Alas, the teenage years. They are years so full of life, emotion, changes, and new information. Filled with homework, football, video games, music, and of course…dating! Ah yes, the age-old ritual of dating…or is it? You know, dating really isn’t that old. It started somewhere around the 1920’s, when our modern-day culture was starting to move more towards and attitude of the here-and-now. Everybody’s mindset became more geared toward instant gratification. After dating became more common and widely accepted in our nation, many problems started arising in relationships.
Divorce rates started to soar and pop music began singing songs about broken hearts (Harris, 1997). Is this ritual of dating the cause for all these problems? If so, then as Christians, should we abandon our society’s mating rituals and declare dating wrong or evil? This is the question that has puzzled me for many years, and so I now write on what my research into this controversial topic has thus far concluded. Before dating came into existence, there were a variety of different cultural approaches to marriage.
Two of the most widely used have been courtship and arranged marriages. Courtship is where a young man, or possibly an older man, goes to the father of a girl that he knows to ask his permission to begin courting his daughter with the intent of marrying her. You couldn’t just court one person and then if it didn’t work out, break up and move on to the next person. Once you courted someone, you didn’t back out. You only courted if you intended to marry. Arranged marriages were totally different. In an arranged marriage, you had little to no say-so upon whom you would marry.
Parents of one child got together with parents of another child and made the arrangements for their children to marry (Harris, 1997). So why does our culture do this dating thing? To answer that question, I think we first need to look at our need as humans for intimacy. From the beginning of time, since God gave us the gift of life, we have this need for a companion. “And God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone…so He made a woman, and brought her unto man”” (Gen. 2:18a, 22b ASB). You see, we have this drive instilled in us that drives us toward intimacy with another human being.
In order to do that, our society has come up with this system of dating. Where you can get to know people of the opposite sex in an intimate way, without marrying them first, in order to make sure it’s someone you love. In the other systems of acquiring a mate you didn’t have the great luxury that we enjoy now, where you can get to know a person before you decided to marry them. In those systems, the person was either already picked out for you, or you picked him or her out and then got to know that person.
That’s why our culture turned to dating. We want to be able to choose whom we marry, and to be able to make sure it’s someone that we love. That in and of itself isn’t a bad idea, but dating was quickly abused as our impatience stepped in and the system quickly turned sour. Instead of using dating to allow two people to get to know each other a little more intimately, as it was intended to do, many people tended to let their impatience drive their dating life and they started getting way too intimate, way too fast (Clark, 2000).
Well, what’s wrong with being intimate,” you might ask, “I thought you said that God created us to be intimate. ” To that I will say, “You are right. ” There is nothing wrong with that – except becoming intimate too soon and in the wrong way. You see, God created us to be intimate with a significant other, but He also designed it to be within certain boundaries. For example, God designed a man and a woman to be intimate by having sex, but only within the confines of marriage. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 24 NASB).
With sex not only comes a physical intimacy and closeness, but a spiritual and emotional closeness as well (Elliot, 1984). Now, as I just stated, sex isn’t the only way to be intimate. Neither are other physical acts that couples engage in. But getting acquainted, talking, and spending time with someone results in the emotional and spiritual intimacy as well. The more time you spend with someone results in the emotional and spiritual intimacy as well. The more time you spend with someone and the more you get to know that person, the more intimate you will become.
That is why you want to be very careful with how much time and effort you put into a relationship with someone. If at some point you and that other person break up, there will be and emotional tear and a scar that will result from that intimacy you had with them being broken (Harris, 1997). Lets focus back on the physical intimacy that often happens in dating. This part I know all to well from experience. As a couple begins to date and spend more and more time together, more than likely, they will begin to get physical in someway or another.
This is because that is what’s natural. With emotional closeness comes physical intimacy. The problem with this is again, becoming too physical, too soon. Most couples start with holding hands, which is followed by hugs and kisses, which in turn can lead to make-out sessions and “petting. ” Then the last stage is intercourse (Ryle, 1886). So you might ask, “Well, I know that sex before marriage is wrong, so how far can I go before I get married? ” Oh man! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that line before.
Let me tell you that as a Christian we shouldn’t be asking ourselves, “How close to the line can I go,” but instead, should be striving to become more like Christ. We should instead ask ourselves, “How pure can I be? ” I think that if we start to take an attitude more like that, then before we even begin to get intimate with another person, a lot of problems will be avoided ahead of time (Clark, 2000). So should we not date in order to avoid these temptations that plague our culture and rituals with dating? Whether you decide to date or not, you will be tempted.
Even in courtship and arranged marriages, there is temptation (Harris, 1997). The question that you need to ask yourself or the decision that you need to make is to remain holy and godly in all your relationships, both romantic relationships and those with all of your friends. Also, you need to make a commitment to sexual and physical purity (Elliot, 1984). Then the dating thing is really up to you and God (Clark, 2000). I don’t think that dating is wrong or evil. But I do think that the way we treat it and the decisions we make will greatly affect our success at this great game we call the MATING GAME!