Courtship v. Dating. These are hot-button topics for many families these days. The following post was written by my friend and Busy Mom writer, Gina. I love her heart and perspective, because it’s not fear-based or rules-based—it’s grace based. Raising teens is difficult. Let’s not make it more difficult by making things harder or scarier than they need to be. Thanks for the insight, Gina! With two of my seven now grown and gone, it’s still a great reminder to me that at the end of the day, my kids belong to God, and my job is to teach our children how to listen for His heart. His is the only opinion that matters.
What does the Bible say about dating? What about courtship? Interestingly enough, the words courtship and dating are not found in the Bible. So, if the Bible indeed does say so little about dating, why are there so many books written telling us how we should think about the subject?
Dating is another one of those issue that we’d like to have all the answers. We’d love to have a list of rules that we can hand our children and tell them to follow. There are books with different Christian philosophies for us to consider, but the bottom line is that there are very few hard and fast Biblical rules.
As my children were growing up there were a number of popular books available to help us form our philosophy of dating. We studied them and decided what we agreed with and what ideals we wanted to teach our kids. As our kids got older we realized that what we were doing was taking those ideals and imposing them onto real life people. If these ideals are not Biblical, but a man’s idea of how he thinks things need to be to walked out, we are in danger of imposing on our kids a burden that was never meant to be imposed.
Maybe this whole dating issue is a little simpler than we want to make it.
What not to do:
- Do not react against our cultural extremes (or what we don’t agree with that our parents did!) and throw out the whole concept of dating. Just because our culture may not have boundaries in dating doesn’t mean the concept is wrong. Of course, we must separate from any world view that is not consistent with God’s heart. (2 Peter 2: 20)
- Do not idealize the practices of another era (ie the victorian era) or culture, decide what is “God’s way” to do things, and then impose them on your kids.
- Do not let this issue be one that causes division among believers. I’ve known moms that proudly announce “MY kids DON’T date!” and with that announcement there is the potential to put up walls between them and a mom whose kids do date, or whose kids may be struggling in this particular area. Any issue that is not clearly set out in scripture should not be one that causes division. We need to give room for the biblical principles that are found in scripture that might be applied to the concept of dating or courtship to look different from person to another.
- Do not hold up a book to be the gospel truth. Glean what you can from books, but since there is so little in scripture written about this subject, we must remember that these are merely ideas or suggestions that a man (or woman) have come to.
What to do?
- Pray! The fact that the rules of dating are not found in scripture gives parents another opportunity to pray for God to guide them in the lives of each child. It also reminds us of the fact that they are individuals and that things might look a bit different from one child to the next.
- Teach! We can look at biblical principles and do our best to teach them to our children so that they can apply them to all their relationships, including those of the opposite sex to whom they may find themselves attracted.
- Talk! The discussion can start long before our children are anywhere near the time when dating might begin. Attraction to the opposite sex begins very early in life. It is a normal, God given desire and attraction. We should never make our kids feel guilty for having a normal attraction, but begin the discussion about how to handle that desire. Draw them out and listen to their thoughts and heart. Don’t dictate to them how they should think.
- Inform! You can begin by sharing that the ultimate goal in dating is to meet a potential marriage partner. Dating can be used to get to know the opposite sex, with marriage in mind, but also a chance to learn how to interact with the opposite sex in a God honoring way.
- Pray some more! We need to pray for, and with, our kids. Ask God for wisdom to know how to help your kids walk out this area in their lives. Encourage your kids to pray about what this should look like in their lives. When the time comes that they come to you and express that they are interested in someone, you can begin to pray for wisdom on how to handle the friendship. James 1:5
There is one important, non-negotiable rule of dating. The scripture is very clear that God’s desire for believers is that they marry a believer. So, that would be one hard and fast rule you can have. 2 Cor. 6:14
Read the Word. Pray. Seek God’s direction. Pray for your children. Allow God to do things His way in your children and their relationships, and try to enjoy the process!
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.