Q: I don’t want to hook up with guys just for fun, but I also think courting is, like, too restrictive. Is that the only way to honor God in a relationship? Is it ever okay to just go out with a guy that you like?

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That’s a great question! I get asked often whether I recommend dating, kissing it goodbye, giving courting a chance, or whether we should all just pack up and move to a monastery in some remote village of Spain.

There are a few specific methods out there that try to describe what relationships should look like before you tie the marriage knot (and some of them are really good), but any time people start putting labels on “best,” I start to sweat. I love freedom and hate legalism! I do think the Bible has some pretty important things to say about guy-girl relationships, though, and when the God of the universe tells us how to do love well, we should probably listen! So my goal is to simply give you God’s Word and let you decide the best possible way for you to follow it wholeheartedly.

So here’s the burning question: What does the Bible say about dating? Well, nothing about “dating” specifically, but it does have lots of instructions that apply to romantic relationships. Today I’ll give you four of my favorites, with four more to come in my next post:

Instruction #1: Treat each other like family.

Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters (1 Timothy 5:1–2, emphasis added).

In the Body of Christ, we’re family. That means until you’re married, you should be treating your brothers in Christ as just that: brothers. And those brothers-from-other-mothers should be treating you like . . . wait for it . . . sisters. Notice that Paul emphasizes that the brother-sister relationship should be “with all purity.”

Until you’re married, you should be treating your brothers in Christ as just that: brothers.

If we wait to act like we’re married until we actually are, we won’t suffer the emotional and physical consequences of what I call premarital divorce. Instead, we can enjoy all the benefits of family life: having a ton of cool older and younger brothers to look out for us, teach us, and protect us. What girl wouldn’t love that?

Instruction #2: Don’t get trapped.

Like I said, I’m passionate about freedom. More importantly, God is, too. That’s why He sent Jesus to this world to pay the penalty for our sins: He freed us from sin, death, and bondage. If we’re serious about living in and protecting that freedom, sometimes we’re going to have to say “no” to things we’re technically “allowed” to do. Here’s how Paul put it:

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Do we love the freedom from sin Jesus has given us enough to avoid anything—any relationship, any way of dating, anything—that would limit it? Would you steer clear of (or end) a relationship that caused you to be far from God or to focus on the wrong things or to sin in any way?

Instruction #3: Team up with a believer.

This one is pretty short and sweet because the Bible is crystal clear on the subject: If you follow God, you’d best team up with someone who does the same. Dating or marrying someone who isn’t a Christian is just not even an option if you want to be in the sweet spot of God’s best for your life.

Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Yes, we’ve all heard the stories of girls who fell for someone who wasn’t a believer, and they dated them anyway and ended up leading them to the Lord and everyone lived happily ever after. And I am thrilled that God gave those individuals grace and blessed them with happy marriages!

But God does not promise that, and I’ve heard many more stories of God-loving girls who chose to date “really nice”—even “spiritual”—unbelievers and ended up with broken hearts or far from God or in very difficult relationships, especially once they got married and had kids and had to decide what they would teach their children about God. So do yourself a favor and make sure whoever you team up with will lead you closer to the Lord, not further away.

Instruction #4: Choose a godly guy.

Wait for a guy who loves God more than he loves you. Why is that so important? Because God has given husbands some big shoes to fill, and there’s no way they can do it on their own!

Husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. . . .  Each man must love his wife as he loves himself (Ephesians 5:25–26, 33).

Wait for a guy who loves God more than he loves you.

Think a guy can love you with the never-stopping, selfless, purifying, fervent love Christ has for His Bride on his own? No way! He might very well want to, but if your man is not constantly connected to the source of that love—by loving God more than He loves you—he’s going to fail miserably.

So ask yourself this while you’re thinking about what finding your match might look like:

  • How would a godly guy pursue me?
  • Would he expect me to act as if I’m married—emotionally or physically—before we actually are?
  • How would he love me with Christ’s love as we get to know each other and decide whether we’re meant to be?

I think that’s enough to chew on for one post! When you’re ready for more though, check out the next installment: “4 {More} Instructions for Relationships.” They are sure to make you question whether the standard dating go-round is really all it’s cracked up to be!

Love,

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PS: There’s a lot more to be said about each of these tips! If you want to dig deeper into what God says about relationships, you’ll find expanded versions of each tip in my book Crushed: Why Guys Don’t Have to Make or Break You, from which this answer was adapted.