Ok, I'm going to ask you a question: what is dating? How would you articulate it into a sentence?
You: "It's uhhh when you're sort of hanging out with a person you like a lot..."
Me: "What do you mean 'like'?"
You: "Like...have romantic feelings for. Like butterflies. You know. And it's exclusive."
Me: "What do you mean? They can't hang out with anyone else?"
You: "No. I mean, yes. They can hang out with other people. Just not, like, the opposite sex."
Me: "They can't hang out with the opposite sex?"
You: "No, wait, they can. It's just like... I don't know."
Alright I'm just going to say it. You can throw rocks at me later:
DATING IS WEIRD!
It's weird because we have trouble defining what it actually is. Which means we're unsure of what the expectations of both parties are. And if you're unsure of what the expectations are, it's difficult to honour the other person, yourself, and the relationship you're in.
There's no dating chapter in the bible.
The reason it's not clearly defined is because the bible doesn't clearly define it. Even if you could articulate your version of "dating" into a sentence - may I politely ask - how did you come to that conclusion? Is it biblical truth or your “truth”? Food for thought ....
What is clearly defined in the bible, however, is the difference between singleness and marriage. Marriage is defined as a covenant between two people, which includes expectations, promises (vows) and commitment. It has a time span - our whole lives! Singleness, is simply defined as "unmarried". That's it.
So what is dating? Answer: I don't know. But there is a word in the bible that I do know: FRIENDSHIP. Friendship can be defined. Friendship can be understood. Friendship can be honoured. What if we pursued friendship with the opposite sex instead of trying so hard to "date" them? Before diving head-first into an ambiguous boyfriend-girlfriend status with that person we like, what if we pursued friendship instead? Friendship: where there is no pressure for the relationship to look like something (that neither party is exactly sure about...)
So let's just drop the idea of "dating" for a second and learn how to be a good FRIEND first… because I’m pretty sure you’re going to want to marry you’re FRIEND, right? If not… who are you going to marry? A stranger? An enemy? A random you met a few weeks ago off Tinder? I’m joking. But you do want a companion, a best friend, for life. Who isn’t a golden retriever.
I know “friendship first” sounds boring and prudish to some - but friendship is so important because it's the foundation upon which all deeper relationships are built. Get to know each other on a friendship level where there is no pressure for any one to try and be someone or something they’re not. If you're going to test whether this person is worthy of your heart, emotions, thought-life, mind, time and energy - surely the greatest tester would be through the distiller of friendship?
So the question is: can you build friendship with someone you have romantic feelings for? Totally. You can be friends with all kinds of people.
The bible doesn't teach us how to date someone. It teaches us how to love someone.
The bible is clear on how to do friendship. It's a book about friendship with God and people. Part of the saving work of Jesus Christ is the fact that we can love people better.
/// PHILIPPIANS 1 : 9 - 1 1 ///
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
BOOM. Loving people sincerely and intelligently GLORIFIES God and makes him ATTRACTIVE. Is your relationship doing that? Are you loving that person you have a crush on or are you playing with their feelings? Is your conduct and interaction with that person glorifying God or are you distracting them (or yourself) from Him?
1 Corinthians 13 is the famous "love chapter" read out at almost every wedding these days. But interestingly, it was never written specifically with marriage in mind. It was written as a rebuke to the church of Corinth, who at the time were not loving WELL. They were not honouring each other in their conduct with one another. So Paul the apostle hits them with some straight up relationship-theology.
/// 1 COR 13 : 4 - 7 ///
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Husband and I knew each other for 2 years. Over that time we grew into great friends. By the time we stood at the altar - we knew who each other were, and were passionate to find out more within the realms of marriage. We’d already developed a deep love for each other as FRIENDS. We felt safe. We felt valued. We felt honoured. We trusted each other with our hearts, minds, and lives. By the time we stepped up to the altar, exchanged forever-vows and shared our first kiss - we were best friends. It’s still my favourite love story.
And yours doesn’t have to look like ours. In fact, it’s guaranteed to be different, because you’re different. But my encouragement for you is to practice the lost art of friendship in the realm of dating, so your favourite love story can be your own.
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