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Families, Dating

and the Bible

by

Earl & Diane Rodd










Our culture has defined a romantic view of love between men and women which leads to sexual temptation, romantic dissappointments and broken hearts. This paper draws on the wisdom of the Creator to search out a better way for men and women to enter marriage. The motive is to lead Christian men and women to a place of trust in God Who will lead them into marriage pure in body, soul and spirit.




Families, Dating

and the Bible


or

Marriage, the Culture and the Truth


Families Honoring Christ
Earl & Diane Rodd 6044 Pine Creek St. N.W. North Canton, OH 44720

Phone: (330) 305-9318

4th edition - January 1994

Permission is granted to copy this article for personal sharing
but not for sale or other commercial purposes.

FHC is an Ohio based ministry providing encouragement
and fellowship to Christian parents who are training their children at home.

Introduction

This article started from the inspiration of lectures given by Bill Ward of Delhi, New York in April, 1989. I do not have Bill's years of experience in applying the principles of God's Word presented in this article, but I pray that the foundation laid here is a clear presentation of the principles of God's Word which Bill has taught in word and deed. Our goal is to know God's heart for our families.

The subtitle of this article, "Marriage, the Culture and the Truth", implies that there is a conflict between dating as practiced in our culture and the truth of The Bible and that this conflict affects marriage and families, both institutions ordained by God.

Conclusion

The conclusion of this study is that dating as we know it is not a godly way for young men to find helpmates (or for young women to find for whom they are to be a helpmate). However, because this conclusion is in such conflict with our cultural norms, we have to back up and lay a foundation of godly principles so that we can search for God's ways for young men and young women to enter into marriage.

Dating as practiced in our culture is often designed to arouse the flesh, the emotions and lust. It is not sensible for parents to intentionally send their children into this system which provides maximum temptations for immoral and ultimately destructive behavior. Perhaps, most important of all, dating arouses emotional attachments in relationships which lack depth and therefore are frequently short lived. The result of this is that most young men and women, when they do finally marry, enter marriage after a series of shattered romances and broken hearts. God's grace, forgiveness and mercy allow us to overcome these shortcomings, but the Bible clearly states that

Romans 6:1
1. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?
2. May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

We start with a belief that God surely has a better plan for our children and families! If we accept that God wants each of us to have at most one husband or wife, then if we think about it, it is obvious that He wants us to have only one "serious" romance (and we will see later that the romance follows the knowledge that this is God's choice).

In order to lead our children into God's blessings by following His ways, we must do two things:

  1. Teach our children God's ways for men, women and families from the time they are very young. When they are already to "dating age", they should have a solid foundation in God's plan for their lives and for families. Also, they should be grounded in the spiritual principle of:

    Proverbs 1:8
    8. Hear, my son, your father's instruction, And do not forsake your mother's teaching;
    9. Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head, And ornaments about your neck.

    Proverbs 6:20
    20. My son, observe the commandment of your father, And do not forsake the teaching of your mother;
    21. Bind them continually on your heart; Tie them around your neck.

    The content of what we should be teaching is the section "Basic Principles."

  2. Consistently take our roles as parents (and Christian brethren) in guiding young men and women into godly ways when they are old enough to consider marriage. The details of how we can take our roles is in the section "A Godly Alternative."

Basic Training

The first step in leading our children into godly family lives is in the teaching we give them from the time they are young children. This training must emphasize several principles outlined below. This training must start early and be consistently repeated. Our culture bombards our children with lies and temptations contrary to God's Word, but the Word of God is more powerful if we continue to use it in word and deed. We can teach our children the principles outlined below by:

Our goal is to have children who, when they reach "dating age", are already excited about their lives with Christ at the head and know the joys of listening to and obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit.

We have used the term "dating age" in this article. Perhaps, a better expression is "temptation age" because the world system wants to tempt and ultimately steal our children and keep them from forming strong Christian families.

Basic Principles
Below we discuss the basic principles we need to teach our children in word and deed as they grow up.

A plan for each life.

Our first basic principle is that God has a plan for each person. Each of our children is a unique creation of God .

Psalms 139:13
13. For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother's womb.
14. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well.
15. My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret, {And} skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.
16. Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written, The days that were ordained {for me}, When as yet there was not one of them.

God has a special purpose for each life. Since marriage is such an important part of life, we can have confidence that God's special plan for each life includes His choice of whether a person is to marry and if so, to whom they are to be married.

The basis of marriage.

The most important thing our children need to be taught about marriage is that it is a covenant in God's sight. Marriage is not something we do because of the emotional rush of "being in love." Remember that in the Bible we learn that true love is defined as being willing "to lay down our life". It must not be confused with warm emotion. The amazing thing about the way God has made us is that God will bless us through our emotions if we do things His way. He will bless us with joy and excitement to the point of shouting and tears. But our starting point is the solid decision that marriage is a covenant between two people - a covenant which cannot be broken.

Covenant is not a natural concept in modern western culture. Does this mean that we cannot teach our children that marriage is a covenant? The answer is no! We can teach our children correctly because God has made us to have fellowship with Him, and He has made the promise of provision in the New Covenant:

Hebrews 8:10
10. "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, And I will write them upon their hearts. And I will be their God, And they shall be My people.
11. "And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, And everyone his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' For all shall know Me, From the least to the greatest of them.

However, because our culture does not understand covenant well, we must recognize the necessity to contrast God's view of marriage and covenant with what our children see in the world.

Marriage can be like worship. We must decide to worship God because of who He is, yet because He has made us to worship, He blesses us with powerful emotions of joy and excitement in our obedient response to worship Him.

Inner beauty.

The world tries to instruct our children to concentrate on external beauty and then goes even further by trying to define external beauty by standards designed to make young people discontent with who they are (and try to convince them that they must buy the right clothes or shampoo to correct the problem). Minimal observation will demonstrate that marrying a "beautiful" woman or "handsome" man does not make a happy or successful marriage. We need to point out such examples to our children. The way a father speaks about his wife in front of his children can help to define for his children a more realistic view of "beauty". We need to instruct our children in the importance of qualities in a mate which are important to God such as character and devotion to finding and following God's purpose for their lives. Proverbs 31 offers a stark contrast to modern worldly definitions of a desirable woman.

Furthermore, in our experience, if we start with the conviction that marriage is a covenant and that our mate is truly God's choice, a special creation made for us (remember that God made Eve especially for Adam), then God will supernaturally make our mate beautiful in our sight!

Many moral arguments can be made to live without television and movies. This matter of the world's definition and concentration on external beauty is sufficient in itself. The power of sexual innuendo used incessantly in advertising, television programs and movies is a powerful lure which will try to corrupt our children's development of a godly view of beauty. Having mentioned television and movies, we also must emphasize that nearly all television programs and movies being produced today concentrate on sexual attraction as the primary basis for male-female relationships which is totally opposed to God's basis of covenant.

The power of prayer.

The Bible says,

Matthew 18:19
19. "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.

Because we know that the Bible also says that a man and a woman are to become one flesh, there is no greater way possible for two believers to come into perfect unity than a man and women in marriage. Thus we see the tremendous power available in prayer in a Christian marriage as a husband and wife fulfill the promise of Matthew 18 :19. Can we see the great motivation that the enemy has to try to stop strong Christian marriages?

Purity.

The Bible clearly teaches us,

Philippians 4:8
8. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.

Furthermore, we not only are exhorted,

Ephesians 5:11
11. And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;

but also,

Ephesians 5:12
12. for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.

We see consistent instruction to not fornicate. As we teach our children these principles, we must always do so in the positive manner taught in God's Word; that is, we are promised blessings with obedience. We need to constantly reinforce the principle that the joys of obedience are something which the enemy wants to steal whenever he can!

God's standards of purity are emphasized in I Corinthians:

I Corinthians 6:16
16. Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body {with her}? For He says, "The two will become one flesh."
17. But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit {with Him.}
18. Flee immorality. Every {other} sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.
19. Or 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?
20. For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

I Corinthians 7:1
1. Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman .
2. But because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.
3. Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
4. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband {does}; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife {does.}

This passage establishes that marriage is the place reserved for physical affection between a man and a women. Touching (e.g. holy kiss) is a correct part of expression in the Body of Christ. The distinction between this proper touching and the touching referred to in I Corinthians 7 :1 is that I Corinthians 7 :1 speaks of touching in the context of a man and a women touching as a way to show a unique relationship not available to others in the Body of Christ. This exclusive bond is reserved for marriage. Such is God's high view of marriage. Our challenge as parents is to teach our children self-government such that they have this principle deep within their spirits and know that touching the opposite sex is simply not done outside of marriage.

The law of experience.

The law of experience says that we cannot know what it is like to have experienced something by listening, reading or watching. We must experience. For example, we cannot understand what it is like to have suffered a broken bone without having had a broken bone. A girl cannot know what it is like to have given birth to a child without having done so (and of course a man can never know). We cannot know what it is like to have completed a large work effort involving a team of many people without actually having done so. Another way to express the law of experience is that we must take some things on faith! With regard to marriage, we must teach our children this principle and that they must take the following things on faith:

While not directly related to our subject, there are two applications of the law of experience which need to be mentioned.

  1. We cannot know the effect of regular Bible reading on our thinking and countenance without having read through the entire Bible .

  2. We cannot comprehend the reality of talking with God (talking to Him in prayer and listening to Him) without having done so. In particular, we cannot know the effect of regular prayer on our ability to hear His voice without having done so.

Role of parents.

We have already discussed the importance of the teaching of parents so that children are in a position to obey the wisdom of Proverbs to listen to the instruction of their father and mother. Another important part of the basic training of our children is the 5th commandment,

Deuteronomy 5:16
16. 'Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you on the land which the Lord your God gives you.

It is crucial that we notice the statement, "so that it will go well with you." Nowhere else in the Bible is there such a clear statement of how to have things in life "go well".

When we discuss a godly alternative to our cultural dating system later in this article, there are two very important applications of the role of parents. One is that our children must have established in their hearts that their parents are God's choice to instruct them and that God's blessings come with listening to the instruction of their parents even when that instruction runs so counter to the pressures and temptations of the world.

The second application comes when we consider the crucial matter of selecting a mate. In our experience, God clearly gives parents supernatural wisdom in the matter of a mate. If our children have developed a conviction that their parents hear from God and are gifted in guiding them, then even when their parents' words run counter to their emotions of the moment, they will choose to listen carefully.

Example

We can encourage our children to listen carefully to real life examples of the principles we are teaching, both good and bad. As we fellowship with other believers, we can use the time for them to share their testimonies. The particular things we want our children to hear about are:

A godly alternative

In this section, we present an outline of a godly alternative to worldly dating. This alternative is in violent contrast to our culture's system of dating and therefore may cause the reader to react against it. Each of has a responsibility before God to come to Him and listen to His instruction with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and then act accordingly. What is presented below is an attempt to live according to godly principles. When we are tempted to react to this alternative because of its seeming "impracticality" (i.e. stark contrast to common cultural practice), we must remember that our goal is not to keep our children from "having fun", but to lead them to a joy and fulfillment unknown in the world!

The alternative presented below must be modified to fit an imperfect world in which people come to Christian faith at various points in their lives. Not everyone grows up in the Church, but we can have faith that God will provide a way to bring anyone into His perfect will for his life if that person chooses God's will.

We must emphasize that the alternative presented here depends upon the foundational teaching outlined above. If as parents, you have become disciples of Jesus after your children are already into teen years, that does not mean that you cannot seek to instruct your children in the alternative we present here. You must, however, pay special attention to teaching them the underlying principles of God's Word, not just lay down rules about "dating".

Our alternative to dating is meant to lead young men and women into the joys of Christian marriage knowing that they have heard God and understand the nature of marriage in God's sight. We are excited to consider the spiritual power as families start out strong in the Lord without carrying the baggage of emotional hurts caused by broken relationships and sin.

The text below outlines our godly alternative to worldly dating. A more positive way to describe what we present is a godly way for our young people to come into God's will in their lives concerning marriage.

Dating Not Allowed

"Dating" is not allowed. Period. What do we mean by "dating". When we say that dating is not allowed, we mean dating with the following characteristics:

If we are honest, we have to see that many of the characteristics of dating are also true of typical church "youth group" activities (e.g. having fun, being entertained, lack of service, away from families).

If we look carefully, we will also see that the typical secular college campus situation is painfully close to one massive "date". When students living away from home are in close contact with the opposite sex in coed dorms at such a young age, emotional and physical temptations are an every day (or every hour) occurrence.

The Selection of a Mate

The primary factor in making a decision to enter into marriage is the conviction that a particular match is God's choice for a man and woman. While we should be wise in making a choice (for example, following the Biblical command not to be "unequally bonded"), it is more important that we are certain that this marriage is God's will than it is that a man and women believe they are "compatible." Only God knows the end from the beginning. Only God knows where He will call this new family to live and the ministry He plans for them. Our situations change and we all grow through the years. We cannot hope to predict "compatibility" far into the future (or even past the marriage date!) by our own reasoning.

Our culture teaches that the primary basis of marriage should be "love" and "compatibility". We must realize that this basis is contrary to God's plan. When we accept compatibility as the primary basis of marriage, then we are lead into sinful traps in our culture such as "living together" to make sure we are compatible or fornication to establish sexual compatibility before marriage. The humanistic reasoning sounds good to the ear not trained in God's Word, but the practical results of the reasoning produce disastrous results which is what we expect when people attempt to live by their own understanding and lust instead of God's perfect wisdom.

If young men and women have firm faith that it is God who will select their mate, then they are free of immense pressures to try to maneuver themselves to the sorts of places where there will be lots of "eligible" members of the opposite sex. The extreme of this curse is the singles bar, but youth groups and Christian colleges serve the same function for the man or women who is not properly trained.

Getting to Know the Opposite Sex

Young men and women get to know each other within God's divinely appointed institutions of the family and Body of Christ. I specifically say Body of Christ instead of church to try to lead us into thinking of the Body of Christ as the expression on earth of Jesus Christ for performing His works such as proclaiming the gospel, serving the poor, healing the sick etc., and away from thinking of church as a building where various activities are centered such as youth groups and other age segregated groups such as singles groups. While we often perform the Lord's service as part of groups, the service needs to be central in our thinking, not the social structure of the group.

Because our primary basis for a choice of a mate is the conviction that a person is God's choice, our primary purpose in this discussion of getting to know the opposite sex is not to find the right person but to mature in understanding of responsibility and service so that each young man and women is prepared for the realities of marriage.

It is important that, wherever possible, we include our children in our own activities so that we may truly disciple them in the Kingdom of God. An important result of this inclusion is that as they grow up, they get to know other people within the Body of Christ. Furthermore, as children mature and stand on their own, perhaps in the work-place or specialized education or in service in the Body of Christ, their world will expand beyond that of their parents.

The Wisdom of the Family

In the ideal case where young people are still living with their parents (and we encourage this unless job or service dictate living geographically too far away), the first step towards consideration of another person as a mate is to bring them into the home. This does two things.

Making a Decision

(or Conforming Our Will to God's Will)

Young men and young women come to a decision to marry based upon a conviction that God is saying they are to be joined to a certain person.

They have not gotten to know each other by "dating" but rather by seeing each other function in real life situations such as within the home, serving in the Body of Christ, or in the work-place. The objective in what we are saying is that young people know each other and then may decide that it is God's will that they enter a covenant (marriage) rather than that they form an intense romantic (i.e. lustful) attraction which clouds the senses and can lead to heartbreak and deep hurts which will take years to heal.

At the extreme, God may direct marriage among young men and women who have never met each other (e.g. Isaac and Rebekah). We mention this extreme to illustrate the relative importance of knowing God's Word versus the cultural notion of "compatibility".

It is very important to realize the contrast to the process described here with the cultural system of intense romantic involvement.

This is My Choice

If a young man or woman believes that a particular person is truly God's choice for a man or wife, they discuss this with their parents and together they try to discern God's word in the matter. For a young person whose parents are not in the church, or perhaps not alive, the elders of the church may need to perform a parental role. For young people whose parents are not believers, we still encourage them to honor their parents and pray that God will speak through them. God will (and has) used even unbelieving parents to provide guidance to believing children. Also, treating parents correctly is a testimony to them.

Note : There are extreme circumstances such as abusive situations where it is impossible to include parents.

Parental Contact

If they believe that this person is God's choice, then the parents contact the parents of the other person and the families together seek the Lord's wisdom.

The other family (parents and child) then seek the Lord's word on the matter together.

Agreement

If all agree that this is truly God's plan for the man and women to be married, then it is time to set a date! Note : "Pre-marital counseling should begin BEFORE setting a date for the marriage! Discussions on such important issues as the basis of marriage, finances, goals in life, child raising and careers should have already taken place openly and hopefully with the guidance of parents.

Back to Seek the Lord

If one person's family does not believe that this is the right person for their son or daughter to marry then so be it. The young man or young woman who initiated the contact must then seek the Lord and wait This is a time for faith that there is only one God and that God is not a God of confusion. If we remain faithful to God's Kingdom, He will take care of our lives. Sometimes we have to admit that we "missed it", sometimes someone else must admit in the end that they were "fighting God" and sometimes such matters remain a mystery.

The Safety of the Family

At this point, we must step back a step or two and consider the discussions of a young man or woman with his parents and potentially with the other family involved. Sometimes, it becomes clear to all that this boy or girl is not (at least at this time) the person to marry. In this case, the beauty of working within the safety of the family is that no one knows that something "serious" has gone on outside of the immediate families. The young people do not have to suffer the emotional trauma of a hundred questions "Why did you break up?"

Only for Young People?

Please note that while this article has concentrated on marriages of young men and young women, the same principles can readily be adapted for older people including those who have lost husbands or wives or who have never been married. We know of abundant examples of people who did not marry until very late (30s, 40s) and yet it is clear that God has used the younger years of the person's life to His glory and has now appointed the time for marriage.

Biblical Example

This section presents a brief overview of several Biblical examples, both good and bad, of marriages. Each of these examples could be the subject of an entire article, but our purpose here is to make a brief application. We encourage each of you to search the Scriptures seeking God's wisdom in these examples and in the remainder of the Bible .

Adam and Eve

God created Eve especially for Adam. This shows God's original plan to make a man and a woman to be especially paired according to His will. Adam did not go through any process of selecting by physical appearance, personality or other factors. God brought Eve to Adam.

The Days of Noah

In the days of Noah, we read how men made their own choices of wives instead of God's choices. Genesis 6 tells us God's thoughts on this practice.

Genesis 6:1
1. Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them,
2. that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.
3. Then the Lord said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years."

The practice of men choosing to marry "whomever they chose" lead immediately to such great wickedness that God was sorry He ever made men.

Isaac and Rebekah

Abraham sent a servant back to the place where Abraham's relatives lived in order to find a wife for Isaac, because Abraham knew that it would be wrong for Isaac to take a wife from the pagans in Canaan. This example shows the guiding hand of God as God speaks to Abraham's servant and shows him how he is to know which girl is God's choice for Isaac. Isaac immediately accepts the choice of God as he hears the servant explain how Rebekah was chosen,

Genesis 24:66
66. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done.
67. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.

Esau

Esau married two Hittite women. This displeased Isaac and Rebekah,

Genesis 26:35
35. and they brought grief to Isaac and Rebekah.

The grief caused by Esau's foreign wives finally causes Rebekah and Isaac to send Jacob back to Paddan-aram to marry among their relatives.

Jacob and Rachel/Leah

In contrast to Esau, Jacob did obey his parents and went on a journey to Paddan-aram to take a wife from the family of Rebekah's brother. However, after this initial step of obedience, the story gets more complicated.

There is no record in the Scripture that Jacob sought the Lord about His choice of a wife. Jacob chooses Rachel, apparently on his own, and then suffers the deceptions of Laban who gives him Leah instead of Rachel in order to make Jacob work yet another 7 years. Jacob does, however, show two important characteristics. One is that he followed his father's command,

Genesis 28:1
1. So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and charged him, and said to him, "You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.
2. "Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother's father; and from there take to yourself a wife from the daughters of Laban your mother's brother.

The second is that Jacob seemed to understand steadfastness. In our "instant" world, most of us cannot relate to a story of a man waiting 14 years to marry a woman he has chosen.

Ruth and Boaz

The story of Ruth and Boaz in the book of Ruth provides excellent teaching on the concept of covenant. First of all, Ruth decided to make the God of Noami her God. This is important for it shows that the Biblical command to marry within the church (not be bound with unbelievers) refers to the heart of the person, not to their history. Ruth was a Moabite, not a Jew. Yet because she had decided to follow God, she was acceptable in God's sight as a wife for Boaz. The entire unfolding of the story as Ruth meets Boaz shows how both Ruth and Boaz understood the meaning of covenant. This understanding resulted in a marriage which God blessed in becoming part of the lineage of King David and ultimately Jesus.

Samson

Samson provides us with a bad example. Samson's first marriage was to a foreigner against the wishes of his parents,

Judges 14:3
3. Then his father and his mother said to him, "Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?" But Samson said to his father, "Get her for me, for she looks good to me."

Samson acts as our children our urged to act by the culture around us in two important ways:

  1. He has chosen a wife based upon physical beauty as shown by his statement, "she looks good for me."
  2. He ignores the exhortation of his parents.
Even though the marriage is a disaster for Samson, the Lord uses it for His purpose. However, just because the Lord uses a sinner never justifies sin. The Lord used even the worst pagan generals as His tools to chasten Israel.

Next Samson falls in love with a women named Delilah who becomes his ultimate downfall. There is no indication that he even married Delilah.

Final Exhortation

We conclude with a final exhortation to carefully consider God's plans for marriage. The painfully high divorce rate is evidence that our culture has something wrong about marriage. We also know that the culture has influenced the church as evidenced by an equally painful divorce rate in the church. When we know that things are wrong, we must desperately seek God for His Biblical pattern!




Footnotes

  1. Unless otherwise noted, All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1988, The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Copyright by Earl & Diane Rodd