Christians and dating
Dating and engagement have become a whole new meaning in today’s society. With the re-defining of terms comes some blurry lines and expectations for Christians seeking to find a mate and wondering if it is okay to discover your partner by going out with and kissing many people. So, dating is a process in today’s society where a person shops around for a mate either in their social circles, bars, or on various dating websites.
Dating within your social circles used to be a great way to meet someone. You could know something about this person’s bona fides through the references of friends and their knowledge about one’s behavior and history, by talking to the friends of the individual. Today, with the advent of media and Facebook-style websites, one can pretend to be almost anything they want to given their ability to take quality snapshots and access to a selfie stick. So if you stick to in-person references social circles can still be a viable option.
Bars have never really been a great place to find a spouse, although many have married and maintained marriages for life by meeting in a pub. But, many dance halls and clubs promote and cater to a lifestyle of boy or girl hopping and a promiscuous lifestyle. This is not conducive to a long-term relationship and generally just leads to unwanted circumstances (i.e. pregnancy and VD). So, again, you probably won’t find your ideal mate in a bar.
Website dating can be successful if one has some knowledge about the process before spending time and money on sites that purport to bring people together. And of course, be careful with scammers! You need to know what kind of profile attracts what kind of person, and how to set up a profile that produces leads to the kind of person you want. It is important to remember that if your profile gives the impression that you are needy or has any other negative vibe to it, you may chase off any potential candidates before the first word is uttered in the chat area of the site.
It should be stated that the desires of individuals on these sites are not always clear from the name of the site or even the profile they post. It is not uncommon to spend a bit of time on ChristianMingle.com and find quickly that not all of the people on this site (or any other website) are Christians in the traditional sense of the word. A bit of time spent on ChristianMingle.com will produce results with women and men who tout their availability for “hook-ups”.
Should Christians date at all? Well if it is to hook up, meet, and kiss for chemistry checks, or any like purpose the answer is “No!”. Christians should in the author’s opinion go back to the idea of courting for marriage and quit the dating scene altogether! If they would meet at some church function or through the church’s bible studies, family events, and other church activities, the chances of two people meeting a Christian are at the very least increased.
Courting is seeing someone with the goal of marriage in mind. So, if someone is seeking and finds a person they are interested in, they discuss with them and maybe their parents, depending on their age, whether or not courting is agreeable. Then, the two proceed through a courting period for however long seems appropriate to the couple which could be up to and maybe over a year to determine whether or not the two are compatible.
The length of the courtship is not a predetermined amount of time and should be based on several variables, and at the end of the courtship, the two should become engaged. Engagement is a promise to marry and is not a license to move in together until the wedding can be paid for with its price range sometimes hitting unjustifiable amounts of money. The Bible says, that a couple should marry rather than burn with desire for one another 1 Corinthians 7:9. This makes the case that it is better to marry than have sexual intercourse. If you are already living together and doing what should be done in marriage, you are violating what God wants for you and this is called fornication.
What should determine the time between your courtship, engagement, and marriage is:
1. The familiarity of the two with one another, including whether or not they have known one another for some time, whether the two have friends and family in common, and how motivated the two are to discover things about one another that might lead to problems. Programs such as SYMBIS (Save Your Marriage Before It Starts) are great for discovering and learning about one another to head off problems that may not be discovered until after marriage.
2. A factor that must also be considered is the sexual interest the two may have in one another and how strong the desire is between them. It may be that two individuals who have enough knowledge of one another should marry sooner than any prescribed period due to their increased desire for one another and the temptation that they experience to have premarital intercourse. If they have a prior history of married life and know the ins and outs of marriage from a life of giving to one person, they may be able to shortcut any long engagement period instead of time spent and experience with marriage. In this case, steps should be taken to complete premarital courses and discovery so that the two can marry rather than burn with desire for one another making keeping vows to remain celibate almost impossible. In this case, a shorter period is called for to prepare for marriage (i.e. 6 months).
3. Age is a factor as well. Two people who meet at 65 or 70 should not worry about too long of an engagement especially when the two may have an already proven track record of sacrificial love in another marriage that lasted several decades. Two prospective mates who are in their twenties might need more time to prepare for marriage having never experienced the bond and compromise required for two such individuals. However, two that are more mature, have lived lives, and experienced adversity might be engaged, again, for a shorter time. Two who have a proven track record of living a thoughtful, sacrificial, and Christian lifestyle in a prior marriage of some significant time may feel it unimportant to postpone remarriage and get married within short order. Those who have lost a loved one through the decease of that person may be good candidates for remarriage more than any other. Of course, the length of the marriage before that person’s loss of a spouse will also be a factor. Leave it to say that a couple with successful marriages in their past in which the two were sacrificially giving and loving would be an indication that a short engagement may be possible.
4. Divorce before remarriage may also be a factor. For instance, divorcees may need to seek out counseling to deal with any issues they may have that might have caused the ultimate demise of their prior relationship. Issues such as this often contribute to problems in the proposed marriage.
In short, many factors will need to be considered in your determination of engagement length. It is not a cut and dry one-year fits all period. Couples and their advisors should be ready to consider many factors before coming to any conclusions or passing judgment on a couple that decides the benefits of marrying sooner than later outweigh any risk.
The bottom line is that for Christian people wanting to be married, they should be marrying to fulfill God’s desire for them to proliferate and bring up children who love the Lord God with all their heart if they are of childbearing age, and if not their marriage should be designed to address God’s statement that, “It is not good for man (mankind) to be alone” by helping to people come together to live out their lives in a Christian home which brings God glory. Christians should be doing what they are doing to further God’s kingdom and that may be something like missions and service to God on some grand scale, or it may mean being a couple who lives out the Christian walk in front of friends and family, trusting in God and spreading His love.
Whatever your case, do not let anyone tell you there are set rules for the length of time for courting or engagement and it should be God who determines your steps not man.
The author Tony T. Wildey LMFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist living in Reno NV. He is a Christian and has been counseling Christians and couples for the past decade.