By Shirley Soetarso
Source: Choosing God’s Best (Dr. Don Raunikar)
Is “biblical courtship” preferable to traditional dating?
Is “relating without dating” a realistic idea? How can two people strive for spiritually one “couplehood” without risking heartache? Navigating the Christian singles scene can be pretty daunting—even when you’re an adult! In this book, seasoned psychotherapist Dr. Raunikar draws on
Scripture, clinical research, and firsthand experience to offer guidance.
Each of us has a God-given urge to seek out an intimate relationship—physical, emotional, and spiritual—with the opposite gender. In biblically based courtship, a couple eventually satisfies that urge through a process that results in a lifetime commitment. In dating, however, a couple’s immediate goal is not typically to work toward a selfless, lifelong relationship, but to satisfy a short-term physical or emotional need. The result is an endless series of temptations that often results in guilt, disappointment, frustration, and heartbreak.
Too often, dating leads to disaster rather than happily ever after. Here’s a startling illustration that shows just how overrated dating is by people who use it to “shop around” for the right spouse. Write your name on a piece of paper, then write the names of your two closest friends. If all three of you marry, two of you probably won’t stay married to your original partners. You’ll either find another partner or join the over-growing population of single-again adults.
Christian psychologist Dr. James Dobson began one of his recent Focus on the Family radio broadcasts by quoting researchers who predict that two out of three couples who marry this year will not remain together throughout their lifetimes. That means the majority of today’s newlyweds won’t be celebrating golden wedding anniversaries.
Instead, they’ll spend what should be the most relaxing, rewarding years of their lives picking up the pieces of failed marriages and trying to patch up broken homes. Without seeking and following God’s plan, their marriages will falter.
After nearly a century of substituting dating for God’s principles of courtship, we may think we’re stuck with the disastrous results, that there’s no other way to find a marriage partner. Christian singles by the millions have wandered down the treacherous streets of dating and found themselves in destructive relationships that affect their lives forever. We’ve been like the crowd of adults around the stranded truck who could see the problem but overlooked the obvious solution.
The best answer has been the most elusive: Ditch dating and return to romance God’s way.
Dating vs. Courtship
Although the Bible never mentions the words “dating” or “courtship,” it does give principles and guidelines for one-to-one, male/female relationships. The Bible says that after God created goodness all around, He looked at man and said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Then He created woman as a helper suitable for man. At that moment, romance, marriage, and commitment became the very fabric of society.
But the fabric God wove is unraveling in today’s culture. We don’t have to look very far to see a distorted picture of what was supposed to be a divine lifetime plan: one man and one woman committed to each other for life. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). God’s intention for a husband and wife was monogamy. Together they were to form an inseparable union with “one flesh” being both a sign and an expression of that union. God’s solution for man’s aloneness is marriage, not dating. Just as marriage became the first one-on-one, male/female relationship, the home became the foundational structure for the rest of society, and a committed relationship became the foundation of the home. In fact, God instituted the home before He created the church.
The principles of courtship are God-centered and biblically based. Courtship is a biblical process of finding and choosing a mate while glorifying God and honoring and respecting each other. Dating, on the other hand, is the world’s alternative to courtship. Its principles are man-centered and culturally determined. The words “Christian” and “dating” don’t go together because their principles are exact opposites.
Christian dating is an oxymoron.
The primary distinction between dating and courtship lies in the intent of the relationship. When a couple begins a courting relationship, they both know the purpose of the relationship is to consider marriage. Conversely, casual dating is a romantic linking of a couple simply to enjoy each other’s company for the present. In dating, both parties understand that while marriage may be possible in the future, neither a person is seriously considering it at the moment. As a result, immediate pleasure is the whole purpose for dating, even for Christians who draw the line at sexual immorality.
In other words, courting has a long-term end in view. There are no casual “tryouts” in courtship, and it is reserved only for couples spiritually and emotionally ready for marriage.
Courtship is not merely a Christian way of dating. When we date, we often have a window-shopping attitude that has “self” as the base: How will we look “wearing” our prospective partner… having him… holding him… owning him? We try on another person for size and see whether their style suits us. In contrast, someone in a courtship relationship says, “I believe God has led me to you above all others and I will honor, crush, and marry you.” No broken hearts. No painful baggage. No walking out.
ASSUMPTION 1: We view the marriage relationship not as a contract between two people but as a covenant between a couple and God.
ASSUMPTION 2: We decide not to date or “shop around” but to save ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the one person God would have us marry.
ASSUMPTION 3: While we wait for God to reveal His choice of a mate, we concentrate on being the right person instead of finding the right person.
ASSUMPTION 4: Once we have developed in an intimate friendship with another person and believe they may be our intended partner, we enter a courtship with the understanding that marriage is the expected end result.
ASSUMPTION 5: Because we enter a courtship relationship with a view toward marriage, we may have to delay considering courtship until we are in a position to marry and have laid a responsible foundation.
ASSUMPTION 6: We begin a courtship with the full knowledge and approval of both sets of parents, or, if parental involvement is not possible, a spiritual accountability couple.
ASSUMPTION 7: In the early stages of courtship, we begin by spending only limited amounts of time together and very little time one-on-one alone.
ASSUMPTION 8: We recognize that the engagement phase of courtship is usually shorter than most engagements in a dating relationship.