For all the Bible verses about love – and there are many – Christian dating is still something of a conundrum.
That’s because, quite simply, dating as a modern concept doesn’t feature in The Bible. After all, society and culture have changed much in the last thousand years or so, and dating today looks nothing like courtship in days past.
If we as Christians were truly Biblical literal about our romantic endeavors, we likely wouldn’t date at all. So we must as ourselves: how to date as a Christian and maintain our covenant with God?
Instead, we would bypass the experience in favor of convening the extended family, agreeing on a dowry in farm animals, and possibly donning gold jewelry.
But society shifts, and unsurprisingly, our worth in cows or household goods is no longer a helpful quantifier of a partner’s potential suitability. Not great dating advice, then.
But if the Bible has nothing to say on the subject of dating, then where do we look? More importantly, does it matter?
Absolutely it matters. When we as Christians ask for dating advice, we aren’t looking for the literalistic biblical rendering of what to do. Rather, we hesitate about misstepping in faith and the risk of turning from God.
These are no small considerations to card-carrying Christians. Luckily, there’s a wealth of advice if we’re prepared to listen.
Don’t Underestimate Friendship
Writing about the nature of love, C.S. Lewis theorized that friendship was not only the most overlooked love between humans but the closest we came to God. ‘Few value it,’ he writes in The Four Loves, ‘because few experience it.’
Lewis calls friendship 'philia' and further describes it as ‘The crown of life and the school of virtue.’ Both are key aspects of dating as a Christian. Why then do we so quickly overlook friendship?
Lewis thinks it’s because we persuade ourselves this is the love we could live without. All other kinds of love offer immediate and obvious fulfillment. Romance leads to conception, affection to community, and most importantly, charity to redemption.
What gets overlooked is that friendship, or philia, must originate in common ground. For the relationship to thrive, there must be a shared mentality, even if it’s nothing bigger than a love of Scrabble or apathy towards snow.
But it’s common ground that fosters connectivity between us as children of God, and that in turn brings us nearer to God.
This is particularly true of friendships that develop between fellow Christians since we encourage each other to deepen and expand our understanding of faith through meditation, communal prayer, and discussion.
Also Read: If you are looking for a serious relationship, check this article for my recommended Christian dating sites .
Dating with Intent
Friendship can be invaluable as a starting place for Christians who seek to date with intent. This is because if your end goal in dating as a Christian is marriage, then you necessarily weather a multitude of difficulties as a couple.
Casual dating, whether consciously or not, conditions both parties to jump ship at the first difficult hurdle. But because marriage is a promise before God as much as it is between husband and wife, turning back ceases to be an option at the altar.
Moreover, romantic relationships that stem from friendship have time to test the waters of life. It’s natural that romantic interactions differ from those between friends, but your shared history allows you to anticipate how your partner reacts to difficulties.
That, in turn, better positions you to grapple with circumstances that confront you as a couple when they arise. Marriage might be the goal of intentional dating, but it isn’t always easy. But the better you understand each other, the stronger it will be.
Of course, dating with intention doesn’t mean you’re committed to marrying the first person you happen to start dating. But it does mean you’re looking for a more meaningful connection than you’re likely to get over a cup of casual coffee.
Know Your Values
With that in mind, you need a clear grasp of your mores and values when you start dating as a Christian. Perhaps more importantly, these must be equally clear to the person you date.
It’s important to remember, for instance, that however cherished your future spouse will be, they ultimately come second to your relationship with God. That can be a difficult pill to swallow, even for fellow Christians.
Communicate Openly and Regularly
Consequently, it’s necessary to keep an ongoing discussion open with your partner. Neither of you intends the relationship to be casual. Accordingly, you must understand the other person’s spiritual and emotional needs for the relationship to thrive.
Importance of Prayer
One of the most effective ways of sustaining this dialogue is through communal prayer. There’s a reason Jesus says in Matt. 18:19; ‘If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them.’
Prayer is a tool that allows you to present a united front before God. If you find you’re petitioning for different things, that itself provides the opportunity for further prayer. It also highlights areas of the relationship that require closer examination.
Prayer is also deeply vulnerable. We are taught ‘There is no room for fear in love,’ and while that’s true, it doesn’t make the experience of baring your soul to someone else easier (1 John 4:8).
This is exacerbated by the fact that to pray together is to be brutally, even uncomfortably honest. It is to expose yourself in all your human frailty and fallibility. But in doing this, we are saved from the heresy of self-reliance.
That kind of open, exposed vulnerability acknowledges not only your need for God but of your partner. As you work to better each other through love, prayer—and the honesty it engenders—can be an invaluable tool.
Dispelling the Myth of One True Love
The other value of open, honest communication is that it helps dispel the myth that there is an ideal person waiting for you.
The fact is that people are varied and complicated. Realistically, we are probably better suited to different people in different moods and at various stages of life. That isn’t how marriage works.
The kind of exposed and honest communication you derive from prayer and discussion helps dispel this idea of a cosmic lottery. Romantic relationships become less about realizing a fairy-tale and more about acknowledging our own imperfections.
After all, only God is made perfect. It’s worth remembering that any imperfections we see in others almost certainly are mirrored in ourselves. But with God’s love and compassion, we embrace those failings along with the good in others.
Also Read: 10 Ultimate Christian Dating Advice
Works and Faith
Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words—so said, St Francis.
Often this gets misunderstood as meaning preaching the Gospel is irrelevant or even unimportant. That’s not it at all; St Francis was himself entirely too charismatic for that to have weight.
But it does work as a reminder for Christians beginning to date that you shouldn’t start the relationship by attempting to convert anyone. And, bearing in mind what we’ve said about the importance of like-mindedness, conversion should be unnecessary, anyway.
St Francis's oft-attributed quotation tackles the belief that actions speak more than anything we could hope to say. Unlikely as it seems, the advice has relevance for Christians looking to begin dating.
Especially in an online context, it can be difficult to get the full measure of someone else’s faith. It’s one thing to tick a box vouching for your church attendance. It’s another thing to attest that faith in works and charity.
That doesn’t mean works trump faith. Indeed, that’s an ongoing theological debate. But when you’re first finding your feet dating as a Christian, works make a reliable gauge not only of the type of Christian you’re looking for but the import of faith to them.
What it does mean is that at the end of the day, the church is a people. It’s more than hymn-singing and incense. It’s a way of being in the world, and it shapes how you live your life. Or it should.
That’s the reason that early translations of the Bible talked about ‘charity’ where we now talk about love, as for instance, in the oft-quoted Corinthians 13.
It’s also why a handful of churches still refer to their fellowship—or coffee hour—as the Agape: a place where you traditionally gave alms and fed the hungry. Part of that Agape or love may well be preaching, but not exclusively.
Christianity Isn’t A Monolith
With that in mind, as you approach dating as a Christian, it’s helpful to remember that there’s a lot of light and shade to Christianity. Within it, there are various doctrines and teachings, and they won’t always agree with each other.
That being the case, many Christians find it useful to seek out like-minded Christians when dating. Certainly, if you’re looking for someone who aligns with your inbuilt values and beliefs, this is a maxim to work by.
But it’s not a hard and fast rule, either. It can be as rewarding to find and date a Christian with different doctrinal roots.
Fundamentally, the most important thing to remember is that you’re seeking out someone who can help you grow in Christ and faith. Challenging or interrogating those doctrines can be a tremendous tool in furthering your faith.
Understanding What to Prioritise
But whether you find it’s difference or similarity that most fosters your faith, there will always be principles you adhere to that are too integral to your sense of Christian living to compromise.
That doesn’t mean you necessarily need to turn the first or even the second date you embark on into an interview. However, it’s helpful to have a sense of what is meaningful to both of you if you want the relationship to succeed.
As you come to terms with the values you hold, it’s helpful to sort through them and earmark which values are integral to your sense of self and which can be put to bed in the interests of cultivating a relationship.
For instance, if you’re a mission-driven Christian, that’s something you’re likely unprepared to compromise on. Accordingly, anyone you set out to date should share a similar focus. Otherwise, building a life together would become necessarily complicated.
How you set the table, on the other hand, and which sports teams you support can bear the brunt of gentle dissent.
The Problem of Sex
One of the primary examples of value prioritization is the teaching that sex be reserved for after marriage. In an increasingly modern world, this message challenges many Christians, especially as they start dating.
Undeniably intimacy and marriage are sacred. Hebrew 13:4 says, ‘Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled.’ Genesis 2:24 also famously describes man and woman as becoming 'One flesh.’
For Christiana dating, observing purity of mind and body is a vital part of the dating experience. The challenge becomes finding a like-minded partner with the fortitude and willingness to observe the same self-imposed strictures.
So sex, or abstaining from it, is a primary value for romantically minded Christians. But emphasizing sex can lead to a hyper-focus that causes more problems for Christians dating than it solves.
Arguably, because certain kinds of intimacy are inherently illicit for dating Christians, they acquire an edge and fascination that wouldn’t be there if discussion of sex were put to bed, as it were.
That’s not an argument for premarital sex. Not by a long chalk. Instead, the discussion about intimacy should shift focus.
When emphasis shifts from sex as something to be avoided to the discipline of maintaining a pure mind, many couples find temptation alleviates. Spiritual discipline works like a muscle; careful exercise strengthens it.
Working together on spiritual discipline fosters emotional intimacy between couples and spiritual intimacy between them and God. It also lessens the dangers of sexual stand-ins like pornography, which are equally taboo.
When it comes to dating as a Christian, we often find ourselves in the confusing territory. Corinthians 13 features a famous and extensive list of what love should be. But when it comes to dating advice, the Bible is surprisingly short.
And anecdotal, experiential advice from church communities, ministers, and family is diverse, not to say contradictory. The list includes but isn’t limited to:
- Date in Groups
- Avoid Sexual Temptation
- Date for at least a year
- Date for more than a year
- Make sure to spend time alone together
And that’s only the start.
However, as with any relationship, the key is to ensure you start from a place of common ground. No one agrees on everything, and that’s true of Christians dating, too. But a shared interest makes an excellent launchpad for any relationship.
In the spirit of contradictory advice, a challenge can also help grow and develop your faith. The crucial thing is that you find someone prepared to follow you on your walk with God and who can accept coming second to Him.
And if it ever gets overwhelming, the invaluable thing about the church body is that you can turn to them for advice. Be receptive to outside opinions; You sought out that community for a reason.
Finally, remember that as you sift through advice and opinions, it’s God’s opinion that matters most. Don’t be afraid to look to Him for guidance. With God on your side and faith as much a mustard seed, the right person is bound to cross your path.