By Cally Logan, Crosswalk.com
The concept of dating is one of the most widely remarked upon and questioned aspects of a Christian walk. Much of the questioning comes from the modern forms of dating as compared to the contextual traditions of biblical times. Although some biblical testimonies of marriage are culturally different than today, the Bible is relevant in providing foundational pieces of truth for a Godly marriage.
A Godly relationship, simply put, is one in which both parties continuously pursue the Lord, but the aspects of living out such a call can be very dynamic. When two persons enter into a relationship, whether it be through marriage or dating, there are two souls involved. Each person is accountable to his or her own pursuit of a relationship with Christ.
Why Do We Have Relationships?
Relationships were first instituted by the true heart of God the Father. In the Garden of Eden, God made possible a relationship with Himself through the first man, Adam. Adam walked with God in the Garden, had conversations, was loved, and knew his Creator well. In Genesis 2, God brought forth the second most important relationship a man can have, a marriage relationship with a wife. In fact, the only marriage that was ever perfect for a time was the marriage of Adam and Eve before the Fall. Genesis 2:18 famously recalls, “The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'” God intended from the dawn of time that man not walk alone. It was also the intention of God to make a helper suitable for Adam, one who would truly complement him.
“But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.' That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:21-24).
The First Human Relationship in the Bible
What is evident in these verses was not merely the creation of woman to bear children for Adam, but also to be a true complement in every sense of the word. She was to be his companion but work alongside her husband in complete harmony. This is why she was made of Adam’s rib in particular.
The rib has many functions within the body. Each rib has a mate, just as Adam was given his mate, Eve. Ribs serve as a method to keep the body upright; a wife’s duty is not only to pursue an upright life but to work alongside her husband, as he leads by example. A rib also serves to protect the lungs and the heart. God did not merely create Eve to be in service of Adam but to help him serve God. He created both man and woman to “feel no shame” with each other and to form a vulnerable and safe place within marriage. This is greatly shown when Adam remarks, “This is now bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.” It was not merely the mechanics of being formed of him that made her unique but the knowledge that she was specifically crafted to be his mate in every way, and likewise for her. The intentional metaphors of God’s hope and plan for marriage were formed with the very start of mankind.
Such an intention is the framework for what a Godly relationship resembles. One in which both the man and woman walk, communicate, and reflect upon the Lord. The curse of the Fall did not negate the intention set in place by the Lord to extend an offer of relationship toward mankind between humans and himself; nor did it negate the creation of male-female relationships in the harmony of marriage.
What Should Relationships Look Like?
The Bible has much to say about the progression of relationships. Context is key when studying the Bible, which in short means knowing who the Word was written for and the culture of the people. The Word of God is unchanging and for all of His Creation to hear and know, but the time in which it was written provides certain guidelines for the culture of the day. Many marriages were left to the instruction of God or were arranged by God. Isaac and Rebekah came together by God's revelation to Abraham’s servant. Some marriages were arranged by man, such as Joseph to Mary; yet, God would use them both in His sovereign plan. What is important to realize is that even in marriages that were arranged by man, God had to be the One to allow such a marriage. It was truly by His hand that such a marriage took place. God chose the specific man and the specific woman for the call of the Kingdom in marriage.
There is not a specific appropriate age given in the Bible, rather, a season. Mary was more than likely in her early teens when she became engaged to Joseph, whereas Isaac was more than likely in his 40s. It is not as much of the age, rather, the season in which God would call such persons to come together that is pertinent. The same goes for dating in this age, some are brought into a marriage season in his or her early twenties, whereas others later in life. It is not a mark or stamp of worth, rather, by the timing of God for the Kingdom at the perfect time. As King Solomon wisely said in Ecclesiastes 3, “a time for everything."
Who Should You Date?
The basis of whom to date at times can seem arbitrary, but in truth is foundational within the character of the person. A man’s character is seen through his actions and words. Proverbs 10:9 shares, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.” The truth comes out, even if it has attempted to be hidden. Ephesians 5:1 shares, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” This most accurately means living in such a way that the fruit of one’s life is glorifying to the Lord and boasting in God alone. Proverbs 31 most famously remarks upon the attributes of a Godly wife, sharing in part, “When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.” The fruit of thoughts are words of the mouth, and the fruit of the heart are actions in life. A man or woman of integrity is not only to be praised but to be prayed for and sought after for a potential spouse.
What Is the Purpose of Dating?
Ultimately the purpose of dating should be whatever God deems. For some, He will call a season in which two people date with the hope or intention of marriage, but it could result in a lesson to be learned or friendship. This is vital to recognize, as many will fall into the trap of believing that the person he or she is dating must and can only be his or her spouse. The goal and hope, of course, will be marriage, but not every relationship is meant to result in marriage. Some relationships are meant to further a character, teach a lesson, or be for a season. The hope and intention ultimately for a dating relationship should be marriage. Marriage is the second most important relationship one will have, the most important being with the Lord. With this weight given to such intention, the precursor of dating, therefore, must be given considerable thought, care, and respect.
Is it OK to Date an Unbeliever?
Another question then arises, is it biblical to date an unbeliever? In short, no. It is a gallant and wonderful aspiration to help another come to Christ through dating, but an issue arises of whether that person is merely going through the motions because you want them to or because they are truly called to God. Max Lucado said once, “A woman should be so deep into Christ that a man must go through Him to reach her.” These are wise words. 2 Corinthians 6:14 shares to, “not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” Paul gives this instruction to help prevent deeply rooted Christians from falling prey to the idea that they have the power to change a person. Only the Holy Spirit can change a person, so keeping with a good friendship outside of dating and encouraging a relationship with God would be where to properly align oneself. This can be easier said than done, but if both parties have an intentional heart to foster a relationship based upon truth, respect, and honoring each other, the result will be nothing but good fruit or redirection.
Is Kissing before Marriage OK?
Most notably the Bible mentions kissing in the star gazed book of Song of Solomon. Song of Solomon is an epic love poem of the celebration of marriage. Song of Solomon 1:2 shares, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine.” New wine in the Bible is consistently a metaphor of blessings, riches, and the best fruit, so love being better than new wine shows the validity of what a rich blessing it truly is. The book starts out on the day of the couple’s wedding, so kissing before marriage is, therefore, not considered sinful but rather an act of the joy of love.
What is important to realize is that what is 1 Corinthians 10:23 is true for all believers. What is permissible for one, may be too tempting for another. Any act physically must be categorized in such a way. Song of Solomon also warns to, “not awaken love before its time” (Song of Solomon 2:7). Sex before marriage is not biblical, but for some believers, kissing will open a gateway of too much temptation. This is not true for most, but true for some. Submitting physical aspects of a relationship to the Lord for definition within each person’s spirit will foster mutual respect for one another and the Lord in the pursuit of a solid relationship.
True Marriage Stories in the Bible
Marriage and the union of souls for the Kingdom is very important to the Lord, which is why many marriages are noted in the Bible. The story of Ruth follows a young widow who lives in great character and integrity through obedience to the Lord. She remains with her mother-in-law, Naomi, after the death of her husband to live in obedience to the Lord and the keeping of the role God gave her as a member of Naomi’s family. The Lord leads she and Naomi back to Naomi’s homeland where Ruth seeks provisions for food in the field of a nearby landowner, Boaz. Boaz’s first conversation and attraction to Ruth is notable, for he says, “You have sought protection under the Lord’s wings, and for that you will be richly rewarded.” (Ruth 2:12). The integrity and character of Ruth was what was so alluring and beautiful to Boaz; far more than her outer beauty would be what would bring them to know each other. They would in time marry and have a son, Obed, whom would be the grandfather to King David. Their relationship was founded upon the respect and love of seeking the Lord in every action, leading to the Lord blessing their union.
Isaac and Rebekah had a marriage truly arranged by God. Abraham, Isaac’s father, was growing old in age and saw it time for his son to find a wife. Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac in his family's land. Genesis 24 shares, “Then he prayed, “LORD, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master."
Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again. The servant hurried to meet her and said, "Please give me a little water from your jar." "Drink, my lord," she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink. After she had given him a drink, she said, "I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.”
The Lord made it clear, not only by the proximity of the woman but in her heart and integrity to go the extra mile for a stranger. Giving his camels water was not merely turning on a water faucet but pulling up gallons and gallons of water from a well. Her character stood out to the servant, and the Lord brought together at the perfect time and place the two people He intended for one another.
Mary and Joseph are but another example of a marriage seemingly crafted by man, but by the choosing and blessing of the Lord. Mary was engaged to Joseph before the angel came to tell her that she would soon bear the Savior of the World. She told her fiancée, and he did not condemn her. Matthew 1:19 shares of Joseph’s nature, “Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” Before he could act, an angel came to him in a dream to validate what Mary had told him. God knew that a man with a steady heart and dutiful demeanor would be needed to help raise the Savior of the world on earth. A marriage seemingly crafted by men was chosen and arranged by God for the ultimate work of the Kingdom.
What’s the Difference between Courtship & Dating?
Many have chosen courtship in lieu of dating. Dating typically is a man and a woman going on outings such as a movie or dinner to come to know each other more deeply through conversation and life. Courtship, on the other hand, begins with a friendship and then involving the parents of both parties has intentional meetings similar to that of dating. Almost always courting will result in marriage, whereas dating has a higher risk of ending before the altar. Courting also greatly involves the families of both parties so that the families come to know the potential spouse for their son or daughter better. Physical limits are typically higher for courtship as well, with the usual omission of kissing.
Godly relationships usually come together through courting or dating to eventually lead to marriage if the Lord opens such a door. Ecclesiastes 3 shares that there is nothing new under the sun, so the people aforementioned in the Bible were just men and women as today. They were broken, flawed, and they were hopeful for love and a Godly relationship. The Lord brought forth a relationship that not only served the Kingdom but blessed the individuals to have that, “bone of bone” relating and exceedingly beyond what one could ask for or imagine kind of story. (Ephesians 3:20). It allows the Creator of all to write a story that would make even a fairy tale seem lackluster, for He is the Greatest Author of all love.
Cally Logan is a writer and teacher from Richmond, Virginia. She graduated from Regent University. Currently, she is a writer for Dear Sparrows Ministry site, and the Podcast, "Dear Sparrows." In her free time, she enjoys leading a high school girls’ small group, cooking, and spending time in tree houses. Her latest books, Dear Young Sparrow and Unveiled are available everywhere or at DearSparrows.com.
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