There has been a big debate going on in the Facebook and blogosphere world lately about courting vs. dating. Actually there are all kinds of debate going on in those places, about all kinds of subjects, because that seems to be where we like to banter, or disagree, or YELL AT EACH OTHER, or call each other names, all in the guise of debate.
But I think this particular debate is losing its bearings as it tries to choose one flawed method over another.
“Both flawed?” you query.
“Then what do you suggest- arranged marriages?” you counter.
Nope. Arranged marriages are flawed too.
All methods, post Garden of Eden, are flawed. They are all either a long list of rules, or a rejection of rules, or a picking and choosing of the rules. And every method involves from 2 to 6 sinners. So EVERY method is fundamentally flawed, just like the people involved are fundamentally flawed.
What Do I Know?
My own kids are currently in the throes of the dating/courtship maze. All three are doing it differently and none of them are doing it perfectly.
And what do we call their “significant other”- boyfriend? Girlfriend? Intended? Beloved? My youngest suggested we call a young man who was interested in our daughter “courtboy.” Not surprisingly, we all vetoed that one.
As a Mom, 15 years ago, the winds of the courtship movement were a breath of fresh air to me. I clearly recalled teenage dating- at times it broke my heart and it allowed me room to hurt other people. I don’t think it aided me in marriage. And it put me in some places where I could have gotten myself in some serious trouble.
So I became a fan of the courtship model. I assumed my kids would court….and not give away pieces of their heart….and only fall in love once….and avoid all the pain and danger of dating…and insure they remained pure.
Long story short? Every theory that sounds great on paper is messy when people actually do it. I learned the hard way that the method did not guarantee the result. So what are we doing now? Besides ditching the labels, we are trying to navigate through the fog of love, desire, and godliness in a way that honors God and hopefully sets our children up for Christ-centered marriages.
But all of this debate made me re-examine our methods. Every article and post that is coming out on this subject seems to be taking one side or the other and criticizing the opposing view.
So here is my view: criticize away. Because EVERY method is fundamentally flawed.
The greatest fundamental flaw is in assuming any method will save us from the sin that so easily entangles us. If a method is looking at rules or the lack of rules as the protection for our hearts, it ain’t working!
So What Do We Do?
So here is my dating/courting advice:
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength
- Love your neighbor as yourself
I know. This is brilliant wisdom. Wish I could take credit for it.
This is God’s command on how to do E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. Including courting. Or dating. Or dourting. Or whatever you want to call it.
First: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and then you will:
- Love God more than any person, any method, and most certainly yourself. Just think what a difference THAT would make on our behavior.
- Live by His standards and structure to reserve for marriage what He designed for marriage. Where do you draw the line? Is it before the kiss? Or before the hand holding? Or before touching? Or before…? Just make that decision BEFORE God and it will effect where that line is drawn.
- Have an eternal perspective on the relationship in the first place- because marriage is about building the kingdom of God, not about writing your own personal Disney prince and princess story.
Next: Love your neighbor as yourself and then you will:
- Love others like He does….which means you care for His people and His church and His work more than you care for yourself...or any other person
- Put the person you are pursuing/courting/dating first. Put their welfare, their purity, and their spiritual walk on the same footing as your own. Put their safety, heart, and interests ahead of your own. Seriously- this one thing would turn both the Christian dating as well as the Christian courting arenas on their head.
- Ask yourself the question: Is the method I am using helping this person grow spiritually or hindering their growth?
- Realize that your “neighbor” is not just the person you are interested in but also their family. And it is your family, your friends,and your churches. How does your relationship show love to those people? Because if it doesn’t, you are building self-centeredness, not community.
That is it. That is all the wisdom I have.
Life and love and family are complicated and messy and effected by sin. But they are also redeemed and joyful and funny and life-breathing.
The goal of Christian romantic relationships is to build marriages which build community which build churches which build the Kingdom (that is God’s Kingdom- not our own kingdom.)
The goal of Christian marriages is to give a small window to the world into what sacrificial, other-centered love looks like. Unless whatever method you are using to get to marriage looks like that or is headed for that goal, you are most certainly going in the wrong direction.
Instead of focusing on a method or a label or even worse ourselves, let’s set our face toward the Lord. And focus on Him. And pursue Him. And love Him. And serve Him. And then sit back and watch what He does!