Thanks to a couple of recent articles that have made their way around the Christian community in America, courtship is once again a topic of conversation and relevance. Before I go any further there are two things I want to make clear. First, there is a $10 charge for knee-jerk reactions. Second, I have no interest in comparing a conservative idea of courtship against un-Biblical dating conducted by people outside of the Christian faith. I am comparing the apparent states of courtship and dating inside the church. Now, begin!
I’m a traditional, old-fashioned kind of guy. There’s a lot about the American idea of courtship that I really like, but I believe it has some cliffs, too. In the past I have always had trouble drawing the boundaries between these two concepts. It’s about the intent behind the relationship and how you act during it.
Almost every Christian dating resource you can find points out that there’s no explicit, Biblical instruction for dating or courtship. If only there was, the Christian bubble could be happy. But I have a thought why: It’s because if romantic relationships are about intent, then we already have all the instruction we need. Everything else is just a label.
Why don’t we break things down so you can see what I’m saying? I’m going to look at a few key differences at dating and courtship and then show that, with the correct intent, these differences are many times resolved.
Dating Is Selfish vs. Courtship Respects Others
I always find it curious when I hear someone debating this split between the two sides of this thought debate. It’s curious, because neither process is inherently selfish, giving, or anything. The attributes given to dating and courtship relationships are specific to what each of us brings to the table in our own lives. If a person is selfish, the relationship will be selfish. If someone is giving, then giving will be part of their romance. Matthew 22:37-39 says, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Notice the hierarchy here. God first, others (all others) second and loved with the same care and preservation you give yourself. The love of self is then at least a very, very distant third. This should be the base that everything we do is based on. Putting others second combats our own inherent selfishness. Selflessness should pervade our lives.
Dating Is Isolated vs. Courtship Seeks Support
So John started dating and now we never see him. Should we stalk him online? Stakeout his house? File a missing persons report? This portrayal is in so many places we don’t even get to blame television this time. The thing is, I’ve seen the same happen with courting friends. The key that I see here is the issue of having a support structure of people who live a strong faith and have your best interests at heart. But we should have that regardless of our relationship status. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We should always be meeting together for support and accountability. Support is critical for us to live our lives in obedience.
Courtship Is Pure vs. Dating Is…Well, Isn’t.
Yes, I’m going there. I wish I could just say, “Thou shall not commit adultery,” and be done with it. But human history has shown that’s not the case. The idea here is that people in courting relationships automatically observe sexual purity, while people who date are one step from Sodom. If you will accept an anecdote, I can tell you that simple math in my life has proven that calling a relationship “courting” doesn’t automatically guarantee purity. The fight for purity in Christian men and women pervades into our soul and is unique to each one of us. We face common temptations that attack each of us uniquely. But, again, this struggle for purity isn’t dependent on relationship status. It’s constant and requires intentional time seeking to fill ourselves with godly things until we burst. Staying pure is a critical element of a relationship, but it’s just as important every day of our lives. It’s important enough that verses talking about purity appear all over the Bible. So, here’s a list of verses, your homework is to go read what God has to say on the subject: Romans 13:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, Romans 12:2, Ephesians 5:3, 2 Timothy2:22, Psalm 119:9-10, 1 Corinthians 10:13, Matthew 5:28. Please note: Dating and courting are never given as a condition on seeking purity.
The Final Picture
I will grant this: Dating and courting are complex and differ in more than three ways. But the other differences I’ve seen are too situational to address here. I really think that we’ve been arguing two sides of the same coin, expecting a system to produce healthy relationships. It’s not the system; it’s the intent. Putting God first and others second, seeking strong, Christian support, and striving for purity by guarding ourselves against temptation when outside of a relationship is the foundation that healthy romantic relationships are built on.
It’s about your life, not a label.
What are your thoughts on dating vs. courtship?
Photo credit: takazart