Dating Without Dying (Pt.1 of 3) – Solid Tips for Christians who are Starting to Date
Every time my wife and I go to a wedding, we always chuckle a bit watching all the single people frolic to and fro. Actually, chuckle isn’t the word. We laugh and shout, “Suckas!” and think smugly: “Man, it’s great to be done with that season of our lives.”
Don’t get me wrong: Young love is exciting. There’s an unmatched adrenaline that comes by being on the market. And yet, it’s also a time of caustic idealism and gut-wrenching uncertainty. It can be hard to navigate through the wiles of the dating process.
But the good news is this: God has a plan for dating. But it requires us to rethink a few bad habits that are common in modern dating culture.
So the questions we’re exploring are these: How do we date without dying? How do we know if a person is “the One?” What are a few of the classic mistakes couples make? And what are some practical ways we can avoid them?
1. Don’t Date Someone who merely has “Potential.”
A lot of single Christians tell me, “It’s hard to find someone who truly loves the Lord… And if they DO love the Lord, they’re usually weird and ugly!” Or, people tell me: “If I keep my spiritual standards too high, I’ll always be single.” — both of which are ridiculous lies. The truth is, many Christians simply don’t believe that their Father in Heaven loves them. They don’t trust him to provide a perfect spouse at the perfect time. And as a result, they lower their standards and they settle for a “fixer-upper:” a person who’s technically a Christian but; they don’t have a passionate relationship with the Lord and his church.
“But, they have the potential of being a passionate Christian,” people say; or, “…if I help them along, I just know I can reignite their passion for Jesus.”
But think about it: If you went in for surgery, would you want your doctor to be a newbie or an expert? “Potential” is not the quality we look for when it comes to an issue of significance. It’s fine if you’re buying a house because you can resell a house with potential. But you can’t resell a spouse… at least, we’re not supposed to (it’s technically illegal). In the end, you want someone who actually demonstrates the character attributes you need – and has done so for a while.
Obviously, the Bible is replete with warnings about yoking ourselves with weak believers (Prov. 12:26; Prov. 13:20; Ezra 9-10; 1 Cor. 15:33). And the reason why the Bible devotes so many passages to the topic is because it wrecks so many people’s lives!
Thus, 2 Cor. 6:14 talks about our relationships using a farming metaphor called, “equal yoking.” In Bible times, when a farmer needed to plow his field using oxen, it was critical that the oxen had a similar muscle build. If you connected a strong ox with a weaker one (using a wooden yoke), the strong oxen would always outpace the weaker one – causing the plow to veer off in a big circle rather than a straight line. And so it is with intimate relationships. When we yoke ourselves to other weaker people through marriage, through business and other big commitments, it causes our lives to go in circles. We can never truly experience the harvest of God because we will always have doubting friends who will talk us out of the calling God has for us. In some ways, this is great analogy because you can still be “unequally yoked” to a Christian.
So, how do we know if the person we’re dating is “equally yoked” to us? Must they have the same quantity of Bible knowledge? Nope. But look at their habits: Do they run to the Lord when they’re discouraged? Do they consistently pursue the “fruit of the Holy Spirit” (Eg. “peace, patience, kindness, etc. Gal.5:22).
Years ago I had a good friend who was a leader with me at church. He was “single & ready to mingle” and along came this ridiculously good looking girl. She was consistent in coming to church yet; over time, she was always apathetic about pursuing her faith. She refused to serve in a ministry. Small groups were never a priority. Don’t get me wrong: She was never “anti-God.” But, as my friend dated her, I saw my friend’s walk with God seriously cool down.
After getting married, she basically started backing out of everything related to church. And even worse, she started to reset his church involvement. Every time he wanted to volunteer in a small group or give to a charity, it would result in a week long fight.
Week after week, he’d cry in front of me saying: “I can’t even share the most beautiful and deep aspects of my life with her.” Later on, he even confessed that he was struggling with the idea of an affair: “If I would have just waited a year more, I could have found a wife who could completely share all of this with me… but at the time, I was more worried about good looks than true character.” And not surprisingly, a few years later, they ended up divorcing.
But how did this happen? In fairness, it was dozens of things: As scholars point out, “the emotion [we] interpret as love is in reality some other emotion – often a strong sex drive, fear, or a hunger for approval.” And how do we know if we’re mis-reading our emotions? Well, for starters: Take your time dating! Be sure to date a person through a variety of seasons. How do they react when they’re down and out? : “Couples who dated for three years or more before getting engaged were 39% less likely to divorce than those who saw each other for a year or less.”  Yet, you also don’t want to date so long that you struggle with sexual temptation either. After all, couples who have pre-marital sex tend to experience even higher odds of divorce (as we’ll find out in Part 2!)
But allow me to give you a simpler way to discern if you’re equally yoked with someone: The best predictor of the future is their present habits: Do they actively demonstrate the habits of upward transformation? This leads to point number two.
2. Don’t Date Anyone Who doesn’t have Four to Seven Intimate Christian Friends and a Weekly Ministry in a Local Church:
Why is this important? Because, the top two statistical predictors of spiritual growth are right here! Studies show that the odds of a person serving Christ over the long haul are quite slim without good fellowship and a good ministry outlet. Couples who serve on a weekly basis in their churches have better sex lives, better time-management, better friends; better life-expectancy; better child outcomes; higher levels of happiness; higher levels of academic achievements; better financial management; even better life-expectancy! (And if you want to hear more about this research, click here). Quite simply: “Planted in the house of the Lord, [we] will flourish” (Psm 92:13).
Yet, it’s fascinating to note: None of the above benefits automatically apply to Christians – ONLY THOSE who attend church every week and are involved in a weekly ministry. Strangely, these secular university studies found that “all of these benefits completely drop out for Christians who attend church less than once a week!” Thus, I taught both of my daughters: “Don’t just settle for a Christian.” Make sure they have an “environment” that fosters transformation (a.k.a., “4-7 friends and weekly ministry”).
A while back, I came upon a blog of a young man who recently visited Substance. It was clear from his blog that he was a fairly new Christian. And towards the end, when he mentioned our church, he literally said: “Dude, there are so many hot girls there! It’s definitely the place to hook up!” Of course, I was a bit disappointed that my preaching wasn’t the top draw (he even said that I was over-caffeinated and a little agitating to watch : ) But my next thought was this: “How do I protect the ladies from guys like this?!” And for all you great single guys out there… please note: There are good number of wild-women to avoid too! Hence, I tell people all the time: Don’t assume that, just because they’re ‘in-church’ that they’re healthy!
A family researcher once told me that 88% of men struggle with masturbation and porn addiction (even in Christian circles). And why does that matter? Well, several university studies have proven, the mere act of marrying a porn viewer has a huge negative impact on self-esteem, depression, eating disorders and marital contentment ( click here for more). So, trust me: You don’t want to marry a person who sugar-coats their life with a little Christianity.
And don’t get me wrong: Being “equally yoked” doesn’t mean: “Find a perfect person” either; rather, it means: find a person who is pursuing deep accountable fellowship with other Christians.
“But Pastor Peter, if I hold my criteria that high, I’ll never get married!” That is TOTALLY FALSE! (Notice, I had to use all caps there to be dramatic). There’s this faithless mentality that there ‘isn’t anyone out there’ that’s “passionate.” “And if there is, they’re probably ugly & have a giant unibrow and extra long nose-hairs that flap in the breeze when they talk. (And no offense if you have all of these things. God has a plan for you too — it’s called hair removal : )
But, listen to me: God LOVES you! He’s not going to marry you to some dog! He’s your FATHER… and a perfect one at that! How can you trust God with your eternal soul and not trust God here? …unless you don’t really trust God with either?
And this leads us to my next point:
3. Who You are is Who You Attract:
If you want to accelerate God’s timeline for your life, the best way to do it is by working on your character. Stop praying for a spouse and start praying for the character that’s worthy of the spouse God is bringing. Besides, a happy single person is a happy married person. Marriage won’t change your character; but it will reveal it. If you’re a lusty single person who struggles with porn, you’ll be a lusty married person who struggles with porn. (& if you ARE addicted to porn, read this). Guys: If you have lust problems… foolish debt… no job… no direction… no financial stability…why would God give you his princess? Seriously?
You see, Godly character can actually make you better looking. It’s true. So, in the meantime, work on your inner beauty. It might just be the very thing that’s been obstructing the next phase of his divine timeline for you.
But as for more tips, get ready: In part 2, I have 3 more critical tips for you that are sure to take a huge amount of stress out of the dating process. But in the meantime, ask yourself: How am I doing on these first three ideas? Where do you feel tension here? Take time to talk with a mature Christian about it. God is certain to grant wisdom to those who seek it! (James 1:5).
 See the book, “Ther Mirages of Marriage” by Lederer, W. J., and D. D. Jackson. 1968. New York: W. W. Norton. Pg 42
 “9 Signs Your Marriage Will Last” by Kate Rockwood Time Magazine, pg 32 (Time Magazine: The Science of Marriage – Special Edition)