The Bible never mentions dating. Every author of the Bible wrote in the context of an arranged marriage culture. But it doesn’t mean the Bible is irrelevant in this important area. Now we can’t try to twist verses or pretend it talks about dating to make it fit, we should rather begin by asking what it does say about relationships and romance. Then ask how we build on this teaching.
When I deliver talks in church about dating, I always mention that the Bible never mentions dating. In Biblical times you wouldn’t’ve selected your spouse, your family would have done that for you. Partners came through the parents rather than parties. People are always surprised by that.
Often people think consciously or subconsciously that dating is as old as human existence. This may shock you, but the decisions of marriage weren’t really based on romance, love or emotions, but connections and finances for most of human history.
Partners came through the parents rather than parties
We just need to admit that the Bible doesn’t talk about dating.
I have heard talks and read some blogs that pull together some obscure verses and random biblical passages, and try to come up with ‘7 simple steps to dating bliss’. But that isn’t authentic, and ultimately, isn’t helpful. Dating isn’t a simple 7 step program at the best of times. (For real and honest advice around picking the right partner, get our free digital download: Date, Marry, Avoid? 5 Things You Should Know)
So How Can The Bible Help?
But before we get too disheartened, the Bible does talk about relationships a lot. It talks about family relationships, it talks about boss-employee relationships, friendships, how we relate to our enemies, and more. And it even talks about romantic relationships a lot, and about intimacy too.
I think we can use the Bible as an unfinished masterpiece, that we build on. We need to make sure we don’t twist the words, but by building on it we can transform and impact our dating culture today.
(The following extract is taken from page 57-59 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)
We think that a great way to approach the Bible is by imagining it like an unfinished painting. It’s not unfinished, and our task is never to improve or rewrite Scripture. But imagine you’re standing in front of an easel with a half-done oil painting on it.
You can see that, although some great artist has already painted a beautiful border to frame the picture and drawn a few sketches across the middle to mark where he is going, the middle still needs work. To the right is a table covered with paint pots and brushes, and a post-it note that reads ‘ Please keep painting. The Artist’. You are being invited to pick up the paintbrushes and continue his masterpiece
The artist invites us to faithfully interpret what’s gone before. If his border was made up of blues, greens and greys, then we’re not being faithful to his vision if we start using bright pink in the middle. Likewise, we think God has invited us to take his Word and its eternal unchanging truths, and apply it faithfully and relevantly to the new culture that surrounds us, in order to glorify him.
if we seek to faithfully interpret what the Bible teaches about relationships, then we discover a whole wealth of wisdom for dating
God, as the great Author of Scripture, invites us to see what has gone before, and apply it faithfully and authentically to our current culture. He wants us to use the borders to guide us as we paint the middle of the canvas. History is full of Christians who have sought to do this in their time and culture, and so have thrown themselves into playing their part in God’s great ongoing drama.
God Wants Us to Shape the Dating Culture
Significant social movements were led by people who were first grabbed by God’s Word and Spirit and then seized a moment in history to change things. We’re talking about revolutionaries like William Wilberforce, Jackie Pullinger, Martin Luther King, Gladys Aylward. Through their intimate knowledge of the Scripture, they learnt to love what God loves, and to stand against those things God stands against; be it poor housing, racism or human trafficking.
Imagine using this approach when studying what the Bible might say about dating. This becomes significant because the Bible says nothing about dating! So if we’re turning to the Bible to find a dating manual, we would have to say the Bible has nothing relevant to teach us. However, if we seek to faithfully interpret what the Bible teaches about relationships, then we discover a whole wealth of wisdom for dating.
If the Bible reveals God’s unchanging design for human relationships, then choosing a biblical approach to dating will give you the best possible chance of finding lasting love
God is inviting you to throw yourself into this process, to see dating as he sees it. A biblical framework will enable this, and will give you security and success in your relationships.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t be heartbroken by someone, or that you’ll meet the right person within seconds [of reading this post]. But if the Bible reveals God’s unchanging design for human relationships, then choosing a biblical approach to dating will give you the best possible chance of finding lasting love.
In the next article (Read it now), I expand on one of these key principles. One way the painting can guide us as we continue painting, and how we can take what the Bible does say and apply it relevantly to our relationships. Which starts when we ask the question: ‘What does the Bible say about good relationships?’ rather than asking ‘What does the Bible say about dating?’
How would seeing the Bible as a beautiful artwork and story that we get involved in change the way we live and relate?