For any who may be interested in dating and for those who are already pursuing a romantic relationship, recently we’ve been talking about the type of people you should date, where to find them and how to date appropriately. As our guide, we’ve been using the series, Single. Dating. Engaged. Married. by Pastor and author Ben Stuart. If you’ve missed or would like to review previous posts on this subject or any of our other recent blogs, you may do so here.
This is our 3rd post on dating in this series and along with our recognizing natural fears, uncertainty and timing issues, we’ve learned that dating in a way that pleases God should include:
- Starting by going to the right place – places where others who are after God’s own heart congregate.
- Beginning with the right posture – By definition, God should be Lord of the process. Seeking to force our way over His simply won’t turn out well. Continue to seek His guidance through regular prayer and let Him lead. Remain patient and faithful to His direction and timing.
- Date with Clarity – Ultimately, guessing games and ambiguity aren’t coy or cool; they’ll sink just about any relationship. Instead, be vulnerable, transparent and clear in your communications. Seek and speak the truth, in love. (Ephesians 4:15)
In this post, we’ll continue exploring how to date in a healthy way. Ben teaches that, when we’ve reached this stage of life, “dating is the modern process of evaluating whether (or not) we’re meant to marry another person.” This doesn’t mean that, on every date you get all wiggy and freaked out wondering, or worse expecting that you might one day marry the person across from you. However, Ben coaches, ‘it does mean you should (politely) discontinue pursuing the relationship romantically at the point it becomes clear that marriage isn’t an option.’
Wow…really? “Couldn’t I just keep dating this person to kinda, you know, see where it goes?” you might say.
You could, but if marriage isn’t the end-goal in your dating, what is? If marriage isn’t the end goal, then where else might continuing to date that person lead?
As we’ve discussed in previous posts and elsewhere, one of our chief pursuits as Christians should be purity; specifically, purity in our relationship to Jesus and with one another.
Always at the top of our minds should be the understanding and commitment that we aren’t looking for another person in whom we can find complete fulfillment. Instead, in seeking a spouse, we should be looking for someone with whom we can grip hands and walk beside in pursuit of ‘the grand purpose of knowing God and leveraging our lives together for his glory.’ This fleshes out the idea of being a “helpmate” (Genesis 2:18); walking alongside one another in pursuit of Him and His Kingdom.
In addition to emotional and spiritual intimacy, physical touch is often a natural desire and outcome of spending time together as a couple. Yet, going unchecked, physical touch can get out of hand pretty quickly. Sexual intimacy is one of God’s greatest gifts; designed and intended to be a bonding agent for life. A sort of “super-glue” for connection. Once people have shared themselves with one another intimately, it moves well beyond the physical and into a type of emotional, if not the spiritual realm of bonding. A deep form of love where you are ‘to know and be fully known.’ You’ve perhaps heard the analogy of trying to separate two pieces of material that have been glued together. It’s almost impossible to do so without leaving some remnants or pieces of one upon the other. Another speaks of sex being akin to a blazing fire. Contained within proper boundaries, it can bring warmth to a home.
Outside of its proper context, it can bring destruction. While some of the choices we make in this area may seem pretty casual or “natural” at the time, they often end up riddled with unintended or unwanted consequences. Throughout history, we see misused sexuality causing indelible pain – a good gift from God too often used in a bad way. Our enemy, Satan, has all kinds of tools and schemes in his arsenal with which to work in his attempts to break us down in the area of sexual temptation. But God hasn’t left us on our own to figure out how to navigate through sexual temptation as we date. Fortunately, in the midst of sometimes seemingly uncontrollable chaos and confusion, scripture once again offers an abundance of guidance and direction.
For now, let’s consider just two examples. The book of Proverbs, largely written by a father to his son as the son was about to enter into the world, offers some useful instruction for us, as well. Read the following passages from Proverbs 2: 16-19 regarding wisdom;
16 Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words, 17 who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. 18 Surely her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. 19 None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.
Here’s another from Paul’s letter of rebuke, instruction and correction to new believers in Corinth:
15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.” 17But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6: 15-20, NIV)
Words that seem practical and easy enough to buy into as we read them but not always so easy to live out, right?
Many of us probably don’t think about the wisdom of these passages as we make choices and take action, especially “in the heat of the moment,” but what if we did?
What are some of the natural consequences to our not paying close enough attention to these warnings and instruction?
How might you feel if instead of blindly following and acting upon every felt desire, you and your date were able to resist temptation, growing in your non-sexual knowledge of one another and consistently communicating, “You’re worth waiting for?”
Ben goes on to teach, “Sex is the consummation of commitment; all of one person committing to all of another person. Our sexuality is, perhaps, most dangerous when it becomes separated from this level of intimacy. Our sexuality is meant to be a component of an integrated experience with another person within the boundaries of marriage, marked by friendship and love.” Far too often, many people learn too late that sex outside of marriage cheapens this truth and desensitizes us to its rightful bonding power.
We don’t have to work very hard in our culture to ignite sensuality. We’re bombarded with it pretty much everywhere we turn. In many circles, engaging in sexual activity is considered completely acceptable outside of marriage and yet, studies report that single adults are actually having less intercourse. The main reason? I’d love to be able to tell you it’s because of an increase in obedience to the wisdom of God’s instruction. But sadly, it’s actually due to the insidious infiltration of an imposter; pornography – the removal of genuine love and the Creator’s original intent for marital sexual intimacy. Another instance where something originally designed and intended to bring/keep couples together is instead tainted by exploiting sexual desire inappropriately and destructively, building a wedge between couples or ultimately ripping them apart – more splinters left everywhere.
So much more could be written about the multiple problems and resulting negative effects stemming from the acceptance and use of pornography in our current culture. Perhaps it’s a subject we should address and further warn friends to steer clear of in a future post.
Today, let’s focus on and close with 4 healthy ways Ben shows us that the Bible can help cultivate purity in our lives:
- SURROUND YOURSELF WITH WISE VOICES.
- Proverbs 19:20 (NIV) instructs; “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end, you will be counted among the wise.”
- Who do (or could) you turn to for wisdom or when seeking good advice or direction regarding your relationships?
- Whose marriage or other positive relationship role models can you currently look to and say, “Man, I’d like to be more like them in the coming years?”
- RESIST FIRST IMPULSES TOWARD INAPPROPRIATE SEXUAL ACTIVITY.
- Establish and maintain good boundaries. (1 Corinthians 6:18)
- Talk with your partner about how far each of you is willing to go with physical touch.
- Draw the line. Agree upon, set and hold each other accountable to those limits.
- Work diligently to not place yourself or your partner in places or situations where you may be tempted to act out your sexual desires. (2 Timothy 2:22)
- “Date publicly” with other friends and avoid spending long periods of time alone together or in circumstances that may lead to increased physical intimacy.
- Set up guardrails to protect your eyes and your heart from sexual temptation. (See also, Romans 13: 14.)
- Install helpful filtering or monitoring software on all of your devices that are capable of connecting to the internet.
- Appoint and invite a trusted friend or confidant to have access to your activity and serve as your accountability partner in maintaining sexual purity.
- “DRINK FROM YOUR OWN CISTERN.” (Proverbs 5:15)
- In this verse and context, sexual intimacy is compared to water, which is precious in the Middle East due to its short supply.
- Likewise, sexual intimacy is a precious gift to be enjoyed in its proper context – marriage alone – a treasure, that when shared outside of marriage is wasted or damaging to the ultimate health of the marital relationship.
- Understand that this wisdom cautions equally against adultery (sex between a married person and someone outside of their marriage), fornication (sex between two unmarried people) and all other types of sexual immorality.
- PRAY CONTINUALLY (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
- The Quest Study Bible teaches that Paul’s direction to believers in Thessalonica (and to us today) is to pray regularly and often. But even more than that, he desires that Christians live prayerfully; in regular dialogue with our Creator; communicating with, listening to and following the direction of the One who is all-knowing.
- Prayer is more than verbalized words.
- It is the acknowledgment of God’s constant presence and our continuous living in dependence upon Him; His wisdom and His will, His guidance in His timing.
- To pray without ceasing is to recognize that (intentionally or not) all of our thoughts, words and actions take place before God and all our conversations include Him.
- Establish and maintain good boundaries. (1 Corinthians 6:18)
Friend, I recognize that you may be in a position where you’re thinking, “This all sounds, great, but I’ve already messed up sexually, so I am therefore beyond hope.” If this is you, please hear me as I tell and reassure you; you’re neither alone nor hopeless. (Romans 3: 23-26) God offers grace and forgiveness through the life, sacrificial death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. (1 John 1: 8-10) Complete cleansing and restoration are available through Jesus’ broken body and shed blood on the cross. It is a free gift but you must claim and accept it. Turn from your sin today, and claim Jesus as the Lord and Savior for the rest of your life.
You can do so, right now, by praying this simple prayer in your heart:
Lord Jesus, I know and confess that I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins. So right here and now, I turn from my sin and open the door of my heart and life. I claim You as my personal Lord and Savior. Amen
If you just prayed this simple prayer, I’d love to hear from you. Write to me, if you’d like, through the link below and say, “I prayed the prayer” along with anything else you might like to share.
I’ll be honored to be your friend in Christ and to walk with you through this life and into the Kingdom of God.
Right here rooting for you,