I am no Dr Phil, but I hope this article on Christian dating will be helpful. I work predominantly with young people, meaning I regularly attempt to answer questions about relationships, dating, and courtship! Here are some of the FAQs that keep coming year after year.
To Ask About Christian Dating Is Good
Let me first say this: In Genesis 1-2 we learn that God has made us as relational beings. Thus to want deep relationships, and wonder about how to develop them, is not out of place.
God has made us as relational beings. Thus to want deep relationships is good.
Of course, in addressing questions about dating I will draw on my own experience. But like any faithful Christian teacher, those experiences must be measured by God’s revealed wisdom in the Bible. After all, the Bible must be a Christian’s standard for all of life. Don’t worry – there’s plenty to draw on here!
Often, from the questions I have come across in ministry, I find myself worrying that younger peoples’ views on relationships, marriage, and dating are defined more by popular culture than by biblical truth. On the other hand, I know that many young Christians ask these questions with the earnest desire to obey Christ, honouring him in their relationships. So I am writing this article on Christian dating with both audiences in mind.
Will I Know If I’ve Found ‘The One’?
This is probably the number one question I get when a Christian asks about dating. “Will I know when I’ve found ‘The One’?” Sorry to burst your bubble, but: No. There won’t be a loud explosion or confetti falling from the sky. I wish it was that easy!
But as a Christian I do know that God is sovereign. This means that God is in control of all things. He works all things towards his intended purpose. This includes our individual lives, and therefore details such as who we date and marry. Thus, God knows the person I will marry; God knows if I am going to marry; and we can trust him to be working for our good.
However, God’s sovereignty also involves our responsibility. Here’s an example from my own life.
There won’t be a loud explosion or confetti falling from the sky. I wish it was that easy.
How Do I Know God’s Chosen Someone For Me?
Though God led me to my wife, he also allowed me the opportunity to explore that relationship with caring love and honour. At the time I met my wife, I was praying that God would lead me to the person who I would marry. I was exhausted from previous relationships. Then God connected our paths.
I was praying that God would lead me to the person who I would marry.
We had attended the same church since childhood. But we had never struck up a conversation, let alone considered dating! Soon after my conversion our paths converged when we met at a Bible study. I can only put this down to God’s providence. Our relationship grew naturally as a friendship. And when I sensed we were connecting deeper, I asked God to either lead us toward marriage or to end the relationship.
She was going to study overseas. But I sensed God’s leading to ask her into a serious relationship. It would take a year and a half of long distance relationship and another year and a half of courtship before we said our vows. So how do you know?
First, God’s sovereign leading.
Second, sharing mutual faith and values in life.
Third, mutual attraction: physical, spiritual and emotional.
Fourth, confirmation from mature Christian friends, family, and leaders.
Can I Marry Someone From Another Religion?
Here’s another major FAQ in Christian dating: Can I marry someone from another religion – or no religion?
The Bible teaches us that we shouldn’t. The Old Testament, for example, required that God’s people should be distinguished from the other nations. The reason was that God’s people were to be the channel of God’s blessings to the nations.
The picture of marriage implies a union of two believers.
This thought is picked up in the New Testament particularly in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. Although it largely talks about the corporate body of Christians, I think the application applies to individual Christians: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” This is the heart of being holy, being “set apart” (2 Corinthians 7:1). Christian believers should only date and marry Christian believers.
Why Can’t They Just Convert Later?
Now there are cases where people began as unbelievers and were converted later. This is a unique case, also handled in Scripture (1 Corinthians 7:12-16). But our case is different. You might insist: “I can change her”, or “I’m a Christian, when we’re dating he’ll start coming to church”. But please believe me, the Holy Spirit is a better evangelist than you are. Furthermore, priorities quickly become confused in the realm of romance.
Priorities quickly become confused in the realm of romance.
Secondly, the picture of marriage implies a union of two believers (Ephesians 5:22-33). The journey of marriage is significantly complicated when people of different belief systems marry. How will you raise your children? Which church—or mosque or temple or nothing at all—will you attend? How will you resolve conflict? Biblical wisdom is better than worldly wisdom on these matters.
Can We Have Sex Before We Get Married?
Now we come to a burning Christian dating FAQ: Can we have sex before marriage?
The Bible clearly teaches that sex before marriage is wrong (1 Corinthians 5:11; 6:9-11). Therefore this question is usually asked by those who are non-believers or believers struggling with sexual sin.
Believers are called to live in the new lifestyle that Christ has purchased for them by his death and victorious resurrection. This means that we are called to honour Christ above all others.
Sex before marriage is wrong because, in an elementary sense, God says it is wrong.
Sex before marriage is wrong because, in an elementary sense, God says it is wrong. But secondly, sex is a beautiful gift that has been designed for the covenantal marriage relationship, between husband and wife. When sex is explored outside the confines of mutual trust, God’s honour and the covenantal union of marriage, it leads to guilt and shame, a weakened conscience and deep spiritual and emotional hurt. This will eventually affect your future marital union. The gift of sex is best enjoyed and explored within marriage.
Praise be to God, who can work through sexual guilt and shame to renew people to enjoy God’s gift of marriage.
While you may be ‘very spiritual’, it is important to appreciate that you also have God-given physical, sexual desires.
Any Tips For Avoiding Sexual Temptation?
For a Christian who is dating or courting, it is therefore very important to set physical boundaries. While you may be ‘very spiritual,’ it is important to appreciate the fact that you also have God-given physical, sexual desires. Boundaries can help you to establish a practical and God-honouring safeguard for your relationship.
Secondly, it is wise to also work towards a specific date for your wedding. This will help you to date or court with a purpose, and keep your eyes on that specific end.
How Can I Prepare For Marriage?
I remember our many coffee dates with my now wife. I recommend those! But more than that, I think that preparation for marriage should be a time of deepening your friendship and getting beneath the surface issues. Christians usually see the dating or courting period as a time to put our best foot forward. But this can lead to us hiding our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, especially when we linger on the initial feelings of ‘being in love’. Because marriage is a lifelong covenant of loving commitment, it must be entered with wisdom and careful thought. Being honest about your challenges can only aid this.
Preparation for marriage should be a time of deepening your friendship and getting beneath the surface issues.
My wife and I particularly benefited from going through John Piper’s Preparing for Marriage. This book helped us to ask the difficult questions regarding family backgrounds, theological foundations, how many children we wanted, approaches to child rearing, and even sex. I recommend that the last of these should be had closer to the date as those conversations could arouse temptations.
The point is this: as a Christian who is dating, asking the difficult questions helps us to go beneath the surface and discuss topics and decisions that will be crucial along the marriage journey.
What Can I Expect From Marriage Year 1?
Let me also answer this further-down-the-line Christian dating FAQ: What can I expect from the first year of marriage? Note: this is normally asked with a look of fear!
The first year can be an especially intense period of challenging transition.
“It will smoothen you.” This was a response we were given. It has held true. Marriage is a unique experience of growing in maturity and holiness. The first year can be an especially intense period of challenging transition. But this can also be an opportunity for growth.
Any Tips For Making Marriage Year 1 Easier?
The first year is an interesting period of learning. For example, it’s a time of learning how your family backgrounds influence your way of doing things. You might find they are very different! Yet because the way of Christ is a path of humility, if we pursue marriage with that heart posture, the first year can orient you better for what the rest of marriage holds.
Surround yourself with godly counsel, and seek the Lord together.
How important it also is to have the company of Christian married couples to whom you can turn to for advice, counsel and prayer. This is because marriage opens us up to new avenues for sin. By surrounding yourself with godly counsel, and by seeking the Lord together, the first year of marriage will be less horrific than what is often portrayed.
What Helps Christian Dating & Marriage Most?
Christian, during the dating or courtship phase, you may be distracted by all the planning and all the popular ideas around marriage. The truth is that Christian marriage is a supernatural reality. With all its joys, it pictures what will one day be a reality for us in the new heavens and the new earth. With all its challenges, God sanctifies us. In between, the life of marriage must be characterised by repeated calls for God’s presence.
Seek your God together.
Perhaps the most helpful thing is for the two of you to develop devotional practices to seek your God together. And because marriage is the foundation of parenting, a healthy marriage is God’s means of proclaiming and portraying Christ to another generation. With God by your side, marriage will be a wonderful adventure of experiencing his faithfulness and relearning practically what it means to be a follower of Christ. It’s never too soon to do this – it’s the key to joyful Christian dating, marriage, and life.