Chances are, you have been told before that when dating, you should seek to maintain a Christ-centered relationship. But this is not as simple as it may sound. The Bible, after all, contains no step-by-step guide on how to please God in your dating, nor are there any children’s Bible stories which directly teach us how to date. The culture of Bible times was very different from our own, especially regarding marriage. This is not to say, however, that the Bible can simply be thrown out when we consider how we ought to date. Whether you are currently dating someone or are single and looking to the future, the Bible contains much wisdom for you on this subject. There are principles in Scripture which we can apply to our relationships, taking practical steps to ensure they always remain centered on Christ. We are concerned here with three such practical steps: attending spiritually formative activities together, doing devotions with one another, and dating for marriage.
At the end of Acts 2, we find a striking passage. After Peter gave his sermon on the day of Pentecost, we read that roughly three thousand people were converted to the faith, and that “all that believed were together, and had all things common” (vs. 44). The people had fellowship together and enjoyed the benefits of that fellowship, which included the spiritual growth and unity implied here. Growth in the faith need not be only a private activity. Rather, there is something beautiful about spiritual growth occurring corporately.
In a relationship, too, spiritual growth is a beautiful thing. To grow together, make a point of spending time with one another at the sorts of activities or events which stimulate development, not only those that “sound fun.” Instead of going out to eat next week, consider going to that speech being put on by one of the churches’ evangelism committees. Instead of heading to the beach tomorrow night, head to the Young Calvinists Talking Points event. Go to church together for one of the services next Sunday. More importantly, do these things with a purpose. In our circles, it is somewhat normal to attend such events together while dating (especially going to church together). But doing so ought not merely be a formality. Talk together about what you learned at the speech. Discuss differences in delivery or style between your pastors. Spiritual growth does not happen in an entirely passive way; you need to take the initiative if you want to grow together. When you do continue to develop in the faith together, Jesus will inevitably become more central in your life, as well as to your relationship with one another.
Another means of growing spiritually is by doing devotions together. If you are already doing personal devotions each day (and hopefully you are), it should be obvious to you that this causes you to grow closer to the Lord. Choose a book of the Bible and work through it together, looking for themes and application to your relationship but also to life in general. Pray for one another and for wisdom in your relationship. Pointing one another to spiritual matters, even from a very early stage, is Biblical. In the book of Ruth, a beneficial read for anyone in a relationship, Boaz pointed Ruth to God almost immediately after meeting her, and she said that this “comforted” her (see Ruth 2:5-13). Reading the Bible, discussing it, and praying together are invaluable ways of ensuring that Christ always comes first, even if you have not been together for very long.
Just as we ought not fear to point one another to Scripture and spirituality early in a relationship, we ought also not fear to consider from an early stage whether or not our significant other would make a godly spouse. “But,” you may say, “I’m not ready to think about that yet. I just want to enjoy spending time with him/her and go on fun dates together.” If that is your attitude, you should give serious thought to this question: am I ready to date? Dating is not merely an opportunity to have some fun. It is the means by which you determine whether or not God is calling you to marry someone, and we ought to take it seriously. This does not mean, of course, that we can never have fun in a dating relationship. On the contrary, if you are never having fun with your boyfriend or girlfriend, that too bodes poorly for the future. But if your only focus is to spend time and have fun with a person to whom you are attracted for physical and emotional reasons, you open the door for making your relationship entirely focused on personal pleasure. This is not how we should date. The Bible says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (I John 2:16). To make your relationship purely about enjoying one another’s presence and the nice things you do for each other is to adopt a dangerous attitude, one which cares more for the things of the world than those of the Father.
Alternatively, we should date with a view toward marriage. In Genesis 24 we read of the marriage of Isaac. When Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son, the servant found Rebekah and desired her to immediately come back with him. Rebekah’s brother and mother wanted her to “abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go” (verse 55). But when they asked Rebekah to choose in verse 58, she decided to go immediately. Again, it should be noted here that dating is a practice very different from that of Biblical arranged marriages. However, the attitude of Rebekah is an admirable one, and we can all learn from it in our dating. Do not simply delay thinking about marriage to enjoy the pleasures of this world for a time; instead, be willing to consider immediately whether it is God’s will for you to marry one another. In so doing, Jesus will become more central to how you date: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
There are countless different influences from the world around us telling us what our relationships should be like. For the child of God, however, the center must always be Christ, our King. Maintaining such a relationship is admittedly difficult, but the Bible does provide some help for us. By striving always to have Christ at the center of our relationships, we can effectively follow Paul’s advice to Timothy in II Timothy 2:22 together: “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”