someone, but as a Christian, this should always remain your priority.