The Delight and Dangers of Dating
by June Hunt
Some singles approach dating as a demoralizing waiting game … others, a desperate mating game … and still others, a deceitful baiting game. At the core, their mindset is, I have to have someone to meet my needs. But God’s view of dating is different. Because He is the one who promises to meet our deepest needs, we need not view dating as a desperate effort to get our needs met. Meeting our needs is His job. For us, dating is an opportunity to develop social skills, self-control, and healthy relationships that selflessly seek the highest good of another person. Rather than searching our social landscape seeking a “perfect match,” we are to view dating as an ideal time to focus on becoming the person God intends us to be. For many, this journey will someday end in marriage. For some, it will not. But, when done His way, dating will help us grow in Christlike character as we form friendships that flourish. This promise takes the “desperation” out of dating.
“My God will meet all your needs according
to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
Many people are afraid to date for fear they will pick the wrong kind of person. How do they overcome this fear?
The answer lies in focusing not on finding a person to date but on becoming the person God would have you to be as a date. If God plans for you to marry, don’t worry. He will bring the right person across your path.
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
A. What Is Dating?
Nowhere in the Bible does God say that we—His carefully planned creations—are to live our lives isolated from one another. In fact, after creating Adam, the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Then God created Eve for Adam to marry. But how do you know whether you have found the right person to date? And what’s more, how do you become the right person to date? Through purposeful dating, you can discover many benefits.
• Dating is a relationship between a male and a female who participate in prearranged social activities.
• Dating another person means setting aside time for social interaction with a member of the opposite sex.
• Dating provides the opportunity to …
— learn how to communicate with the opposite sex
— help define what traits you desire in a future mate
— come into contact with potential marriage partners
— grow socially, emotionally, and spiritually
Question: “Although I’m in my late twenties, I have never dated. I don’t feel a sexual need for anyone. I’m not sexually drawn to women (and I’m not a homosexual). How important is dating?”
Answer: God has His perfect will for your life whether you remain single or whether you marry. Wonderful marriages are built between people who have never dated until the time designated by God arrives. God intended the sexual relationship to be only for marriage. As you focus on deepening your relationship with the Lord and deepening your love and care for others, He will orchestrate your life and bring about that which will fulfill the deepest desires of your heart.
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
B. What Is Courting?
Since emotions come and go, passionate love may be here today and gone tomorrow. The divorce courts are full of statistics to verify the impermanence of romantic love. However, unity in marriage is built on more than passion. Common ground, such as having the same spiritual and cultural foundations, is a basis for more permanence in marriage. For this reason, courting is on the increase with teenagers and young adults throughout many places in the world.
• Courting is a term used when a man seeks to gain the attention and favor of a woman with the ultimate intent of engagement and marriage.
• Courting puts a strong emphasis on taking the time to see whether there are multiple areas of common ground. For example:
— the same moral values
— the same system of ethics
— the same spiritual foundation
“Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?”
Question: “If we truly love each other, why would it make a difference if I date and marry someone not of my same faith?”
Answer: A new house has the best opportunity to endure if it is built on one solid foundation. When you are “equally yoked” with someone who shares your faith, you will have a greater sense of unity, cohesiveness, and oneness on which to build your lives together.
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
C. What Is the Difference between Infatuation and Love?
Everyone has felt infatuation to one degree or another. Everyone has experienced “puppy love” at one time or another. Did you ever take the long way around in order to pass by a certain desirable person’s house or business? Did you take special care to look especially attractive on days when you thought your paths might cross? Did your heart skip a beat when you looked up and unexpectedly caught a glance from this certain someone? How can you know whether these feelings represent infatuation or true, forever love? Infatuation is an expression of excessive admiration or foolish, love void of sound judgment. Time and maturity will give you the ability to discern fantasy from reality. Until then, waiting for sound reasoning will guard your heart from being hurt.5
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
|• Highly emotional
|• Faithfully consistent
|• Based on a feeling
|• Based on a commitment
|• Weakened by separation
|• Strengthened by separation
|• Seeking to find happiness
|• Seeking to give happiness
|• Focusing on external looks
|• Focusing on internal character
|• Seeking to get
|• Seeking to give
|• In love with “emotion”
|• In love with “devotion”
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Question: “My live-in boyfriend says he loves me, but just isn’t ready to marry. How can I encourage him to marry me?”
Answer: If your boyfriend can sexually “have his cake and eat it too,” where is his motivation for marriage? Don’t engage in the sexual acts of love outside of marriage or you will minimize the essence of love. According to the Word of God, in doing so, neither of you is truly showing love to each other. Begin now by having him move out. If he really loves you, he will want you (not just sex) and will be willing to wait until after the wedding.
“Love is patient.” (1 Corinthians 13:4)
II. Characteristics Of Successful Dating
Everyone wants a love that lasts forever. The problem is, we all want it now. Some are so desperate that they begin playing games—unhealthy games of flattery and flirtation—risky games of seduction and sex. These people are unwilling to wait for God’s perfect timing and plan.
They don’t realize that God’s Word contains guidelines for dating. Simply put, He wants you to look to Him for your needs and to wait on His timing to provide for them. Never forget, the Lord knows you best, so leave the choice to Him.
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
A. What Are Godly Characteristics in Dating?
The story of Ruth and Boaz endures as one of the greatest love stories in history. From a foreign country, a young widow named Ruth travels with her grieving mother-in-law, Naomi—also a new widow. When they arrive at Naomi’s hometown of Bethlehem, little does either know the delightful surprise God has planned for them. Driven by hunger, Ruth takes advantage of the law that allows the poor to glean (pick the leftover grain behind the reapers). By God’s design, she gleans in a field owned by Boaz, Naomi’s distant relative.
Seeing her work, Boaz inquires about Ruth and learns that she left her family and homeland for the sake of her mother-in-law. Impressed by Ruth’s faithfulness and moved with compassion, he offers her food and drink at mealtime. He also instructs his harvesters to leave some stalks from their bundles for her to glean. As Naomi plays matchmaker, Boaz must circumvent the claims of a nearer relative in order to marry Ruth. This he does. And from their marriage, God blesses them with a son, Obed … the grandfather of King David.
This happy ending would not have been possible had Ruth and Boaz not shown the kind of characteristics God could use to build a lasting relationship.
Godly Character Traits from the Book of Ruth
|Admirable Men (Like Boaz)
|Admirable Women (Like Ruth)
|• Financially responsible
|• Strong in leadership
|• Focused in character
Question: “Since my husband’s death, I’ve not been open to dating another man. I feel guilty when I have any joy in the presence of another man. Are these feelings right?”
Answer: If you have feelings for another man, don’t live with false guilt. Isolation will not bring your husband back. When a mate in a loving, caring marriage dies, the surviving mate is more likely to be open to exploring the possibility of remarriage, for they have experienced the beauty that such a partnership can bring. However, your sense of guilt may be a normal result of not having fully grieved your loss. Conversely, one who has had a difficult marriage may be less open to remarriage. The Bible states,
“By law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage.… If her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.” (Romans 7:2–3)
B. What Criteria Should I Use to Evaluate a Prospective Date?
Establishing your convictions for dating before you start to date is critical.
• Write them down and post them in a highly visible place.
• Share them with others who will hold you accountable for maintaining them.
• Develop friendships with those who share your moral convictions, rather than with those who pursue sexual relationships.
• Make it a priority to discover the character of the person you are considering dating … before letting your heart become vulnerable to needless hurt.
• Avoid dates who gossip about others … soon they’ll gossip about you.
• Guard the reputation of those whom you date.
• Practice saying no to others so that you can say yes to God.
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
No one wants to be negatively surprised—certainly not in dating. The Bible encourages us to seek advice, to gain counsel, to be discerning about our decisions in life. Being asked—and answering certain questions will help you discern the character of a potential dating partner. You will benefit by being wise, as well as by being with those who are wise.
Place a check mark (√) beside each character trait present within the person you feel drawn to date.
The Criteria Checklist
Does my prospective date …
□ Demonstrate wisdom and discernment?
□ Have a heart to do what is best for me?
□ Possess a sensitive conscience in regard to right and wrong?
□ Refuse to use me or others to gain status?
□ Have the approval of the significant people in my life?
□ Have a reputation of keeping commitments?
□ Display follow-through in meeting obligations?
□ Show respect toward authority?
□ Have a positive outlook on life?
□ Exercise discipline and self-control?
□ Manage money well?
□ Maintain eye contact when talking with people?
□ Interact courteously with others?
□ Have an active Bible study and prayer life?
“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.”
Question: “For several years I’ve been dating someone I love. He has many good qualities. However, he is also negative, possessive, and controlling. Should I overlook the pressure I feel and focus on his attractive qualities?”
Answer: Let’s assume that while shopping, you find a pair of shoes you really like. If the shoes put a lot of pressure on your toes, would you buy them? No matter what attractive features the shoes have, if you buy them, they won’t wear well! Likewise, if you feel undue pressure now in your dating, consider it a warning that “it’s not the right fit.”
“[Love] is not self-seeking.” (1 Corinthians 13:5)
C. What Are Destructive Attitudes in Dating?
Is it possible that you are in a destructive dating relationship? Identifying an unhealthy relationship is often difficult without the aid of objective criteria. If you are presently involved in a dating relationship, read the following statements, then circle the “yes” or “no” that best reflects your relationship.
Y N When I do not respond as my date wishes, I am belittled and rejected.
Y N When I do not please my date, I believe I am “bad” or somehow inadequate.
Y N I feel that I “owe” my date and must do whatever my date wishes.
Y N When my date uses phrases such as “You should …” or “I expect you to …” I feel guilty if I don’t comply.
Y N I feel responsible for the happiness as well as the unhappiness of my date.
Y N My date blames me without taking personal responsibility for his or her failure.
Y N I allow my date to take the place in my life that God alone should have.
Y N My date tries to assume absolute authority.
Y N My date has little regard for my personal feelings or desires.
Y N My date privately degrades me, my beliefs, and my friends, but publicly appears polite.
Y N My date has threatened to harm me.
Y N My date has exerted physical control over me.
Y N My date keeps track of my time, wanting to control where I go and what I do.
Y N My date acts excessively jealous and possessive of me.
Y N I feel that my date allows little opportunity for appeal or compromise.
If you circled yes to any one of these statements, the dating relationship is having a destructive impact on your life and needs to be changed.
“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”
Question: “The man I’ve been dating has a lot of seething anger. Sometimes he explodes. Although I love him, should I continue to date him?”
Answer: No. The Bible is not silent on this issue. Decide now that you will not continue to date him. Destructive anger—if not stopped—is progressive and leads to domestic violence in marriage.
“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered.” (Proverbs 22:24)
III. Causes For Damaged Dating Relationships
Many dating relationships are unfulfilling because they begin with the wrong focus, and then stay off course. If you have an unfulfilling dating relationship, could it be that the progression of your dating is outside of God’s established order? When you commit yourself to God’s progression and wait for His timing, He will protect and direct the course of your dating.
“He guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.”
A. What Is the Distorted Progression of Dating?
Everyone loves the word love. Titles of books that contain the word love automatically guarantee increased sales. The same is true for song titles. While the English language has only one word for love, the Greek language has multiple words, and with multiple meanings.
In today’s world, most dating starts with eros: passionate or emotional love that comes and goes. (Some couples never get beyond eros.) The dating relationship might then move to a second love labeled phileo: affectionate love based on genuinely liking the other person—friendship. And the third love is agape: unconditional love that seeks what is in the best interest of the other person.
This order is most typical in dating: from eros to phileo to agape. Unfortunately, this order is wrong, wrong! All relationships, dating and otherwise, should begin with agape, a love that means we seek the highest good for the other person. If you commit to follow the progression God has planned for a meaningful dating relationship, you will not be led astray. God gives us this specific warning to show what happens when inappropriate sexual passion is the priority.
“He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.”
• Eros is passionate love. Eros can be passionate, romantic love, but it can also be the feeling of strong emotion without a romantic focus.
— Eros within marriage is designed by God for physical and emotional pleasure.
“May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.” (Proverbs 5:18–19)
— Eros within a dating relationship is designed to be morally pure without passionate lust. You can have passion for a person without passionate lust.
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3–5)
— Physical purity is necessary for spiritual purity.
• Phileo is affectionate love, brotherly love, mutual enjoyment. Phileo is true friendship. The love of “liking.” Philadelphia is known as the “city of brotherly love.”
— Phileo can be love for another that is as deep as love for self.
“After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” (1 Samuel 18:1)
— Phileo seeks to strengthen the other person spiritually.
“Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.” (1 Samuel 23:16)
• Agape is unselfish love, unconditional love—a commitment to seek what is best … and the highest good … for another person, regardless of the response.
— Agape originates with God.
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10–11)
— Agape is the source of our ability to love others selflessly.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)
World’s Progression for Dating
Starting and often ending with eros, without moving to deeper levels
God’s Progression for Dating
Moving outward from agape love to phileo and then possibly to eros
Question: “My husband is disrespectful toward me all the time. Sometimes he treated me disrespectfully before we were married. Why does he do this to me?”
Answer: Why wouldn’t you expect a disrespectful date to act disrespectfully as a mate? In essence, you saw a warning sign that read “Quicksand,” yet you kept walking straight ahead and now you are sinking.
— Don’t be shocked at his actions—be shocked at your own. You were desperate to be attached, even if it was with someone disrespectful.
— The implication of your question is that you want to understand him in the hope that you can change him. The only person you can change is you. Ask yourself this question, “Why did I tolerate his disrespect in the first place?” (If you want respect, don’t tolerate disrespect.)
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)
Question: “What can I do to overcome the need for a significant person of the opposite sex to validate me and to give me a sense of worth?”
Answer: According to God’s Word, every true Christian is a complete person of value and worth in Christ Jesus. God created you to have your identity in Him and to find meaning and purpose in Him, not in another person. Since the truth sets you free, wrong thinking will keep you in bondage. Therefore, transform your thinking by renewing your mind. Rehearse what God says is true about you.
— You have God-given worth.
— God has a purpose and plan for your life.
— Focus on deepening your intimacy with Him and realize the depth of His love for you.
— You are complete in Christ.
“You are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (Colossians 2:10 NKJV)
B. What Are Destructive Dating Patterns?
If you see any of these warning signs in your dating life, stop, take stock, and seek help.
|• Dating for the wrong reasons
|• Deferring to peer pressure
|• Deceiving masks
|• Deserting personal standards
|• Distorting the concept of love
|• Developing inappropriate sexual activity
|• Differing moral standards
|• Disobeying authority structures
|• Detouring from God’s progressive order
|• Depending on your date for personal identity
“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”
Question: “Should I date a woman who is secure, confident, and competent or someone who really needs me because she is insecure?”
Answer: You can be a knight in shining armor and rescue a damsel in distress. But once you have rescued her and she goes on with her life, she will not value you as a person—only as a rescuer. You will want to be wanted because of who you are, not because of someone’s emotional unhealthiness.
— Someone who is emotionally healthy can love you out of personal strength and will be able to accept you unconditionally and offer you security in a relationship.
— Someone who is emotionally needy is typically self-focused and limited in sensitivity to the needs of others. Emotionally needy people are more often “takers” than “givers” in relationships and “use people up” emotionally.
Seek someone with emotional maturity and spiritual wisdom, someone who can help you to grow more and more in your relationship with the Lord.
“He who walks with the wise grows wise.” (Proverbs 13:20)
C. What Are the Myths and Truths about Dating?
Myth: “I need a ‘lure’ to catch a date.”
The bait technique using the other person’s interests as your own
“I’m really interested in cameras.”
The blunder technique using an “accident” to get help
“I’m so sorry I dropped all these coins.”
The buying technique using the “need” for assistance
“Could you help me pick out a good cantaloupe?”
Truth: Deceptive techniques are not honoring to God and will not be blessed by Him.
“Keep me from deceitful ways.” (Psalm 119:29)
Myth: “I feel guilty going to church or Bible study with the hope of meeting someone to date.”
Truth: You are experiencing false guilt. Certainly, finding a date should not be the main reason you attend church. However, God desires that you meet and fellowship with other Christians, and what better place to find eligible people to date than at a church or Bible study?
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)
Myth: “As a Christian, if I marry a non-Christian, God will use me to change my mate.”
Truth: You have no such guarantee. The Bible never endorses “missionary marriages”—marrying a man in order to make him your mission field. Let’s assume you become yoked to an unbeliever in marriage. If he is headed toward darkness, where will you be pulled? Toward darkness! If he is headed away from God, where will you be pulled? Away from God! If this non-Christian is to be saved—wait until he is saved and changed by God. Then you may be led to date and possibly marry him.
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?… What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14–15)
Myth: “It doesn’t matter if I date a non-Christian as long as I plan to marry a Christian.”
Truth: Dating a non-Christian places you in danger of becoming emotionally involved and, later, becoming unequally yoked through marriage.
“A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 22:3)
Question: “Is it scriptural to participate in matchmaking services?”
Answer: Traditional matchmaking—involving two sets of parents and their offspring—occurred in biblical times … and still occurs today in some cultures. Since the 1990s, Internet dating and face-to-face subscription dating services have mushroomed in popularity, among Christians and non-Christians alike. As with any major decision that relies on judgment and integrity, dating services should be approached with great care … and great prayer. Opportunities abound for fraud, and the ability to get to know people is only as effective as their willingness to reveal their true, authentic selves. Before you decide to participate in a dating service, examine yourself. What are your motives? What are your goals? Do you have a contented spirit? Do you have the peace of God? Will you involve your Christian “community” in your online dating decision and experience? Always remember that God is your source … a dating service is not. Scripture says, “No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (Psalm 84:11).
D. Can I Be Sure to Find a Love That Lasts Forever?
Yes! The following four spiritual truths will lead you to find lasting love.
#1 Your Problem—You (like everyone else) have chosen to sin.
We all have chosen wrong, we all have sinned—not one of us is perfect. Each time we choose to go our own way, not God’s way, the Bible says that we “sin.”
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6)
#2 Your Position—Your sin separates you from God (spiritual death).
Because God is without sin (God’s character is perfect), our sin is an offense against God. This offense results in a penalty or a consequence. The Bible says that the consequence of our sins is to be separated from God’s presence. This separation is called spiritual death.
“Your iniquities [sins] have separated you from your God.” (Isaiah 59:2)
“The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)
#3 Your Provision—God has provided the way for you to be relieved from the consequence of death.
Sin is serious because it separates us from God. Because God is just, He cannot ignore our wrongdoing. But because of His love for us, He doesn’t want us to be separated from Him. He had to punish sin, yet He did not want us to die and be permanently separated from Him. For this reason, the heavenly Father sent His own Son, Jesus, to come to earth for the purpose of dying on the cross for our sins—Jesus actually chose to pay the penalty for our sins. We should have died, but instead, Christ died for us.
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
#4 Your Part—You can move from spiritual death to spiritual life now.
We must seek God’s forgiveness God’s way. You need to trust that Jesus Christ died as your substitute and ask Him to come into your life to take control of your life. This is God’s only acceptable plan. Jesus said,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
By believing in (relying on) Jesus alone to pay the penalty for your sins and yielding your will to His will, you are truly forgiven of your sins. And when you are forgiven, you are not only cleansed from all of your sin (past, present, and future), but also saved from eternal separation from God (spiritual death). This is how to find everlasting love! The Bible says,
“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17)
If you desire to be fully forgiven by God—if you want to move from spiritual death to spiritual life—you can tell Him in a simple prayer like this:
|“Lord Jesus, I need You. I admit that I have sinned. I understand that the punishment for my sins is death, to be spiritually separated from You. Yet, because of Your love, You made a plan to save me. I believe that what You said in Your Word is true, that You sent Jesus Christ to pay the penalty I should have to pay. Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross for my sins and taking the punishment in my place. Right now I ask You to come into my life to be my Lord and Savior. Take control of my life and make me the person You created me to be. Thank You for Your unconditional love that will last forever. And thank You for Your mercy. In Your holy name. Amen.”
If you sincerely prayed this prayer, listen to what God says!
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
(1 John 3:1)
Question: “My daughter, who is not a Christian, is dating a married man. She won’t listen to anything I say about the immorality of the situation. Is there anything I can do?”
Answer: She is headed for a broken heart before the relationship is over. The best thing you can do is to …
— Pray for her heart to be receptive when she does experience the deep hurt that is inevitably awaiting her.
— Pray for a hedge of protection around her to keep her from those who would lead her astray.
— Let her know that you love her and are available to her when she needs a shoulder to cry on. Then she may be open to your compassionate counsel.
“I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.” (Hosea 2:6)
E. What Is the Root Cause of Wrong Dating Relationships?
God created every person with three inner needs, the need for love, for significance, and for security. Most people are looking for someone—a marriage partner—to meet those inner needs. But that will never happen. God did not create one person to meet all our needs. And while God gives us special people to be with, to learn from, to be sharpened by, He also wants us to allow Him to be our own true Need-Meeter.
“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
“My needs won’t be met unless I’m involved in a romantic relationship that leads to marriage.”
“I would like to date and ultimately marry, but I’m giving my future to God. The Lord does not lead everyone to marry, but He will meet my deepest inner needs for love, for significance, and for security. I will trust the Lord to guide me and fulfill my deepest inner needs.”
“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)
IV. Steps To Solution
A man in a dating relationship who says, “I can’t live without her.… I have to be with her,” is also saying that his whole identity is tied up in this woman. What happens if she were suddenly to die? If his identity is in her, then he would be left without knowing who he is apart from her. He would be without his own identity.
Your identity is not to be lost in someone else. You can be joined to another and still be a separate person. You are one person, and one is a whole number. You are complete in Jesus Christ.
A. Key Verse to Memorize
“How can a young man [or woman] keep his way pure? By living according to your word.”
B. Key Passage to Read and Reread
Read Proverbs chapters 1–7.
Question: “My boyfriend says we should make sure we are right for each other sexually. Since I don’t believe sex is right before marriage, what should I do? He says he wouldn’t think of buying a car without first giving it a test drive.”
Answer: You are not a car to be owned—you are a creation of God’s to be cherished. After your boyfriend kicks the tires, he could kick you out of his life. Wait for a man who will respect your moral standards. Your stand for purity truly pleases the Lord.
“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4)
Question: “I have no problem setting sexual boundaries, but the men I’ve been dating won’t honor my boundaries. The disappointing fact is that some of these men are in the church. How can I know for sure who is safe to date?”
Answer: Those who want to push you beyond your boundaries do not respect you. Just because a man goes to church or says he is a Christian doesn’t mean he has had a changed life through Christ. You would be wise to know more about his relationship with the Lord before you get caught in a dating situation where you could become vulnerable.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ” (Matthew 7:21–23)
C. Do’s and Don’ts for Dating
A couple may believe that the two of them are truly in love, but instead they could simply be “in love with love.” If their dating leads to marriage, they could be in real trouble. They haven’t waited long enough—for God. Instead, they are deluded by “fantasy love.” Even when challenged to allow the relationship to mature, they are too impatient, too impetuous. They would be wise to consider the words of the psalmist.
“How long will you love delusions?”
Don’t focus on romance but rather on friendship.
“A friend loves at all times.” (Proverbs 17:17)
Do … Be aware of the benefits and dangers in dating.
“Folly delights a man who lacks judgment, but a man of understanding keeps a straight course.” (Proverbs 15:21)
Don’t lie if you don’t want to accept a date.
“Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” (Proverbs 12:19)
Do … Be under the authority of your parents (if living at home).
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” (Proverbs 19:20)
Don’t confuse lust for love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7)
Do … Reflect Christian values on your dates.
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:27)
Don’t date non-Christians.
“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
Do … Trust God’s plan for your life.
“ ‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Don’t wait to determine your standards.
“Keep on loving each other as brothers.” (Hebrews 13:1)
Do … Become a good and honorable date.
“ ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (1 Corinthians 10:23–24)
Question: “What can I do to prevent someone from slipping me a date rape drug?”
Answer: Someone may plan to immobilize you with a date rape drug by putting it in your beverage without your knowledge. However, if you are wise and discerning, you can avoid being caught in a covert sexual trap. You would be wise to take the following three basic precautions:
— Be observant, making sure that the beverage handed to you by your date was poured from the original container.
— Do not drink a beverage handed to you by a stranger.
— Do not date a man unless you or someone you respect can attest to his character.
“Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.” (Proverbs 4:6)
A victim of date rape may not be aware of being raped.
This is due to the nature and availability of date rape drugs. For example, a very small amount of GHB (Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate) slipped into a drink can quickly drug a woman to such an extent that she loses the ability to resist unwanted sex. She not only loses complete control of her body, but she also loses consciousness of her surroundings. Once under the influence of what is called “liquid ecstasy,” she becomes a prime target for date rape, and for some, this “ecstasy” literally leads to death.
“A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him.”
D. When You’re Not Dating … But Would Like To Be
Whether you’ve never dated before or are starting to date after becoming “single again,” dating can—and should—be a fun and enjoyable experience. If you’re emotionally and spiritually primed to begin forming dating relationships, you could come face-to-face with a jarring reality: No one eligible to date is on your horizon. Rather than lowering your standards for the sake of stirring up some “action”—considering those who once would have been out of the question—use this opportunity to grow in your relationship with Christ.
The Lord knows your situation. Put Him in charge of the timing and pace of your dating life. Consider making this the prayer of your heart:
Heavenly Father …
• I will refuse to be desperate to find someone to date.
• I will wait on Your timing and person(s) to date.
• I will not lower my criteria to evaluate a prospective date.
• I will use this time to listen intently for Your voice to lead me.
• I will focus on what I do have, not what I don’t have.
• I will be grateful for Your unconditional love for me.
• I will remember that I am not alone, unloved, or forgotten.
• I will not put my life on hold until I begin to date.
• I will look for ways that my life can bless others.
“I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
Question: “Does God have one special person for everyone—someone He intends for me to marry?”
Answer: Not necessarily. While marriage is ordained of God and most people do get married, the apostle Paul was obviously called by God to remain single and unmarried. In 1 Corinthians 7:8, he said, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.” Both singleness and marriage are good in God’s sight. But the reason Paul encourages singleness is that there is less distraction from the things of God for the single person.
“I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:35)
E. When You Are Beginning to Date
Dating can be an exiting adventure of the heart leading to marriage, but hearts are fragile and should be treated with care. In Deuteronomy 6:5 we are called to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Therefore, protect your heart because it belongs to God first … then it belongs to you. When a dating friendship grows into a love relationship, your heart still belongs to God, but you are placing it in someone else’s hands.
Your body was also designed with a purpose for purity (as a gift to your future spouse as well as to avoid sexually transmitted disease). Safeguarding yourself sexually until marriage is another reason to date cautiously and prayerfully.
• Be Wise—Ask the Lord to …
— Guide your decision to date
— Guide the decisions of your date
— Guard your heart, mind, body, and soul during the dating process
— Confirm your choices with His peace as you date
(If you don’t have His peace about the person you are dating, do not go out with that person again.)
• Be Safe—You deserve to be treated well and to be safe.
— Allow trusted friends, family, and coworkers to introduce you to someone who shares your beliefs and interests.
— When you begin to date, spend time together with a group as you get to know each other.
— Meet in public places as you build trust and observe character. (If you do not respect the character of the one you are dating, then do not go out again.)
• Be Real—Just as you want to get to know the person you are dating, be honest and real with your date.
• Be Honest—Talk to your date about what you do not enjoy or appreciate.
— Don’t “go along with whatever” just because it’s what your date wants.
— Don’t cave in to peer pressure—be willing to say no when you know you should say no. (If you respectfully speak the truth, in the end, you will earn respect.)
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Question: “I long for physical closeness and the simple pleasure of human touch. How can I get that need met while maintaining my purity?”
Answer: Touch is as natural and as necessary as our other senses and is to be enjoyed and used to enhance relationships. Accept as a gift from God your need for physical touch and closeness. Then seek out people who are whole in their relationship with Him, people who can give and receive physical nurturing without sexualizing it.
— Be aware that sexual feelings can be rooted not in the need for sex, but in the need to interact deeply with a sympathetic, compassionate person with whom you can share your innermost thoughts and feelings—someone who cares about you. Therefore, don’t be afraid of your sexual feelings or seek to avoid them. Rather, accurately interpret them and find nonsexual ways to meet them.
“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
F. How to Break Off a Dating Relationship
An old popular song repeats this all-too-true refrain: “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.” Often only one person realizes that the dating relationship isn’t working—that the interaction has become more harmful than healthy. At this point, a breakup can be best for both people—even if only temporary. But in breaking up, we need to remember Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 4:15 about “speaking the truth in love.”
|If you are the initiator of a breakup …
|If you are the recipient of a breakup …
|• Be honest and direct. Don’t lie about the reasons. The other person might try to fix any of your phantom, made-up causes.
|• Listen, but don’t take everything that is said literally. Look at the big picture. Evaluate the validity of the reasons given.
|• Don’t prolong the agony. Don’t dangle hopes of reconciliation if you honestly don’t see it happening.
|• Don’t plead, beg, or grovel, but accept the breakup. Ask direct, honest questions. You may need to reevaluate how to conduct yourself in any future dating relationships.
|• Pray and think through what you are going to say. Don’t use clichés like, “It’s not about you, it’s about me.” But don’t blame the other person, either.
|• Don’t threaten or raise your voice. Listen and think through what is being said before you respond.
|• Keep it as short and unemotional as possible. Sincerely apologize for any pain that might result from the failed relationship.
|• Take time to think and pray before saying or doing anything. If you have offended the other person, offer a sincere apology and ask for forgiveness.
|• Restrain your curiosity to check up on the other person if you have no intention of trying to reconcile.
|• Restrain your desire to talk about the other person. What you say will come back to haunt you.
|• Pray for your ex-dating partner and ask for wisdom, understanding, and discernment in choosing future dating partners.
|• If you’ve been wronged, forgive your ex-dating partner and release the person to the Lord. Pray and ask the Lord to bless the person. Pray that the Lord will use the breakup to draw you closer to Him and teach you valuable insights.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity … a time to embrace and a time to refrain.”
(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 5)
Possible Opening Lines When a Breakup Appears Necessary
• “It’s become apparent to me that our relationship is not heading toward marriage.…”
• “I’m not comfortable with the two different directions in which we are heading.…”
• “We really are not challenging each other to grow spiritually.…”
• “Our relationship isn’t encouraging either of us to be the best that we can be.…”
• “We don’t seem to be bringing out the best in each other.…”
“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Question: “What do I do when I receive an invitation to date a person I’m not drawn to … someone who says, ‘The Lord told me to date you’ … or ‘The Lord told me to marry you’? I don’t want to go against God.”
Answer: You are not going against God by saying no. If He wanted you to date a particular person, He would have told you as well as the other person. To the man who is claiming God’s leading when you do not sense it, you could reply, “Thank you for the honor of your invitation. I really do believe in listening to the Lord, and He hasn’t told me the same thing. Therefore, I must say no. It may be that He is preparing you to approach someone else. But I know I am not that person. As long as you seek His will, He will guide you to the right person.” This may seem harsh, but it is not harsh when you can avoid misleading someone. Honesty will always be the best policy.
“A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies.” (Proverbs 12:17)
G. Bolstering Self-Worth after a Broken Relationship
When people fail us, we can temporarily lose the sense of self-worth we gained by having them in our lives. Losing a relationship with a significant person is hurtful to everyone, but can be devastating for some. The remedy can be found in looking to our true Need-Meeter, to the One who gives us unfailing love … who makes us unquestionably significant … who provides us unshakable security. God Himself is responsible for meeting—and able to meet—all of our needs for love, for significance, and for security.
“What a man desires is unfailing love.”
The Need for Love
• Reject the lie that you are unacceptable or unlovable.
Pray … “Lord, thank You that when I experience rejection, You offer me love and acceptance.”
“He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6 NKJV)
• Rejoice in the truth that you are deeply loved.
Pray … “Lord, thank You for the deep, unconditional love and kindness that You have for me. You love me even when I feel unlovable.”
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
• Revel in the reality that God is conforming you to the likeness of His Son.
Pray … “Lord, thank You that day by day I am becoming more and more like Jesus. Thank You for conforming me into His likeness.”
“Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29)
• Rely on other treasured relationships to reaffirm your value.
Pray … “Lord, I thank You for giving me dear friends who value me as a person and reaffirm me as one of Your precious children.”
“I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you [Timothy] in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.” (2 Timothy 1:3–4)
• Release all anger, hurt, resentment, and regret to the Lord.
Pray … “Lord, thank You for taking my anger, hurt, resentment, and regret, I lay it all down at the foot of Your cross.”
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4:31)
• Resume your social life and regular daily activities. Establish a “new normal.”
Pray … “Lord, thank You for helping me reestablish my social life with those who are dear to me. Help me to receive their love, comfort, and support.”
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:8–10)
The Need for Significance
• Realize that your identity is in your relationship with the Lord and not in another person.
Pray … “Lord, thank You that my identity is not based on what others think about me, but that my true identity can be found only in a relationship with You.”
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
• Reflect on the positive things you learned or changes you made as a result of being in the relationship.
Pray … “Lord, thank You for all the wonderful things I learned as a result of being in my past relationship. Thank You, Lord, for the growth that has taken place in my life.”
“I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.” (Proverbs 24:32)
• Re-examine the strengths and weaknesses of the broken relationship. Learn from any unwise decisions you may have made. Pray … “Lord, thank You for the gift of discernment. Help me discern any unwise decisions I made while in my past relationship. Help me to overcome my weaknesses and continue to grow in Your strength.
“The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.” (Proverbs 15:14)
• Rehearse instances that reflected sound judgment and discernment on your part.
Pray … “Lord, thank You for the gift of discernment and sound judgment that I know comes from Your Spirit within me.”
“Preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight.” (Proverbs 3:21)
• Relegate the past to the past and embrace your God-ordained future.
Pray … “Lord, thank You for helping me leave my past in the past and for preparing me to embrace my future with You and all that You have ordained for me.”
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18–19)
The Need for Security
• Rest in the sovereignty of God over all your plans and relationships.
Pray … “Lord, thank You for being sovereign in all areas of my life including my relationships. Your plans for me are firmly set.”
“The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” (Psalm 33:11)
• Relax in the fact that God’s plans and purposes for you cannot be thwarted by the actions of another person.
Pray … “Lord, thank You that no circumstance and no person, including myself, can derail Your plans and purposes for me.”
“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)
• Remember that God never allows anything in your life that He does not intend to use for your good.
Pray … “Lord, thank You that everything I experience in life will be used for my good, even the painful experiences will be used as a testimony to encourage others.”
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
• Resolve to face your heartache and to work through your grief with the Lord’s help.
Pray … “Lord, thank You for being my comforter and counselor when I am faced with heartache and grief.”
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
• Resist the temptation to withdraw.
Pray … “Lord, thank You that I was created to be in relationships with others. Help me to seek the fellowship of friends and family even when I am tempted to withdraw.”
“An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment.” (Proverbs 18:1)
H. Prioritizing Purity in Dating
How easy to be deceived in dating—to be misled by looks, propelled by insecurity, or lured by lust—and end up with a used body, a guilty conscience, and a broken heart. To prevent hurtful relationships, plan your personal guidelines before you begin dating. Having your convictions in place ahead of time will help you uphold them, even in the face of shifting emotions.
In addition, each couple should be sensitive to the physical boundaries in their relationship. That is, they should know their limits and be cautious about approaching them—much less crossing them. In their cooler moments, couples should talk about how to avoid times of temptation and set boundaries in order to make purity in the dating relationship a top priority.
“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.”
The following acronym can help you maintain a godly perspective in your dating relationship.
P—Prioritize God’s standard for purity in your dating.
• Make a commitment to God and each other to maintain sexual purity until marriage. Pray about this daily … and before each date. Should you ever violate this commitment, have an understanding that you will break off the relationship and seek individual counsel and healing.
• Have same-sex “his and her” accountability partners who ask explicit questions about sexual purity on a weekly basis—or more often if needed. Give them a copy of your written sexual purity commitment.
• Let your accountability partners know when you will be alone together in private for an extended period. Ask them to lift you up in prayer at these times.
“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4)
U—Undertake personal accountability for how you treat your date’s body.
• Avoid “French kissing” until marriage. This type of kissing is a form of “sexual penetration,” preparing the body and soul for further sexual activity because of its highly arousing nature.
• Don’t touch a body part on your date that you, yourself, don’t have.
• Read a good book together on sexual purity.
“In this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:6)
R—Refrain from activities that violate God’s standard by arousing sexual desires. Then repent and recommit to sexual purity if these standards are violated.
• Avoid sexually oriented media—like magazines, books, movies, television programs, videos.
• Be willing to walk out of a movie theater, change the television channel, or turn off a video player when you encounter material that creates sexual desire or tension—even if only one of you is feeling uneasy.
• Don’t use language that could arouse sexual desire—even when “joking”—and avoid discussing sexually oriented subjects.
• If you travel together before marriage, arrange for separate bedrooms.
• Immediately involve your accountability partners if you find yourself slipping morally.
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3–4)
I—Implement goals that are pleasing to God.
• Study Scripture together … reading, for example, about other role models in the Bible, such as Joseph and Ruth.
• Undertake service projects that give you an opportunity to work together to help others.
• Commit to helping each other maintain balanced lives, with time for friends, hobbies, and other priorities.
“We make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:9–10)
T—Trust in God’s timing.
• Remember that God’s sense of timing differs vastly from ours. “Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8).
• As you date, allow the Lord to handle any hurts. and disappointments that may come your way.
• Do not consider dating a waiting game. Use your single years to build your relationship with the Lord and with others. God has not created us to live in isolation, but to be in fellowship with others. Develop a heart of love and acceptance for those He has placed in your life.
“Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” (Genesis 29:20)
Y—Yield your life to the Lord.
• Surrender your expectations. Don’t let the pounding of your biological clock block out the voice of the Holy Spirit.
• Surrender your emotions. Since feelings follow thinking, learn to think the way God thinks by memorizing and meditating on Scripture that is related to waiting on the Lord.
• Surrender your will. Give up your demands and expectations for marriage. Instead, seek His will.
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
Question: “I have committed my life to the Lord. What can help me resist sexual temptation?”
Answer: Carry visual reminders of your highest ideals, values, and commitments. For example, many young people choose to wear a “chastity ring” to symbolize their covenant to the Lord—specifically, to abstain from engaging in sexual activity outside the marriage relationship.
“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12)
|On your next date, think about your future mate—how would you want someone else to be treating your future mate now? Then, treat your date with the same respect you would want another to show your future mate. Applying God’s golden rule (Matthew 7:12) will guard you from erotic irresponsibility: Do unto your date what you would have another do to your mate!
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Eble, Diane. The Campus Life Guide to Dating. Grand Rapids: CampusLife, 1990.
Gaddis, Patricia Riddle. Dangerous Dating: Helping Young Women Say No to Abusive Relationships. Colorado Springs, CO: Shaw, 2000.
Green, Melody. Why You Shouldn’t Marry or Date an Unbeliever. Lindale, TX: Last Days Ministries, 1982.
Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.
Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.
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Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008
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 Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Dating: The Delight and Dangers of Dating (1–27). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.