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Is dating wrong?

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Is dating wrong?
Posted on October 1, 2019  - By George Mattackal

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.

Culture matters

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.

Principles for dating

What are the principles one should apply to the question of dating? Here are a few I would suggest:

  1. Relationships of this type that could lead to marriage should only be entered into with another believer. Scripture clearly says we should not be unequally yoked with a non-believer, which is a command applicable to marriage, and therefore to any relationship that could lead to marriage.
  2. Have a clear purpose that glorifies God. If you want to date someone, what is your purpose in doing so? Is it a God-honouring purpose? Or is it merely to satisfy your lustful desire? Do both of you understand and are both of you aligned with the purpose? If your intent is to consider marriage, are you ready for marriage?
  3. Seek godly counsel about the person before you go ahead. Such counsel can be invaluable in helping you evaluate the entire situation and the person involved in an objective way, not clouded by any emotional feelings you may have. It will help you to make wiser decisions in what is an important area of your life.
  4. Honour your parents in your dating relationship. To honour your father and your mother is a clear command in Scripture. Engaging in dating against the will of your parents would not be honouring them, especially if they are believers. Many young people engage in such relationships while keeping their parents in the dark. This is not right for a believer who should be honouring his or her parents. As a father, I really appreciated that my oldest son, when he was interested in a young woman, spoke to me about it and sought my counsel. We had a good discussion about his intentions and about the person. When I asked to meet her, he readily agreed. They proceeded in their relationship, with the knowledge of both sets of parents, and recently got engaged to be married.
  5. While engaged in a dating relationship, conduct yourself in a manner that glorifies God. How do you conduct yourself while you are dating someone? What activities do you engage in? Are they of a nature that glorifies God rather than dishonours Him? Do you have mutually agreed boundaries that will prevent you from yielding to temptation? While setting boundaries for yourselves, consider the possibility that the relationship may not result in marriage.
  6. Be accountable to a mature believer during your dating relationship. “The devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Accountability is one way to avoid falling prey to temptations.
  7. Constantly evaluate how things are going and whether the relationship should continue. Are you still committed to the purpose with which you started? How is the relationship impacting your spiritual life? If things are not going in the right direction, then I would suggest you need to re-evaluate and, if necessary, end the relationship.
  8. Once you are committed to marriage, I strongly suggest you seek pre-marital counselling from a godly and competent person.

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.

George Mattackal

About George Mattackal

George Mattackal currently serves as an elder at Calvary Bible Fellowship in Bangalore, India. He previously served on the board of Gospel Missions of India, USA for more than 20 years. He has a keen interest in supporting ministry work in India, which he does through teaching and financial support.



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