What does biblical courtship look like for those over 30?
I am a huge fan of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting. Recently, their daughter Jill became engaged to a young man, Derick, after a courtship of several months. I followed their story from their first face-to-face meeting in Nepal to the day Derick proposed. I watched Derick fall to one knee and pull out a ring while a musician sang a song written specifically for the occasion. As I watched, I wondered why marriages don’t happen this easily in the black Christian community. Maybe we are going about this dating thing all wrong?
In recent years, the media has speculated why so many black women are not married. Many articles, books, television specials, and movies have emerged attempting to give insight. Relationship coaching has also become extremely popular in recent years. Steve Harvey and the internet sensation Tony Gaskins have become household names by helping people find love. However, what does God have to say about this? How can today’s Christians incorporate biblical principles into finding a mate?
How can today’s Christians incorporate biblical principles into finding a mate?
The first way we can do this is by adopting courting versus dating. The Bible does not outline a definition of courtship, but we can glean relevant principles from Scripture.
If you’re in your thirties like me or have been married before, you might be thinking courtship doesn’t apply to you. After all, you have already “been there and done that.” Also, your parents probably cannot be involved in the process as in Jill Duggar’s relationship. However, we can still pursue a godly relationship through courtship – even if you’re now considered “grown and sexy” by popular culture.
Tips on Biblical Courtship
The main difference between courting and dating is courting is purposeful not playful. You do not enter a courtship with a person until you are marriage-minded. The purpose of the relationship is to see if God is leading you to marriage. Courting is intentional.
Courting is purposeful, not playful…it is intentional.
Jacob pursued Rachel’s father Laban because his intention was to marry her. When David heard about Nabal’s death, he pursued Abigail with the purpose of marrying her (1 Samuel 25). The Bible says in 1 Samuel 25:39 that David wooed her so she would become his wife.
Courtship is preceded by a season of preparation. A person does not enter a courtship haphazardly. If you’re thinking about marriage, you should be spiritually, emotionally, and financially ready.
Courtship is preceded by a season of preparation.
Before Boaz married Ruth, he had to take care of a few things (Ruth 4). He was ready for a wife after he settled his affairs. Before the servant Hegai could present Esther to the king, she had to go through the necessary preparations (Esther 2:12). We, too, should make sure we’re ready for the responsibility of marriage.
Courting is done publically, whereas dating is generally done in private. A public courtship means other people are involved by holding the couple accountable for their behavior. Traditionally, the parents were involved in the courtship. Abraham sent his servant to find Isaac a wife (Genesis 24). Jacob had to deal with Laban for Rachel’s hand in marriage (Genesis 29:18-30). Naomi played an integral role in bringing Ruth and Boaz together (Ruth 3:1-5). However, if you’re over 30 and your parents can’t be involved or you don’t want them involved, your church community or small group can serve as a matchmaker and accountability partner.
Courting is done publically, whereas dating is generally done in private.
The new dating show It Takes a Church is a fun example of how your church community can support you in finding a spouse. Oftentimes, it is easier for someone on the outside to see which character traits and personalities work best for you. You will also have people to cosign on the character of the other person.
In a courtship, the couple should set boundaries to maintain purity. 1 Corinthians 7:1 says that it is not good for a man to touch a woman. Paul admonishes men to have their own wife. Unlike dating, the goal of courtship is not to “test drive” the other person sexually to determine compatibility.
The goal of courtship is not to “test drive” the other person sexually to determine compatibility.
The couple should discuss physical boundaries. Jill Duggar and her fiancé agreed not to hold hands or kiss. They also agreed never to be alone privately, and they gave each other side hugs to prevent temptation. Your boundaries may be different. You may agree to kissing and holding hands. However, the end goal should be purity. You do not want to violate the other person by overstepping physical boundaries.
In the Bible, a man had to pay a “bride price” for a woman’s hand in marriage. If he had sex with a woman, he had to pay a dowry and marry her (Exodus 22:16-17). A man had to pay a price because it spoke to the worth and value of the woman. You, too, are valuable and worthy of respect. Do not devalue yourself or grieve the Holy Spirit by engaging in sex without commitment in marriage (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
A courtship should be entered into with much prayer. The couple should also be prayerful as they seek God’s purpose for their relationship. All courtships do not end in marriage. Some couples discover that they are not compatible for marriage, and that is okay.
A courtship should be entered into with much prayer.
Prayer also invites God into the relationship, which distinguishes courtship from dating. God needs to be at the center of the relationship. When you put God first, you’ll be well on your way to finding “the one.”