Courtship! This is an old term that in the last 10-15 years has had a bit of a revival in certain circles in the Christian community. I believe courtship comes with some positives and negatives. It is an old term, but the problem is that there is not an exact definition for it. Some have a very strict view of what it looks like, while others have a bit more liberal understanding of the term. In short, courtship has been defined as a relationship between a man and a woman in which they seek to determine if it is God’s will for them to marry each other. Under the safety, supervision, and blessing of parents or mentors, the couple concentrates on developing a deep friendship that could lead to marriage, as they discern their readiness for marriage and God’s timing for their marriage (See Proverbs 3:5–7.) It does away with casual dating, and bears in mind dating with a purpose.
So, how did I come (eventually) to the conviction of Christian courtship over the ever popular, and almost completely accepted, view of casual dating? I grew up in a culture that knew no alternative than to have girlfriends from the time I was in 1st or 2nd grade and “date them” or “make them your girlfriend” (insert George Strait’s song “Check Yes or No”). It is all I knew, and I took full advantage of it. I cannot think of going more than a month without a “girlfriend” from the time I was in 3rd grade until I graduated high school. It was all I knew, and it was actually encouraged by not just my culture, but also my church and even my family. Why? It is because in the last 50 years, that is all that has been known as normal. However, I eventually became convicted that there was something wrong with this system and decided that I wanted something more. After searching the scriptures, praying, and talking to older godly couples, the Lord had changed my mind on this cultural dating scene. Then came “Christian Courtship” that had been made popular by pastor/author Joshua Harris in books like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” (which has some flaws) and “Boy Meets Girl” (which corrected the earlier flaws and gave some practical ways to date in a more purposeful and biblical way). I did not know what it would look like completely, but I knew that I was convinced it seemed to be the most Christian and biblical way of dating. And here are a few reasons why . . .
1. What Casual Dating Got Me:
While I enjoyed many of the momentary pleasures of having a girl friend and going on dates, what it often ended with was heart break. Either the girl would leave me for another boy, or I would lose interest and want to move on to someone else. Either way, heart break would often ensue, thus, not taking Solomon’s advice when he wrote in Proverbs 4:23, “above all else, guard your heart.” Casual dating also gave me a loss of innocence. Put a young man and woman in a situation where they are spending a lot of time alone with each other, let their sinful nature take over, and see what happens. Often that leads to many regrets. While this does not have to be the case for everyone, it is an all too familiar scene for many that I know who grew up in the dating culture. Physical and even sexual temptation is hard to overcome when your body is geared toward it. I also got a loss of friendships from dating so casually. Often, when you date someone seriously you invest much time end emotion into that relationship. That is time and energy that you are giving to someone different than your future spouse, and even God. Frequently when the relationship ends, so does the friendship. Even if things end amiably, your future spouse may not like having that old flame around to bring back memories. Thus, a friendship that could have been great is dissolved
2. What Courting Did For Me:
Courtship was a breath of fresh air for me. Over a period of about 2 years I sought the Lord in trying to figure out how to date in Christian way. I knew it would be counter-cultural, but I desired to honor God in my dating life. God sent me the opportunity to practice some of these new (yet old) principles. Jessica (now my wife) met, and then practices these principles of courtship. After 14 months, I somehow convinced her dad to let her marry me . . . and she said yes! So, what did courtship get me? First, it gave me a clear conscience. We were purposeful about keeping our relationship pure. We set up rules for accountability; one of which meant we would refrain from being behind any closed doors. We chose not to kiss until the day of our marriage. We asked others to hold us accountable to these rules. Secondly, it gave us a firm foundation. Jessica and I entered into this relationship with a purpose. The purpose was not just to have fun and see if we were “soul mates.” Our purpose was to see if we were compatible for the purpose of marriage. If we had not been, then it would not have been a failed courtship, it wold have only meant that we were not good for each other in that way. Fortunately for me, God had providently brought us together for the purpose of marriage. Finally, what courtship got me was a wife. That is the end goal of courting right. This is precisely the difference between courtship and dating: the end goal of courting is to see if you both are compatible for marriage. If you are, there is no reason for anything other than marriage. That is where courting is different than just casual dating. While you may end up getting married after dating, that is not necessarily the understood “point” of dating in our (secular and Christian) culture.
Whether you call it courtship or dating, it does not really matter. What does matter is that you have a plan. If you are a Christian then you have no other choice than to seek scripture when it comes to your dating life, or that of your children. I am not saying everyone has to do it the way my wife and I did, but what I am saying is that we need to rethink how we do dating. Let’s make sure that we do it in a way that most honors God and His word. As for my family, we plan to teach our children the principle of courtship. While we may not do it the same way with our children that we did it, we want them to always think biblically and I believe courtship gives us the best understanding of what that looks like. Whatever it looks like, let’s make sure it looks the way God would want it to; the way that would bring Him the most glory!
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B Burrell