Biblical Purpose of Dating
Before we begin I would like to say that marriage and sex are not the Greatest joys that God has in this life for you. Discipleship is.
I would like to add that the only two sins that are exclusive to couples who are dating/courting is dating/courting someone who is not a Christian or having sex outside of marriage. Everything else falls into the category of either wise or unwise.
Finally before we begin I would also like to point out that there is no Bible method of dating/courting. If someone told you that there was then they were trying to sell you a book. You will make your own unique story and that’s not a sin.
So what is the purpose of dating/courting? Why should you date/court? Why not just have someone arrange a marriage and get married as soon as you meet?
Well first of all I would like to point out if you married someone the moment you met them then it would not be a sin as long as they were also a Christian. It would be unwise but it would not be a sin.
The reality is that so much has been said about dating/courting that what God says has been tossed out. And its been easy to toss out what God said on the matter because God’s Word doesn’t say a lot on the subject.
Worse yet we have Parents and youth Pastors that have seen bad consequences to teens dating/courting so they have spent the last half century writing books, teaching, preaching, and making rules on a subject with 15 year olds in mind, but given no thought on the difference between a minor and an adult. Legally and Biblically speaking there are giant differences between the two but the advice they give to the adults is the same advice they give to 15 year olds.
I would argue that what little the Bible encourages in dating/courtship the Christian community opposes, for logical short sighted reasons. But I believe God is has a much longer view in mind.
I believe the Bible clearly teaches developing emotional intimacy in dating/courtship is the point of dating/courtship.
Yes I know there are several big name ministries, books and pastors that disagree with me, but look at what the Bible tells the unmarried.
Pro 31:10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
Pro 31:11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
In Proverbs 31 a mother tells her son about the kind of woman he should seek to marry, and the first qualification given is a woman he can share his heart with. A woman who he can share anything on his heart and trust her with it.
How can he know he can trust his wife with his heart unless he was emotionally intimate before marriage?
The Bible also says in Song of Solomon 2:1-3
I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters. As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
In Song of Solomon 2:1-3 this couple is not yet married. I would argue that the marriage ceremony starts in Song of Solomon 2:10
In 2:1 she shares her heart that she thinks she is just common. The rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley are just common flowers found anywhere. After she shared her heart he responded that if she is a lily then everything else is a thorn.
She then informs him that he is the only man who feeds her. Men are like the trees in the woods, but her man is an apple tree. She eats his apples. She is referring to him sharing his heart with her.
After emotional intimacy came marriage.
Although it is not a sin to not develop emotional intimacy in dating/courting God encourages it, and it seems to be the point of a dating/courting relationship in Song of Solomon.
And yes I know there are a plethora of people, ministries, blogs, and pastors who say that you should save emotional intimacy for marriage because you should guard your heart but lets look at what the Bible says about guarding your heart.
It is only in Proverbs 4:23, and Philippians 4:6 some versions of the Bible say guard your heart.
The problem is that the context of neither scripture is about relationships. Heck Philippians 4:7 Context is directly saying God will guard your heart. “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Proverbs 4:23 on the other hand is really just an old testament warning of what Jesus said in the new testament about how what comes out of us makes us unclean.
Pro 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Pro 4:24 Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
Pro 4:25 Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
Pro 4:26 Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.
Pro 4:27 Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.
To take Philippians 4:7 or Proverbs 4:23 to mean to not have emotional intimacy in a dating relationship is finding half a sentence in half a verse to say what you want it to say. Basically someone prepared a message they wanted to preach/teach/write a book about, and then found some Bible to “back it up” as long as no one looks at the context.
The real reason Christians started teaching “guard your heart” is because teens were dating, breaking up, and they got their heart broken. Parents and pastors got sick of consoling broken hearted teens so they told them to “guard their hearts”. But this teaching has been enormously destructive to the local churches because the Bible also says…
1Co 12:25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
1Co 12:26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
Gal 6:2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Jas 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
If you are guarding your heart in relationships you can never obey these four verses, because they all demand a level of emotional intimacy. And the thing is God calls you to this level of emotional intimacy with other church members! To suggest that God wants you to develop emotional intimacy with the local church, but not someone you are dating/courting is ridiculous.
The guard your heart in relationship teaching does not allow you to have a right relationship with other church members much less a potential spouse.
I believe the purpose of dating/courting is to build emotional intimacy. You don’t have to but Gods word clearly encourages it. That said Gods word does directly command you to build some pretty emotionally intimate relationships with those around you in your local church. In fact I would argue that you should practice opening up your heart to those in your church before you date/court, so that when you do date/court you will have a very good idea on how to open up your heart to those you are dating/courting.
Dating regardless of what you do is to be a time where you share your heart, and let them share theirs. This is a time to build trust and commitment by sharing your hearts.
Can we be honest here. Most porn addicts have many reasons to be addicted to porn. One of the big reasons is problems with intimacy. If we have this idea that we are to have no emotional intimacy until after marriage then we are in a position where we cannot obey the word of God. I certainly had the idea that emotional intimacy was reserved for marriage because the only time I ever heard someone talk about emotional intimacy was when people talked about guarding your heart.
But then I rejected the guarding your heart philosophy and developed emotional intimacy with those in my local church, especially my pastor. Immediately my porn addiction became much easier to fight.
Guarding my heart from emotional intimacy fed my porn addiction
I am still a single guy but I cant help but think how horrible it would be to marry someone and then begin trying to share your heart with them. By then it would have been ingrained habit to have a shallow relationship. If you cannot show vulnerability in dating, you wont do it in marriage. If you are not emotionally intimate before marriage you wont be in marriage. Singles are directly commanded to be intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually intimate with the local church and we have every reason to be all three in dating.
If I was to tell you the Biblical purpose of dating poetically I would say the Biblical purpose of dating is for a couple to exchange their hearts over a period of time. It does a man no good to win a woman’s heart, if she does not also have his. It also does no good for a man to give his heart to a woman who will not give her heart to him. If either party does not want an exchange of hearts, or either party is unwilling to give the other their heart then both parties should move on looking for someone that they can exchange hearts with. But over the course of time, whether weeks or months, once your hearts are exchanged, that is the time to get engaged and prepare for marriage
Emotional intimacy is the Biblical purpose of dating/courting. Without emotional intimacy, and the exchange of hearts you might as well just get married at first site.