Five Principles for Biblical Dating
“Biblical dating” is a bit misleading since the Bible doesn’t actually explicitly address dating. That’s not to say it doesn’t speak to real relational dynamics, it’s just that dating is a very modern/Western construct. If you (or someone you know) is out there longing for marriage but overwhelmed by the fogginess of the road ahead, read on.
The starting point for any conversation on Christian dating is the purpose. We date because God gave us the gift of marriage, and we’re trying to get there. Marriage is a gift (it was instituted before the “fall” in Genesis 3) and has a clear purpose: one man and one woman who become one flesh for life in order to fill the earth and care for it (Genesis 1:28). If you don’t want to be married, don’t date. If you’re not ready to be married right now, don’t date right now.
But say you do want to be married and you’re as ready as you’re going to be, now what? Here are five principles that could really help you navigate your way from singleness* to the altar. These are all from the Bible, by the way.
Principle 1: Remember your first love
(Revelation 2:3-4; Matthew 22:37-38)
The single greatest thing you can do to prepare for marriage is to seek God with everything you have. Serve others, study the Scriptures, and commit to community. Healthy marriages are built when two broken people go to God to find their wholeness, not each other. Train yourself for that impulse here and now.
Principle 2: Know thyself
(Psalm 139:23; Ephesians 2:10; Acts 1:8)
Dating is like a job interview and marriage is landing the job. While you don’t have to have every answer, you need to have at least some clarity about who you are, what you want, and where you’re headed in life. How much work have you done to understand yourself? You can serve your future spouse by putting in the effort to know yourself and what you’ll bring to the relationship (the good and the bad).
Principle 3: Seek character over charisma
(1 Samuel 16:7; Galatians 5:22; Colossians 3:1)
Once you’re seeking God and learning more about yourself, now you’re ready to consider what you want in a partner. So, what are you looking for? We put far too high a premium on the things we can see on the outside (i.e., physical appearance, money, “wow factor” of fancy dates). While chemistry and attraction matter, they aren’t the main things you want to test. Look at the person’s character. How do they treat others like their family and friends? How are they managing their sin struggles? Are they more obedient to their fleshly desires or to the Word of God? Invite your trusted community of family and friends to help you discern the character of those you date. And if your community raises a concern, listen to them, because they are probably right.
Principle 4: Clarity is kindness
(Matthew 5:37; Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 4:15)
In college, I had this idea to visit my roommates in their art studio and bring them dessert since they were working around the clock. I had enough leftovers that I was dishing it out to other students I didn’t know. I came up to one girl and said, “Hi! My name is Jason—would you like a brownie?” I could tell from her reaction that I must have said or done something weird because she was very put off. You know that experience when someone is having a conversation near you and you jumble their words with your own? Well, turns out what I actually said to this poor girl was, “Hi, my name is Jason—would you like a BOYFRIEND?” Let’s just say I was devastatingly embarrassed. But wouldn’t that type of clarity actually be helpful sometimes amidst all the subtext and games of dating? I’m not saying you should replicate this awkward encounter, but do practice clearly expressing your interest and expectations with the opposite sex. Men, try asking her out like this, “I really like you. Would you be interested in going on a date with me this Friday?” Or ladies, if you need to let him down after a rough first date, try saying, “I really appreciated our time together, but I can tell that I’m not interested in being anything more than friends at this point.” We serve each other by being honest and kind.
Principle 5: Keep it simple
Dating is complex, but it doesn’t have to be. The overarching goal of any date is to determine whether the relationship should move forward. In other words, should there be another date? You’re looking for information to decide whether you should clearly continue the relationship, cautiously consider another date, or clearly end the relationship. In his book Outdated (the best Christian book on this topic, by the way), JP Pokluda suggests the simplest way forward if you want to be married: identify the godliest single person of the opposite sex that you know, go on a date with them, and assess the progression until you and your community affirms that you’re ready to choose them for life. Then, get married. It’s that simple.
*A word on singleness. Sometimes the church can inadvertently communicate that marriage is the pinnacle for human flourishing. While marriage is precious and instituted by God, singleness is by no means a lesser calling. In fact, Paul spoke highly about about the gift of singleness (1 Corinthians 7:7), and remember the culturally radical reality of our Lord remaining single His whole life (unheard of for a first-century Jewish man). If you’re currently single, know that you are loved and needed in your singleness for the flourishing of the Church as you are.