Recently there has been an article circulating on FB about concerns regarding courtship.
First, anything that is legalistic is going to have issues. No man-made system is going to guarantee an outcome. Often as Christian parents we think if we just “do everything right” our kids will be happy, successful and serve the Lord. Often I remind parents, and myself, that the Perfect Parent raised the His kids in the Perfect Environment and they sinned. Sure there can be bad outcomes to courtship stories and great outcomes to dating stories. My own unsaved grandparents were married “til death do us part” and were married one month after they began to date. But I would not advocate that as the general way to conduct such business.
There needs to be grace, a concentration on heart- matters, and leading of the Holy Spirit.
However, I think it is wise to consider a general courtship outline. First, parental involvement. Second, seeing how someone acts and reacts in a variety of life situations, Third, not pursing a mate until you are actually or nearly ready to marry. Fourth, guarding hearts, minds and bodies.
Now the standard of modesty where my girls visited in India was to have your ankles covered. There were “modest” women that we would have considered being dressed inappropriately. But the point is they were modest in their culture, and that is where they were living.
You can take the above four points and apply in a variety of ways. I loved that in the multi-volume series by Michael Phillips, Corrie Belle Hollister was an innovative woman who did things that were generally not “done” by women of the day. But when it was time to marry, her suitor came and worked with her dad for a year so he could discern his character. Corrie was committed to following her father’s counsel.
Now, not everyone has a dad who will counsel. Not everyone has a family. Some fathers are overly controlling for selfish reasons. Some live in abusive situations. But it’s a matter of the heart. Are the young people willing to take godly advice? Are they willing to put themselves under someone else’s authority and supervision? Will they heed the warnings of godly people who care about them to keep their relationship on the right track? Are they seeking to please themselves or the Lord? Are they in it for what they want, or looking to the good of the other and the Kingdom of God?
The following is a message I wrote to a friend on this topic. I hope you will find it helpful as well.
I think first you must decide on what is important to you family, what you see as the most likely “weak spots” familialy and in the individual.
Our courtship for one child may not look like another.
My opinion is that dating is a totally false idea of what the person is like. If you see them working, ministering, facing different challenges, in a large group social situation you can tell more about the person’s character than when you are both putting on your best foot forward. One thing that made me fall in love (more) with Terry is how he treated a disabled child and how he spoke to his elderly grandma.
I think in our culture, protection is important. Too many Christians think they can’t fall into temptation, and too many do. I have in recent years discovered more about how many in my grandma’s family were sexually active before marriage and even had babies. Ok, they weren’t Christians and they were a bit wild, though their mom did the best she could (their dad was an alcoholic and they had 19 kids).
In our culture, you date someone even once they feel they have a claim. And while in our parent’s day a guy may not “make a move” on the first date, that isn’t necessarily true now.
The purpose of dating? Well, if you aren’t ready to get married–either by age, maturity or point in life– why are you shopping? I love Sarah’s take (and yes I know she is 30 and single) that you should devote your youth to serving the Lord and not be distracted with male/female dating relationships. Her book is “Before You Meet Prince Charming”.
It disturbs me when middle school kids are “dating’. That is a really long time to wait for marriage. And if it’s not preparation for marriage, what is it?
If the parents are believers especially, it’s wise to honor their counsel. How can they counsel unless they have spent enough time around the guy/girl to know them and have some conversations with them?
My general rule is “if you can’t say/do it in front of me, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.”
I can tell you more of my own story if you would like. But I seriously think it’s much harder to guard hearts and bodies in a dating relationship.
They raise some valid points. But I am not a proponent of dating in the traditional sense.
Think of a generation older. Families/communities would have known both young people growing up. The guy had permission to come calling. If he can’t respect her dad, how can they have a good relationship after they are married? If he can’t ask permission, how is the young man going to respond to a boss? Now there are exceptions to this, most of them obvious in our fallen and increasingly sinful world..
The young man may have courted the young lady at her home, but the family was about and they both knew it. They may have gone to a barn dance or some kind of church social, but there were loving adults around. My impression is that they often encouraged, even through teasing, the appropriate matches.
Now, if a young couple goes out, it is rare that they will see older adults who care about them. And if they do, it’s even more rare that they will interact.
Ultimately, it’s up to you, the Lord, and your spouse But I think you are wise to be instilling the values you have in your children when they are young. And if nothing else, I would encourage them to see “dating” or “courtship” not as a recreational activity, but something to be pursued when they are actually ready , or nearly ready, to marry, just as I would encourage you to instill in your young people that marital intimacy is a good thing…but it’s for marriage. The right thing at the right time is a wonderful thing!