By Lanette Zavala, author of Marriage Vows Under Fire and A Single Woman’s Journey Through Marriage Preparation
Let’s face it. We are living in a time when sex is treated as being somewhat casual. It is no longer perceived as the sacred seal of a new marriage. And if you outwardly discuss it from a Biblical standpoint, expect to be ridiculed and even scorned. Regardless of how we have tampered with its God-given purpose in our entertainment, in our advertisements, in our educational system, in our fashion, and in our society, we cannot escape God’s standards just by shutting our eyes. He has a plan for sex.
The Lord also has a plan for dating. That plan is to reserve dating for His children who are married. When I first heard this, I was a college student in 1990 or 1991 listening to my pastor explain this. I was tempted to think that maybe this was just a concept within the Church of God In Christ denomination, which I belonged to in Atlanta as a college student and still love dearly today. Courtship is a plan, while dating is a trial that imposes the risk of wounded hearts.
The Lord’s standards for courtship can spare us heartache – as many of us have gone down the road of yielding ourselves to someone who only trampled upon a moment that was given to them as a priceless treasure. To Jesus Christ, our sexuality is a treasure. He reserves it for a husband and his wife. So, what is an unmarried Christian couple supposed to do in the meantime? Wait.
Court with one person in mind under God’s direction. Shun Dating.
Rest assured that God’s plan is not to make us miserable in the area of male-female relationships. For a lot of young and/or single people, this is hard to believe when hearing that one way to abstain from fornication is to abstain from being involved with someone whom you are just dating. (You can also refer to Paul Washer’s messages on courtship for more thorough Biblical insight on this subject.)
Within the parameters of courtship, there is more purpose in dating. As you court, you date – meaning go places together for non-sexual bonding. Most of the time, this is wisely accomplished in group dates. And within that courtship, engaging in conservative dates like those contained within a group, there is a commitment to move forward in the relationship without the fear of one of you saying, “Oh, I gave it a try and realize I don’t really like this person enough to stay with him or her.” There have been exceptions. Some God-fearing men and women have realized, through the Lord’s correcting direction, that they are with the wrong person before allowing them into marriage, where it would be too late to determine it’s the wrong person. But it is not God’s plan for His children to go to and fro dating different people to just give it a try. (A Single Woman’s Journey Through Marriage Preparation elaborates on this.)
In Godly courtship, there is opportunity to date in order to communicate purposefully with each other. It’s a time to get to know your boyfriend. (I’m blogging to sisters.) It’s a time to adjust to each other’s personalities in various settings – at restaurants, other believers’ homes, gatherings, picnics, sporting events, recreational places like bowling, clean theatre, Godly Christian concerts, and other places in addition to church, which I wouldn’t consider a place for a date.
I realize that this is an old and ongoing debatable topic among Christians alone. One challenging question would be, “Well, where in the Bible does it say that Christian singles shouldn’t date apart from courtship?” Nowhere does it say in God’s Word, “Do not date,” any more than It says, “Do not use drugs.” Concerning courtship, the Word gives us instructions on using wisdom and setting parameters for ourselves in every aspect of life. But if we seek the Lord diligently, we will learn how to apply that wisdom and discretion because He will lead us.
As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.
Don’t think the wording “fair woman” was loosely used here. It’s not described this way for nothing. A “fair woman” is noticeable by a man. And without discretion, she can make herself incredibly vulnerable with one wrong decision concerning that man.
I Thessalonians 5:22
Abstain from all appearance of evil.
You might say, “Well, dating isn’t the appearance of evil.” I would have to say that you are correct if all there would be to see is the surface. But how evil would you consider this? A guy decides he’ll take you out on a date and, because he’s only human, see how successfully he can be in winning your heart. He may even plan to do this in the back of his mind without one kiss from you. Now, next week, he takes someone else out and does the same thing. He’s not likely to tell you or the other woman all that he’s planning to do in order to give you a heads up on guarding your heart. What if both women fall for him?
Now, is this the appearance of evil? The motive is. Even if we as humans couldn’t see that, God can. God sees ahead what could wound a heart. He sees deceptive motives. He sees deceptive, self-seeking motives.
Here’s another point about what actually is the appearance of evil in God’s eyes. (Paul Washer often points this out.) To just date without the commitment of courtship is an opportunity for a person to scope out whether the other person measures up their self-serving desires. This is not to say that singles shouldn’t look for certain qualities and attractiveness in their mates. Certainly, beauty is what drew many people in the Bible together. But dating does not place a person in the mindset of self-examination. Motives are rarely examined during dating because the focus is more on the other person’s performance and qualities instead of self in a corrective light. During dating, no consideration is given to loving a person at all – let alone loving a person despite certain flaws or inabilities.
As you study the Holy Bible in prayer for your entire life, study God’s outlook on sex.
Unless you are a eunuch, which is someone called to remain in abstinence as a single, you are likely to be curious about this subject. If you study the subject of sex in the Bible, you will learn the standards of Jesus Christ for His beloved children, you will learn the rewards of waiting, and you will learn the consequences of fornication. (And yes, Jesus does forgive you for your sins, including fornication. But don’t put yourself on the line *just because* of His forgiving nature. Jesus is not a doormat, as many have perceived Him at times. Read Romans 6th chapter on taking grace for granted.)
Some scriptures that discuss sex (in marriage and as fornication) are the following:
My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding: That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge. For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell. Lest thou shouldest ponder the path of life, her ways are moveable, that thou canst not know them. Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth. Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house: Lest thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruel: Lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labours be in the house of a stranger; And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!
[Notice the severity described in these passages about being in the arms and even path of a seductress. You might say, “But that’s not me.” In our standards, this may not look like us if we were just fornicating with one person (even with some boyfriend with whom we’re in love). The Lord views sin in a different way than the human mind. We make provision for it in our human nature. But the Lord hates sin – even the sins that seem so minute to us. So, no woman or man in fornication could justify themselves as being any better than the man and woman in these passages- not in the eyes of God. But the Blood of Jesus Christ set His children free so that this won’t have to be an issue. It’s temptation, but nothing that someone who abides in Christ is enslaved to.]
Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words. For at the window of my house I looked through my casement, And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house, In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart. (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.) So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him, I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows. Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee. I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves. For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey: He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed. With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life. Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth. Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.
I Corinthians 6:13-20
Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Sisters, we’re not able to live for Christ in obedience to His Word unless we truly surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, believing that He died on the cross as an Ultimate Sacrifice for our sins. Believing that He alone is the only Way, Truth, And Life and that no one can come to the Father except through Him (Jesus) alone. Receiving Jesus Christ through faith in all of His Word, we have power to be God’s children. Whoever receives Him has this power. (St. John 1:12). But receiving Him means receiving His Word completely. Jesus is His Word according to St. John 1:1, 14. There is no way to truthfully say, “I have Jesus Christ in my heart and have surrendered to Him by faith, but I don’t believe He minds if I fornicate.” But His Word commands us not to fornicate. “But I believe that He understands I’m human and am not going to be able to obey all that Bible.” But He says in Matthew 4:4 that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
Jesus tells us to abide in Him and let His Words abide in us. Doing so, we are continuously cleansed (sometimes painfully) by Him throughout our lives. As we read, embrace, meditate on , and study His Word, He is cleansing us so that we will bear more fruit. Before relationships and abstinence become an issue in your life, surrender to Christ; and live according to His Word. Reading all of St. John is a good starting point, as I have read and learned. And of course, you can just start by opening your Bible. But starting and returning always to those four gospels is a priceless way of learning all of that Word.
Be Equally Yoked
Before you begin thinking about your attraction and sexuality concerning one special person in your life, understand that as a Christian, make sure your boyfriend or girlfriend shares your commitment to Christ.
There is an old heathen saying that is still spoken too often among singles of all ages: “If you really love me, you’ll do it.” When you’re really in love with someone who is willing to pressure you to lay down your commitment to Jesus Christ, your stomach harbors pain and your mind cannot focus completely. This is one reason why Paul warned in II Corinthians 6:14-18 that born-again believers should not be closely linked in a non-kindred relationship with unbelievers. (Yes, we can spend time with them for the purpose of ministering to them as did Jesus with the publicans and sinners. Women ministering to women and men to men unless there are groups.)
Being in a relationship with an unbeliever, you can find yourself at a crossroads toward either compromising your faith or sabotaging an ungodly relationship for which you could have had high hopes. And of course, for Jesus, we as believers are called to lay everything on the line for His sake, according to Matthew 16:24. Only a surrendered believer is able to do that through Christ alone and only a surrendered believer is even willing to heed to that without making excuses or provisional detours.
Jesus also wants to spare the Lord’s daughters that heartache by linking us with a husband who shares with us that same love and commitment to Him. Anyone who is on that common ground with you will not pressure you to fornicate.
I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris
A Single Woman’s Journey Through Marriage Preparation and Marriage Vows Under Fire (which also addresses courtship) by Lanette Zavala