I recently made the observation on Facebook that the Bible does not directly address modern concepts of dating or courting. But it does define three relationships between unrelated men and women:
- The Husband & Wife
- The Saved & Unsaved
- The Saved & Saved
With all the talk about biblical masculinity and femininity (specifically within the realm of relationships), let’s take a minute to discover God’s point of view.
What does the Bible say?
1. Husband & Wife – Same Flesh Mark 10 quotes Genesis as it discusses one of the first relationships in God’s economy. It reminds us that one man is to leave his family, cleave to his one wife, and weave the two into one flesh. Within this relationship is a divine picture of Christ and the church that no other relationship on earth can compare to.
A. There are unique commands that apply only to husbands and wives. They cannot and must not be applied to any other relationships in life.
B. Beyond the special commands for spice (plural for spouse :-), husbands and wives are to love each other the way they’re commanded to love everyone else – including enemies.
2. Saved & Unsaved – Salt The go-to passage for believers considering a relationship with unbelievers is II Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” The admonition is clear and repeated throughout Scripture.
A. There is absolutely no justification for a born again child of God to be romantically involved with someone who’s dead spiritually. None.
B. We do owe everyone love, but that love is not romantic. Romans 13:8 tells us that we should “owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” But we must remember that “love” when used as a command Scripture always refers to the volitional choice to seek God’s best for the object. If this verse were referring to a romantic love and used to argue for Christians being physically attracted to unbelievers, then it would stand that we need to romantically love everyone in the world regardless of their sex. This clearly stands in the face of many biblical admonitions against polygamy and homosexuality. The love we owe all men is to share the truth with them. The relationship we’re supposed to have with the lost is clear and simple: We are to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-14). Our purpose on this earth is to be a shining testament to the goodness and glory of God to all who do not know Him.
3. Saved & Saved – Siblings I Timothy 5:2 is one passage that specifically defines how Timothy was to relate to the people in his ministry. He was to appeal to an older man as a father, older women as mothers, younger men as brothers, and younger women as sisters. The interesting note is that Paul adds to the description of how Timothy was to treat the ladies . . . Paul adds “in all purity.” This special attention should stick out to us. We are to relate to members of the opposite sex purely.
A. This verse – combined with the numerous commands to abstain from fornication, adultery, and every form of sexuality outside of marriage – makes it clear that “hooking up” and the general expectation that dating couples need to be physically involved are foreign to Christ-honoring, biblical relationships. I’m not sure how long it will last, but at least for now even our society frowns on incest. The verse has a clear message – treat her like you would your sister. Be pure.
B. So, how are we to treat our siblings? Again, we are to love them by desiring God’s best for their lives and helping them to accomplish His will through His power. Whether a physical or spiritual sister, we are commanded to speak the gospel (Mark 16:15), disciple (Matthew 28:19), rebuke (Luke 17:3), edify (Romans 14:19), admonish (Colossians 3:16), encourage (I Thessalonians 5:11), teach (Matthew 28:20), bear burdens (Galatians 6:2), and much, much more. Just google “one another” passages.
How does this relate to modern dating?
So, if those are the only relationships defined for unrelated men and women, which one/ones should we turn to for guidance on dating?
1. Two Christians in a dating relationship are not married. Therefore, the spouse-specific commands about sex and submission do not apply. Christian couples do not have the right to be sexually active because “I know he’s the one for me.” Also, though it might be helpful for the girlfriend to learn to trust the guy, she has no biblical injunction to obey him. It’s wise for a man to start becoming a Christ-honoring, marry-able man, and every young woman should strive to model the Proverbs 31 woman, but there’s no real-time dating advice to be gleaned from this category.
2. Christians should never become romantically involved with the unsaved. Saltiness should never be an excuse for dating an unsaved person. There’s no dating advice to be found here.
3. The final option is the Siblings Category. This group of passages is the one men and women should be turning to for advice on dating. I would go so far as to say that all Christ-honoring dating relationships must be modeled after the Sibling Category.
What does this kind of dating relationship look like?
Picture a triangle in your mind.
For those of you with geometrically impaired imaginations, the one below should work well.
Let’s put our boyfriend on the left and our girlfriend on the right.
According to the world’s model of dating, we should be using a line instead of a triangle. The only goals for either of them in this relationship is to live for him/herself or live for the other. To a Christian, the latter sounds more biblical. But are either godly?
Living for oneself is Satan’s strategy for life, and we all know how well that’s worked for him. For such a relationship to be successful, one must be living for him/herself while the other must be living completely for the other. Stop for a minute and think about some relationships you know that are like that. How successful are they? They’re not. They’re generally abusive physically, emotionally, or both.
But what if each lives for the other? That sounds good, right? Nope. Not really. Anything that we make more important than God becomes an idol. If I make my girlfriend the center of my universe, I’m breaking the first commandment that I should have no other gods in my life. Hers and my first and greatest priority should be God . . . even in our dating relationship. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
The Christian-dating-geometrical-shape needs to be a triangle. Why? Let’s imagine our two points at “A” and “B.” As each one of them travels up the triangle toward “C” (God) what happens to the space between them?
It diminishes. The points become closer.
The spiritual lesson here: The closer we get to God, the closer we’ll get to each other.
Imagine with me . . .
Picture a born again man and woman, who want nothing more than to glorify their God in their relationship:
- They edify, deal patiently with, admonish, bear up, encourage, rebuke, serve, teach, disciple, and love each other.
- They don’t think about physicality because they don’t want to sin against God or tempt the other to do the same. They want to deal purely with each other.
- They do nothing but try to help the other become more like their Savior (true love).
Imagine what type of relationship that will be. Even if they realize God is taking their lives in different directions, when they finally “break-up” they will be more sanctified because they’d been together.
Yet, there will be no regret and no ill will.
And if they stay together and eventually weave into one flesh, they will have built a foundation that most married couples wish they had laid.
What does the Bible say about dating?
Not much. But it talks a lot about relating to each other.
Share God’s truth. Help your brothers and sisters be more like Christ regardless of whether or not you feel romantically attracted to them. That kind of person will not only be well-liked by fellow believers who evermind God’s Word, but they will also look very attractive in the swirling pool of self-promoting suitors.
This article was intended to do two things:
- Help singles realize that the verses about married couples should not be the guidelines for their dating relationships.
- Remind all of us us that the best and most loving thing we can do in every relationship in our lives is to point others to Christ. This vital part of one-anothering is often completely neglected in dating and is substituted for the tawdry, sinful physical pleasure.
Keep Christ first in all things.
God will provide in your relationships the same He does in your salvation.