Dating or Courtship? What Does the Bible Say?

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Did you know there are no strict guidelines in the Bible about dating or courtship? Yes, many Christians have strong feelings about one versus the other, and many Christians are embracing purposeful courtship and “kissing dating goodbye” as Pastor Joshua Harris said in his debut book, but the Bible doesn’t specifically address the period of relationship before marriage.

Yes, the Bible does warn about fornication, men not even touching a woman and taking fire into one’s bosom (1 Cor. 6:12-20; 1 Cor. 7:1-2; Proverbs 6:27). However, how we enter the betrothal period, whether through dating or courtship, is pretty much up to us – and the Holy Spirit of course!

Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting learned this during premarital counseling when their pastor told them the decision to save their first kiss for the wedding day was not something the Bible mandated. He reinforced that their rules for kissing, hand holding, and side hugs were what they felt led to do and do not necessarily reflect biblical rules or mandates. In other words, all believers should not feel bound by their rules for courtship.

Although the Bible doesn’t specifically address dating and courtship or advocate for one over the other, we do have lots of examples of relationships in the Word so we can acquire divine wisdom and knowledge on how to conduct ourselves. We can read about Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel and Leah, David and his wives, Ruth and Boaz, and Joseph and Mary. The Word provides many examples of godly and ungodly relationships for our spiritual growth. However, at the end of the day, our main objective as believers when getting to know potential suitors should be to maintain God’s standard for holiness and godly relationships.

As a result, here are a few ways you can establish godly relationships with the opposite sex and avoid the temptation to date in a worldly way.

Lead with truth.

There is a lot of deception in worldly dating. People lie about everything from their intentions to employment, education, and character. If you want to honor God when getting to know someone, be truthful. Let the person know your intentions for the relationship. Also, if you don’t feel the person is the one God has for you, let them know. Don’t let the relationship drag on if you’re not feeling it. Keep honesty at the forefront. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12).

Establish boundaries.

As believers, God requires us to be holy (1 Peter 1:13-16). Our lives and bodies are not our own. They’ve been bought with Jesus’ blood (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Since the Bible admonishes us not to render our bodies to unrighteousness, establish boundaries in relationships. The Duggars give side hugs and do not engage in kissing or holding hands. Your boundaries may not be the same, but make them clear from the onset of the relationship. Some examples are not going over to each other’s houses or not being alone in isolated places. Get an accountability partner who will help you maintain the boundaries. Do whatever it takes to avoid sexual temptation. If the other person isn’t cool with the boundaries, then you can weed them out of your potential suitors.

Keep it light.

Finding a godly spouse is serious business, but sometimes we get so focused on our agendas, we forget to relax and enjoy getting to know people as brothers or sisters in Christ FIRST. Yes, ask all of the hard questions, but don’t get so focused on interviewing the person that you don’t take time to fellowship and grow in the Lord together. The Bible says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another” (Proverbs 27:17 NRSV). Every relationship is not intended for marriage. God may use the relationship for another purpose. He may use the other person to grow you or vice versa. Don’t get too serious too fast. Guard your heart and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you throughout the relationship.

Lauren Jones (@revlaurelj) is an Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and serves in the Columbia, SC metropolitan area. As a widow, she balances ministry and motherhood to two rambunctious children. She blogs about her adventures at www.throwupandtheology.com. When she’s not preaching, writing, or changing diapers, she raises awareness about epilepsy and the devastating effects of drunk driving as a volunteer speaker for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). She self-published “I’m Singing This Song to You,” a letter to her children in honor of her late husband available for purchase on Amazon.

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