I have had some helpful conversations recently about dating. The questions relate to whether or not dating is a good thing. Christians have been wrestling with this for the past decade. We have had a number of books and articles written on how dating is not a Biblical idea and that we should not date.
I was talking with a young man recently who asked whether dating really is bad and if so, how can he get to know young women in a healthy way. He would like to meet women and get to know them without all the entanglements that lead to broken hearts when a dating relationship ends.
I told him I think the way a relationship ends has more to do with how it starts than almost anything else. Let me explain.
Before I ever begin a relationship one of the biggest issues is who am I worshipping? We tend to think that worship is a formal thing we do in corporate settings like the church. Worship is really making someone or something the focus of my life. If I am going to be in a good place to start a new relationship, God must be the focus of my life and the person whom I worship.
Once I have a clear sense of my worship, the next question we have to deal with is why I want to get to know this person. How do we choose the person we want to get to know, whether through dating, group activities, or courtship? In most cases, if we are honest, we choose to get to know someone we find physically attractive. That is often our highest priority. If this is what I am doing, I am starting this relationship with an object and not with a person. This type of relationship building is destructive and to be avoided no matter its form.
I think there are some good questions to help us understand what we are trying to do as we find ourselves interested in getting to know someone to whom we are romantically attracted.
- What first brought this person to my attention?
- Do I find myself tempted to present myself as I know this person wants me to be, or am I honest about who I am so that they can get to know me well and we can decide if we might be a fit for each other?
- Am I as eager to spend time with this person in a group as I am to spend time alone with them?
- How much focus is on a physical relationship?
- Am I spending time developing a relationship spiritually, emotionally, socially, as well as physically?
- Am I getting to know this person’s world, family, and friends?
- Am I giving to this person as much as I am getting from them?
- Is this relationship honoring God?
We are created for community. We are creatures made in the image of God, who exists as community (one God in three persons). God said, after he made man, that it is not good for the man to be alone. At that time Adam had a relationship with God. He had all the animals that God had created. God still said that man needed other people. We are not meant to live isolated lives. We need family. We need friends. Unless we have the gift of singleness, we also need a spouse.
I believe the most significant factor in how our relationships and friendships end is how they begin and what we are trying to accomplish through them. Good goals for our relationships will always involve treating the other person as an image bearer and as someone Christ loves, rather than treating them as an object that can satisfy my needs and desires.
If the essence of our interactions focuses on connecting to a person, the form of the relationship (dating, courtship, or some other form) takes a back burner status. I think we can offer a lot of clarity if we help the folks to whom we minister to think through the foundational issues of relationship.