Making Christ the center of a relationship can be challenging yet eternally rewarding. Song of Solomon 8:4 makes it evident that we should not pursue love until the time is right, so, how do we date in a way that honors God? It is through walking in godly obedience that we can come to glorify the Lord in dating relationships.
Two Lenses: Secular & Kingdom
Dating, like many other aspects of the Christian life, is either done through a secular lens or a kingdom lens. It can be a challenging area because of the importance of guarding your heart, our culture’s influence on us, and the difficulty of pursuing purity. Therefore, we must pursue holiness and seek practical ways to honor God in our relationships, as we do in all things.
Dating the Wrong Way
It is not uncommon for people to date in order to fulfill their passions and desires, namely sexually and emotionally ones. Some of us have only heard stories of these dating relationships, and others of us may have close relationships with those involved in dating relationships with the wrong purpose–sexual and emotional fulfillment. Our culture has labeled abstinence, waiting for sex until marriage, as restricting and, furthermore, irrevelent. Some walk away from the Christian faith because of the standard of living God has for us. Contrary to the societal norm, our God does not restrict our actions, but rather has a standard for our sexuality and our way of life.
Dating the Right Way
Viewing dating through a kingdom lens includes a variety of requirements. To date in a way that honors and glorifies the Lord, waiting for oneness (sexually, emotionally and spiritually) is essential. Restraint, discipline, and balance are highly valued and of the utmost importance.
When we mess up, falling short of God’s standard, always remember that we serve a God who forgives, redeems, and restores.
Scripture, nonetheless, is clear that all sins have consequences. Sexual sin will have consequences–the path of faith is narrow, but grace is so abundant. Viewing your significant other as a son or daughter of the King places a heavy emphasis on abiding in Christ by living through God’s commands. Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians, a letter written by Paul to a young congregation walking uprightly in their faith. In chapter four, Paul challenges his readers to remain pure and honor the Lord with their bodies, because sexuality is a vice that can upheave even the strongest of believers.
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
-1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
So, how can we practically honor God in our dating relationships?
Keep God the Main Focus
Pray for each other, for the relationship, and for the future. Read Scripture on your own and pursue Christ first, and after you have done that pursue your significant other. Get on your knees and ask God to rule the relationship; give Him the reins and beg Him to take control. Each time you think about your significant other, instead of becoming infatuated with them or idolizing them, consider lifting them up in prayer.
Surround Yourself with Godly Community
A huge aspect of dating is having other friends outside of the relationship who can hold you accountable for your actions and time spent together. I have friends who ask me about my purity in my relationship. This question gives an opportunity to reflect not only on how pure your intentions are, but how and where your relationship is heading. Search out Godly friendships that hold you to a Biblical standard.
Be Willing to Commit to Each Other
This summer, I heard Pastor David Daniels of Pantego Bible Church speak. He said that young adults these days are so fickle with the way they date, so much so he claims rather than dating to marry, they “date to divorce.” He says this because so many of us are quick to jump ship the second there is a problem or there is discomfort. Obviously, the loss of feelings, lack of interest, contrasting religious beliefs, and incohesiveness are an appropriate reason to exit a relationship prior to marriage. However, quitting when the honeymoon period ends only prepares us for divorce. Be willing and ready to work through any issues as they arise.
A Position to Succeed
We must put ourselves and our significant other in a position to succeed. This means that we must set strict boundaries in our relationship that we commit to keeping. Boundaries of all sorts are necessary in the relationship, physical and emotional as well as spiritual. Too much spiritual oneness leads to physical oneness which is clearly unhealthy for the relationship and those in it.
I cannot stress this enough. You need to have the uncomfortable talks. It is so important to set clear, practical boundaries that you don’t want to cross. I encourage you to welcome outside advice from people willing to keep you accountable in this area.
Praying for your significant other is a powerful act. You should ask them which areas of their life they need strength, wisdom, or encouragement for. I want to be clear though, we should encourage our significant other spiritually, but it is not our place to be confessing sins to each other. This can easily lead to an unhealthy sense of spiritual oneness that should be saved for marriage.
We must be careful talking about deep emotional feelings or becoming too reliant on the other emotionally. As soon as reliance sets in, it becomes very hard to gain independence again if the relationship does not work out. I challenge you to have friends and mentors that will help you through problems besides your significant other.
Commit to not wander from or justify compromising these boundaries, as compromising one may lead to compromising them all. Be firm, be confident, be disciplined.
Overall, the way in which we date should honor God above all else. My prayers, research, own experience, and the experiences of my closest friends have prompted these hopefully helpful answers. While they might not be infallible, I trust that they have proven to glorify and honor God. If you want to hear more of my opinion on this topic, I have created a podcast series titled The Age of Uncertainty in which there is an episode titled Relationships that I think could be really helpful answering further questions. Be encouraged and be strengthened in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone!