Is dating wrong?
Before addressing the specific question, let me first make a general point. When talking to young people, I often hear different questions framed like this one: “Is it wrong to do XXXX?” This approach to deciding what one should or should not do lead to what I call “checklist Christianity”. It is quite similar to the approach the children of Israel took in trying to obey the law. They built an entire set of complex rules and regulations on top of the law, defining many lists of specific right and wrong actions, ostensibly to help people get a sense of satisfaction that they were keeping the law. The result was it created a false sense of righteousness and pride when their heart was really not in the right place. Jesus condemned this as hypocrisy. Paul condemns this type of living in Colossians 2:20-23, pointing out that for those who died with Christ, subjecting ourselves to such restrictions is not profitable and are really of not much value against the indulgence of the flesh. This type of Christianity is not authentic. It is driven by fear, leads to frustration and resentment, and does not produce the joyful Christian life that God intends for us.
Paul goes on to outline the solution to this problem in Colossians 2:1-3 by saying that we are to set our minds on the things that are above, not things on the earth. Maturing in the Christian life is about transforming ourselves by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) such that our very thoughts and desires are aligned more with the way God wants us to think about all matters of life. The Christian is called to a higher standard as outlined in Philippians 4:8-9, to focus on things that are good, pure and virtuous. Rather than asking ourselves if something is right or wrong, we should instead ask ourselves about any activity or lifestyle: “Is it profitable or harmful to my ultimate goal of becoming more Christ-like and glorifying God with my life?” Focusing on whether something is right or wrong is like trying to figure out where the line is so you can come as close as possible to the edge of the line without actually stepping over. This is not how God desires His children to live. Constantly focusing on whether something is right or wrong is a clear sign that one needs to work on maturing as a believer in Christ.
Constantly focusing on whether something is right or wrong is a clear sign that one needs to work on maturing as a believer in Christ
With that, let’s come to the question “Is dating wrong?” At the outset we need to clearly define the term “dating”. This could mean different things across people, time and cultures. If by “dating”, you mean casual hooking up with someone of the opposite gender with the sole aim of fulfilling your lustful desires, this is certainly not something that glorifies God, and is wrong for a redeemed child of God. I am assuming that this is not what the questioner is asking about. Rather, I assume you are talking about a process whereby you spend time with a person of the opposite gender with a view towards getting to know the other person better and considering him/her as a potential life partner. For the purpose of this discussion, I will assume this definition of “dating”. I am also assuming the question is being asked in the context of a tradition wherein such relationships between men and women are not considered proper, and marriages typically come about through arrangements and orchestrations by families.
In evaluating such issues, I always try to look at exactly what the Bible has to say about the subject, and separate that from cultural practices. We need to evaluate cultural practices based on the Bible, rather than interpret the Bible based on cultural practices, or try to use the Bible to justify our cultural practices. The Bible does not give clear guidance about how one is to “find the right one” to marry. We see different examples in Scripture. Abraham sent his servant to his homeland to find a bride for his son Isaac. This was a classic arranged marriage, much like what is traditionally practised in India. On the other hand, we see Michal, Saul’s daughter, falling in love with David and getting married to him with her father’s consent. Clearly, there is a cultural aspect which comes into play in these situations and this is an area where there is no one prescribed right method, but different cultural approaches are acceptable, provided they do not violate clear principles and commands in the Bible.
As Christians, we should also be sensitive to the cultural context in which God has placed us. So, if God in His sovereignty has placed me in an Indian context, with certain accepted norms and taboos regarding marriage, I would be wise to do things in a way that is acceptable within that context. We are called, in Scripture, to avoid doing things that needlessly offend others, particularly the weaker brother. If I am an Indian placed in another culture (as many of our readers may be), there is certainly nothing inherently wrong in adopting practices from that culture that do not violate Scriptural principles.
This is an area where there is no one prescribed right method, but different cultural approaches are acceptable, provided they do not violate clear principles and commands in the Bible
With that in mind, for a Christian, “dating” can certainly be an acceptable way to get to know someone of the opposite gender more closely, perhaps with a view towards marriage, provided you abide by principles that ensure you are honouring the Lord in your conduct through the process. Even if something may not be strictly “wrong”, as a Christian, you still need to have principles and boundaries in how you go about it.
What are the principles one should apply to the question of dating? Here are a few I would suggest:
Those are a few principles which will help you to honour God if you choose to date someone. Rather than focus on whether something is right or wrong, I encourage you to look at such decisions holistically with an understanding of your overarching goal to be more Christ-like, to grow in maturity as a Christian, and then apply some of these biblical principles in deciding how to proceed.
A weekly brief of new resources and Scripture-based insights from our editorial team.