The Bible never uses the word dating, but it talks about marriage. I define “dating” as the process a single person goes through to find the right person to marry. The Bible has principles that apply to dating whether one refers to it as “courtship” or “going out” etc…
Start with the end in mind. Ephesians 5:31-33 says God created marriage to be a picture of how Christ loves His people. This should influence the way we date and prepare for marriage. Dating and marriage aren’t primarily about our happiness but about the glory of Christ. But as we seek to do all things (whether eating, drinking, dating or marrying) for the glory of Christ, we tend to experience more true joy in Him.
Genesis 2 shows us the only ideal marriage without sin and the only ideal relationship leading up to marriage, although it was admittedly very short! The first thing to notice is the importance of prioritizing our relationship with God over a relationship with a potential mate. When God first made Adam and Eve, they both met God before they met each other. They were aware of God before they were aware of each other. We should be serious about prioritizing our personal walk with God above all things, including dating and marriage.
This is the most important practical principle of all in dating. Don’t become so infatuated with a person and or the process of dating that you lose your exclusive focus on loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This is easier said than done.
WHO DO YOU PRIORITIZE?
When my wife and I were dating, we were both believers and very serious about our faith. But the more we “fell in love” the easier it was to be distracted by thinking about the other one, talking to each other and spending time together every free moment. Sometimes we would spend hours a day together but not spend any time alone with God that day. We knew this was wrong.
We came up with an idea. Actually I think it was my wife’s. We decided going forward, no matter what, we would not spend any time together if we had not first spent time alone with God in the Word and prayer. Now, the Bible doesn’t lay down this law and neither am I. You could easily turn this into some legalistic mantra that you have to read the Bible for so long daily before you can date. That would be sin to make an authoritative prescription.
It would also be sinful to think if I read my Bible daily before my time with my girlfriend, then God is obligated to bless the relationship. I’m not saying that at all. I am only offering this practical application of the principle, to prioritize your relationship with God over your relationship with any other human, even a spouse.
There are many dangers in prioritizing a date over God. One is that God made all people to worship Him alone. Worshipping includes having our deepest needs and desires met by the one that we worship. (Jeremiah 2:11-13)
God is the only one that can effectively give us a sense of the security, significance, and satisfaction we long for. When we aren’t building our life around Him we will build our lives around someone or something else. When we prioritize our dating relationship, we unwittingly place burdens on the one we date to meet desires of the heart only God can meet.
We end up looking to the one we date to make us feel important, to give us a sense of wellbeing, and bring pleasure into our lives. It may seem to work for a week or month or so. But the dream will be short lived. They will fail us. We will become disillusioned, angry and frustrated that they didn’t meet our needs and live up to our dreams.
Not only that, the person that we were essentially placing all our hopes and dreams in will be crushed, overwhelmed, broken and bitter. They’ll be mad at us for trying to make us fill a place in our lives that only God can fill. Rarely can people articulate these feelings well. But this is often the real root of many painful breakups.
BECOMING BEFORE SEEKING
Another way to practically apply this same principle has been said by others before me. Focus on becoming the right person before you focus on finding the right person. Spend time growing personally in your walk with Christ so that you will naturally attract a devoted follower of Christ as well. So many people invert the order of priorities here as well.
Your relationship with Christ is the foundation of your whole life. If the foundation of your house is crooked, so will the structure be that’s built on it. If the foundation of your life is cracked and lopsided, so will anything you build on it such as a romantic relationship. Get your foundation in Christ solid.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
When it comes time to start looking for someone to date, make sure you look for someone that loves Jesus more than you. Look for someone who already has a solid foundation in Christ. Don’t do missionary dating. It rarely works. It often works the other way, where the non-Christian quickly drags the Christian into sin and away from Christ.
Practically, what does it look like to prioritize your relationship with Christ above all things? Spend time with Him in His word and prayer. Spend time with His people through the local church and other helpful ministries.
Focus first on how much He loves you; how He died to purchase you out of your sin so that He can have an eternal relationship with you. Experience His love. Love Him in response. That’s the best foundation to know how to love another person for life.