By Chioma Oparadike, Crosswalk.com
Do you sometimes feel the world is fixated on dating and relationships and these fixations have also trickled into the church?
As singles, we are often flooded with advice and suggestions about how to date and what to do to get a date.
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The Dating Tips We Hear
Many of us have had well-meaning family and friends share their dating tips and how we can keep a relationship.
You may have heard a few of these:
- Only date them if you’re attracted to them.
- Don’t kiss.
- Kiss but only after the third date.
- Sex is okay if you truly love each other (yes, I once heard this from a Christian lady).
- Always look good so you keep them interested.
- You should only shake hands and nothing else.
- Don’t spend any time alone with them.
- Spend more time alone with them so you know them better.
- Only date them if they have a good job.
- He is a keeper if he has a good relationship with his mom.
You will notice that a few of these tips are conflicting, should I “kiss or not kiss?” We are often left trying to decipher which ones to accept or reject.
One thing many of these suggestions and advice fail to capture is our ‘Why’. It is so focused on the ‘what’ of dating that it fails to consider why we should be dating.
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The Origin of These Dating Tips
Have you ever wondered how some of these dating tips became the acceptable standard for dating, even amongst Christians?
Some societies promote relationships at all costs, where it is more important to be attached to someone than to be alone. We unconsciously celebrate those in relationships and deride those who are still single, painting a picture of loneliness and despair.
The media also influences the way we date. As a romantic, I will confess that books and romance movies influenced my dating past. I was all for the ‘tall, dark and handsome’ man with the right amount of swag, intellect, and wealth. I allowed the fairytales of Disney princesses lead me down a path of make believe, which caused more grief and despair.
But here’s where it gets interesting; even when I sought Christian alternatives, I realized some of these were just “no-sex” versions of the worldly options. The characters were usually attractive, worked based on their feelings and had shallow conversations.
I have since learned that the most crucial part of any Christian relationship is God. Though we often sideline him by focusing on our emotions. The truth is that we have no business dating (no matter how amazing the person is) if God is not in our relationship and we are not guided by God’s word. This may seem extreme to you but have you considered the impact dating the wrong person could have on your life?
For you are not to be: “…conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing your mind. Then you will able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
Here are five reasons why we need to stop using the world’s metrics to date:
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1. The Purpose of dating
One thing the world is very fuzzy about is the why of dating.
Dating is often premised on whom we like or whom we think we should like. For some, dating is seen as an antidote to loneliness and shame. We are made to believe that to belong, we must be in a relationship. All the many high school movies and Hallmark romances are testament to this.
But are these good enough reasons for us?
As Christians, the ultimate reason for dating must be marriage and nothing else.
We don’t date to while away time, or because everyone else is doing it; but because we know we are ready to get married.
Dating for us is so much more than two people liking themselves. It is about two people who decide they are ready to take steps toward the marriage covenant as a symbol of their commitment to God and each other.
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2. The world places more emphasis on feelings and attraction
In dating, chemistry is much more than a subject. We hear words like: “He makes me feel good”, “I’m attracted to her”, “I lose my breath when he’s around.”
These statements have become so commonplace that we have used them as benchmarks in dating. I know how many times I allowed my feelings dictate the tone of my relationships.
But basing our decision to date on attraction is a slippery slope to nowhere.
Studies have shown that different things influence our attraction – our experiences, they way they look and even the weather. If this is true, then it explains why attraction is often temporary and not a good indicator of a lasting commitment.
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3. The world promotes physical intimacy in dating
While dating gives room for intimacy, we notice that the world places more emphasis on physical intimacy as a test for compatibility. But as Christians, our focus should be on spiritual intimacy. For it is only when we start here that we are able to guide and regulate our feelings.
Let me put this in context: I learned firsthand how going the physical route affected my relationships. Once I kissed the guy, it became harder to just talk anytime we met. Our meetups became about kissing and touching, even though we both agreed to no sex.
See, our flesh wants what it wants and once we give it room, it will take the whole house. It is unbridled and will do anything to satisfy its desires.
This is why we are encouraged to: “…walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16
We cannot believe the lie that we need to be physically intimate to confirm our compatibility with another person. Think about it: how come the relationships and marriages of these people still collapse? This must mean that dating and marriage goes beyond physical compatibility.
Another lie the world peddles is that we need sex to be healthy and happy and it is impossible to be celibate. The truth is that God created us as sexual beings but he confined sex to marriage, for our own good because he knows how sex affects us (spirit, body and soul).
Our lord and savior calls us to spiritual intimacy where we love unconditionally, where we want the best for others (even if this doesn’t include us), and we do not judge others by how they make us feel.
“My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12
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4. The world often undermines the place of friendship
There are times when I feel friendship in dating is underrated. The need to be friends with our date is often ignored. The emphasis is usually on doing everything you can to be in relationship including being on your best behavior and showing your best side.
But as Christians, friendship remains an important part of our connection. When we start out as friends, first, it makes the relationship richer. It's more fulfilling because they know and understand us, and we are able to be our authentic selves with our date. We wouldn’t have to pretend.
This does not mean we don’t try to be better versions of ourselves but it means our decisions to be better is more about growing as Christians.
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5. The world has a different definition of love
The world’s definition of love is often steeped in lust, infatuation, and pleasure. It is more about the way the person makes us feel. We go by the butterflies running around in our stomach, the current that runs from the nape of our neck to our lower back. But what is love, God’s way?
For one thing, it’s not about the emotions. It is an intentional decision.
Here is what love is: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy…it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love…always protects, it always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7
Long after the feelings, after the throb of our heightened emotions fizzle out, our love must remain because it is not tied to how we feel or what we want but about commitment, about sacrifice, and about acceptance.
Beyond these reasons, I hope you trust that God is able to give you all that you need right when you need it. Rather than burden yourself with all the many rules about dating, seek to make the most of your single years.
Enjoy the magic in little moments and remember that God’s plans are for your good and will give you a future and a hope.
Having done life and dating the world’s way, Chioma Oparadike believes it’s time today’s Christians tried things God’s way. Chioma shares her experiences and encouragement to young women through her blog www.chiomaoparadike.com and has a 30-Day Devotional, Your Restored Life: Living a Life of Grace and Love, to help women live boldly as God’s daughters.
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