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?
There was just too much good stuff unpack when I answered this question in “4 Instructions for Relationships,” so here are four more biblical instructions for doing the guy/girl thing God’s way. If you didn’t catch it that Q&A post, be sure read it first!
Instruction #5: Honor your parents.
While you’re under your parent’s authority, they play a big role in keeping you in line with God’s best for your life.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” (Eph. 6:1–3).
Unfortunately, Paul didn’t qualify this verse with “obey—as long as your parents rules are fair, cool, lenient, make sense, and don’t make you look like a weirdo.” Unless your parents ask you to do something opposite of God’s will (like team up with someone who isn’t a believer), their rules stand. The redeeming factor, though, is that even if their rules truly aren’t fair or needed, God promises to bless you if you obey Him on this one.
Instruction #6: Be holy.
Another biblical command we can apply to love and dating is to be holy. First Peter 1:13–16 says:
Prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. . . . Live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”
To be holy means to be set apart. You could think of it as having a heart free from anything that doesn’t properly belong there. God wants His children to be different from the world around us; He wants our hearts to be wholly His and wholly pure.
So how can we follow this command to “be holy” in our dating life? When it comes to guys and love, what doesn’t belong in our lives? Physical intimacy is a big one, but it’s more than not having sex before marriage; God wants your heart to be pure, too. Also, not “living to satisfy [my] own desires” means not making guys into an idol. It means practicing true love. And it means choosing a dating model that is others-focused, not self-focused.
Instruction #7: Don’t settle for less than true love.
The point of any form of dating is to find lasting love, right? If your heart longs for a deep and true love, why mess around with anything less? What would be the point of giving any part of your heart to a guy who isn’t committed to loving you with the real deal—the real kind of love? First Corinthians 13 describes true love this way:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. . . . So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:4–7,13).
That’s true love. The Bible actually says that God is love (1 John 4:16), but as a society, we’ve twisted that verse to read, “Love is God.” We worship love, guys, marriage, and sex. But real love doesn’t pretend to be ultimate; real love bends the knee to God. If you want a romance that honors God, don’t idolize fake love. Instead, wait for the real thing—a kind of love that recognizes God is number one and worships Him alone.
Real love doesn’t pretend to be ultimate; real love bends the knee to God.
I’d add that waiting for real love probably means waiting until you’re ready and old enough to commit to a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love yourself. Trying to love a guy “through every circumstance” when you’re in high school isn’t always realistic, you know?
Instruction #8: Consider that “normal” isn’t always best.
Just because everybody seems to be doing something doesn’t mean it’s best. In fact, if most of the world—a world that doubts God’s existence and rejects His commands—is doing something, there’s a good chance it’s not best! King Solomon warned against swimming with the crowd in many proverbs, like this one:
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death (Prov. 14:12).
Talk about a reason to go against the norm! I’m sure you’re not looking for death (even the allegorical variety) anytime soon. Question everything, including whether the world has got it right when it comes to dating. We have to be willing to ask ourselves those hard questions, like whether the path we’re taking seems right or is right. If you’re not sure, another proverb gives us a fail-safe:
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death (v. 27).
In a nutshell, to fear the Lord means to honor, respect, and obey Him. So if you’re searching the Scriptures and honestly doing your best to honor and respect God by following His commands, you’ll ultimately make it through okay.
The Freedom to Choose
So is there a better way than the conventional dating philosophy of hook-up, break-up, hook-up, break-up? Absolutely! But what that model looks like in your love story depends on you. You have the freedom to choose. As long as you’re following God’s guidelines for relationships, including the eight instructions I’ve shared in these past two posts, you can choose to date, court, stay single, or make up your own self-named relationship model!
Ask God to give you the wisdom to know how to do romance in a way that makes Him look good (a.k.a., brings Him glory), and then listen for the Holy Spirit to guide you into truth. Jesus said that those who listen to and obey His commands are like a man who built his house on the rock. You can’t go wrong with that.
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.