by Nathan Bailey
What is dating, What is courtship?
The youth of today are getting ripped off. Instead of enjoying their teen years as they build skills and character, they are getting distracted into the quagmire of relationships that they are not equipped to conduct. The teen years are those where they have the fewest responsibilities at the same time as having their greatest energy level. These should be fun times, exciting times. They should be an opportunity to develop a deep, intimate and personal walk with God, establishing themselves as young warriors who know the Father and have overcome the evil one (1 John 2:13).
Unfortunately, however, our culture teaches our singles to engage in multiple dating relationships as though it were a normal and useful practise. The truth is, the modern dating system has only been around for less than a century. And it is my conviction that the wordly system of dating, as it is currently conducted by most people, is far from God's original plan, as described in the Bible. I intend to expose the flaws I see in today's dating model, and at the same time point out how Biblical courtship addresses these flaws.
As Christians, our primary purpose in life is to seek and serve God, and fulfill our destiny in Him. This is equally true in the area of relationships. We need to find out what God's plan for relationships is, and then follow it. The current model that we are using is ineffective, at best. It results in divorce more than half the time. There must be something we are doing wrong. Let's study what we are doing now against what God has described in His word, and draw up a new standard. I propose to call this standard 'courtship'. Other terms, such as 'betrothal' or even 'biblical dating' could be used, although they would possibly be confusing.
Dating was invented in the early part of this century. Prior to that time, marriage always involved much more input from the parents, and "trial relationships" leading up to marriage were not conducted at all. Courtship, as discussed in more detail subsequently, seeks to emulate the Godly models described in the Bible that were conducted by God's people up until the invention of dating. My basic premise is that regardless of how we feel about things, we should follow God's model, because it will be the most effective and fulfilling. My intention is to convey that conviction, then to describe my current understanding of His model.
In overview, courting should only happen once and ends in a life-long covenant relationship. Dating happens lots of times, and ends in many hurts, heartbreaks, scars, and if you're lucky, a partner that just may stay with you for the next few years, or (if you're really lucky) the rest of your life.
Courtship is a word that has been adopted to describe a biblical model for the relationship leading up to marriage. In the Bible, the parents were always involved in the marriage process. They did not arrange the marriage without the childrens' consent, although they were certainly involved in the arrangements. Sometimes the parents found partners for the children, and then the children were consulted for their opinion. Other times the son would approach the daughter's father and make arrangements with him.
There are many forms of dating, perhaps as many as there are people. Everyone has a different view of what is right and wrong. But there is a glaring fault in many of our models, a double-standard. Once we are married, we recognize that certain things are sacred to our partner. Things such as co-habitation, kissing, intimate hugging, sex and bringing up children. We recognize that not only our physical body, but our emotions, even our spirit are dedicated to that one partner, for the rest of our life (according to our vows).
The dichotomy is this: in dating, we presume to partake of many of these privileges of marriage. We would be shocked if a married man had an emotional attachment to another woman, and yet it's quite acceptable for singles to have a different emotional attachment every week. On the one hand, we save sex for our partners (and some even do that sparingly), but on the other, we engage in rampant emotional promiscuity, giving pieces of our hearts away until one wonders what will be left for that special, life-long partner.
I have adopted the view that the Bible holds the truth for life today. If you feel that the Bible is not the standard for your relationships, then you might find some interesting information here, but you may remain unconvinced. If you're still not sure about this whole Christianity thing, now might be a good time to check out my essays on Christianity. Otherwise, you need to take the perspective that it's not what you want, but what God wants.
The primary purpose of marriage is not to please you, but to serve God. (Another way to say this is 'Our pleasure is not God's number one priority!' :) God wants us to be happy, but "happy" is subject to so many variances in circumstances that it is a very poor standard with which to judge life. Genesis says that God created Eve as a helpmeet -- to help Adam perform his duty, working the garden and taking dominion over the earth. That is God's purpose for marriage -- a team, fulfilling His call together -- pleased with each other, certainly, but primarily focused on Him, not their own pleasure. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, "Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction."
So to have a successful marriage, the most important thing is to ensure that you follow His principles that He laid down when He designed marriage. The irony is, when we focus on His principles instead of our pleasure, we end up having a very satifying and pleasant marriage! You may feel that courtship does not adequately describe these principles. If so, I would be happy to hear from you, because I don't believe I have all the answers yet, I feel I'm still on the journey. These articles have already undergone considerable revision from readers' feedback. However, from my review of the Bible, it is my firm conviction that the recreational dating scene is not God's plan for finding a mate.
Read on for Which comes first - love or commitment? or Debunking arguments for dating