The decision about whom to marry is second in importance only to the decision to commit one’s life to Jesus Christ. How to come to know who to marry is a confusing process for many people – young and old alike. The phase of getting to know who to marry is known by different terms including dating, going out, going steady or courtship. What happens in this phase largely depends on one’s conviction to their belief system.
Most people use the term dating nowadays, but what did this practice come from? “According to cultural historian Beth Bailey, the word date was probably originally used as a lower-class slang word for booking an appointment with a prostitute. With time dating became the “competitive game,” it is today. It has largely become a way for girls and boys to demonstrate their popularity. In dating one can have serial intimate relationships before marriage. It’s what others have called “test driving” a girl or boy friend. This is a selfish and wrong attitude that asks the wrong question: “How do I know if she’s the one … for me.” It puts the woman or young man on an extended trial period to determine whether or not she meets your needs, fits with your personality and satisfies your desires. This is inherently an ungodly attitude to marriage and relationships in general.
Such an approach to relationships ends in confusion, hurt and sexual sin. There is a lot of fornication that takes place as young people engage in seemingly innocent and harmless touching, kissing, smooching and explicit letters describing each other. The close-by dances and watching age appropriate movies but taking advantage of the darkness to get physically “tight” all “awaken love” before it is ready. If one can tell when sex starts, then they would known when not to ignite the fire! In most cases families have no idea what happens and the church has taken no time to look into these issues.
Many young people seem to be seeking for guidance in these issues so that they get to know who they will marry without getting hurt or compromising their faith. What they are looking for is the original practice of courtship. Courtship is the “preparation for and proposal of marriage” through a period in which one man and one woman spend intentional time together to get to know each other with the expressed purpose of evaluating the other as a potential husband or wife. It is therefore a pre-marital relationship between a single man and a single woman:i
- That begins with the man approaching a woman with clear intentions to marry.
- That is conducted under the authority of the woman’s family or church; and
- That always has marriage as its direct goal.
Courtship asks the question: “Am I the sort of man a godly woman would want to marry?” In that process one evaluates themselves against the characteristics of an elder that Paul lays out in 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and work toward those. For women consider qualities of a “beautiful woman” as stated in the bible. Proverbs 31, Titus 2:3-5, 1 Peter 3:1-7 and Ephesians 5:22-33. Courtship challenges one to be the right person, rather than looking for the right person.
The greatest danger of dating is the harm it causes in marriage. Our bodies are the temple of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 6:16 and I find Pastor Evan Mawarire putting it best: Many of us have allowed the wrong priests into the “Lord’s Temple” and they die there. Only Christ, the High Priest is able to get into the Temple and cleanse it. We pray that if you are free of dead priests, you be sure NOT to allow dead priests into God’s Temple. If you have any dead priest, that turn around and allow Christ, the High Priest to cleanse you today. Then you will be able to serve God in your marriage.ii
by Leonard and Fiona Makoni (used with permission)
ii Married for God – Christopher Ash