Friday, October 17, 2008
Principles for Courtship
You’ve finally found someone you think might be Mr (or Mrs) Right. What is your courtship supposed to look like? Google courtship and you’ll find a multitude of opinions. Ultimately though, the Bible is our guide. Call it dating, going out, or whatever you like. The point is that as Christians we need to seek God about the way we do things. Here are some principles I believe are relevant and applicable to couples in all kinds of situations . . .
1. Make sure you're both ready to consider marriage. Dating or courtship should only be entered into if both people are considering marriage, and are ready for it. Readiness can be defined as a willingness and ability to take on the responsibilities of marriage. Courtship is a time to seriously consider a lifelong commitment. If this is not the intention, you may be toying with the emotions and future of a sister or brother in Christ.
2. Seek out godly counsel. Listen to others, especially parents. My father is not a Christian and did not take an active role in setting standards for my relationship with Dave. However, I still asked him for his thoughts about Dave. I have heard many stories of people who ignored their parents’ warnings and came to grief. Unless parents’ views stem from selfishness or unbiblical ideas, they should be treated with the utmost gravity. If parents are not available to give counsel, seek out the advice of pastors and others. Dave and I asked the advice of friends and pastors as well as parents.
3. Honesty is essential in a courtship if both people are to get to know each other. There should be no pretence, and if possible it is good to see each other in a variety of situations.
4. Set clear standards with regard to physical contact. Dave and I are enormously grateful for our decision not to even kiss before marriage. You might not make that call, but other clear boundaries will be necessary if purity is to be maintained (unless you are unnaturally self controlled)!
5. Decide on a time frame. If you’ve decided on what you’re looking for, and you have godly counsel, it shouldn’t take years to decide whether or not to marry. If there is still uncertainty after the time frame you decided on, take a break to consider what God wants. Don’t tie someone up for years with no long-term commitment, especially if you’re not 22. It is not smart or loving.
6. Don't expect things to be perfect. Some people seem to think that if they can only hit on the right method of courtship, it will all be beautiful. They think that they'll be able to avoid hurts. However, our sin and frailties always make relationships risky.
Personally, Dave and I found courtship difficult at times. It was hard to define what our relationship was, and hard to keep saying “if” about our future. Conservative Christian ideas about courtship often focus on ideas such as “emotional purity” and withholding your heart prior to engagement. I found myself feeling guilty for loving Dave. In the end I realised that while remaining emotionally detached might be a good idea, it would require support and help from parents and friends who agreed with this viewpoint. In the points I’ve listed above, I’ve deliberately avoided recommendations that rely upon being part of a distinctive community or family.