Dating is a complex, confusing, and sometimes painful process. How do you go from “Oh, she’s cute” to “You are the one I want to marry”?
One of the key points in scripture about dating is the fact that the Bible doesn’t ever talk about dating at all. There are no words in the original languages that can be translated girlfriend/boyfriend or “boo” or “bae”. There are no verses that say, “And Moses took Zipporah to Chilis on a date…they shared fajitas and talked about their feelings.”
Dating as our culture knows it is never mentioned in scripture because it is a fairly modern invention. There has always been a process of evaluation that leads to marriage, but different cultures and time periods have had different ways of doing it. And there is a lot of confusion about what that is supposed to look like. What is even worse is our culture has turned a process into a status. We are going to talk about that next week.
I would define dating as the process of evaluating who you want to spend the rest of your life with. What are you evaluating in dating? You are evaluating a person, and even though scripture doesn’t use the word dating, it has a ton to say about WHO we should date. Next week we will cover HOW we should date.
The biggest mistake we make in determining WHO we should date is this: We look for characteristics not character.
Mistake #1: We look for characteristics not character.
We look at features and they are not a bad thing to notice, however, they are a terrible foundation for a future marriage. Ask someone what they are looking for in a girl or a guy and what do you get? More often than not, you get a list of features: tall, not tall, funny, serious, fit, or smart. The list is different for everyone. But this sets us up for some real disappointment: Why? Because NO ONE can measure up!
In the age of the Tinder app, we have distilled dating to a swipe left or right. We evaluate people solely on two characteristics: Do they have something witty/funny to say? Are they hot? Every potential mate is simplified into what scripture calls charm and beauty.
Proverbs 31:30 warns us about evaluating a person on charm and beauty alone. The verse says, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” In other words, charm can deceive us into thinking someone is who they are not. Charm can hide true character. And beauty–it is vain, empty. Beauty fades, it doesn’t last.
We must run away from this consumer mentality of dating because it is toxic. We have turned people into products. You are not an assembly of features, you are a person. And you need someone who is going to see you that way.
How do you evaluate whether you are being treated as a person or an assembly of features? What do they compliment you on? What are their texts to you like? Do they pressure you sexually?
Character is greater than characteristics. Chemistry and attraction have merit, but they cannot hold up the weight of a marriage. In his book, Mingling of Souls, Matt Chandler writes, “our physical attraction should always be held in check by the character of the person to whom we are attracted.”
The other mistake we tend to make in the dating game is: We settle. What should be the non-negotiables of who you date?
Mistake #2: We settle.
Well, the first thing is they need to be a believer in Jesus Christ. You have to be aligned with them on the most important thing about life.
2 Corinthians 6:14-15
14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?
What does that mean? What does an egg yolk have to do with dating, as one student asked me? Well, to be yoked is actually a farming term. You don’t want to hitch together (with a yoke) an ox and a donkey to plow a field—it won’t work.
The passage is not saying we should not associate with non-believers, the bible clearly doesn’t teach that. But why shouldn’t a believer and a non-believer get married? Think about it. If you are a follower of Jesus, your faith and view of God’s Word defines your worldview, allegiance, and direction in life. For the non-believer, self-actualization or fulfillment or some other intrinsic motivation determine direction in life. These two systems may not clash on a date to the movie theater, but when you are wrestling with some of the big questions in life–how you are going to raise your kids, how you spend your time or money–there will be tension. Either the follower of Christ will be constantly nagging their spouse to come to church or follow Christ, which they are not interested in doing, or you will be pulled in a direction of compromising your faith.
Not only do you want to date a believer in Christ, but you want someone who is pursuing Christ. Don’t settle. Just because he/she goes to church and claims to know Jesus doesn’t mean you are equally yoked. Make sure they don’t just say the right things, make sure they do the right thing. I knew plenty of guys who would dial up the religious talk when they were around girls who were pursuing Christ just so they could get a date. We have to be more cautious and set a higher standard.
McKenna Best, one of our college students I reached out to about what dating advice she would give herself in high school wrote this:
Hey Bart, my advice would be to never, ever settle for someone who isn’t pushing you towards the Lord. It’s so easy to neglect our faith when it comes to who we date especially when that person has a lot of good qualities. I typically found myself asking, “Am I being too picky?” when it came to a guy who wasn’t a Christ-follower. I thought, “At least he goes to church, has a bible verse in his Instagram bio, etc…” I would tell high school me, “You are being picky and that’s okay! Do not settle!”
When you are evaluating a person to date, you need to ask yourself, is this person pushing me toward the Lord? Am I more effective and challenged in my walk with Christ as a result of being around this person? They are not going to be perfect, but are they pursuing Christ? Are they running with you toward Jesus?
I remember the first time I noticed Jen. She was giving a testimony for our campus ministry during our weekly meeting. She was dating someone at the time but I prayed that night, “God, I want a wife like her! It doesn’t have to be her, but someone like her. Who talks about you like she talks about you. Who takes risks for her faith like she does. Who loves people and invests in people like she does.” Little did I know that a few years later, God would answer that prayer at our wedding.
Which brings me to my last point and then we will continue our discussion next week. The third mistake we make in dating is worrying about finding the right woman instead of concentrating on being the right man. Or, the other way around, ladies.
Mistake #3: We worry about finding the right person not being the right person.
Another student, Erin Underwood, who responded to my question about dating advice wrote this:
Hey! In regards to your message: I was literally obsessed with the idea of having a boyfriend because all of my friends did and I always wondered what was wrong with me and why I was (seemingly) the only person to not be in a relationship. Saying that, I wish I wouldn’t have been so preoccupied with the idea of having a boyfriend and would’ve used that energy to pursue the Lord and see what he had for me during that time. Because in reality, the Lord isn’t ever going to give me someone if I’m looking for him, because that shows I’m not ready.
When it comes to WHO you are dating, don’t forget:
- Character over characteristics.
- Don’t settle.
- Work on being the right person not finding the right person.