A Christian Perspective on Dating
Two of my good friends in high school had been dating for at least a year when I double-dated with them and discovered that they had never even kissed. The guy was leaving for college in the fall, and they both believed that the separation would be easier if they were not very physical during their time together. Was I shocked! I thought they were really crazy, for I couldn't imagine even wanting to choose such a thing.
Of course I now look at them with a great deal of respect, and wish I had been more like them in my own dating relationships. Both my friends are now married to other people, and I'm sure they are very grateful for that highly unusual choice they made six years ago.
Making such a choice is not easy in today's society. We are constantly bombarded by radio, TV, movies and books with messages telling us how wonderful physical love is, how important it is for relationships and how little commitment is required to show physical love to someone else. Shows such as “Love Boat,” where couples fall in love and then into bed in the course of one weekend, are as common to us as snow in winter.
How easy it is for us to apply that philosophy to real life and to expect people who have been dating two or three weeks (or less) to be kissing already. Then those two people – who may otherwise know very little about each other – are expected to wait at least a year, and often much longer, before being married. However, the level of their physical relationship is already far beyond all other aspects of their relationship, and they trap themselves into feeling “in love” with someone they hardly know.
What makes it so difficult to choose to put the physical relationship temporarily on hold – and to stick by that choice? One of the biggest reasons is our sinful nature's longing for immediate gratification of our desires. It is just as difficult for some people to say no to food, alcohol or drugs, as it is for us young people to choose to wait until marriage to fulfill our desire for sex.
Another reason is lack of specific guidelines with strong, specific reasons to back them up. Too often we are simply told “premarital sex is wrong” without any good reasons why. We hear an overpowering message from the world to “go for it” now and are not getting an opposing message strong enough to convince us to wait. We need to hear more than “it is bad, it is wrong, don't do it.”
Although the choice is certainly a difficult one to make, it cannot, for that reason, be overlooked or ignored. Since chastity is such an important choice to make, we should understand why pre-marital sex is wrong.
See reasons clearly
First of all, and most importantly, God's word clearly shows us that sex is intended only for marriage and is spoiled in any other context. Premarital sex includes petting and extreme passion, because the intimacy of these activities should be kept within the bonds of marriage.
There are negative consequences from violating God's commands including unwanted pregnancy and venereal disease. Most people who get involved in pre-marital sexual activity experience guilt feelings and/or flashbacks later. How tragic to keep remembering one's past when trying to make a new beginning with a spouse. The solution to this problem is to express affection only in ways of which one would not be ashamed later.
Rationalizing premarital sex on the basis that, “This is the person I'm going to marry anyway,” does not excuse it. For who can predict without a doubt until his wedding day that he will marry the person he believes he will? Sex is ultimately unfulfilling without the commitment before God and men which a couple makes on their wedding day, so it must be saved for marriage.
A final reason is one I mentioned earlier. Because the physical relationship almost always progresses the most quickly and easily, it needs to be saved until two people know each other much more thoroughly in other ways – emotionally, mentally, socially, spiritually. The physical relationship is much more rewarding when it follows, rather than leads, the growth of the other aspects of a relationship.
Focus on God's love
Now, some practical suggestions are in order. First of all, we must keep in mind that the most important goal of any relationship is to truly love the other person. That means what 1 Corinthians 13 says – to be patient, kind, forgiving, humble, trusting, full of hope and perseverance towards our parents, our best friends, our classmates and the people we are dating. We all need to work at finding ways to show love to other people – creative ways beyond the physical, so that we feel comfortable expressing love in many ways.
Find creativity, too, in getting to know the many aspects of the person you are dating. Be willing to avoid situations that will be physically tempting. Rather, choose activities that will show you more about another of the many sides of the other person. If the person you are dating does not share your willingness to avoid physical temptation, perhaps you need to avoid that relationship for a while.
Making these choices is difficult without support, so pray that God will provide a friend with whom you can discuss your ideas. Together you can pray, hold each other accountable and grow in knowing yourselves and God. Also, take advantage of Christian literature written for our age group (teens and college-age) that encourages us to say no to premarital sex. Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot is good. Another good author is James Dobson.
Finally, be constrained to obedience by the love and forgiveness Jesus has given you. Guilt feelings cannot be the motivation for your choices about your physical relationships, for feelings never last. Instead, by remembering Christ's unchanging love for you, you will be compelled to respond in love and obedience to him. Passion and Purity contains the beautiful and somewhat incredible story of God's grace in the lives of Elisabeth and Jim Elliot during the six years before their marriage. Mrs. Elliot shares the way God taught her throughout the agonizing years of knowing and loving Jim without the confidence that they could marry.
This book is deeply personal and well written, and contains a great deal of truth about the sanctity of sex; I highly recommend it. High school and college students would benefit from reading this work.
However, as you read it, do not be surprised if you become somewhat irritated with Mrs. Elliot, for she at times comes across as rather sanctimonious. At first I felt guilty for not having exactly the same experiences she had, and for not struggling in the same way or as deeply as she did over the Lord's will for my life versus my will for my life. But on a second reading, being more prepared to tune out self-comparison, I found a great deal of good and truth in her book.
Good parenting is a key factor in helping teens say no to sex, and Dr. Leman offers helpful advice to parents in Smart Girls Don't. He describes the pressures and perspectives unique to today's adolescents in an attempt to give parents an understanding and awareness of their children's behavior and attitudes.
This book is particularly relevant for college-age folks who are far enough removed from the awkwardness of adolescence to appreciate the wisdom of Leman's words.
Leman has a solid biblical perspective on family relationships and on the whole issue of premarital sex, though the basis for his views does not hit the reader full force initially.
The book is good for both parents and young people in decision-making about sex and dating. Those struggling with sexual temptations within relationships would find that this book will strengthen or establish a commitment to avoid premarital sex.