When should a Christian date? What are the boundaries a Christian should have when dating? What is really important in a dating relationship? How will I know I am ready to start dating? How do I know I’m in a bad or good relationship? Is my relationship honoring God?
These are the types of questions I thought about a couple of years ago as I looked at my sons and realized that they would soon be teenagers. And these were the types of questions I would hope they would ask. These were certainly the types of questions I wanted to be able to answer. I grew up without Christ. My teenage years were unguided. And I made some major mistakes. Not necessarily what others would consider major, but in hindsight they are to me. And because I love my sons, I want to see them prosper and do the right things, avoiding the mistakes that I and others have made. As a result, I began with:
I had heard about this book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, for a while but I had never read it because I was already married to an awesome woman who God somehow convinced to marry me. I had heard some folks were against it because Joshua Harris takes a very strong stand against dating until one is ready for marriage. I know that doesn’t fit well with the common idea about dating, but I realized that once upon a time there wasn’t dating like we have today. Yes, and in those primitive days there were a lot of arranged marriages, too, but it made me stop and say, “I need to see what he has to say and whether he can back it up with Scripture.” I was pleasantly surprised.
Joshua Harris does that hard line, but for good reason. As he revealed what he discovered about his dating relationships, I realized he was talking about mine and most of the people I know, too. We don’t date because we’re in it for the other person so much as we’re in it for ourselves. Stop and think about it. Why did you do what you did? Was it usually for the other person or because it ultimately made you feel good? It’s okay if that realization comes crashing down on you. It happens to most of us. Harris points out that is why he stopped dating. He wasn’t following through on God’s direction. After all, there’s clear guidance about Christians dating Christians (avoiding being unequally yoked) and so that means if we are dating Christians, we should be treating them as our brothers and sisters in Christ. Just because we’re in a relationship with someone doesn’t mean we suddenly forget that. But the reality is that we often do.
If you are a Christian teenager or adult, even if you’re married, I would suggest reading this book. As a husband it made me think about my relationship with my aforementioned awesome wife. It was convicting. And it meant I had to make changes in the way I treated her and showed her my love. If you’re not married, Harris uses Scripture well to support why he believes what he believes. You may not agree with his position of drawing a line and saying, “No!” to dating, but if you’re a Christian, he will give you something serious to chew on about how you treat the other person in those dating relationships.
This is the second book in the series and it talks about what to do when you decide to date. Harris’ perspective is you shouldn’t date until you are ready for marriage, and this book, Boy Meets Girl, provides the guidelines for how to have that proper dating relationship. You’re not going to find a lot of old-fashioned advice that doesn’t fit in today’s world. Instead, you’re going to find practical advice backed by Scripture about how to conduct that dating relationship in a way that honors God, whether it leads to marriage or it doesn’t.
Yes, I said even if it doesn’t. Harris doesn’t suggest you date and get married to that first person. What he does suggest is if both people feel like this might be a relationship which could lead to marriage, that it’s time to investigate. And it’s not about a chemical reaction or what school they went to or anything like that. Rather, it’s about earnestly seeking if God would have the two people joined together in marriage. This isn’t an investigation that happens alone. Rather, it’s one where there should be others supporting the relationship, ensuring it stays within the bounds that honor God, where these others pray for the relationship to determine God’s desire, and help the two determine what they should do. Not all relationships are going to end in a “Yes.” But that doesn’t make the relationship a failure so long as it was God honoring.
For the vast majority of us, lust is something that is a big weakness. Maybe one doesn’t engage in viewing pornographic images or watching movies of skeptical value. But if one seeks special attention from the opposite sex, even if it isn’t exactly sexual, then we’re still talking about lust. Pretending that we don’t deal with this problem, or acting like we’re strong enough to resist on our own is foolishness (to quote, “a lone ranger is a dead ranger”). Another practical advice book, Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is), deals with the issues we all face and gives guidance and Scripture on how to deal with them. Harris is realistic: there isn’t a miracle cure or some secret to overcoming lust once and for all. We in a fight and a fight to the end.
So if it’s so hard and if we’re going to falter, why fight? Because sex within the confines of marriage is good. It’s what God intended and when we succumb to lust, we take away from it. Sex is often cast in a dirty light, but it’s not sex that is the problem. Sex is fine, so long as its according to the rules. A desire for physical intimacy is built into us. And it’s not something God casts a glaring eye at. After all, we do have Song of Songs/Song of Solomon in our Bibles. It’s when we take sex outside of marriage or we look for that sort of intimacy (even non-physical intimacy) outside of the marriage relationship that we step into sin. Harris builds the case for this view, again through Scripture, and he looks at both males and females, because we both fight this fight. Another good read, especially if one is married.