Among modern evangelical Christians, there have been multiple books, movements, and rules presented as the “biblical” approach or method to dating. From Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye in the early 2000s to the many rules for dating in contemporary Christian circles, there is no end to supposed scriptural views on dating.
Amid this overwhelming sea of methods and rules, many Christians wonder what the Bible says about this overly discussed topic and how they should approach dating.
Specifically, there is nothing in the Bible about dating. In fact, none of the people mentioned in the Bible ever dated but rather participated in prearranged marriages and betrothals. The modern Western idea of dating did not exist in biblical times and even many cultures today do not practice dating either.
Scripture, however, does provide a few general principles that can be applied to the modern practice of dating and courtship, including maintaining a proper perspective while dating and focusing on purity in romantic relationships.
Common ‘Biblical’ Methods and Rules for Dating
In churches and Christian culture, there are many popular rules for dating. Some of these include not holding hands or not showing affection, only dating someone with the intention of marrying them, only dating for a set period, having a required chaperone on dates, or not dating at all in order to wait for a person’s “one true love” to come.
These rules are not found in the Bible since Scripture does not discuss dating. Instead, these assumptions have developed over time due to major movements in Christian culture.
In the early 2000s, Joshua Harris’ book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, swept through the Christian world and encouraged Christians to no longer date, but wait for the one person whom they would marry.
Many believers followed the teachings found in the book and refused to date anyone to instead wait for the divinely chosen person whom God intended for them to marry. Such teachings gradually declined in popularity and Joshua Harris recanted his book in 2016 and announced he was no longer a Christian in 2019.
Currently, the popular trend among evangelical Christians is to prepare and pray for their future spouse. This is especially popular among Christian girls and women who are encouraged to prepare, pray, and dream about their future husbands. Dating is not discouraged but is rather pushed into strict seriousness by requiring Christians to date with the intention of marrying.
The problem with this view, however, is that there is nothing in Scripture about praying for one’s future spouse, someone that is unknown or may not even exist. While Christians can participate in dating, there is no biblical promise or guarantee that every Christian will have a spouse.
Maintaining a Proper Perspective While Dating
For Christians, their first priority in all situations should always be the Lord (Matthew 6:33; Luke 10:27). Oftentimes in dating, people become infatuated and almost obsessed with their new boyfriend or girlfriend. Other important relationships often take a back seat to the new person they are dating.
Even a Christian’s relationship with the Lord can be negatively impacted by putting too much focus, time, and energy into pursuing dating or a new relationship. As Marshall Segel states in his article about dating, “The first step in dating should always be the step of faith we take toward our Lord, Savior, and greatest Treasure, King Jesus” (“The Golden Rule in Christian Dating,” Desiring God).
Just as each individual Christian should be deliberate about their relationship with the Lord, seeking to glorify Him in their life, they should also ensure that the person they are dating is completely in love with the Lord. Believers should not date unbelievers because of the possibility of marriage in any dating relationship (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).
Also, even if a Christian is dating a believer, they need to be aware of the other person’s relationship with God. Are they actively growing in their walk with Christ? Do they desire to love Him more than anything in the world, including being in a relationship or getting married? Believers should be aware of the spiritual state of the person they are seriously dating.
Finally, in regard to keeping a proper perspective while dating, Christians should also avoid falling into the trap of desperation. The church culture in the Western world, especially America, places a large emphasis on marriage, which places pressure on single believers to get married.
This often causes single Christians to become desperate and to date anyone because of the pressure to be married often just to have sex within the confines of marriage. Such a mindset goes against the Bible, which urges believers to seriously consider marriage or singleness based on legitimate reasons and not because of external pressure (1 Corinthians 7:35).
Although these Christians can still date with the intention of finding someone to marry, there is still the possibility that they will remain single for a part or the rest of their life. Being single is not a lesser state but has many great benefits in serving the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32, 34).
Believers would be wise not to waste the time they have as single individuals, but instead pray and be open to God’s guidance about when, who, and if they should be dating.
The Need for Biblical Purity
While Scripture does not give any rules for how a person should date, the Bible does teach about the need to maintain purity in romantic relationships (1 Corinthians 6:13). Purity is a foreign idea to the worldly system, which promotes sexual immorality.
Many unbelievers and even some believers will commonly date someone, live with them for a while, and then find another boyfriend or girlfriend. However, Christians who want to live glorifying lives for Christ according to the Bible should avoid the temptation of living with their girlfriend or boyfriend and instead maintain celibacy until marriage.
Teenagers and young adults are especially susceptible to the temptation of sexual relations outside of marriage because of the inundation of lust-inducing messages from movies, TV shows, music, and celebrities.
Scripture speaks against this, however, by stating, “Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts” (2 Timothy 2:22, NLT). Sexual relations should only occur within the bonds of marriage, between a husband and his wife (Matthew 19:4-6; Hebrews 13:4).
Thus, Christians who are dating should avoid any situations for the temptation to sin (1 Corinthians 6:18). Having accountability to godly family members and friends can help protect against sinning against the Lord and the person one is dating.
Also, asking for friends to double date could also be helpful in some situations. Believers should be aware of their hearts and know what will cause temptation, which can help prevent compromising situations of impurity.
If a Christian is tempted during a date, they should pray and seek to leave the situation (1 Corinthians 10:13). Both men and women followers of Christ should pursue purity in their dating relationships to glorify the Lord and follow His Word (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Christians and Dating
Though there are many dating methods and rules suggested in Christian circles, the Bible does not explicitly discuss how a Christian should approach dating. However, Christians need to view dating differently than those in the world, which promotes impurity and sexual immorality.
Instead of merely thinking about their own preferences in finding a boyfriend or girlfriend with the intention of marrying, believers should place God first in their lives and seek to be pleasing to Him in all they do, including dating.
Staying focused on one’s love for God will provide a proper perspective for romantic relationships since God is the one who provides ultimate fulfillment and love.
For further reading:
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Motortion
Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry and currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Ministry, she is passionate about the Bible and her faith in Jesus. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.