The world of dating is about as convoluted as you’d expect. Two messed-up sinners trying to figure out not only themselves but, now, their date?
Plus, opinions abound out there. And they each differ from the other. My heart with this article, then, isn’t to just add one more voice to the noise – but to humbly, and honestly, clear things up, if I can.
I’d like to lay a framework for teens (and their parents) to think through, to guide.
It’s kinda like those little side-rails in bowling (so thankful for those!). When the ball heads towards the edge, it says, “Nope, can’t go that way,” and so the ball heads back the other way . . . towards the other gutter. To which that side-rail says, “Nope.”
That’s how these 10 Commitments will help with dating. They will act like side-rails to make sure you hit your mark.
(Brief) History of Dating
Briefly, it’s important to understand dating’s context. I’ll go through it quickly:
From the ancient world up until the 19thcentury in America, marriage was commonly arranged. So . . . dating wasn’t really a thing. However, a shift occurred in the 1800s to something called “courtship” or “calling on”someone. With this, a young man would “call on” a young lady by hanging out on the family porch, having dinner, conversation, etc. Importantly, it was always with the lady’s family. The man came into her home.
Then in the 1900s, another switch occurred. The man started taking the young lady out of the home and into the city, all for entertainment and getting to know her. What we now call dating. This helped the couple focus on themselves, sure. But it also took the family out of the equation. It individualized the process.
Dating emphasized having fun, spending money, and being seen. All fine, dandy things. But it tuned out the family. I’m making a big deal of this, because it’ll show up in the 10 Commitments below.
Of course, as dating culture progressed, it evolved into what we’re seeing today in the 21stcentury. Hook-up culture. The mentality is, “Dating’s too hard. Too much time, and sacrifice, and communication. And you don’t know if it’s even going to work out! What if we could just . . . you know . . . skip to sex?”
And with social media, and numerous dating apps now available and heavily promoted, skipping right to a sexual encounter is as easy as sliding your screen left and right.
Like I said, it’s a complicated world. The bowling ball is hard to keep straight. So, without more delay, here are some commitments to think about for Christian teens.
Commitment #1: I commit to being OK not to date.
If you aren’t dating someone, that’s okay! The Bible calls singleness a gift from God. Singles can accomplish much for the Kingdom, because they’re not distracted by that convoluted world of dating!
Many teens are simply too young to date. I talk about that below, in Commitment #4.
Many teens simply aren’t okay with not dating. And it’s problematic. If you always have to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, then it has probably become an idol. A fiber of your identity, flowing from insecurities. Ask your heart why you’re not OK just being single for a season. Take that to the Lord.
Commitment #2: I commit to keep Christ first.
You aren’t doing yourself or your date a favor by putting him or her first. Maybe read that line again!
People aren’t meant to be worshipped. However, as you worship Jesus, keeping Christianity as both the priority and motivation of your life, you will bless your date beyond measure. When you date, you have entered into the training grounds. You begin to train yourself into the future spouse you desire to be.
The greatest spouses love Jesus far more than anyone else. And they show it.
Commitment #3: I commit to understand the gospel of grace.
This is huge and really lends itself to Commitment #2. Do you understand the gospel? If you don’t, dating and marriage will simply not work. Test yourself in this. Next time you jump into a sin that surprises even you, do you run away from God or towards God?
If you find yourself running towards God, you understand grace, that blessed reality that Jesus is most tender with people who are most sinful.
Then, and only then, will you start extending grace to your date – a key ingredient of every relationship.
Commitment #4: I commit to date towards marriage.
You have to ask, “Why am I even dating?” Does anybody even ask this question anymore?!?! If you’re looking to just practice kissing, or to just not be alone, or to put another “trophy” on your shelf, then it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
If, however, you date towards marriage, and you find yourself saying, “Dang, there’s something about this girl/boy that my soul connects with. I’m gonna give it a shot,” then go for it! You might figure out in rapid fashion that it’s a no-go. And that’s fine!
Obviously, this knocks out the Middle School/Junior High. In my opinion, at least. I don’t believe 8th graders and below are ready to even start thinking about marriage. However, enjoying friendships with the opposite sex is gift in life, and a valuable lesson for teens to learn.
Commitment #5: I commit to date other strong Christians.
Someone might be attractive and charming, but if he/she isn’t solid in their faith, then it’s an easy “No”. Make that decision now, by the way. Draw that line now. Don’t allow yourself to get emotionally or physically attached to a non-believer.
Again, a non-believing person might be incredible. And there’s a spark between you. But beneath the surface they don’t understand you at all. Not the main thing of your life. Stay friends, sure. Love them well. But love Jesus more.
Satan will trick you with this one: “If you date him/her, you’ll convert them. You can do it, I’m sure of it.” Sounds good at first, right? But dating is not a mission field. Even Satan knows that. What happens nine times out of 1ten is your faith will fade away.
Commitment #6: I commit to date within my community of loved ones.
I imagine this one sounds like alien-talk. Here’s what I mean. Since dating is too individualized, too private, today, there’s no accountability. Teens are thinking, “Well, I like her . . . and she likes me . . . so I don’t care about anyone’s opinion.” And family dynamics get sour quick.
How, then, do you (a) protect yourself, (b) honor your friends, and (c) make mom happy? Try this. Let your first few dates be with family, at home, eating dinner, playing a board game, watching a movie. Usually this is done when things get serious. No. Do it at the beginning.
Then, once you get the family’s go-ahead, bring your date to your friends. And hang out for a while.
Then, once you have their go-ahead, start dating around town. With the affirmation of loved ones as wind in your sails, enjoy your date.
Obviously, key to all of this is listening to your family and friends. They care, they see what you don’t, just listen.
Commitment #7: I commit to be myself.
Now, this doesn’t mean you’ll never change. We all change. But if you start acting differently around your date than you normally do, red flag. Clear trouble. Psst, that’s why keeping family and friends close in all this is so crucial! They’ll see it and call you out on it!
Personally, this is what I look for first in a friend who’s just started dating. If he is acting normal with his new date, I relax. But when he’s acting too cool, or plain weird, I lean in later and ask some tough questions.
This is one of the biggest reasons why I fell in love with my wife, May. My friends loved her almost as much as I did! And they loved me more when I was around her.
Please just hear me out in all of this: It meant so much to me when they were at my back.
Commitment #8: I commit to establish physical boundaries.
Physical intimacy is God’s idea. It’s good. Like, real good. But it’s like a fire. Fire flicks warmth and light to all who huddle around the fireplace. But move that same fire onto the carpet, and destruction ensues.
In the same way, sex in marriage is life-giving, good in every way. It’s utterly destructive outside of it.
Listen, go to the Lord and ask Him, “Lord, what do I want to save for my future spouse?” and you establish boundaries. Make sure, of course, that it aligns with Scripture. Sexual immorality is a deadly sin, involving all sexual activity outside of a marriage between one man and one woman.
Once you’ve established your boundaries, let that be one of your first conversations with your date. Work to establish those same boundaries between you two. If they aren’t down for it, end it.
Establish boundaries beforehand, because when things get hot and fiery, and you’re just winging boundaries, logic and godliness fly out the window – all that remains is passion. And probably sin.
For real, I’ve never had a married couple say to me, “You know, we wish we would’ve gone further physically when we dated . . . ” No, it’s always the opposite, “The mistakes . . . why did we do those things . . . ?”
Commitment #9: I commit to making Christianity our thing.
Go to church with each other. Be in Bible studies together. Share the gospel with each other. Tell each other what you’re learning. Pray regularly, and not just before meals. Make your Christian faith totally integral to who you are as a dating couple. This becomes the glue that holds so many of these commitments together.
Commitment #10: I commit to honor them.
Whether or not you end up marrying this person, honor them. Be a tool in God’s hand to build this person up. During breakups, honor them. After breakups, don’t go rattling off everything wrong they ever did. Honor them. You want them, even after the breakup, to think so highly of you. And if you stay together, keep on honoring them. Make them feel like a million bucks. And when you botch it, and dishonor them, ask for forgiveness and keep on honoring. What a gift!
10 Commitments of Dating
This doesn’t cover even half of it; let’s all admit that right now. But it’s a start.
Copyright © 2020 by Justin Talbert @ https://getgroundedministries.com . Used with permission. No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from Lifeword.org