A recent post on the Yahoo! Discussion board revealed many answers to the questions of why people date today. Some of the answers included: “There is really NO reason. Some people date for attention; some because they are gold diggers and want a man to take them out and spend a lot of money on them; some for sex; some to have that “pretty” face to “show off;” some are codependent and feel they NEED to have someone by their side to reassure them; the list really does go on and on. So why do you date? Is it because you want to get married, or because of other reasons?

God makes it very clear to us throughout Scripture that we are to respect and love everyone, including members of the opposite sex. Based on that, I believe it is disrespectful and downright selfish to date someone if you aren’t looking to get married. Why? Because in a serious dating relationship the emotions, desires, and feelings that get aroused need to be fulfilled from both parties.

Song of Solomon 3:1-5 speaks about the desires, feelings, and emotions the woman had towards her beloved. She was waiting for her man to come home. And she was excited! She waited for him in bed…she went out to find him…she asked others if they had seen him…her needs could only fully be fulfilled by her man. That’s what Song of Solomon is all about…it speaks to the honesty of our needs: sexual, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

So why do I think it is selfish to date someone if you aren’t intending to get married? Because not only do you start to have feelings that are maybe new to you, but you are kindling feelings in the other person that they may hope will be fulfilled in you. And if you have no intention of fulfilling those in marriage, then you are more susceptible to the temptation of fulfilling them before marriage or you leave the other person with aroused but unmet desires. When you are in a serious dating relationship you get sexually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually connected with that person. If you don’t intend to get married you leave those desires and needs unmet in the other person. If you know you won’t marry that person, you are getting close to them because you are lonely, because you need companionship, and those are selfish reasons.

Let me put it another way. I heard this question from Mark Driscoll, pastor, author, speaker out in Seattle, WA. He addressed it to the men, but it’s safe to say that it could work either way. He said, “Guys, would you go up to the father of a girl you want to date and tell him ‘I’m not ready to marry and I’m not intending to get married and I’m not mature enough to marry but I’m looking for someone to hang out with, get emotionally connected with, and maybe have occasionally sexual contact with, could I borrow your daughter for a few months or years?’” No loving father wants his daughter being thrown and tossed around, her emotions being played with for the satisfaction of some guy’s desires. I think its selfish to date without the intent of getting married. You use the other person just to satisfy your own needs.

We are a sex-crazed culture. Sex is an incredible gift of God between a husband and wife that love one another. And if used in that way, sex is one of the amazing gifts we can have in this world. Maybe I should say that we are a “sex-outside-of-marriage-crazed culture.” Pornography teaches us to view women as merely objects of desire that we can undress with our eyes rather than one of God’s children, a sister in Christ. Women are taught the same thing about men as well. We see numerous commercials that show scantily-clad women. Billboards, TV shows and movies glamorize inappropriate nudity and premarital sex. In recent years, the Internet has transformed the pornography industry. People from all walks of life and all ages are viewing pornography. The statistics are depressing. According to the research, “72 percent of pornography viewers are men, 28% are women. The average age of first Internet exposure to pornography is 11 years old. 57% of pastors say that addiction to pornography is the most sexually damaging issue to their congregation. 47% percent of families said pornography is a problem in their home. 51% of pastors say cyber-porn is a possible temptation. 37% say it is a current struggle (Research according to www.internet-filter-review.com and www.xxxchurch.com).” Did you know that “89% of pornography is created in the U.S. (according to www.xxxchurch.com a site designed to reach those trapped in pornography addiction)” For many of these magazines, movies and TV shows, sex is the end-goal!

Our world glamorizes sex outside of our marriage. It objectifies men and women, and through the subtle and not so subtle messages we are affected. We are desensitized. We start to justify our thoughts, and then we turn those thoughts into a reality. Pretty soon we are falling into temptations that we shouldn’t even be opening ourselves up to According to a Christianity Today article published in July, “80 percent of unmarried, church- going, conservative Protestants who are currently dating someone are having sex of some sort.” Dating without the intent of getting married is wrong not only because it is selfish and often leaves out the best interest of the significant other, but also because it opens both partners up for temptations and desires that can’t be fully outside of a marriage relationship.

We hear the conflicting messages. We hear the “Don’t have Sex” talk. We are told to wait until all our financial and professional ducks are in a row before we get married. The result is that people are waiting longer to get married. Mark Regnerus from Christianity Today writes, “Another indicator of our shifting sentiment about the institution [of marriage] is the median age at first marriage, which has risen from 21 for women and 23 for men in 1970 to where it stands today: 26 for women and 28 for men, the highest figures since the Census Bureau started collecting data about it.” We are not setting ourselves up for success when we send these competing messages.

So what do we do? It depends on what season of life you are in right now! Scripture embraces a 4-stage process: 1) Searching, 2) Courtship (what I’m mainly addressing in this article), 3) Marriage, and 4) Consummation. Some of you just aren’t in a season of life where you’re thinking about marriage. You’re too focused on your studies, your new job, whatever. My advice to you is to have fun with what you are doing, go out with groups and hang out with both guys and girls, build communication skills and learn to care for others…but don’t date, and don’t get involved in a serious relationship if you aren’t looking for a marriage partner.

The purpose of dating is to get married. I believe that God wants us to be in a caring relationship with a member of the opposite sex. He didn’t create man to be alone, but rather in relationship. One of the greatest gifts that I have ever received in this life is the gift of my wife. I have a relationship with her that I have with no one else! We experience Christ’s love individually, but also together. This life is best enjoyed in relationship, and there is no more powerful earthly relationship than the relationship of husband and wife. So my advice if you are thinking about marriage or hoping to get married is to date. And if you find the right guy or girl, with the same set of beliefs, similar interests, and all of the things that are important to you, then get married! Don’t worry about how old you are or if you are too young. If you want to get married, then go, pursue a wife or a husband. Have fun. Enjoy one another with boundaries in place.

God didn’t create us to be used by each other. He didn’t create women to be sexual objects. God didn’t create men to objectify women or degrade them by masturbating to their images and videos, or speak rudely about them in discussion with other guys. He created us for so much more. He created man and woman so that they could enjoy one another. He created us so that we could complement one another. He created us so that we might come together in marriage, have our needs met together in order that we might together in marriage live in the grace that comes from Jesus Christ.

There are three pieces of grace that I think we can take away from dating/marriage:

  1. The gift of marriage is a gift from God. He gives it to us so that we can be in relationship with one another. He gives it to us for our benefit, so that we don’t have to walk the trials and temptations of this world alone, but can share it with a spouse that loves us. Marriage ultimately is represented in Scripture as the relationship between Christ and the Church. It is a beautiful relationship that loves, sacrifices, and respects. In grace you can go out and pursue a spouse…if you are in that stage of life!
  2. If you are in a dating relationship right now and either of you are dating for the wrong intentions, God’s grace can purify your heart, and turn your relationship into something that is God-pleasing. Just because your relationship didn’t start well (or with the right intentions) doesn’t mean that God can’t make it something that can finish well. So I’m not telling you to go out and break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend tonight, but to pray that God would change your hearts to become closer to His!
  3. Finally, God’s grace forgives each and every one of us who have ever dated for the wrong reasons, who have ever been selfish, who have ever gone too far in a relationship, who have ever objectified another person. Through Christ, God forgives us! He will wipe your slate clean in order that you might glorify Him in all that you do! Praise God for His forgiveness!