In recent posts we’ve been talking about dating God’s way and how, while the Bible doesn’t directly address the subject of dating, it provides great wisdom and direction as to how we are to be evaluative and discerning as we pursue relationships.
It occurs to me, however, that some of you aren’t currently dating. In fact, some of you aren’t even the least bit interested in dating right now or really any time in the foreseeable future. And a few of you have even decided to stop reading already if this is what this week’s blog is going to be about. Okay, I get it. Though much of this wisdom can likely be applied to pursuing and developing relationships of many kinds, you yearn for the days when I provided snappy, 6-part solutions and ideas about how to mentally and emotionally survive pandemic living. So for you, this week we offer an alternative blog; it’s entitled, “I’m Tired of This Pandemic Telling Me to ‘Pivot’” and it’s written by our friend Suzanne Hadley Gosselin of the Boundless single’s community at Focus On The Family. If this sounds more like your jam, you may link to it here. (It really is a good read; Suzanne even trims it back to 3 survival tactics and it’s perfectly acceptable if you decide to read both hers and this one.)
Alright, for those of you who’ve stuck around for some additional wisdom on how to date God’s way, I’ll remind you that we’re learning and sharing from a project entitled, “Single. Dating. Engaged. Married.” by author and Pastor Ben Stuart. Within and throughout, Ben helps us to see and understand the thoughtfulness and wisdom that God used when He designed us for relationship; whether in a single-hearted devotion to Him or in concert with a life-partnering spouse who likewise claims Him as Lord and Savior.
In advancing these points as it relates to seeking a mate, last week with Ben we were inspired to look at the Old Testament story in Genesis 24, where Abraham sends out his top aide to find a wife for his son, Isaac. This account illuminates several key principles;
- The type of person you should be looking for boils down to two key attributes;
- One who exhibits character before God and
- Chemistry with you.
- The right person is worth pursuing and waiting for.
- If you’re going to date the right person in the right way, you’ve got to start by going to the right place; i.e., an area with the highest concentration of believers.
- You’ll also need to begin with the right posture.
- And it’s important that you strive for clarity.
Those first couple of principles may seem relatively self-explanatory. But let’s spend a little time talking about what it means to start by going to the right place. Where is it talking about when suggesting that singles go to and look in an area with the highest concentration of believers?
- Have the places you’ve been looking put you into contact with people who share your faith?
- If not, why do you keep looking there?
It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if you’re going to look for a person after God’s heart, then you should go to places where people who are after God’s heart congregate. And if you want a person who prizes Godly character, it follows that you should search for them in places where they’re most likely to be found, yes?
So where are some places you might find a higher percentage of potential dates who follow Jesus? Of course, church but where else? Yeah, for sure, potentially at or through Life Group but where else? What about offering to serve at Christian community service organizations, mission trips and other projects? Attending plays, movies, concerts or comedy venues that feature Christian artists? Christian conferences or retreats? Other Christ-centered meetups, events or activities? Bars, the gym or dance clubs? Typically, not so much, right? It’s a reality that you can’t date well if you don’t begin well. And a key aspect of beginning well means steering clear of people who aren’t aligned in your faith; who don’t serve the one, true God. Instead, begin to visit and look in places where those who do can be found.
The bible also refers to this as avoiding becoming “unequally yoked” and one of the scriptures that speaks to this is when the apostle Paul addresses believers in Corinth through his letter known as 2 Corinthians. In the 14th verse of the 6th chapter, he instructs, 14“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14, ESV)
Mind you, Paul is not saying believers should never associate with unbelievers (1 Corinthians 5:9–10). Believers should continue to live and function in the world, which includes contact with unbelievers (1 Corinthians 10:25–26). But it is clear that believers and unbelievers are not the same—spiritually—and really should seek to avoid being locked together into any kind of binding, romantic relationship.
Perhaps you’ve also heard the term, “evangelical dating” which essentially refers to the practice of a Christian dating a non-Christian in the belief that the Christian will ultimately prevail in helping their partner to become a believer. It’s not that this never happens; just that what more often happens is the other way ‘round. You see, since each of us has inherited a “sin nature,” it is much easier for a Christian who’s dating a non-Christian to backslide in to sin than it is for the non-Christian to suddenly, one day develop a desire to follow Christ. A visual example that’s been shared is that of your trying to stand on a wheeled office chair; the kind with the reclining back and movable seat cushion and then attempting to pull your friend up on to the chair with you versus your friend pulling you back down on to the floor. While conversion is, in any event, ultimately the work of The Holy Spirit, natural laws (gravity and leverage) in “unequally yoked” or “evangelical” dating relationships tend to favor your non-believing friend. Many other scriptures speak to this principle. If you’d like to study deeper, you can find them at this link.
“Okay,” you might say. “But what’s that about beginning with a right posture? You’re not going to make me try and stand back up on that office chair or some other crazy exercise, are you?” And to that I would answer, “um, no.” Ben Stuart shares that what he means when he speaks to the importance of beginning with a right posture is that of following the example of Abraham’s servant as he went out to find a wife for Isaac. He humbled himself right at the start of his search as he prayed and asked God for success in finding the right person. He rooted his search for Isaac’s spouse in his understanding that God cherished and promised to be with his people. His right posture was that of humbling himself, praying to and then trusting in God who designed and created relationships, versus attempting to take charge and manage things on his own. You, too can humble yourself and pray, seeking to align your will with His and trusting in our Lord’s provision.
Finally, Ben coaches and counsels the importance of dating with clarity. In addition to clear vision, it’s imperative that each person in a relationship makes the effort to communicate with clarity. Things go so much better when this is the case. What does clarity look like in a dating relationship? It’s the opposite of ambiguity. It’s speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) instead of being coy or “mysterious.” Being vague, obtuse or unclear doesn’t help anyone. Abraham’s servant exhibited clarity as soon as he knew that his meeting Rebekah was of the Lord. Scripture tells us that as soon as the camels finished drinking, he placed a ring in Rebekah’s nose and bracelets on her arm. (Genesis 24:22) While you may not give or receive a nose ring or bracelets on your first date with someone, you can still offer clarity about what you know. Truthfully express your thoughts and intentions. Simple statements, such as “I’d like to get to know you better,” I’m interested in pursuing this friendship and learning if it might lead to something more,” and “Could we go to dinner or grab coffee sometime?” help to clarify relationships from the beginning. At the end of a date, saying, “I enjoyed this. May I call and arrange to see you again?” helps to set clear expectations (as long as none of these phrases are cloaked or meant to mean something else). Likewise, if things don’t go so well or aren’t working out, having the decency and courage to say so gracefully and letting the other person off the hook helps keep anyone from being left in limbo. No one likes that uncertainty…limbo is the worst! Dating with clarity helps to eradicate heartache and frustration.
Proverbs 24:26 says an honest answer is “a kiss on the lips.” Honesty doesn’t mean sharing every thought that comes in to your head but, conversely, “ambiguity is the seedbed of anxiety” – especially in a dating relationship. Further, “Clarity is an ever-growing process, aided by time and observation,” states Ben Stuart. “It’s one thing to hear what someone says. It’s entirely different to watch the way they live. Clarity is needed at the initiation stage, throughout the dating process and at its end” if a relationship isn’t proceeding in the right direction. ‘Honesty needs to prevail through each of these stages.’ “Each time you leave someone with confusion, you fail to reflect the character of God. But each time you lead with clarity and conviction, even in painful moments when relationships die, you shine with the character of God.”
So as you date from this point forward, start by going to the right places, leading with the right posture and, at all times, communicating with clarity. In doing these things, you’re well on track to dating God’s way – practicing principles that, in every way, honor and glorify His design for relationships.
May our God who created and loves you continue to be the Lord of your life.
Right here rooting for you,