How do you feel or have personally experienced the Christian subculture’s treatment or approach towards dating/courting/romantic relationships?
You know, I had really bought into the modern “Christian” idea of dating because it appeals to the legalistic Pharisee in all of us. It’s not all bad, but it often results in a panicked paranoia about the opposite sex that leads to unhealthy self-slavery.
Basically, the Christian subculture of dating says:
- Don’t date.
- If you date, do “courtship,” which is dating only for marriage.
- The warning: if you decide to date, you give your heart and soul away.
- If you break up, you’re practicing for divorce.
- Sex is bad, filthy, gross, and disgusting. So save it for marriage.
The thing is, I completely understand this rigid idea of dating. It’s a reactionary philosophy to all the messed up Hollywood values perpetuated in dumb romantic comedies. So to the average Christian, it makes sense to “only date for marriage” and “guard the pieces of your heart.”
But the opposite of one idea doesn’t make a good idea.
To unabashedly quote myself, this is essentially what “Christian” dating is saying:
Screw all those people who have a traumatic past of dating because they’re obviously evil serial daters and life is black-and-white and there’s no hope for people who have given away pieces of their purity. Just line up all your ex’s in a room and look at how dirty you are. Jesus can restore broken people to a brand new life, except if you dated some loser who played your innocence and stole your childhood when you didn’t know any better since Freud says that’s subconsciously all your fault. Sorry, Jesus saves — his salvation-juice for only the good people.
I absolutely believe that we should be careful about who we date and to set high standards for it. You should never have to settle for less than what you feel you deserve. There should definitely be safe physical boundaries, and yes, sex is awesome and it’s only awesome within marriage.
BUT: We need to relax a little here.
If you break up, it’s not the end of the world.
If you crossed those physical boundaries, you haven’t “ruined your purity forever.”
If you kiss a few frogs to find the prince, that doesn’t make you a “serial dater.”
Some of us learn the hard way, and others follow the textbook to the letter. I am NOT giving permission to do what you want, but I’m saying that for those who are beat up by consequences, God still gives you a new heart as you stumble back towards Him. Your past is the past: it does not define you. There’s no such thing as “Once a cheater, always a cheater,” so long as you’re repenting towards Christ.
Remember also that the Bible doesn’t have a lot to say about dating, but it does have a lot to say about friendship and marriage. I would look over those passages carefully to better discern both the Christian subculture and Hollywood nonsense.
So here’s a few things I’ll say about dating that you can take or leave. They’re not from the Bible, but are hopefully biblical.
1) If you can be your entire crazy self around the person you’re dating, they’re a keeper. This person will almost always be your best friend.
2) If you’re going to talk seriously or discuss the future or break up, try to do it in person. All this technology stuff only prevents us from having normal human interaction.
3) You do NOT have to be friends with your ex. Forgiveness does not mean friendship.
4) You’re allowed to mourn over a break-up. It doesn’t mean you’ve “idolized” anything. Any preacher who tells you otherwise has no idea how to be human.
5) Pray with the person you’re dating. Find time for God together. It’s always a little awkward at first, but break through those spiritual hang-ups and share your convictions. Also: praying together does NOT mean you’re having “soul-sex.”
6) Know when to say no. Dudes: no always means no, even when it’s not spoken out loud.
7) Dudes and ladies: you will not be alone forever. Loneliness sucks, I know. But God has handcrafted someone who is imperfectly perfect for you: so what you need to do is grow yourself first.
8) If you read any Christian books on dating and marriage, use heavy discernment. By far the best books I’ve read on the subject are The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller and Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.
9) Purity is important, but it’s not everything: and no one is really pure anyway. It’s something Jesus gives us, not really something we can fight for. If you fight for it, you will constantly define yourself on this one parameter and either become prideful or devastated.
10) Dating will look different for everyone. There’s no “checklist” — because if there were, we instantly become Pharisees who ease our conscience with a mechanical set of rules.
11) Dating shouldn’t be the focal point of anything we do anyway. Pursue hard after Jesus; you will find someone running alongside you.
On friendship – Proverbs 17:17, 17:9, 18:24, 27:5-6, 27:17, Romans 12:15
On marriage – 1 Peter 3:1-7, 1 Corinthians 7, Ephesians 5:22-33
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