Dating is hard.
For the Christian, dating is like every other area of life in that we should be deeply concerned with how following Jesus informs the way we think and act and love.
If you did a Bible search for the word “dating” you know what you come up with? NOTHING.
There are some that feel the Bible prescribes a courtship form of dating because that was the cultural norm in that time. Using that same logic you can make the argument that we should all be polygamous because that was the cultural norm in that time as well.
Instead of direct, explicit instructions, the Bible teaches us several principles that we can apply to dating and ultimately, the pursuit of marriage.
7 Biblical Principles of Dating
1. Walk with Jesus.
6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. – Colossians 2:6-7
Far too often the first step a Christian takes in thinking about how to date God’s way is to sit down and make a list of all the qualities their future spouse needs to have. Then, they only date people who fit the list.
While the forethought is admirable, our first step in trying to date in a way that honors God is to BE someone worth dating. Our faith in Jesus should be active and meaningful as Paul described in Colossians. We should be rooted and built up in Jesus. Lists are just fine but we should make a list for who we need to be first.
2. Only date people who walk with Jesus.
The second principle is where you can use your list! In looking for someone to date, you’re really looking for the type of person you will marry. That person needs to have the same active faith you’re living out.
They need to be more than cultural Christians who attend church. They need to be able to explain the Gospel out loud. They need to be able to talk about what Jesus means to them and describe what Jesus has done for them. They should be able to point out ways they are more like Jesus this year compared to last year and be able to share what God is currently teaching them.
3. Keep physical boundaries.
Flee from sexual immorality. – 1 Corinthians 6:18
You know what this verse says in Greek? Flee from sexual immorality. Literally run away from it. Since sex is a good gift from God but a gift meant to be enjoyed only in the covenant marriage relationship, sex outside of marriage falls under the category of sexual immorality.
So does pornography, homosexuality, lust, objectification, and crossing physical lines even if you don’t “go all the way.”
If the Bible calls us to run away from something, why are so many of us trying to get as close as possible to the line without stepping over? We are fundamentally misunderstanding God’s heart for us to live a pure life walking with him and honoring others.
Setting and keeping firm physical boundaries helps you flee from sexual sin instead of flirting with it.
If you’re an unmarried Christian I would suggest you consider boundaries that keep you from:
- sex outside of marriage.
- living with someone before marriage. (co-habitation)
- being alone in a private place (apartment, dorm, parked car, etc.)
- being alone in a room with your computer/phone late at night.
- sending pictures, Snapchats, etc. that you would not want others to see/know about.
- laying down (even in an Eno!) with someone you’re not married to.
- Isolating yourself from godly friends who can hold you accountable.
4. No marriage. No commitment.
One of the reasons the Bible doesn’t talk explicitly about dating is there is absolutely zero commitment in dating. It doesn’t matter how many times you say, “I love you” or how long you’ve been together or how many promise toe rings you’ve exchanged.
The covenant relationship of marriage is the only place to find real commitment. Dating can be a wonderful experience but don’t deceive yourself into crossing physical boundaries you wouldn’t normally feel comfortable crossing under the guise of a commitment that simply does not exist.
5. Their identity is in Christ, too. So act like it.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
This one was a game changer for me. When you begin to see members of the opposite sex as equal bearers of the image of God, equal temples in which the Spirit of God dwells and equally ones for whom Christ died, it changes everything.
You no longer see girls as a collection of body parts or guys as the key to acceptance and worth.
This changes how/if you flirt and it changes what you do on dates. This is ultimately the heart of the Gospel: before anyone is your boyfriend or girlfriend, they are first and foremost a child of God and God cares deeply about how his kids treat one another.
6. Sexual sin damages in a unique way.
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. – 1 Cor. 6:18
Paul is writing to a culture in 1st century Corinth not unlike 21st century America. It is a very distracted city with lots of different worldviews and religious thoughts all mixing together. Notice the way Paul starts the second sentence in v. 18, “every other sin.”
Paul is explaining that sexual sin has a different set of consequences than other categories of sin. This is not to say that it separates us more or less from God; all sin is equal in that regard. Instead, Paul is explaining how sexual sin damages and creates baggage that we must deal with long after that sin has been forgiven by God.
It is not hard to see this play out both inside and outside the Church. How many times have you seen a 2nd marriage not stick so a 3rd and 4th are attempted with similar results? Porn addiction has been linked again and again to lower sex drives and less intimate sex lives. Those sins have already been forgiven and fully paid for by Jesus on the cross and in his resurrection, but that does not mean we get to avoid the consequences of bad decisions.
7. Jesus redeems ALL our mistakes.
10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more. – John 8:10-11
At first glance, this principle might seem to contradict #6 but this encounter in John 8 will help explain. John 8 begins with a group of religious hypocrites who were tired of hearing about the less than respectable reputation of a promiscuous woman in town. One day they decided they had heard enough of this 1st century reality show and decided to do something drastic.
They Bible says they caught her in the act of adultery which means they laid in wait for her, like a bunch of self-righteous peeping toms, as if there could ever be such a thing.
They literally ripped her out of bed and threw her, naked and ashamed, at the feet of Jesus and demanded Jesus to tell them what to do, since the law said they should stone her to death.
Jesus then uttered some of my favorite words in the New Testament, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
Jesus dropped the mic and the religious haters dropped their stones and walked away.
Even if you haven’t had sex before marriage, everyone knows the burden of sexual sin. The reality of redemption is that you’re not doomed to have a bad sex life inside marriage if you’ve had sex outside marriage.
Jesus said two things to the woman and every single one of us always needs to hear at least one of them:
- “Go and sin no more.” – Jesus has reminded this woman who she truly is, who he created her to be. Far too often, Christians can label all the ethical teachings of Scripture we don’t like as “legalistic” but here Jesus gives her a clear, loving command to simply go and live out that identity. But we can’t live out that identity and never let it affect the decisions we make, people or ways we date, and ultimately where our hope lies.
- “Neither do I condemn you.” – These words are necessary because principle #6 is true. Sexual sin produces a unique shame that can spiritually cripple you and allow you to start to believe lies about your acceptance in Christ. Since God, who knows everything about you, more than you even know yourself, refuses to condemn you we can go out in celebration and live like it! Live like you belong to a God who created you, loves you, and knows all your secrets and still refuses to condemn you.
Can you think of any other Biblical principle(s) for dating?