It’s hard to discuss the topic of dating biblically, because the Bible doesn’t say anything about it. The idea of dating is less than a century old while the scriptures were written thousands of years ago.
What the Bible does talk about is sex, marriage, and relationships. The ‘how to guide’ on moving from liking someone to ‘dating, pursuing, or courting’ them for marriage is determined by us; however, that freedom needs to be shaped by what the Scriptures do say about honoring God and each other.
The following are are some tips for what to do and what not to do when dating:
Don’t date hop or shop. Don’t create a list of definite characteristics and qualities that are only skin deep and walk around in search of the one who meets all the qualities on the list. Don’t begin dating someone, end it when you find they don’t meet all the qualities on the list, and immediately begin dating someone else.
Do have standards regarding who to date. Let these standards fall in line with Scripture. Look for a person who is like-minded and has similar goals and values as you. No one is perfect, and no person will hold your standards up perfectly; however, look for someone who is willing to try and has equal standards.
Don’t date to fill a need. There is not any person on this planet who can complete you. Though learning to be content and satisfied as an individual is an ongoing process, you should strive after it. Try surrendering your needs to the Lord and ask for help within your community. Also, try to identify what your felt need is and where it is coming from.
Do date because you are interested in the person and want to figure out if you could marry them. Though you are still learning to be content and satisfied as an individual, if you become interested in someone for who they are and you’d like to get to know them more (not out of need, but out of interest), then it is a good idea to date.
Don’t hyper-spiritualize dating. Don’t confuse feelings and emotions with God’s actual voice and leading. Has someone ever asked you out by saying: “I feel like God is leading me to ask you out for coffee.” Well, maybe God is leading or maybe you’re leading yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that God is with us and guiding us; however, I also believe God has given us free will and the power of choice.
Do pray about dating. It is good to pray about dating, asking God for wisdom regarding when and whom to date. It is good to pray for your future and your future relationships.
Don’t date to find the one. There is not one perfect person out there for you. God didn’t create us in twos so that you are missing the other person and need to be on the hunt to find him or her. Odds are, there are many compatible people out there whom you could marry.
Do date to find someone who is compatible. Date someone who shares the same values, brings joy to your life, makes you a better person, and draws you closer to Jesus. Every single one of us has brokenness in our lives. Dating is about finding out if this person’s brokenness can fit in with your brokenness.
Don’t date and view it as “hanging out.” This is called being passive. If you’re “hanging out” with someone intentionally and pursuing him or her, then call it what it is. It’s dating. Don’t lead someone on if you’re not interested in them. Don’t stall and waste someone else’s time because you’re not ready to commit.
Do define the relationship. Communication and honesty are so important throughout the course of any relationship. Lay your expectations out there. Remove the confusion and vulnerability.
Don’t spend most of your dating time in isolation. Involve family and friends in your relationship. Don’t isolate yourselves. Let people speak into the whole thing from start to finish.
Do date by spending time in community. In Genesis, God said, “It’s not good for the man to be alone.” We were created for relationship and community. Marriage isn’t the only way to live in community, but it’s a good one. Being part of a community is healthy for a relationship to grow. Community brings wisdom, accountability, advice, and nourishment.
Don’t confuse the dating commitment as the marriage commitment. If at any point along the way, you begin to feel that you do not see yourself marrying the person you are dating, then you are free to break it off. Don’t feel pressure once you begin dating that you can’t end it.
Do date with appropriate commitment to one another. Dating is a process. You should date knowing that there is always the option to end the relationship; however, if you are committing to date someone, then you are committing to getting to know one (only one) other person in an intentional way.
Don’t date and act like you are married. There should be a physical, emotional, and spiritual difference between two people who are dating and two people who are married.
There should be a physical difference; sex is designed for a male and female who are married. Sex outside of marriage is lust. The woman in Song of Solomon says, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so pleases (8:4).” John Mark Comer explains this to mean, “Don’t wake up the sexual part of your relationship until marriage, when you can follow those desires all the way through.” Be aware of other physically compromising scenarios outside of sex. Also, married people live together. Dating people should not.
There should be an emotional difference; a married couple exposes everything. A dating couple should have boundaries and slowly build on how much is shared. Don’t reveal all the pain and past on somebody at the very beginning. As the relationship grows, talk through your struggles.
There should be a spiritual difference; though a married couple continues with their own growing relationship with God, they also grow together spiritually. A dating couple should continue to grow their faith separately.
Do date by walking toward marriage. The hope in dating is that it leads the relationship to marriage. By setting up physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries, you are creating a healthy space for a relationship to grow.