How Should Christians Date?
By Fin Sheridan
Christians have a strange relationship with dating. It’s one of the things that we’re not really sure what to do with. In fact, scratch that, I don’t think the UK in general has a good handle on it. ‘Dating’ is a word that we imported, along with ‘Friends’, coffee shop culture and the iPod. Dating is both a verb, a status and an ambiguity. We go on a date. We dated. We are dating. All of these are stages of something but it can mean 3 completely different things to 3 different people. Is dating the same as being in a relationship? Is it wrong to date multiple people at once – and if so, when does dating become exclusive? Once you’re over 21, is “dating” the word you replace for “boyfriend/girlfriend”? Were Ross and Rachel really on a break?!
So, the word is already ambiguous at best. We’re on thin ice already. Now, add in the confusing world of Christian subculture. Am I meant to kiss dating goodbye – and what does that even mean? If I date someone in my church and we aren’t right for each other, which one of us should leave the church? Is dating worldly or sensible? Is coffee the only suitable drink or can we go out for dinner – and am I expected to marry them if we attend a church event together?!
Dating is tricky enough for Christians without overcomplicating it. I’m no relationship expert, as my wife will all too happily confirm but I am a proud product of British evangelicalism and I’ve seen my fair share of teary post-summer camp breakups. So, here’s a few suggestions to help you navigate the choppy waters of dating as a Christian.
“Dating is tricky enough for Christians without overcomplicating it...”
I can’t really apologise for this one: date prayerfully. What this doesn’t mean is stringing someone along because you like the attention but you’re “praying about it”. It does mean asking the Lord if this would be a good idea and sticking with whatever he says. If it’s a “no”, then don’t lead the girl/guy on beyond that. If it’s a “yes”, go on a date and see what happens – without putting too much pressure on that “yes”. God saying “yes to a date” is not the same as “yes and plan your children.”
Date wisely. Proverbs 12:15 says that “the wise listen to counsel”. There’s so much heartache to be avoided in just asking advice from seasoned, wiser Christians. If you don’t want to ask, there’s a good chance it’s because you won’t like the answer and that’s a red flag in itself.
This final one might be a bit strange (partly because I’m making up a word) but date relax-dly. Christians get married young – and that’s not just because of sex – and so there can be tremendous pressure to a) marry your first boyfriend or girlfriend, b) marry the only other mildly attractive person in your youth group/small group/entire church. All this pressure, spoken or unspoken, will just make a mess. It’s okay to go on a couple of dates and realise this person might not be right for you. That’s the whole point of dating! If you follow the other 2 suggestions, then you’ll be set up well to navigate the tension of low-pressure-but-above-reproach dating!