Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit forhim.”
Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Proverbs 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.
We all want that happily-ever-after story for our children. One of the biggest decisions our children will make during their lifetime is whom they will marry. This decision is probably next to the decision to follow Christ in importance. As parents, we desire to equip our children to go about the process of choosing this partner in a wise and godly way—to not only choose well and right but to honor God in the process.
Early in the homeschool movement, homeschoolers started questioning many culturally accepted ways of doing things, and dating was one of those things. We saw and had experienced a dating culture that was full of promiscuity, broken hearts and bad marriages. We figured that there had to be a better way, a way that would protect our children from promiscuity and hurt. For years, book after book was published with new ideas for how to date or, more accurately, how not to date. An old name for the process was resurrected—courtship.
Courtship became the new and improved way of finding a mate. Along with the name courtship came all kinds of rules for how this should be done, as each new book presented its own guidelines. While many of these ideas had value, several went too far. We were guilty of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. As with many things, the pendulum swung too far in the other direction. We went from parents being completely out of the equation to parents arranging the marriages. We went from the promiscuity—the free love of the 60s and 70s—to couples never being left alone or allowed to touch until after marriage. How do we sort out what is true and honoring to God, from what is not?
I was committed to figuring out the best way. I read just about every book on the subject, trying to come up with the perfect approach. Being an analytical person, I endeavored to make all the new ideas fit together in a nice little package. However, that was not so easy to do.
Throughout the years, as I experienced my four children, and their friends, growing up and having various experiences with guy-girl relationships, my ideas have grown and changed. As much as I wanted to come up with a set of rules that would make this process easy and foolproof, I have realized that the answer is not in the rules but in the relationship. A growing relationship with Christ is the foundation of a right and good courtship. It is critical that the young person wants to honor and obey God. No amount of rules will ever be enough if the heart is not in the right place.
In searching for biblical principles that work, I did find some that I think are helpful and applicable to courtship. The Bible does not speak directly to courtship; we have to take biblical principles and see how they apply to the courtship process. So, instead of ten easy steps for finding a mate, I give you ten hard principles.
Principle 1—Keep God first and the rest of our priorities in order.
Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
God and his principles should be the number one priority in the young person’s life. This is the foundational principle for doing courtship right. In pursuing God’s will, the young person has many priorities such as family, friends, school, work, etc. A common problem with dating relationships is that the couple gets their priorities out of whack. They get so wrapped up in each other that they are not responsible in the other areas of their life. While getting to know each other is a priority, it is not the only priority, and it is not the first priority. The young person needs to balance priorities.
Principle 2—Trust God.
Psalm 37:3-5 Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Believing that God is sovereign and loves you will allow you to rest in His will. If it is God’s best for one to marry, He will bring a mate in His timing and in His way. Instead of being stressed and anxious that we have to find our mate—that we have to make it happen—we can rest and pursue His calling for our life. Do we believe that God wants good for us and that His plan is best? Do we want His will more than our own? When we stop trusting, we start fretting and manipulating. This trust is just as important for the parent as for the young person. We, as parents, have to trust God with our children. We realize early in their lives that we really can’t control what happens to them, and this becomes more of a reality as they grow into the teen and young adult years. We need to rest in His sovereign plan.
Principle 3—Honor your parents.
Exodus 20:12 Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
We may have some disagreement as to what it means to honor one’s parents, but we cannot argue that we are supposed to. The way we honor our parents can vary depending on the circumstances. When young people strive to honor their parents, they will make the parents a part of their courtship. They will make them aware of what is going on with the relationship. They will ask for advice and seriously consider that counsel. They will make opportunities for their parents to get to know the person they are seeing. If a young person disagrees with his parents, he should plead his case; he should work to help his parents understand, using facts and biblical principles to back up his case.
Principle 4—Parents should be reasonable.
Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
Proverbs 23:26 My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways.
As parents, we want so badly to protect our children from harm. We believe that we are wiser than they are and know better. In our attempt to do what we deem is best for them, we can tend to become too controlling. When we parents establish restrictive rules for our young adult children to follow, we are in danger of provoking our children and making it difficult for them to honor us. Parents need to start when their children are young to build a trust relationship so that when they grow into the teen and young adult years, they will want the parents’ advice and input; they will want to share their lives, and they will want to make the parents part of the process of finding a mate. Parents need to listen to their children and strive to understand them. They need to respect that child’s personal relationship with God and the calling on his or her life.
Principle 5—We should strive for sexual purity.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;
It is clear that God wants us to be sexually pure, to abstain from sexual immorality. Where we may have room for disagreement is what it means to be sexually immoral. I cannot list what is admissible and what is not for a courting or engaged couple. However, I think the question the young person needs to ask himself is whether his heart strives to be sexually pure. It is not about how much one can get by with but what behavior is consistent with God’s desire for His children to be sexually pure. In practice, having a list of dos and don’ts can aid in the goal of staying pure, but no amount of rules will keep the young couple pure if their hearts aren’t there first. However, I think it is good to have lines that you won’t cross and to develop these lines when you are thinking rationally.
Principle 6—Love others as yourself.
Matthew 22:36-39 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
This is one of the most important biblical principles for any relationship, but especially pertinent to the dating relationship. If couples treated each other in such a way that always considered what was best for the other person, it would drastically change dating relationships. Instead of acting selfishly, they would aim to be a blessing to each other, encouraging each other in the Lord to pursue God’s way.
Principle 7—Be honest.
Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
Not only should we be honest with our words, we should be honest with our actions. It is all too common for deception to be a part of the way that young people relate to each other. Many times flirtation can be deceptive. Anytime we cause someone to believe something that is not true, we are being deceptive. If a guy treats a girl as if she were special to him when she is not, he is not being honest. If a girl flirts with a guy just for fun, she may be communicating that she is interested in him, and if that is not true, she is not being honest. Guys and gals need to be very careful what they say to each other both in words and deeds, to make sure that they are being honest with what they are communicating.
Principle 8—Christians should not marry non-Christians.
2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
The Bible is clear that Christians should not marry non-Christians. It doesn’t actually say that a Christian cannot date a non-Christian. However, if the purpose of dating (or courting, whichever you want to call it) is to find a marriage partner, then it would be very unwise and dangerous to date someone you cannot marry.
Principle 9—The husband is the head of his wife.
Ephesians 5:22-23 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
You may be wondering how this principle is related to courting since it is about marriage, not courting. I will explain what I think the connection is. While the Bible is clear that the husband is the leader of his wife, it does not say that every man is the leader of every woman. There are really no Bible verses that say that a guy should lead and the girl should respond to that leadership, but I think it is a good way to begin a relationship if the purpose of that relationship is to pursue the possibility of marriage. Because the young man will be the head of a home if he marries, it can follow that he should be the leader in his dating relationships.
If a young lady wants a husband who will be a godly leader in the home, she would be wise to let him lead in the dating relationship. She should look for behavior that shows that he is a man who will not only lead but will also lay down his life for her. The young man should look for traits that show that she understands what it means to be respectful and submissive. This guideline of the guy leading and the girl responding in dating is not a black and white, all-the-time rule. This guideline does not mean that the girl can never initiate. However, in my experience, I have observed that most girls would be ever so happy to take the leadership, so it is a good discipline to let our men lead. All the same, I think we need to be careful to not be too extreme with this idea. Have you read Ruth?
Principle 10—Life on this earth involves hurt.
Romans 5:3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
Romans 8:20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it,
John 16:33 In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
When we early homeschoolers started investigating courtship, one of the most common goals was to protect our children from being hurt and making mistakes. We thought that if we could come up with the right way for our children to find their mates, they would not be hurt by getting into wrong relationships and consequently being hurt by the break up. We have learned that this is almost impossible. We live in a fallen world, and as a result, people will get hurt. No matter what we do or how we do it, we cannot protect our children from being hurt. Self-protection is not the right priority to have. Righteousness is. Relationships are risky. The goal of dating/courting relationships is to find out if the couple is right for marriage, but many times the answer is no, and that hurts. We have to be willing to take that chance. God heals the broken heart and uses it for His glory.
As you attempt to put these biblical principles into practice, you will probably find it helpful to develop guidelines for your family that are more concrete. The Mason family had ours. The caution is to never forget that these guidelines are not Scripture. They are tools to help us follow Scripture, but they are not equivalent to it.
A healthy courtship involves a young man and young woman who are both pursuing God’s will. They want with all their hearts to do things His way. It involves parents who are also seeking God’s path and who want what is best for their children and are willing to take the time and effort to understand and love their children, putting aside their own personal interests. God is very creative in how He brings his children together. Each couple has their own unique love story. Some marry young; some marry older. Some date for years, some for weeks. But whatever path God uses, He is the matchmaker.
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