Why is it acceptable for a young man to ask a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage after he has already stolen the daughter’s heart? Young men should ask the father’s permission before they begin the courtship process, not after they have completed it.
We have underestimated the power of emotional attraction between men and women. We have overestimated the ability of young men and women to evaluate the suitability of a potential mate objectively. And we have underestimated the importance of protecting our hearts in such matters. We raise a generation of young men who think differently about courtship.
Modern American dating is no more than glorified divorce practice. Young people are learning how to give themselves away in exclusive, romantic, highly committed (at times sexual) relationships, only to break up and do it all over again.
Dating is like a minefield laden with live bombs that destroy or wound almost everyone who enters it. If this field takes the lives of 43% of all Christian young people and wounds almost all others, why do we keep sending our children into it? Would we put our children on a plane that had a 43% chance of crashing, or give them food that had a 43% chance of being poisoned? No? Why, then, do we take risks with them morally?
Courtship=It is engaged in for exploring a relationship for marriage. Dating=It is engaged in for the purpose of personal gratification. Courtship=It is a means to an end. It is engaged in only when ready to marry. Dating=It is an end in itself. It is engaged in years before ready to marry, or as a substitute for marriage. Courtship= It requires parental involvement (except with remarriage). Dating=It generally discourages parental involvement. Courtship=It limits the number of premarital relationships developed. Dating=It provides extensive opportunities to develop multiple relationships. Courtship= It considers all physical contact a privilege of those who have bound themselves for life with marriage vows. Dating=It promotes various levels of physical contact, from holding hands to fornication. Courtship=It rarely leaves couples alone or unchaperoned. Dating=It provides extensive time for unmarried couples to be alone.
The answer to the “Who can I date?” question has two parts: 1. You can date anyone it would be okay to marry; and 2. You can’t date anyone it wouldn’t be okay to marry. Why these rules? Because dating is about marriage. It’s not a search for fun or a search for sex. It’s a search for a suitable marriage partner. Marriage is the state men and women were designed for, not dating. If you merely want to socialize without excluding members of the other sex and without the intention of marriage, okay, but you’re better off doing that in groups. Face it, when a guy’s out with a girl, it’s just not like being out with another guy – not even when they both insist it’s “not a date.”
Pursuing holiness in today’s cheap-date, hookup world requires tremendous courage and other-worldliness. Long make-out sessions (and more) is not the way for young men to treat “younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Tim. 5:2). If you might not marry the one you are dating, why do all sorts of stuff with someone else’s future spouse, stuff you will have a hard time forgetting once you are married yourself? And if you are on your way to marriage, instead of acting more married than single, consider getting married sooner so you don’t have to act single any longer.
Saints And Sexual Immorality by Kevin DeYoung taken from The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung, copyright 2012, Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton Illinois 60187, www.crosswaybooks.org, p. 116.
What does the Bible say about dating? Nothing. And everything! Our challenge is to think biblically about an activity that isn’t in the Bible (Richard and Sharon Phillips).
According to the Bible’s perspective, if you are dating you are not just holding hands, you are holding hearts. What you do with your own heart, and what you do with another’s, is a matter of great importance (Richard and Sharon Phillips).
A woman needs to know about a man’s background and character before he has worked his way into her heart (Richard and Sharon Phillips).
God values them with a great love, and men who think the treatment of a Christian woman’s heart will not affect their own relationship with God are seriously mistaken. She is Daddy’s little girl! (Richard and Sharon Phillips).
Counsel, prayer and accountability – these are three vital tools for healthy, wholesome dating (Richard and Sharon Phillips).
In a dating relationship, a man does not have a right to expect submission from the woman, since this obligation is reserved for marriage. But backtracking this principle into a dating relationship, a man should take it as his responsibility to lead the relationship, ensuring that it honors God and is a blessing to the woman he is dating… Unlike the norm for worldly men, the Christian is not to exploit the woman sexually, emotionally, or otherwise, but to minister to her needs so that she will be blessed (Richard and Sharon Phillips).
Some specific suggestions for how a Christian man can put these principles into action in a dating relationship:
1. Commit to take the lead in the godliness of your relationship. Read the Bible’s passages about how men and women and all Christians should treat one another. Especially take the lead in establishing boundaries that will keep you from sexual sin. Assume that this woman is going to be your wife or the wife of some other Christian brother (who might be currently dating your future wife). Treat her as the precious sister in Christ that she is.
2. Decide in advance whether or not you are willing to love a woman in the self-sacrificing, nurturing way the Bible describes. Until you are ready to faithfully hold a woman’s heart in your hand, do not enter into a dating relationship.
3. Realizing that God wants you to learn to put her interest ahead of your own, ask her the kinds of things she likes to do and be eager to spend time doing them.
4. Be willing to talk about the relationship. Initiate honest dialogue about how you feel. Do not resent her desire to have the relationship defined, but protect her heart by making your level of commitment clear and thereby making clear the appropriate kind of intimacy to go along with that commitment.
5. Pay attention to her heart. Ask her about her burdens and cares. Seek ways to minister to her and to make her cares your own. Instead of being critical of her, speak words of encouragement and support.
6. Do not be shy in ministering the Word of God to her. Do not preach, but exhort her and call to mind God’s promises and God’s love for her in Jesus Christ. Make it a primary goal that she will be spiritually stronger by having been in a relationship with you.
7. If something about her bothers you, think about how you can encourage her in that area. Realize that none of us is without flaws. Pray for her weakness and try to strengthen her in that area. If your concerns are enough to deter you from wanting to marry her, let her know in a forthright manner while being as considerate as possible (Richard and Sharon Phillips).
In dating [the Christian woman] helps the man by letting him lead the relationship and honoring God alongside him. She helps him by being respectful of his ideas and his relationship to the Lord. This does not mean going along with a man even if he wants to lead her into sin! But it does mean that she helps him to conduct their relationship in a God-honoring way (Richard and Sharon Phillips).
What, then, does submission and respect look like for a woman in a dating relationship? Here are some guidelines:
1. A woman should allow the man to initiate the relationship. This does not mean that she does nothing. She helps! If she thinks there is a good possibility for a relationship, she makes herself accessible to him and helps him to make conversation, putting him at ease and encouraging him as opportunities arise (she does the opposite when she does not have interest in a relationship with a man). A godly woman will not try to manipulate the start of a relationship, but will respond to the interest and approaches of a man in a godly, encouraging way.
2. A godly woman should speak positively and respectfully about her boyfriend, both when with him and when apart.
3. She should give honest attention to his interests and respond to his attention and care by opening up her heart.
4. She should recognize the sexual temptations with which a single man will normally struggle. Knowing this, she will dress attractively but modestly, and will avoid potentially compromising situations. She must resist the temptation to encourage sexual liberties as a way to win his heart.
5. The Christian woman should build up the man with God’s Word and give encouragement to godly leadership. She should allow and seek biblical encouragement from the man she is dating.
6. She should make “helping” and “respecting” the watchwords of her behavior toward a man. She should ask herself, “How can I encourage him, especially in his walk with God?” “How can I provide practical helps that are appropriate to the current place in our relationship?” She should share with him in a way that will enable him to care for her heart, asking, “What can I do or say that will help him to understand who I really am, and how can I participate in the things he cares about?”
7. She must remember that this is a brother in the Lord. She should not be afraid to end an unhealthy relationship, but should seek to do so with charity and grace. Should the relationship not continue forward, the godly woman will ensure that her time with a man will have left him spiritually blessed (Richard and Sharon Phillips).
The Bible is clear that sexual intimacy is to be reserved exclusively between husband and wife. Within marriage it’s beautiful. Outside of marriage it’s destructive. The wrong question asked by dating couples is, “How close can we go to that line without sinning?” A better question is, “How far can I flee from potential sin in fear of getting burned?”
The goal of courtship is to work on the commitment part, not the intimacy part. Then when you marry and intimacy comes, there will be commitment.
How much does the modern concept of dating really prepare us for a healthy biblical marriage? Marriage=Stick together during the rough times. Dating=Bail when the going gets tough. Marriage=Sexual purity with one person. Dating=Sexual freedom among many partners. Marriage=Promotes sexual fidelity. Dating=Promotes sexual sin. Marriage=Prioritizing the desires of another. Dating=Fulfilling your own personal desires. Marriage=Love is based on action. Dating=Love is based on feelings. Marriage=Seeks accountability. Dating=Lacks accountability. Marriage=Lifetime commitment with one person. Dating=Creates an appetite for variety/change. Marriage=Dedicational. Marriage=Recreational. Marriage=Giving your heart to one. Dating=Giving your heart to many. Marriage=Serving the church as a team. Dating=Isolation from the church. Marriage=Character is considered and developed. Dating=Character is devalued and ignored. Marriage=Ultimate dedication is to God. Dating=Ultimate dedication is to boy/girlfriend.
Courtship, of course, isn’t a concept that comes with a proof text. [It is not] some sort of biblical program. The Bible doesn’t have programs. It does, of course, call us to wisdom in helping our children reach that brightest line that marks adulthood-marriage. Which means our goal ought to be wisdom. Which means parents ought, while rightly having godly suspicion of the wisdom of the kids, to have suspicion about their own wisdom. They ought to be guarding against their own egos intruding.