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Understanding True Love series
This lesson will make you aware of both the benefits and dangers of dating, and help you to develop a Scriptural set of dating standards.
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Lesson 7: Dating—the Benefits and Dangers
At a parent-teen conference on dating, a teenage girl asked speaker Bill Gothard, “How old do you have to be before you can start to date?” He answered with the following statement: “You are old enough to date when you have achieved the following three requisites:
- When you are aware of both the benefits and dangers of dating,
- When you have personally worked out from Scriptures a set of dating standards,
- When you have purposed that you will not lower these standards, even if it means losing dates.”
What is Dating?
A date or “going out” with someone is time prearranged with a person of the opposite sex. Group dating is several couples getting together. When two couples go out together, it is called a “double date.” A single date is going out with just one person.
First-time dates are usually group dates. Picnics, skating parties, school functions, and church socials are ideal for first dates. You are more at ease, and you do not have to carry the conversation. A natural follow-up to group dating is going out with another couple. Single dating can come later. The first dates of a young girl should NOT be single dates.
The Benefits of Dating
Dating can help you develop your personality
You learn how to handle situations and how to grow and mature in your relationships with others.
Dating helps you learn to get along socially
Being with a girl or guy will be awkward at first, but dating can help you learn to be comfortable and at ease with those of the opposite sex.
Dating can help in the selection of a mate.
Most every young person looks forward to getting married some day. Dating is one way of meeting possible marriage partners and helping you decide the kind of person you want to marry.
The Dangers of Dating
Dating is not necessarily sinful, but many young people fall into sin as a result of dating. The danger in dating is that you will do something that will seriously damage your chances for future happiness and a successful marriage.
It is easy for teens to think, “I have my whole life ahead of me. The choices I make now will not affect that.” Yes, they will! Your dating patterns and the things you do will greatly affect the quality of your future life. You are sowing seeds of future success or failure in your dating years. Let us consider some of the dangers in dating.
Dating can lead to broken hearts.
A large part of dating is flirting. Flirting is acting like you love someone. The object of flirting is to create a romantic attachment with the other person with no serious intent on your part.
The idea of a romantic relationship with someone of the opposite sex is very appealing to teens. Most young people realize that the relationship is temporary. There is no commitment involved. Both guy and girl realize that either one is free to break up the romance at any time for any reason.
This may sound harmless, but as two people become romantically involved, they begin to bond emotionally. Even though there are no commitments, two single people begin increasingly thinking of themselves as a couple. They are seen together and viewed as a couple by their friends. They are bonding and becoming emotionally glued together.
In breaking up, these two hearts which have become glued together are ripped apart. They are emotionally wounded and end up with scars that can last a lifetime. One or both experience a loss of self-esteem and the sense of being rejected.
Having your heart broken is no fun; in fact, it can be devastating. Some young people try to deal with it by toughening their emotions. They say, “It’s no big deal. I’ll find somebody else."
A person who is trying to rebound from a failed romance is very vulnerable. The sense of being rejected by someone they loved is devastating. Often they are frantically trying to find someone who shows an interest in them. Their normal caution is put on “the back burner.” They often jump quickly into another romantic relationship, which turns out to be worse than the first one.
Dating often leads to physical intimacy.
Our sex-crazy culture makes it appear that sex is everything in a romantic relationship. A physical relationship is often mistaken for love, and the couple rushes into marriage.
Getting involved sexually almost always destroys a relationship. Remember the pyramid! A marriage or a romantic relationship based on sex will not last.
Breaking up a romantic relationship is always painful, but if the couple has been involved sexually, the breaking up is ten times worse. You have each given yourself in the most intimate way to the other person. You have given away a part of yourself and you can never get it back.
Dating can produce animosities.
Over a period of time, jealousies and animosities can develop between guys and girls and their former partners and their new attachments. The thought is, “He or she stole my girlfriend or boyfriend.” These animosities can tear up a Christian youth group.
Dating can bring a lot of "baggage" into a marriage.
You may think you can play around and be promiscuous when you are single and leave it behind when you get married. That is wrong thinking. All those physical intimacies become “emotional baggage” that can wreck a marriage.
Dating can create an artificial relationship.
Each person is trying very hard to impress the other person. Each is putting on his or her best front which makes it difficult to evaluate the other person’s true character.
Anybody can put on a good “front” for a short time, especially when they are doing what they want to do. A couple can go together for years without really knowing each other. They get married and sooner or later discover the real person they married. They say, “I didn’t know he or she was like that!”
Finding the Right One
It is God’s plan for most Christian young people to marry and raise godly children. At the right time God stirs up their interest in the opposite sex. The big question then becomes: How will I find the one God has in mind for me?
While there can be some benefits from dating, it is based on the wrong motive—getting instead of giving. It has the wrong goal—go as far as you can. And it can produce wrong results—broken hearts and damaged emotions.
In today’s culture, it is not unusual for teens to be involved in four or five failed romances. Each time, as the pain caused from the last relationship fades into the background, the guy and girl develop a new romance with a different partner. The whole scenario of getting deeply involved romantically, breaking up, and doing the same thing over and over again becomes a dress rehearsal for divorce. Is there a better way? Yes, there is. It is called “courtship.”
What is Courtship?
Courtship is a relationship in which both guy and girl have the same long-term purpose in view. The purpose of a courting relationship is to consider marriage with the one of God’s choice. The requirement for courtship involves a commitment on the part of both guy and girl to certain guidelines:
A "one man, one woman" commitment.
You are no longer “shopping around.” There is an intense desire on the part of both guy and girl to really get to know each other and to discover if God has His approval on their possible marriage.
A restraint of affections.
Lust is a getting proposition and it demands immediate satisfaction. Real love will wait for the right time and right circumstances. It is not unusual for two committed Christians to agree to refrain from all physical contact beyond holding hands until marriage. Some of the happiest married couples can testify to the fact that their first kiss was at the marriage altar!
Respect for parents on both sides.
In a God-ordained courtship, there should be the approval of the parents on both sides. If one or both sets of parents disapprove of the relationship, that is a danger signal which should not be ignored.
Preparation for marriage.
A successful marriage involves serious preparation on the part of both the guy and girl. Financial freedom is a necessity in a happy marriage. The couple should seriously consider a budget. You may be madly in love with each other, but if you do not have a good education and financial freedom, you may not be ready for courtship.
Ideally, both husband and wife should be committed Christians who love the Lord Jesus with all their hearts. There will be serious problems if one partner is a fully-committed Christian and the other is complacent about the things of God. Under no circumstances should a born-again Christian marry an unbeliever.
The Rewards of Courtship
Courtship brings a new freedom in relationships with the opposite sex. You are focused on one person and not wondering about every guy or girl you meet. It avoids envy and jealousy.
Courtship promotes self-control and moral purity. It promotes responsibility—you are seriously planning and preparing for life.
What does God say?
God delights in the happiness of His children. Every command of God is an expression of His love and His desire that we enjoy the best He has in mind for us. If you want God’s best, you will want to work out from the Bible a set of dating standards. Let us see what God says about sexual matters.
Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who are not married is called fornication. The Bible says, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification [purity], that you should abstain from fornication” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). That should settle the matter for every child of God—“This is the will of God…that you should abstain from fornication.”
God hates all sins, but He has a special hatred for the sin of fornication. The Bible says, “Flee [run from] fornication…he that commits fornication sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). God hates this sin because it destroys the beautiful plan that God has in mind for you.
If you are a Christian, your body is “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” The Bible says, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body…” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The Bible says,
“Every one of you should know how to possess his body in sanctification [purity] and honor…that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter…” (1 Thessalonians 4:4,6).
“Defrauding” is raising expectations in another person which you cannot righteously fulfill. In business, defrauding is cheating—leading someone to expect certain benefits which you know are false. When a guy professes to love a girl and talks about their getting married some day in order to entice her to have sex with him, that is defrauding. The Bible says that God takes note of this and that He is the “avenger” of all who do this. This means God will punish those who commit this sin.
A good rule for guys and girls is this: Do not give or take that which may some day rightfully belong to another person.
God forbids all sexual intercourse between two members of the same sex. The Bible says,
“You shall not have intercourse with a man as with a woman: it is abomination” (Leviticus 18:22).
God does not hate homosexuals; He loves them! He loves them so much that He gave His only Son to die for them. But God hates their sin. He says that it is an “abomination” to Him. The Bible tells us that God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of this sin.
Marrying an unbeliever
For a Christian to marry an unbeliever is a violation of the will of God. In no uncertain terms God warns us against this sin. He says, “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers…” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
Let this fact impress itself on your mind: It is never God’s will for a Christian to marry an unbeliever.
Wait for the right person and the right time
A researcher has discovered a way to forecast the future of four-year olds by watching how they interact with a marshmallow. He invites the children one by one into a plain room with nothing but a small table and a marshmallow. He says, “You can have this marshmallow right now, but if you wait while I run an errand, you can have two marshmallows when I get back.” Then he leaves.
Through a one-way window he is able to watch what happens. Some children grab the marshmallow the minute he is gone. Some last a few minutes while others are determined to wait. They cover their eyes, sing to themselves, try to play a game, or even fall asleep. When the scientist returns, he gives these children their hard-earned two marshmallows.
But that is not the end of the story. By the time these children reached high school, the researcher found that those, who as four-year olds held out for the second marshmallow, grew up to be better adjusted, more popular, more confident and dependable teenagers than those who gave in to temptation early on.
The world says, “This is life; get all the fun and excitement you can now!” That is like saying, “Grab the marshmallow NOW!” God says, “If you wait for the right person, the right time, and the right circumstances, you can enjoy “marshmallows” every day!”
God's Design for Marriage
Man is different from animals in that he was created “in the image of God.” God is one God, existing in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We are composed of three parts—body, soul, and spirit. Our body is the “house” in which we live. Our soul is our self—composed of mind, emotions, and will. Our spirit is our innermost being by which we can know God and receive His life.
God’s design for marriage is to bring a guy who loves the Lord with all his heart together with a girl who likewise loves the Lord with all her heart.
They develop a deep friendship based on their common love for the Lord Jesus. As they grow closer to God, they draw closer to each other.
In time the relationship develops into courtship as they seek God’s will concerning their possible marriage. In the courtship period, as they grow closer to God, they again grow closer to each other.
As they discern God’s will to get married, they become engaged. Finally, in marriage, they enjoy oneness of spirit, oneness of soul, and oneness of body. They become one in Christ.
The result is the deepest, happiest, most fulfilling relationship that can be known by two people in this life. God is smiling on their marriage and thinking, “That is what I had in mind!"
Working out your standards for dating
Here are some important standards from God’s Word.
1. I will save sex for marriage.
I will not be involved in the sin of fornication, even if it means losing dates. If necessary, I will tell my dates up front, “Some day I expect to be married, and then sex will be all that God intended it to be. I want to wait until then.”
2. I will learn to say "No!"
You will be tempted to do things that you know you should not do. Young people who are involved in sinful pleasures take delight in dragging others down to their level. If you make excuses, they will keep after you. But if you say quietly and graciously, “Jesus is Lord to me. I do not think that is a wise thing for me to do,” they will leave you alone.
3. I will learn to be content as a single person.
The fact is, if I am not happy and content as a single person, I will not be happy and content as a married person.
4. I will guard my heart.
I do not have to “fall in love” with the wrong kind of person. I have given my heart to the Person who loves me so much that He died on a bloody cross for me so I could live in Heaven with Him. I will wait for the one of His choice.
5. I will date only Christians.
God has told me in no uncertain terms that it is never His will for me as a believer to marry an unbeliever. If I do not date an unbeliever, I will not marry one.
6. I will seriously consider courtship.
Until I am ready for marriage, I will not be involved in a lot of pointless romantic relationships that create problems.
I will turn away from flirting and playing the dating game. I will turn to courtship, which promotes self-control, moral purity, and responsibility. I will turn from living for myself and begin showing real love for my brother or sister in Christ.
7. I will put my future in God's hands.
This may seem like a risky thing to do, but the Bible says,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and do not lean to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Why should I not trust Him? Has He not done everything to win and keep my love, my trust, and my confidence? God says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
8. I want God's will for my life.
Why do young people risk their lives and future happiness on drugs, alcohol, and sex? Because they are bored. Why are they bored? Because they are all wrapped up in themselves. SELF is the center of their lives.
God never created us to be bored. He gave His only Son that we might have an exciting, abundant life. Our Lord Jesus said, “…I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
God has a purpose for my life. If it is His will, He will bring into my life the right person at the right time to fulfill His purpose in both of our lives. I will trust God to do this in His time.
THE GOLDEN RULE
Do not give or take anything that one day may rightfully belong to someone else.
Guys, do not do anything with a girl that you would not want some guy to do with your future wife. John and Mark were roommates in college. Although John’s past had included a couple of serious mistakes, he had vowed that his next serious kiss would be with his wife. John began to date Maryanne.
Each night when he would come home from a date, Mark would quiz him (as boys often do) about the date. “How did it go, man? I mean, what did you get?” John would always reply, “Mark, I’m not like that anymore. I respect Maryanne too much to try anything.”
After a year, John and Maryanne broke up. A few months later, guess who started dating Maryanne? You guessed it! Mark. They fell in love and eventually got married.
John was the best man at the wedding. Afterward, John called Mark inside and whispered in his ear: “Mark, do you remember when I was dating Maryanne, how you used to ride me about not doing anything sexually with her?”
You don't have any idea how deeply I appreciate you for that...
“Yeah,” Mark replied. “That was so ignorant of me.”
“Aren’t you glad I treated her the way I did?”
Mark embraced his old roommate and fought back the tears. “You don’t have any idea how deeply I appreciate you for that, John.”