Dating: What’s the Point?

I’m doing something different in this post. I’m actually writing this because of another post I have seen floating around. I don’t do the whole “blog response” thing. It’s not what I base my blog off of. However, this post has been picking up steam in my own personal circles, and I wanted to have a clear and direct way to express my own views. I wanted another side of the argument to be heard.

The blog post in question was written by Matt Morrison. His post, Dating isn’t Marriage (So Stop Acting Like It), has brought up an often debated topic. This is not an attack on Matt. I don’t know the guy personally. I bet he is a wonderful person. I would even be willing to bet that if we sat down to share lunch at a Chipotle, we would find we agree more than disagree on things. However, I think there is more to this topic that needs to be said.

Where I Agree

There is a lot of crazy in the Christian dating world. Too much crazy. Long engagements are becoming the norm. Couples who date for a week lunge into a relationship with the qualities that require experience, growth and maturity without actually possessing anyone of those qualities. It really is a problem, and it is at its worst in the young High School level.

Dating is difficult to assess due to a lack of Scripture on the subject. Matt is right in stating that it is a pretty new concept. It is hard to give an accurate definition of how to date the right way. We have so many opinions on what dating should be. People have changed the terminology. It is not an easy minefield to pass through. Everyone has an opinion, and it is often a polarizing one.

Incapable of Showing Love?

Dating, in contrast, is not bound by any covenant. It is not biblically ordained and these sacred roles simply do not apply. When we attempt to apply the weight of marital roles to a relationship outside of that covenant, the results are crushing.
For example, your boyfriend cannot demonstrate Christ’s love for the Church in his love for you. If for no other reason, you will eventually break up unless you get married. That kind of love is an undying commitment that requires forfeiting his individual calling to embrace a new one with you. In marriage, that is beautiful. Outside of marriage, it is nothing less than sinful disobedience.”

That is a direct quote from Matt’s post. I want you to read through this a couple of times. This is my biggest issue with the post. It may appear logical on the surface, but when taken to its logical conclusion it is actually very unbiblical. I do not believe Matt is being unbiblical on purpose. We all say and believe things at points that we later discover to be incorrect.

A boyfriend can indeed show Christ’s love for the Church in his love for his girlfriend. Why do I say this? The same way how I can show Christ’s love for the church with any friend. Some of you may remember posts made on her by my friend Karch. I love Karch. My love for him can be a representation of Christ’s love for the Church. However, I am not married to Karch. John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than the one who gives his life for his friends.” I shared Christ’s love for the Church through the love that I had for my wife when we were dating. If you cannot love your girlfriend with that kind of love then you should not be proposing to her.

Matt also fails to take into account that love grows and strengthens over time. I love my wife more today than I did the day I married her. The act of marriage itself does not automatically give me that capability of love for my wife. It grows and takes time. That process started while we were dating, long before we were married or even engaged. Ignoring that fact would have made the beginning of our marriage unhealthy. It likely would have prevented the marriage from taking place at all.

What Exactly is Marriage?

I found myself asking how Matt would have answered this as I was reading his post. He is arguing that dating is not like marriage, and gives examples of how people treat dating like marriage. Some of these examples do not even strike me as healthy marriage. I want to share two examples of this.

The first example is Matt discussing the calling of an individual. Matt implies that marriage will require us to throw away our individual callings, but that we should not do this in the dating process. So at what point should a couple have that discussion? During the proposal? On the honeymoon? Last time I checked, a call was given by God. God led me to my wife as a woman who meshed with the call that had already been placed on me as an individual. Perhaps Matt was simply stating that too many are ignoring their God given calls in dating. I would agree with this. However, this is not an issue of treating dating like marriage. This is an issue of idolizing your relationship.

A second example is the social life. Matt argues that dating as if you are married makes you distance yourself from the rest of the world. You fail to enjoy new experiences and outcast your friends. Wait a minute. This is acceptable in marriage? Again, I think Matt is confusing the problem. This is not even healthy behavior in a marriage. The problem is not people treating dating like marriage. The problem is people treating dating like an unhealthy marriage. The truth is that many of Matt’s issues with the treating dating like marriage can be boiled down to this nuance. Many of the behaviors Matt gives concern about are ones I equally give concern to. The difference is in where we find the source. Any of these concerned behaviors would be equally concerning to me if I saw them in a marriage.

This issue of wrongful fault is scattered throughout the post. It is even found in his argument of a marriage like dating relationship running the risk of things getting too physical. Many relationships become too physical for reasons completely outside of being too much like a married couple. The issue is more likely to be found in the fact that there is an absence of a Christ-centered foundation in the dating relationship. This is the same foundational need with a marriage relationship.

What is Dating?

Matt gives no solution to the problem. What is dating supposed to accomplish then? Is it to lead to marriage? Then at what point does dating need to be put on pause to keep from appearing anymore like marriage? Where is the line? What is the point to dating? Dating should not automatically look like a marriage. It should grow into that direction, though. The dating relationship needs to be going somewhere. That direction should be marriage. Is it as sacred as marriage? Of course not. However, I fear this argument is dangerously close to becoming the drunk man on the horse who fell off one side only to get back on and fall off the other.

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Grace or Morality?

I’ve been behind on my posts. Life has been crazy, and I have been kept rather busy. Once again I am trying to get back into the consistency of writing in my blog. I wanted to revamp my latest attempt by writing on something that became an area of focus in my studies.

I recently finished a course called “family Discipleship”. It proved to be challenging for me individual. While parts of the course provided information and skills to cultivate a ministry in church that provides proper equipping for parents, much of the course was centered around personal application as a parent. The course ended with a research paper as most graduate level courses do. We were told to pick a topic that would have significant personal application for us. Considering I am still a new parent I ended up writing on how to shepherd a child through the stages of childhood.

It was a journey for me. It was challenging to me as a parent, but also as someone who has been in ministry and is preparing to go back into it one day. There was a lesson form my studies in that course I wanted to share with you readers out there. We do not make the Gospel a strong enough of a focus in our interaction with others.

This is especially true with youth. We often put a higher focus on teaching morality rather than the gospel. This is dangerous on all kinds of levels. Morality lends itself to worship of actions of man rather than the actions of Christ. In opens a wider door to legalism rather than a journey of progress. Its greatest danger is that it is entirely absent of grace and salvation.

The concept of grace has been absent in my thought life and interaction with others lately. It just is not an area of focus that it should be. As I meditated on this realization I discovered to my horror that this meant the gospel itself has had to much of an absence to me lately. Grace is so intricately important within the Gospel.

I have seen a lot of absence of grace lately. I see it in the cheers of those thrilled that local business owners can now legally and joyfully turn a gay couple away from their establishment because it goes against their beliefs. I have seen and absence of grace continue in all forms of politics. I see the absence of grace all around me, and the teachings of morality flow freely. Above all else I find to great of an absence of grace in my own life and words.

I think we fear grace. We fear that it becomes a free ticket for sin. We fear that grace keeps us from acknowledging sin. This comes from an incorrect view of grace though. Grace does not ignore sin. Grace in and of itself cannot exist when sin goes unacknowledged. Sin needs to be recognized in order for grace to be provided. Grace puts morality in its proper context. We do good because of the good that has been done to us. It is not out of a desire to earn special favor, or even salvation.

I want my conversations to have a bigger focus on grace and the gospel. I want that to be the case because if my words show that emphasis then it means my heart is aligned to those concepts. Morality is not good enough. As Easter is coming up I would encourage you to do a mind shift focus with me. How does your life show that you make the gospel and its grace a priority?