A brief anatomy of dating/courtship in Christianity

In some Christian circles, they are admonished not to date whereas in others dating is openly celebrated. Which is the right path according to scripture? The NT scriptures are silent on a number of some practical issues such as how church life should be organized i.e. how to take up offerings, whether to use a pulpit (lectern) or not, how to do baby dedications, whether or not to build up church buildings etc. God is silent on these things because He did not want to give His global body another stringent Law. He is a creator and manifests the light of his beautiful creativity through each man, woman and Assembly as He chooses. The most important Law in the NT is Love.  James 2: 8 calls this the royal law. In another part of the NT it’s part of what is called the greatest commandment. If we obey it i.e. Love, our creativity will not harm but edify onlookers. The saints of old did not do many things we do today such as have the large crusades that our dear Pastor Chris hosts. They did not have healing schools or even dress or talk like Pastor but it’s the same spirit manifesting his beautiful creativity through Pastor as he did through Peter millennia ago.

The point I hope to make is that instead of focusing on whether courtship is bad or not, we should rather focus on “the love factor” i.e. the manner in which it is done (i.e. if one chooses to relate with a sister in the body of Christ, it should be done in the spirit of God’s love agapao and not in the spirit of satisfying lusts). The character of this type of love is seen in 1 Cor 13. What one person may define as courtship may be different from what another person may define it as so I
realize that definition is important. Hopefully we’ll get to that aspect by the end of this post. Some say the bible does not say anything about courtship and therefore this is proof that courtship is not part of Christianity. Another person may say that the bible was written by principally Jewish men in whose culture courtship was not allowed and that is the reason we do not see it in the text. Others may argue that Songs of Solomon is about courtship. The disputations may never be settled.

I would like to refer to a particular passage of scripture that shows that Jesus related with His bride, the church before ever there was a marriage supper of the lamb. The thing i would want you to take from this passage is, how Jesus related with his bride before presenting her to himself as a faultless bride? Maybe it could be wise to follow his example. And for those who are contemplating marriage or are already married, this passage is also the standard for a;ll Christian marriages. Here is the passage:

Eph 5:25-33  Husbands, love your wivesas Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,  (26)  So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word,  (27)  That He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such things [that she might be holy and faultless].  (28)  Even so husbands should love their wives as [being in a sense] their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.  (29)  For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and carefully protects and cherishes it, as Christ does the church,  (30)  Because we are members (parts) of His body.  (31)  For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. [Gen. 2:24.]  (32)  This mystery is very great, but I speak concerning [the relation of] Christ and the church.  (33)  However, let each man of you [without exception] love his wife as [being in a sense] his very own self; and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly]. [I Pet. 3:2.]

How did/does Jesus relate with the church before presenting her to himself as a faultless bride? The answer is in verse 26 and 27. He laid his life down for her. But why? And how? The “why” is to sanctify her or set her apart to himself. But this was done after having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word. The purpose of sharing the word with her was to present the church/or woman to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. The advice here is that if you chose to relate with a sister before the actual marriage, try and spend it in the word. Use the word to discuss your future.

This passage contains so many nuggets of wisdom about relationships and marriage but we cannot discuss them now. Maybe some other day. But allow me to mention that the scripture shows us that the love God expects from a man to his wife is nothing less than that which Christ has for his Bride. This at first glance seems like a tall order but with careful inspection we see that it really is not for those who are born again because they have been freely given the spirit of God who energizes and gives them the ability to love like this. This love is part of the fruit of the spirit which we are expected to bear as saints of God. It’s part of our DNA as sons of God.

Just as Christ wooed his church with love, mercy and gentleness whiles washing her with the water of the Word so that he could eventually present her to himself a faultless bride, so must we. Whiles we were yet sinners, he died for us. Why? Because he esteemed us and loved us. The Son related with us and even before marrying us, gave us the awesome present of his very life ever before marrying us. In this sense I see nothing wrong with courtship. He approached us (the girl/woman) with a purpose to marry us right from the beginning and spared no expense—not even his life. His value of His bride is obviously equal to His very life. What would happen if Christian brothers started to put such a high esteem on the sisters? If brothers really loved their wives like Christ loved the church, what would happen to separations and divorce? Of course it’s a two way streak. The brothers have to love and the sisters should submit as unto Christ. On the flip side, if courtship is defined as “testing the waters” and if we do not like then we look for another, then this is not love. It is selfish. In this case we have departed from the royal law of the NT—love, and no woman should submit herself to such a guy. 

In the OT sin is breaking a law. In the NT it’s doing anything that you are not convinced of by faith. SO whether you choose to relate with a sister or not, do it because you have faith in your convictions and are practicing agape love (1Cor 13) and not because you feel pressured to do so or want to satisfy personal lusts or the eyes or the flesh.

Admittedly the devaluation of the practice of betrothal which brings with it stronger commitment and its seeming replacement with modern courtship practices in today’s world has had some very disastrous consequences. Having live-in partners and premarital sex has become the order of the day in some cases BUT this is clearly un-christ-like and we must shy away from such practices. If a brother is in-love with a lady and wishes to marry her, he should not ‘test the waters’, he should pray about it and when he feels peace about it, he should go ahead and propose, get engaged and marry her right away. But between proposal and marriage, spend time in the Word. Wasting time through prolonged courtship (between proposal and marriage) might lead to unnecessary temptations. 

For anyone who has read to this point. Thanks for your time and please excuse any typing errors. May the reign of His Word be total in our lives in 2012…and forever.

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