Before You Date
My wife and I started dating in High School. Having been married for 13 years now, I sometimes look back on that time and think, God, how in the world did I end up with such a saved, solid, smart, and supportive woman?! The answer to that question is: God and God alone! It most definitely was him because I was young and dumb.
I had an example of a good woman at home in the person of my mother. And, yes, my father shared some wisdom with me (a bit at the beginning of our dating relationship and some more as we became more serious). But in all honesty, at that point in my life and in my relationship with Jesus, I really didn’t see (or care to see) the importance of what she modeled before me nor what he taught me. I was, in many respects, simply thinking and operating from a sense of infatuation. That doesn’t mean I didn’t give any thought to who we were as two individuals before we began dating; but it wasn’t nearly as spiritual, serious, and substantive as it should have been (and, yes, I believe that Christian teenagers – with guidance from his or her Christian parent(s) and/or other maturing believers – need to pray and think soberly about this aspect of life before they engage in it). Because of that, thinking retrospectively, we could have easily found ourselves caught in a toxic relationship or gingerly, with regret, attempting to pick up the fragments of our shattered hearts from a failed one…but God! Though our dating relationship began on somewhat shaky ground (and was far from perfect), God intervened.
Thank God for his grace towards the naive.
But we ought not to arrogantly presume upon it, as if God is obligated to keep us from the consequences of our sinful or foolish dating decisions, especially when we know better. For God to give us his wisdom concerning relationships (which is found in Jesus, recorded in Scripture, and often communicated through godly counsel) should be viewed by us as an act of his grace, and should not be ignored. So in that vein, I want to offer five characteristics single Christians should desire to see in the life of those whom they are interested in before they make a decision to enter into a serious dating relationship with the end goal being marriage (which is another post for another day).
Note: The Scriptures referenced in this article obviously do not, in their respective contexts, have anything to do with dating. What I have sought to do is take the selected verses and see how they might apply to this particular topic.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)
Has he or she turned from sin and trusted in the person and work of Jesus for salvation, for the forgiveness of sin? Do they believe in the perfect life of Jesus, his substitutionary death on the cross for our sin, and his bodily resurrection from the dead? This, by far, is the most important characteristic that should be evident in the life of someone whom you are interested in dating. How does one go about finding out this information? Here is a suggestion: Ask if he or she is a Christian. If the answer is yes, then ask – How did you become one? His or her response to this follow-up question will be telling, so listen carefully. If you hear anything other than the good news of Jesus, don’t go any further with that person. It is best that you both stay casual acquaintances or friends.
“Well, maybe God wants me to be with him to help win him to Jesus.”
“I think God is leading me to date her so that I can influence her to Jesus.”
Missionary dating is not only dangerous; it is, I would contend, also disobedient (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Don’t do it!
To date someone who is not a Christian, who has not been spiritually healed by Jesus, is to constantly be in close proximity to someone whose highly contagious sin-sickness has not been cured and is not in remission, but is actively coursing through his or her spiritual veins, which will eventually infect and affect you as well.
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation (1 Peter 2:2)
Well, let’s just say she’s got the first characteristic. Great! But there’s more. When we are born again by grace through faith in Jesus, we become children of God. With this new birth comes a desire, a hunger for God’s word. God’s word, as Peter describes it, is pure spiritual milk, which provides the nourishment for our souls. It is the means by which we grow up into salvation. It is how we mature in Jesus.
This is why it is important to not only know if that person of interest is healed from sin in Jesus but also if he or she is hungry for God’s word. Here are some diagnostic questions to think about:
- Does he have a growing desire to learn the Bible?
- Does she read and study the Scripture more than just on Sunday?
- Does he have a regular diet of the word of God?
- Where is she getting her spiritual milk from? And is it pure or spoiled?
- Who is he sitting under for spiritual nourishment?
It’s awesome that he or she is saved. But how is his or her appetite for God’s truth?
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
“So, I’ve checked, and, yes, he is healed and hungry.”
Good deal. Let’s continue then.
A mark of a maturing Christian is what is often called, total life worship. It is presenting our whole selves (actions, thoughts, desires, and speech) as living sacrifices to God – to live and do as he pleases. In short, as growing believers we will progressively live holy lives; lives that both revere and reflect Jesus. As you can see, this goes deeper than simply whether or not a person goes to church. Regularly attending corporate worship is good and is part of what God has commanded us to do, but it is definitely not all that he has required of us. Jesus rightly deserves and demands our total allegiance and the full abandonment of our lives to his will and purposes. Does your dating prospect show evidence of a life lived in continual submission to King Jesus?
And he told her all his heart… (Judges 16:17a)
Granted, the historical account of Samson and Delilah is nowhere near the paragon of healthy relationships. Plus, the intent of that biblical story is not to give dating tips. One thing, however, that does surface clearly in the text is that Samson eventually gives in to Delilah’s nagging, deceitful, and malicious persistence to tell her the truth about where his strength lied. I think we can at least say this: whereas Samson’s honesty got him in trouble, your honesty and that of your prospective boyfriend or girlfriend could possibly keep you out of a whole lot of trouble…with God and with each other.
Truth-telling should be non-negotiable, especially when you are on the front porch, seriously thinking about entering through the dating door. You absolutely need to know what you are about to walk into before you cross that relational threshold! Obviously, if this is your first time meeting him or her, or you have only known him or her on a casual basis, then you shouldn’t expect or require to know everything about him or her at the outset, nor should you divulge too much information about yourself out the gate. But shortly after the initial meet-up or first couple of dates, you need to start digging, especially if you are seriously and exclusively looking to date this person. He or she needs to be honest with himself or herself and honest with you, and vice-versa. “Honest about what?” you ask. Consider at least these four categories and some questions to think about and maybe even pose to him or her:
a. Family Upbringing: What was her (or his) home life like growing up, and how has that impacted who she is today?
b. Past Relationships (if applicable): How many persons has he dated before and how did the relationship(s) end?
c. Personal Habits: What does she routinely engage in? Is that activity life-giving or life-draining; fun or foolish; wise or wasteful; positive, negative, or neutral; righteous or sinful? And what type of effect might it have on you if the two of you decided to get together?
d. Life Aspirations: What does he want to do at this juncture of his life? What does he hope to achieve? What goals is he shooting for?
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
I can sum up this final characteristic with one simple question: how does he or she handle personal triumph, trials, temptations, and transgressions?
If she reserves credit for God for her successes, if he runs to God as a refuge in times of suffering, if she relies on God to help her resist satanic and fleshly seduction, and if he repents to God if and when he falls into sin, then you have an individual who is in pursuit of humility.
As it concerns how he or she will relate to you, whether or not he or she is full of pride or humility, one thing you can do is observe (you can also talk to his or her family, friends, and/or co-workers), over time, how he or she generally stacks up against Philippians 2:3-4, which says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” If he (or she) shows a pattern of not figuring you into his thoughts, plans, or actions – and it doesn’t bother him one bit, or he begrudgingly confesses it, or he doesn’t sincerely work to amend his selfish ways – then it might be time to subtract him from the equation. It is better to be whole by yourself, than to be treated like a tenth of a fraction by someone else.
The point to all of this is: Don’t just blindly jump into a dating relationship with an individual. Be sure and do your homework on him or her. Oh, and please share your findings with other godly family members and friends. And if they express legitimate and serious concerns, don’t blow them off. God just might be using them to save you from a great deal of heartache down the road.
P.S. – These characteristics need to be true of you as well. So, don’t just look out the window at others; be sure you are looking in the mirror at yourself.