When I was coming up into my early 20s there were a series of books about “Biblical Dating.” Now the funniest part about this is that the number one book was written by Joshua Harris who was 22 when he wrote it. He got married right after that which leads me to two conclusions. 1. It worked for him so way to go Josh and 2. Harris was never really single.
The general idea of these books was that dating as we know it was wrong and unbiblical. They suggested “courting” because that was biblical. The idea was that dating/courting is always about figuring out marriage (with them so far), that physical and emotional intimacy should be saved for marriage (ok, still with them at some level) and essentially if you did this right you would get married and not get hurt along the way (whoops!).
There was one book (not by Harris) that went even further. It literally had a chart in it for how far you should go, emotionally, spiritually, and of course physically, at each stage of the “courtship”. Yes that’s right – a chart. Here’s the best part – when I was 26 I dated (courted, talked with, got to know. . . whatever it was) a lady following this exact formula. We talked about it, I read the book and we followed the rules. But, lo and behold, it turns out that I was not the only one this person was courting (or being courted by as the case may be). So a few months into this “relationship”, she said basically, “So, I’m going to marry this other guy.” I wish I was joking. When I was hurt she said something to the effect of, “I don’t understand why we don’t all feel the same thing.” In other words, why didn’t the formula work?
There’s so much here I’m not even sure where to begin. First of all there is no formula to get married. Every marriage story is different. Secondly there is absolutely no correct Biblical dating/courting plan. I mean try to find either in the Bible. It’s just not there. Think about ways people in the Bible found mates. Some examples: Work 7 years for one wife and then 7 more for another, send your servant to a distant country to wait by a watering hole and pick one out, purchase property and get a wife thrown in. It goes on and on.
The Bible doesn’t tell us how to find a mate. It does give us important guidelines for our sexual behavior (much more on this later), it gives us some direction on the type of person to marry, and it does, maybe most importantly, teach us the right way to interact with people. But it just does not give us a plan on how to get married.
But the worst part about these books is that they create an illusion that if you did it the way they tell you (it’s Biblical after all), you will find a spouse and no one will get hurt. This is of course, ridiculous. This idea that if you do it God’s way then all will turn out the way you want it. This isn’t true in any area of life and marriage/singleness is no exception.
No matter what you call it, dating, courting, or whatever, it is only going to work out one time – if ever. And most of those other times someone is going to get hurt. That’s ok. That’s part of trying. It can be part of learning that at the end of the day Jesus has to be our number one love. That’s true even if we do get married. That’s Biblical.