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Dating vs. courtship

 

 

 

Dating is a pastime as all-American as apple pie, but is it the Godly way to go? Many times the answer is a resounding no! Over the past hundred years the slow, deliberate process of "courtship" has evolved into our ultra-modern, whirlwind "dating" relationship. Instead of the focus being on getting to know the other person, it is on romantic attraction and "what feels right". Often a man and a woman are swept up in a fast, exciting relationship that leads to marriage – only to find, after the fact, that they have very little in common. Just as often a very young couple, still in their early teens, are caught too soon in a passionate relationship that can only end in distress.

But there is another way to go. More and more Christian youth are reverting to the old-fashioned method of courtship, with the goal to keep God first in the relationship. Everything about courtship is God-centered, not self-centered. Friendship is developed and strengthened between a man and a woman before they head into a romantic relationship, which helps build a strong, happy marriage later on, whether or not it is to that particular man or woman. In dating, marriages are often too soon and easily dissolved, leaving in their wake heartache, emotional scarring, and financial difficulties.

In today’s world, chastity is viewed as irksome, unnecessary, and "un-cool". But there are hundreds of resources that prove this theory wrong. Ephesians 5:3 plainly states that "there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity." This sort of warning is repeated frequently throughout the Bible. But biblical references, though the most important, are not the only promoters of chastity before marriage.

Studies have proven that people who live morally clean lives before marriage are less prone to infidelity afterwards. Statistics show that the divorce rate in America is one out of every two marriages, and is even higher with people who have cohabitated or been promiscuous before marriage. But the warnings against immorality come on a more personal level, too: interviews with teens and married couples who had sex before marriage show that it can be emotionally, physically, and spiritually damaging. Not only are there the possibilities of pregnancy, AIDs, and other harmful STDs, but it can build false emotional ties that are made only to be broken, leaving in their wake ugly scars.

In courtship, you are held accountable not only to yourself and the person you’re involved with, but also to your family, friends, and special advisors. One of the main points in a courtship is to guard each other’s purity by avoiding questionable situations, attitudes, or thoughts.

Another pro to courtship is the low likelihood of a whirlwind, romantic relationship that focuses only on physical attraction and not the person themselves. Friendship is developed first, so that you’re sure that you are willing to spend your life with this person, and physical attraction comes later. As Joshua Harris says in his second book on courtship, Boy Meets Girl, courtship should be a time of being "more than friends, less than lovers."

In courtship our goals should be to grow and guard. We want to grow closer so we can truly know each other’s characters, but we also want to guard each other’s hearts because the outcome of our relationship is still unknown.

(Joshua Harris, Boy Meets Girl, chapter 5)

Community is a driving force behind most courtships. Family, friends, church members, other married couples, and special advisors are encouraged to offer advice at any time they think necessary. If romantic attraction becomes too strong too soon, you are encouraged to make a conscious decision to back away a little bit and wait until the time is right to pursue such things.

But why is courtship better than dating? Dating has become a very self-centered pastime, driven by lust and greed. Courtship is centered not on any person, but on God. During a courtship, you are "dating for the glory of God", as Joshua Harris says. Instead of dating the other person for their physical appearance or their suave charms, you are dating them to establish a solid relationship and decide whether or not marriage is God’s will for you. In Boy Meets Girl, Joshua Harris divides the process of courtship into three neat steps: friendship, fellowship, and romance. He encourages us first to "deepen your friendship" before going forward in the relationship, ensuring that this person is someone you’re willing to spend a lifetime with. "Don’t rush or try to force your way into each other’s lives," he says. "The pace should be unhurried." The next important step is that of fellowship, growing closer together spiritually.

As your relationship unfolds, you want to make sure it has a spiritual foundation. For your relationship to be strong, love for God must be the common passion of your hearts…you can read Christian books together, talk about sermons after a service, and discuss how you’re going to apply what you learn…biblical fellowship means increasing your love and passion for God, not your emotional dependence on each other.

(Joshua Harris, Boy Meets Girl, chapter 5)

Last of all in a courtship comes romance, after you are sure that the person you’re courting is someone you’d be happy with in marriage. But even then, the relationship is God-centered.

If God is confirming the wisdom and rightness of the relationship, romantic feelings should be seen as a good thing and a gift from God. Our goal is not to stifle our feelings of affection and love, but to submit them to God and to grow in and guard them.

(Joshua Harris, Boy Meets Girl, chapter 5)

Although it is not always the case, courtship is often a better way to go than dating. Dating can be and is often successful, but there are few boundaries and it can also be extremely dangerous. Even people in happy marriages admit to doing things in dating relationships that are a cause of deep regret. In a courtship, there are clear standards set by both people, and you are held accountable to not one but many for your actions. Because the pace is easy and not rushed, a strong friendship is developed before romance, a friendship which often endures even if an engagement is not reached. But most importantly, it is God-centered, not self-centered. There is less chance of a traumatic breakup, because God is still held first in your life.

If you’re beginning to look at each other as your main source of comfort, encouragement, and courage, something is wrong. Remind each other to find your soul’s satisfaction in God alone.

(Joshua Harris, Boy Meets Girl, chapter 5)

 

Why is courtship better than dating? Because it is the Godly way to go.