The second half of this two-part article continues to look at how we can transform the dating culture around us, whilst honouring God, ourselves and each other. Specifically when it comes to the temporary nature of dating and God’s call to foster long-term relationships.
In Part 1, we began to look at this important topic. In this second part, we continue to explore how we can uphold God’s word while dating, in a way that is faithful to God’s teaching and genuinely beneficial to us in our circumstances.
(The following extract is taken from page 85-86 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)
What Would Jesus Say?
‘…[The] Pharisees came up, intending to give [Jesus] a hard time. They asked, ‘Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife?’ Jesus said, ‘What did Moses command?’ They answered, ‘Moses gave permission to fill out a certificate of dismissal and divorce her.’ Jesus said, ‘Moses wrote this command only as a concession to your hardhearted ways.
In the original creation, God made male and female to be together. Because of this, a man leaves father and mother, and in marriage he becomes one flesh with a woman – no longer two individuals, but forming a new unity. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart.’
(Mark 10:2–9 The Message)
Jesus doesn’t just look back to the law about divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1–4). He is quoting the Genesis story of creation that reveals God’s heart for what relationships free from sin should look like (Genesis 1:27; 2:24).
Adam and Eve’s later rejection of all this kick-starts the cycle of sin and dysfunction that leads to the damage and pain in marriages, which are often wrecked by divorce.
As we’ve said before, relationships and marriages break down for a whole host of reasons, but none of these lessen God’s desire for us to really mean it when we say ‘I do’!
God realises that in some cases this permanence can’t be maintained, because a spouse can damage it irreversibly. So the Bible allows divorce when a partner commits adultery (Matthew 5:31–32; 19:9), or when an unbelieving spouse abandons their believing spouse (1 Corinthians 7:12–15).
[We would also argue when a spouse is abusive, although this wouldn’t be based on one or two verses, like in the above cases.]
God always hopes for more for us in our relationships.
We may not be in Eden, but God always hopes for more for us in our relationships. Deep relationships are not easily forged. Intimacy isn’t quickly formed. Both take practice and require both people to be committed to permanence.
Step 1: Know The Truth
Building towards a relationship that lasts isn’t something that happens in spite of us; it’s something that happens because of us.
- Practicing what it takes to build a permanent relationship happens every time we prioritise our commitment over our compulsions.
- Giving in to every whim and desire we have is no way to perfect the skills needed to build a lasting relationship.
So how could this influence our dating? It’s likely that most of us will date a few people before we find the person we want to commit to for life. Does this mean we can’t practice permanence? Not if we practice it while we’re dating!
Step 2: Change Our Approach
It’s about the mindset we create as we date.
It’s the difference between an attitude that says, ‘I’ll see how it goes’, and one that says, ‘I’ll see what I can invest in this relationship.’
Do we go around asking people out, thinking, ‘This will only work for me for a few months, and then I’m off’? Do we treat relationships like new clothes, and wear them for only a few weeks before we change?
How is that preparing us for the lifelong commitment God desires?
If this is the case, how will we be ready to invest long-term with that special someone when the time comes? If we constantly think short term in every relationship we go into, how is that preparing us for the lifelong commitment God desires? (Read What I Wish someone told me about dating.)
As always, so much more could be said and written (Read Church Dating Culture: Is Yours Helpful Or Hindering?) but I hope this post highlights that we can date in a way that is treating people with respect, and laying good foundations to give the relationship the best chance of becoming a long-term commitment.
Imagine if we dated in a way that pursued relationships that could last, and we thought about how to grow the relationship and not just about our short-term needs. It would allow us to transform the dating culture around us, and enable God’s intentions for us to flourish. (Read 2 Proven Traits That Make A Relationship Last)
How else can this principle be applied? Comments welcomed below.