Going Out – Dating – Courting – Marriage 

These days there are many different names and stages to describe two people exploring the possibility of a long term commitment to each other. But what is important?

What do we see in the Bible?

In Bible times the culture was very different to ours, there were many arranged marriages and there was very little “dating” and “going out”. However, there are principles to follow that are very relevant to our culture today.

What is the aim?

Today’s culture says, “Just have fun”, relationships are about experimentation, exploration and getting what you want, or feel you need, from someone. It’s about making sure you are not alone and that you have someone to be with.

What we see in the Bible is that God calls some people to be single so they can serve Him with the extra freedom this brings, and He calls others to be married and serve Him. Whether you are single or get married He wants you to find your fulfilment in knowing Him – that you have a Heavenly Father that is with you, cares for you and loves you.

Relationships are not about just trying to get what you want or feel you need, they are about giving… about finding someone to commit to and give to for life.

The long term view…

A relationship is not just meant to be for a laugh, for a bit of fun for now – you are meant to enter a relationship with the long term view. Before you begin the relationship you need to ask yourself is this someone I could marry? Is this someone I want to spend my life giving to and living with? Is this someone I could trust with my children? If the answer is no, or I really don’t think so, or I doubt it… then you really shouldn’t be in a dating relationship with them.

Advice for Christians…

Do they have to follow Jesus?

Living as a Christian, as someone that really follows Jesus and lives for Him is always going to be tough because it clashes with so many pleasures of this world. We all need as much help as we can get from those around us who are also following Jesus. A marriage where this support is not there is so much harder and more of a strain because you will be pulling in different directions. Your aims will not be the same and neither will your life’s priorities.

It is for these reasons and for the sake of any children that you might have together, that the Bible says that a Christian should only choose to marry a follower of Jesus of the opposite sex to you (see homosexuality advice). “Going out” and “dating” are meant to be marriage preparation, so God only wants you to date someone who is also a follower of Jesus.

2 Corinthians 6.14-16, “ Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God”

1 Corinthians 7.39, “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”

Practical concerns…

Those verses from the Bible (see above) should be enough even if there were no practical concerns, but there are some very practical concerns too…

  1. God won’t be the centre of your relationship. 
    God should be at the centre of everything, including your relationships. If the person doesn’t have the same aims and goals, the same external standard to look to for advice, then any relationship is going to be extra challenging. Couples and families are supposed to pray together and worship God together and follow Him together – none of this will be possible.
  2. It can be difficult to do God’s will. 
    If your relationship is with someone that doesn’t follow Jesus you will have to follow Jesus alone, you will have to try and do God’s will alone. If you are not both devoted to following Jesus then there will be extra disagreements and you may end up being persuaded to walk away from Jesus one step at a time.
  3. Your own faith can weaken. 
    We all need help from others around us to keep following Jesus. If you’re not with someone who will strengthen and support your faith, then you will have to do it on your own. This can be very hard work and disheartening, particularly when any children you have decide they’d prefer to stay at home with the parent that doesn’t go to church. 
  4. How will you decide what is right and wrong?
    As a Christian we get our standards of what is good and acceptable from what the Bible teaches. Someone that doesn’t follow Jesus will disagree with some of the Bible standards and prefer society’s ideas and standards. This will bring increased tension to your marriage and at times uncomfortable compromise.
  5. Eternity is real.
    As a Christian we should be living our life in the knowledge of the reality of eternity. To encourage yourself to fall more in love with someone who you know is currently heading for an eternal punishment, will cause you much on-going pain and heartache because you know that eternity is real and they are rejecting the only one who can help them.

Final thoughts…

If you are wanting to live your life to follow Jesus why would you want to tie your life to someone that doesn’t think Jesus is very important. Choosing to live with, and bring up children with, someone that thinks very differently about God to you is only going to cause increased difficulties, pain and heartache further down the line.  

Choosing to date an unbeliever when you know that God says you shouldn’t, is a serious thing because you are placing your desire to love and want this person above your desire to follow God. God needs to have first place in your life and you need to truly trust Him with your future. God is gracious and can work through us despite our sin – but in most situations He allows us to suffer the natural consequences of what His instructions were seeking to protect us from!