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Dating: What Does the Bible Say?

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Dating: What Does the Bible Say?

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Dating: What Does the Bible Say?

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The practice of dating is, historically speaking, a relatively recent social phenomenon. Does the Bible have any guidelines for our social behaviors, including those that can lead to marriage? What biblical instructions can we find that can serve as guidelines for when we decide to date someone? Why are such instructions important? What are the consequences of not following such instructions?

Sermon Notes

A partial set of notes and Scriptures:

An interesting, if awkward subject...

2Ti 3:1  But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:
2Ti 3:2  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
2Ti 3:3  unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,
2Ti 3:4  traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
2Ti 3:5  having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
THESE People do NOT make good mates. You do not want to marry anyone like this.
Psyche today sees many of these factors in NARCISISM ...

THE NARCISISM Score had been INCREASING every single year since they started tracking it...

This societal illness rubs off on us...  
We must remain aware as we go into dating that this is the ENVIRONMENT everyone is being impacted by as we are ALL IMMERSED in our society.

What is Dating??
What are we really looking for when we are dating??
What are the fundamental responsibility between the dating individuals?
Is it OK to live or sleep or have sex prior to marriage??

Genesis 24, read the entire chapter.

Genesis 24:1 Genesis 24:1And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.
American King James Version×
  Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.
Genesis 24:2 Genesis 24:2And Abraham said to his oldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray you, your hand under my thigh:
American King James Version×
  So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, "Please, put your hand under my thigh,
Genesis 24:3 Genesis 24:3And I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that you shall not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:
American King James Version×
  and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell;
Genesis 24:4 Genesis 24:4But you shall go to my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife to my son Isaac.
American King James Version×
  but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac."
Genesis 24:5 Genesis 24:5And the servant said to him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me to this land: must I needs bring your son again to the land from from where you came?
American King James Version×
  And the servant said to him, "Perhaps the woman will not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I take your son back to the land from which you came?"
(Genesis 24:8 Genesis 24:8And if the woman will not be willing to follow you, then you shall be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.
American King James Version×
)  And if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be released from this oath; only do not take my son back there."

Genesis 24:57 Genesis 24:57And they said, We will call the damsel, and inquire at her mouth.
American King James Version×
  So they said, "We will call the young woman and ask her personally."
Genesis 24:58 Genesis 24:58And they called Rebekah, and said to her, Will you go with this man? And she said, I will go.
American King James Version×
  Then they called Rebekah and said to her, "Will you go with this man?" And she said, "I will go."
Genesis 24:59 Genesis 24:59And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham's servant, and his men.
American King James Version×
  So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham's servant and his men.

Genesis 24:12 Genesis 24:12And he said O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray you, send me good speed this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham.
American King James Version×
  Then he said, "O LORD God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham.
Genesis 24:13 Genesis 24:13Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:
American King James Version×
  Behold, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water.
Genesis 24:14 Genesis 24:14And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down your pitcher, I pray you, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give your camels drink also: let the same be she that you have appointed for your servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that you have showed kindness to my master.
American King James Version×
  Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, 'Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,' and she says, 'Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink'—let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master."
Genesis 24:15 Genesis 24:15And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her pitcher on her shoulder.
American King James Version×
  And it happened, before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, came out with her pitcher on her shoulder.

A biblical principle to take into account always...
So, what are we praying, looking for... ?

Genesis 2:18 Genesis 2:18And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
American King James Version×
  And the LORD God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him."
(Proverbs 31:10 Proverbs 31:10Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
American King James Version×
)  Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.
Proverbs 31:11 Proverbs 31:11The heart of her husband does safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
American King James Version×
  The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain.
Proverbs 31:12 Proverbs 31:12She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
American King James Version×
  She does him good and not evil All the days of her life.
Proverbs 31:13 Proverbs 31:13She seeks wool, and flax, and works willingly with her hands.
American King James Version×
  She seeks wool and flax, And willingly works with her hands.
Proverbs 31:14 Proverbs 31:14She is like the merchants' ships; she brings her food from afar.
American King James Version×
  She is like the merchant ships, She brings her food from afar.
Proverbs 31:15 Proverbs 31:15She rises also while it is yet night, and gives meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
American King James Version×
  She also rises while it is yet night, And provides food for her household, And a portion for her maidservants.
Proverbs 31:16 Proverbs 31:16She considers a field, and buys it: with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
American King James Version×
  She considers a field and buys it; From her profits she plants a vineyard.
Proverbs 31:17 Proverbs 31:17She girds her loins with strength, and strengthens her arms.
American King James Version×
  She girds herself with strength, And strengthens her arms.
Proverbs 31:18 Proverbs 31:18She perceives that her merchandise is good: her candle goes not out by night.
American King James Version×
  She perceives that her merchandise is good, And her lamp does not go out by night.
Proverbs 31:19 Proverbs 31:19She lays her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
American King James Version×
  She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hand holds the spindle.
Proverbs 31:20 Proverbs 31:20She stretches out her hand to the poor; yes, she reaches forth her hands to the needy.
American King James Version×
  She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
Proverbs 31:21 Proverbs 31:21She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
American King James Version×
  She is not afraid of snow for her household, For all her household is clothed with scarlet.
Proverbs 31:22 Proverbs 31:22She makes herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
American King James Version×
  She makes tapestry for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple.

Proverbs 31:23 Proverbs 31:23Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
American King James Version×
  Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.
Proverbs 31:24 Proverbs 31:24She makes fine linen, and sells it; and delivers girdles to the merchant.
American King James Version×
  She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies sashes for the merchants.
Proverbs 31:25 Proverbs 31:25Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
American King James Version×
  Strength and honor are her clothing; She shall rejoice in time to come.
Proverbs 31:26 Proverbs 31:26She opens her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
American King James Version×
  She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
Proverbs 31:27 Proverbs 31:27She looks well to the ways of her household, and eats not the bread of idleness.
American King James Version×
  She watches over the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Proverbs 31:28 Proverbs 31:28Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.
American King James Version×
  Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her:
Proverbs 31:29 Proverbs 31:29Many daughters have done virtuously, but you excel them all.
American King James Version×
  "Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all."

A very HIGH Standard to develop IN yourself to have available for your husband.

(Proverbs 31:30 Proverbs 31:30Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
American King James Version×
)  Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
IN Dating you are LOOKING FOR CHARACTER.

he/she must be in a  PATH THAT LEADS to God's character.

1Co 7:1  Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
1Co 7:2  Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.

1Th 4:1  Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;
1Th 4:2  for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
1Th 4:3  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;
1Th 4:4  that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,
1Th 4:5  not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;
1Th 4:6  that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.
1Th 4:7  For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.
1Th 4:8  Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.

(1Th 5:22)  Abstain from every form of evil.

(1Co 6:18)  Flee from sexual immorality! "Every sin a person can commit is outside the body," but the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body.
(1Co 6:19)  Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
(1Co 6:20)  for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

What about PDA? {Personal Displays of Affection}

Song of Solomon "DO NOT awaken LOVE, until it's time"
Physical actions have CONSEQUENCES...

2Co 6:14  Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
2Co 6:15  And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?
2Co 6:16  And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM. I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE."
2Co 6:17  Therefore "COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM AND BE SEPARATE, SAYS THE LORD. DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN, AND I WILL RECEIVE YOU."
2Co 6:18  "I WILL BE A FATHER TO YOU, AND YOU SHALL BE MY SONS AND DAUGHTERS, SAYS THE LORD ALMIGHTY."

Deuteronomy 7:3 Deuteronomy 7:3Neither shall you make marriages with them; your daughter you shall not give to his son, nor his daughter shall you take to your son.
American King James Version×
  Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son.
Deuteronomy 7:4 Deuteronomy 7:4For they will turn away your son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy you suddenly.
American King James Version×
  For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the LORD will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.

1Co 7:13  And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.
1Co 7:14  For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.

1 pet 3  Wife's example to Husband.

World's wisdom, top 10 DATING SAFETY TIPS... shows there are dangers in individual dating for teenagers...

Transcript

[Tim Pebworth] Well, last week I spoke about the Biblical instruction to develop holy, righteous character. And that by biblical definition, character is proof or evidence of the kind of person that we are. So we are being proved, as it were. And that sermon might be called a type of apologetic message – that is, it’s doctrinal and it’s going through the biblical discussion as revealed in Scripture – outlining clear biblical teaching. It isn’t necessarily about practical examples as much as about understanding the framework that God outlines.

So today, I want to go into a practical implication of interpersonal relationships where our character counts. It is the subject of dating. Dating. Now this could be an awkward message, because if you’re in that, sort of category of dating, you’re going to feel like I’m talking to you and it’s going to feel embarrassing. So let’s just get over that, okay? I’m looking at all of you now. We’ll get over the embarrassment, because we need to talk about these things. And it can be awkward, because if you’re not in that category, you’re like, “Okay, what am I going to do for the next  55 minutes? Because this isn’t talking so me, sooo I think I’m going to get up and get a cup of coffee.” Please, nobody get up and get a cup of coffee, because, it’s just as important for you, as well – both as a mentor – as a guide – and also, as it were, for us to all be on the same page, because we, if we’re in that position, may be called upon to answer some questions about dating. “What do you think of this guy?” What do you think about this?” What do you think about that gal?” And if you’re married, well, you know what? You need to be dating, too – just your spouse. Okay? It’s important for married people to go on dates. Right?

So, if you’re married, you need to keep dating your spouse, and it’s important to keep that fresh. If you’re not in a position to be married – and there are many people here who are in that position – single – but for various good and appropriate reasons are not going to be married – you have a role to play. And if you are going to be dating or are dating now, then of course, I’m talking to you, too. So please, everybody check in, and don’t check out.

Being married is good. Okay, let’s just – let me just say that again – being married is good. It is something to be desired. In our society, that actually can be a little bit of a challenging concept. When I was growing up in the church, I wanted to get married. My parents had been divorced when I was six, and I wondered if I would be able to find somebody special that I could have a lasting relationship with. And when I looked around, I felt like I needed one hand, maybe two, certainly not my toes, to count the number of happy marriages that I knew of. And that was pretty scary to me, because the more I got to know, I got to see that people were really less happy than I thought. So, it can be a scary thing. In fact, it can be so scary that sometimes, if we’re dating, we might just want to give up. Or we might just say, “I’m just going to take a break,” or “I’d rather be single than risk the heartbreak and pain that I’ve seen” – and then name the person, right? – “my parents, my friend, my brother, my sister” – you know, whoever it might be – “having gone through in their marriage.”

So, we need to make sure we get that straight, and we’re going to look at that scripture. Being married is good. And I’m very thankful that, after nearly 28 years, that I did find somebody who I am very happily married to and that I’m spending my life with. And it is a blessing and it can be all of our blessing.

But a key component in how marriage starts out comes back to dating. Dating is really where this all begins. Now, God inspired a prophecy to be recorded nearly 2,000 years ago. If you turn over to 2 Timothy 3, verse 1. I think this is where I want to start here, because part of why marriage is so scary today is because we live in this environment, and it affects all of us. In fact, it rubs off on us. 2 Timothy 3, verse 1:

2 Timothy 3:1-4 2 Timothy 3:1-4 [1] This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. [2] For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, [3] Without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, [4] Traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
American King James Version×
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men – and let’s not just pick on men – people – will be lovers of themselves – right? All people will be lovers of themselves – lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. These people don’t make good mates. They don’t! They’re not good husbands – these people that are like this! You don’t want to marry somebody like this.

Today psychologists have cumulated many of these behaviors into a term called narcissism. Webster defines narcissistic behavior as a personality characterized by an especially exaggerated sense of self-importance. That’s the first characteristic: lover of themselves. So it’s an exaggerated sense of self-importance. …persistent need for admiration, lack of empathy for others, excessive pride in achievements – we’ve got pride in here – snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes.

Now according to an article in Psychology Today, dated January 16, 2014, by Dr. Peter Gray, narcissism is a serious social and psychological problem and refers to this inflated view of oneself. And then he goes on to describe how Narcissistic Personality Inventory was created in the late 1970’s. They created this way of measuring these types of attributes – of lovers of themselves, and proud, and unloving, and unforgiving, and so forth. Right? So they accumulated these types of things into this inventory, and they’ve administered this test every year since the late 1970’s to college students around the country – around the United States. And what they’ve seen is that, on average, the narcissism score has steadily increased every single year they’ve administered this inventory. And it says here – I’m quoting from the article – “The changes are highly significant statistically, and sufficiently large, that approximately 70% of students today score higher on narcissism and lower on empathy than the average student 30 years ago.” So there’s actually proof around this, that even in the last 30 years, people are more lovers of themselves, more proud, and less empathetic – that is, less interested in the lives of other people. Again, these are just some of the characteristics that we see.

Now, it’s very easy to point the finger at those people in the world. Right? You’ve probably heard that: “Those people in the world have this problem.” But, actually, those people are us. So that rubs off on us. We can’t help it. We’re in it, right? It’s all around us. And so that can impact our interpersonal relationships. So it’s not that we’re doomed. There’s no doom and gloom here. It’s just that we have to be aware of these things as we go into dating, that this is the environment that we’re coming out of.

Now, let me read you from a website called She Knows, which presents an article titled, The Top Ten Dating Safety Rules that Could Save Your Life. So this is dating in the modern world here. “Keep your loved ones in the loop” – that is, make sure you register with them where you’re going and who you’re going with – kind of like going on a hike – they actually, literally talk about that. “Provide your own transportation.” You would never want to be dependent on the other person to get where you’re going. “Meet in a safe environment.” They say, “Do not go to a person’s home. Go into some public area to have your date.”Don't leave your food or drink unattended.” And then they go through the types of drugs that are put into drinks. Now again, this is primarily for women. Number 5: “Limit your consumption of alcohol.” Well, that’s actually a pretty good one, right? Because you need to be, you know, sharp, in case something goes wrong. “Don’t give out your personal information.” “Go on a group date.” “Carry self-defense items.” And they specifically mention pepper spray. “Don’t lie about yourself” – that is, be real. And “Google research your date in advance.”

Now, I think this is actually a pretty good list, to be honest. I mean, if you want to be safe on a date, I think it’s a pretty good list. But I think it’s pretty pathetic that we’ve reached a point in our society where you’ve got to take pepper spray on a date! Really? But seriously, that’s where our society is, because the incidence of date rape, the incidence of violence in dating…it’s…. I could quote you a lot of studies, but I don’t want to take the time. I think we see this in lots of different places. This is the environment of dating that we’re in. And that’s why I think it’s especially important to really understand biblical principles around dating.

Today I’d like to go through a discussion of dating and how certain biblical principles should apply to the decisions we make in dating. We’ll cover the following topics. We’ll cover: What is dating? We really need to define what dating is, because “Is there dating in the Bible?” This is always the question that comes up. And then, what are we really looking for when we’re dating? What is it that…why do we date, fundamentally? Why are we dating? And what are the fundamental responsibilities that individuals have in dating one to another? And this is where it gets important for married couples, who need to continue having that sort of energy and freshness in their lives as they go on dates. And then, we’re going to get into some specific questions that come up to make sure we’re all on the same page. Is it okay to live together, or sleep together, or have sex prior to marriage?

Now, believe it or not, those are three distinct things, because you might think that’s all the same. But that’s not, because I actually had a colleague at work many, many years ago – good Catholic – that was what he called himself…. I went to his wedding – it was like 400 people – it was an amazing wedding. But he went out of his way – I don’t know why, but he wanted to tell me this – that he and his wife had moved in together many years ago, but that they were not sleeping together, until only recently – because they were getting married just within a few weeks – but they were not having sex. They were saving that until they got married. So I don’t know why he wanted to tell me they were sleeping together and not having sex, but he wanted to tell me that. So, keep in mind that living together, sleeping together, and having sex are three different things, and we’re going to talk about each one of those things.

What about holding hands, kissing, and other physical forms of affection during dating? What about…is it appropriate to date somebody who is not in the church – not of the same faith? And is it okay for teenagers to go out on a date? How about that? Are we getting specific enough? I hope this is specific enough. This is going to be a scary sermon – hopefully tomatoes will not be coming up at me, or afterwards.

So let’s go into the first point. What is dating? So for this, I’d like to reference a book review in the New Yorker from May 23, 2016, by Alexandra Schwartz. This is interesting. Have people studied the history of dating? Anybody study the history of dating? It’s okay. You can raise your hand. [Laughter] Okay, nobody’s studied the history of dating. It’s really interesting, if you actually look at the history of dating. So she reviewed a book by Moira Weigel called, Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating. This book just came out. If you want to read the New Yorker article I have, it’s a nice sort off book review summary of this. And in her book review, she points out that the author shares that the term date – which we have now have the term dating – actually first showed up in print in 1896. So you didn’t even have the concept of dating until the late 1800’s. It came out in the Chicago Record – and it was used to describe a woman’s date book. So a woman had like a calendar, and on the calendar she would write down a boy’s name like, “I’m going to go out with this boy on this date” – on this date on this calendar. And so in this Chicago Record, there’s a fictional account of this boy who is trying to go out with this girl, and she’s ducking him all the time. So he says to her: “I suppose the other boys fill in all my dates.” And that’s where we get the term dating.

Now, dating, according to the author, became much more common right before World War I. Around 1914, it starts showing up in Ladies Home Journal and all these types of magazines, but it really didn’t take off until the 1950’s. Can you imagine this? We think dating is like, “Well, you know, Abraham dated.” No, Abraham didn’t date. It’s a very modern concept we’re talking about. In the 1950’s the focus was on the boys asking the girls out – and again, that was that first concept that came up in 1896. So boys asked girls on a date. But prior to that, for about 200 years in Western civilization, the main way that boys and girls spent time together, before they were married, was something called “calling.”

Maybe you’ve heard of calling. Calling was something was where the girl invited the boy to come to her home. So there was a calling. So he called on her at her home. The boy then would sit in the parlor, or the room, and he would have a conversation with the girl in the room – generally with a parent – generally the mom – sort of hanging out, listening. And that’s how girls and boys, pretty much, got to know one another for about 200 years before the concept of dating came around. There was this concept of calling. Isn’t that interesting? We think, you know, the boy has to ask the girl out – well, that’s a date. But in a calling, the girl asked the boy over. And in fact, they looked at this extensively that, if a boy were to actually call on a girl without her invitation, that was incredibly rude and incredibly forward, and it was basically taking away the prerogative from the girl as to who she wanted to have over. So the ideas of dating and calling, and the ideas we have today, actually have moved around quite a bit over the years.

Now the biblical model is a little bit different. Let’s look over in Genesis 24, and let’s look at sort of the equivalent of dating in the Bible. We just don’t have the time to go through all of Genesis 24, so I’m going to give that to you as homework to read all of Genesis 24. It’s a really interesting chapter – the entire chapter devoted to how Isaac and Rebekah met – a very interesting study. Genesis 24, verse 3 - Abraham speaking to his servant says:

Genesis 24:3 Genesis 24:3And I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that you shall not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:
American King James Version×
And I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell. Now this is interesting, because in this biblical model, Abraham had a servant whose job it was to find a suitable partner for Isaac. That was his job. And so Abraham said, “Okay, now when you do your job, you’ve got to make sure that you don’t allow my son to marry – or that is to say, you do not choose – a woman of the Canaanites.” So, a very different model. And then, if you go down to verse 8, it says:

V-8 – And if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be released from this oath. So, in the biblical model, the woman certainly has a choice. Right? We might think, “Arranged marriages, no choice, parents decided – you know, two young people together, really didn’t know each other.” Horrific, right? But the woman actually has a choice. We see this right from the beginning. She could have decided, “I’m not interested in going over and wandering in the wilderness and living in tents and meeting somebody – marrying somebody – that I’ve never met. No I don’t want to marry this person.” So the woman had a choice.

Notice verse 57 – skip down to verse 57 – so there’s all this discussion that goes on – and again you need to read this. This is a very interesting discussion.

Genesis 24:57-58 Genesis 24:57-58 [57] And they said, We will call the damsel, and inquire at her mouth. [58] And they called Rebekah, and said to her, Will you go with this man? And she said, I will go.
American King James Version×
So they said, “We will call the young woman and ask her personally.” Then they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” So here was her decision choice. Now we don’t understand all the things that went on. She might have grilled this person for a couple days. Who knows? Twenty questions: “How tall is he? Does he have blue eyes? Is he a nice man.” She could have asked a bunch of questions. But all we get is: And she said, “I will go.”

So Rebekah made the decision. She made the decision that she was going to marry one of her kinsmen, Isaac, who was living out in the desert. She came to that decision. And I think it’s just going to be fascinating in the Kingdom to ask her what she thought about. “What went through your mind? What questions did you ask?” Because this is the whole dating thing. “What? Did you have a list? Did you know about him before? Did they draw you a picture? What were the things that went through your mind?” But, the point is that she had the choice.

Just go back to verse 12 for a second, because before we leave this story, I just want to leave you with something that’s really important biblically here in this model. This is the servant speaking. And the servant has packed up all these belongings, and has all these things he’s going to give as gifts, and before he actually meets Rebekah, he says this to God. He says:

Genesis 24:12-14 Genesis 24:12-14 [12] And he said O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray you, send me good speed this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. [13] Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water: [14] And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down your pitcher, I pray you, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give your camels drink also: let the same be she that you have appointed for your servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that you have showed kindness to my master.
American King James Version×
O Lord God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master, Abraham. Behold, I stand here by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink,’ let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.

That was a prayer. And that is fundamentally what the Bible talks about. This man prayed that God would guide that entire situation – that God would choose that woman, and that He would make it clear who that woman was that should marry Isaac. And that’s a biblical principle that we can take with us, even if we look back thousands of years. And this seems like a very strange sort of way of getting to know one another, but that’s still a biblical principle that we have to take. We need to be praying that God would guide us to the right person – a person that He would choose – and that His will would be done in our lives, in terms of marriage. So that’s something that we might be able to take from it. But again, you need to look through this. I don’t have the time. There are a lot of things to cover here.

Big question here is, “What are we praying for?” We’re praying, but what are we praying for and what are we looking for? Look over in Genesis 2, verse 18. I kind of made reference to this in the introduction, but let’s make sure we’re grounded in scripture on this. Genesis 2, verse 18:

Genesis 2:18 Genesis 2:18And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
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And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” Okay, for guys, it’s not good that we’re alone.

Now, are we going to say, “No, God doesn’t know what He’s talking about? I’m perfectly fine being on my own. In fact, it’s better for me to be on my own. God doesn’t know what He’s talking about. This scripture is not true. We just need to get a little Sharpie and cross this scripture out, because that’s not true.” No, I mean just think about it, because, guys, we’re a little dense sometimes, and have to get hit over the head. It says that it’s not good that man is alone. So that means that it is a desirous thing for men to seek to be married, because it is better for them to be married than to be alone.

The verse also says that God will make a helper comparable to him – an ally – somebody who’s going to complement. And so for women, we want to say, “I don’t need a man. I don’t need any men. They’re all trouble.” But in actual fact, you were created to help a man. That doesn’t mean you don’t have your own interests, you don’t have your own goals, you don’t have your own things you’re excited about. It just means you were created to complement a man – to be in a marital relationship. So the same thing applies.

Men and women need one another. They were created to be together. You can’t wipe this scripture out or pretend it’s not here. It’s in the Bible. And just because we’ve had a bad experience, just because we’ve seen bad experiences, just because we might be scared to death, does not mean that this is not God’s will for us. So we have to mentally get ourselves through this. This is where the real hard work of trusting in God and understanding His grace comes in. Because this is His will for us.

And if we don’t desire it, we need to ask ourselves, “Why?” Now, there might be good and valid reasons why. Okay? There may be good and valid reasons why somebody’s single. Perhaps they’ve been married before. Perhaps there’s a certain age or certain health issues. There’s good and valid reasons. I want to make sure that everyone’s heard me say that – good and valid reasons why people are single. But you really have to have those good and valid reasons, and fear is not one of them, and pride is not one of them, and a bad experience with your family – those don’t count. So, that’s where good counsel comes in. “Why don’t I desire this?” And really ask yourself and understand that.

We should be striving to be married. Now, look over in Proverbs 31, because we can see this follow-up as to why this should be desired. I think the writer here in Proverbs 31 puts it very well. Proverbs 31, verse 10 says:

Proverbs 31:10 Proverbs 31:10Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
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Who can find a virtuous woman? Another translation says a woman of noble character. So we’re back to the concept of character. Who can find a virtuous woman? For her worth is far above rubies. You see, it’s interesting that he would bring up this analogy, because, from a human standpoint, we have no problem desiring money. “No, I don’t’ want your money.” No! “Yeah, I’ll take your money.” We have no problem with that. We would desire diamonds and rubies and stocks and bonds and homes and cars and planes and whatever. But what the Bible says is that a woman of noble character has far greater worth. So, wouldn’t we desire that?

Again, I don’t think we have to limit this to men seeking a woman of noble character. A woman certainly desires a man of noble character.,And a man of noble character is certainly of far greater value than any money that we might be able to have. So this, in and of itself, says this is a great thing to be desired. We should desire this. A woman should desire a man of noble character.

And Genesis 2, verse 24 – we know this one very well – we won’t turn there, but it says:

Genesis 2:24 Genesis 2:24Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall join to his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
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…a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. And to be joined means there’s a process. There’s a process that led to that joining, and there’s a process that allows that state to remain. And that process does not begin with “I do.” It does not begin with the first serious date. It does not begin with the first quasi-serious date. It goes all the way back to us individually developing noble character in ourselves. That’s where this all begins.

So what are we looking for specifically? Well, you know, some people make a list. Well, hygiene, right? Seriously, guys, if you don’t take care of yourself, a woman’s going to notice that, because nobody wants to be with a stinky guy. So hygiene is important, right? But let’s go…I think when we’re talking about noble character, we’re a little beyond the hygiene stage. We want to be thinking about something beyond that. And it’s got to be more than, “I had a lot of fun.” Fun’s good, fun’s good, hygiene’s good, but it’s got to go beyond, “I had fun, and I kind of like this and I kind of like that.”

Fundamentally, we’re looking for compatibilities. And to find compatibilities takes time.  So time is an important variable in dating. Taking six months before you get married – a little short. I mean, how many people in Las Vegas get married over the weekend? So many, right? And you wonder why the statistics on divorce are so high – because people don’t take the time to really understand the compatibilities, to really understand what people are truly like. Because, let’s face it, when you’re dating, there’s a mask. Now we have Facebook, so now we don’t even have to, it’s like, “I have the PERFECT picture of myself. I took 200 selfies to get it. Here it is! You’ll never see me ever look like this again in my life, but here it is.” It’s like our perfect self that’s online. We stress about that. But we need time to drop that mask. We need time to see the other person without their mask on. So, it takes time.

Fundamentally, the question is, “What is their relationship with God?” Right? That’s the fundamental question that we need to be asking, because that question is the question from which all things flow. “Yes, I had a good time. Yeah, that person looks great – so sharp. Love that person!” But what is their character? What is their relationship with God? Do they seek Micah 6:8 Micah 6:8He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
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, that we talked about before: to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with their God? Because, if they have that, then everything else is going to flow from that. Because pride is a huge issue. Pride is a huge issue. “I don’t’ know why she wants me to change this. I’m perfectly fine the way I am.” But we have to let go of that. And a man and a woman need to be able to subject themselves one to another.

Let’s look at that in Ephesians 5:21 Ephesians 5:21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
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for just a moment. A person’s relationship with God – you know, that’s a sermon. In fact that’s kind of the sermon I gave last week, which is why I wanted to talk about this, so we don’t have to go through all of what it means to really understand that relationship and how we subject ourselves to God’s will. Ephesians 5:21 Ephesians 5:21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
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– it says:

Ephesians 5:21 Ephesians 5:21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
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submitting to one another in the fear of God. Now, I’m taking that a little bit…there’s a whole set of things that led up to that – I’m not reading all things before – but if you go back to verse 19 – that’s actually not a bad date, by the way – speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord – not a bad date, if you want to go do that. We have to figure out some church activity where we do that. We have Sabbath singing in the Feast in France on the morning of the first day – that’s a nice date. It’d be nice if we had more of those around the country, but verse 21 is really the key: submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, right? So a person’s relationship with God is the thing that men, you’re looking for in a woman, and women, you’re looking for in a man. Because fundamentally, when you’re growing together, you’re really fundamentally growing towards God. You’re each seeking that relationship with God as you come together, and so you have that larger goal in mind. And that means the man can appeal to the woman to say, “When I read this scripture, this is what I see.” And the woman can say, “Yeah, and when I read this scripture, this is what I see.” And you can have these dialogues, because you’re talking about it from scripture. Hopefully not using it to hit one another over the head with, but you can actually have that dialogue around scripture because you have a common basis.

Is the person serious about understanding themselves? You know, let a man examine himself to see whether he is in the faith. Is the person serious about understanding themselves, and you, or are they shopping around and playing games? You know, some people aren’t ready for a serious relationship. So yeah, you can go on a date, you can have fun, but if you’re ready for a serious relationship and they’re not, then you’re wasting your time, because the person’s not there. It doesn’t matter how much fun you might have, that person’s going to basically hurt you, and you want to be safe from that.

Is the person industrious or lazy? Are there addictions? Does the person show respect and love toward their parents? Because chances are, how they treat their parents is how they’re going to treat you. That’s what they’ve learned. Those are the behaviors. That doesn’t mean we’re condemned. I’m not saying, “I’m doomed.” I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that’s an indicator. And the person might say, “You know what, I need to share with you openly that I did not have a very good relationship with my parents. I don’t have the best functional family. I recognize that’s an issue, and that’s what I’m working on, and here’s the things I’m doing.” That’s a valid conversation, and then you’re having that dialogue around the person.

The thing to keep in mind is that there is no perfect person out there that you’re going to marry, so when you’re dating, quit looking for the perfect person. Because the perfect person will not exist. Everybody, no matter who you date, is going to have sin, they’re going to have character flaws, and they’re going to have issues. The point is, you need to be able to disclose and understand what they are. You don’t want to be surprised later when you find out that the person actually is a raging alcoholic. And I don’t joke about that, because that happens. You need to understand that before you get into that relationship. You need to understand what that person’s issues are, and have those conversations, and know. And of course, that means you need to understand what our issues are, which gets to the next point.

What is our fundamental responsibility in dating? Look over in Ephesians – actually we’re there – let’s go to verse 25 – Ephesian 5, verse 25. We need to be working on ourselves. We must be preparing ourselves for marriage like the church prepares herself for her marriage to Christ. That’s our fundamental responsibility in dating. Fundamentally we’re working on ourselves, not on the long list of the perfect guy, or the perfect gal. We’re working on ourselves. Verse 25:

Ephesians 5:25 Ephesians 5:25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
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Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies.

Now, here we have an example of masculine leadership. This is what, men, we need to be striving for. This is the example that we should be looking to obtain. This is a man who supports, loves, cherishes his wife, such that his wife has the support she needs to make the changes in her life to be without spot and blemish. That’s what Christ is doing for the church. He is supporting the church. He is loving the church in such a way that the church can present itself blameless and spotless before God. He’s cultivating, He’s cherishing, He’s loving. He’s nurturing, He’s guiding. That’s the example of masculine leadership – whether we’re married or whether we’re dating – that we as men have to follow. If we’re not doing this, we’re failing in our responsibilities as a man and in our relationships. That’s an incredible standard to follow. Just imagine that for a moment: You’re creating this environment for growth, you’re creating this environment for love, you’re creating this unconditional love environment, yet within an environment where this person can then develop with you. That is a huge, huge responsibility, and as I said, it doesn’t begin with “I do.”

It begins, frankly, at baptism, which is why baptism is so important in our interpersonal relationships, because without God’s Holy Spirit, we can’t achieve this. This is an impossible standard. This is God’s Holy Spirit flowing through us as men, revealing to us who we are. Yeah, you’ve got a lot of pride. You want her to do this – you’re just pushing her – but, you know what? She’s not ready. You need to back off. You need to give her some space. You need to recognize that she is her own person, who is moving on a different trajectory, and she will come along. She’ll understand this. But back off, give her some space, give her some time, give her some help. Maybe she needs you to make some changes. Right? As opposed to “I don’t know why she…I ask her to…” – all these complaints that come out. This takes God’s Holy Spirit.

And a lot of young people in the church say, “How do I know I’m ready for baptism?” You know what? You’re ready for baptism when you’re adult enough to realize that you cannot be a success in life without God’s Holy Spirit. I think that’s when you’re ready for baptism. “Oh, I can’t do this on my own. You know, I’ve got one shot, biblically, to be married. I’ve got one shot. Am I going to blow that shot, or am I going to really focus on what I need to be doing?” Now, if you, again, what you see is somebody who’s very authentic and who’s very real.

Let’s look over at Proverbs 31. We just looked at a standard for men. Let’s go back to Proverbs 31 – I only hit one aspect of it – but let’s look at a standard for women. Proverbs 31 – let’s continue after verse 10 – starting in verse 10:

Proverbs 31:10 Proverbs 31:10Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
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Who can find a virtuous woman? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands. She is like the merchant ships. She brings her food from afar. She also rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household, and a portion for her maidservants. She considers a field and buys it from her profits she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength and strengthens her arms. She perceives that her merchandise is good and her lamp does not go out by night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff and her hand holds the spindle. She extends her hand to the poor. Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household is clothed with scarlet. She makes tapestry for herself. Her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them and supplies sashes for the merchants. Strength and honor are her clothing. She shall rejoice in time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue is the law of kindness. She watches over the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also, and he praises her, “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.”

Here you have, again, an incredible standard. What you see here is a God-fearing woman of character with competence and intelligence and education. This is a woman who can stand against the merchants and haggle and say, “No, I want a better price for that. I’ve got good things here that I’m going to sell, and I’m proud of these things, and I worked hard for these things, and I need a good price.” Right? This is not a shrinking violet, but this is a woman that, nonetheless, has the law of kindness on her lips. This is a very high standard. As women, this is what you’re looking to develop in yourself that you can provide to your husband. And men, what a gift it is to have a woman like this by your side.

But again, a woman like this doesn’t want to be beside a man who’s not going to love her, who’s not going to give her the space to spread her wings and do all these things. “No, you need to check with me, honey, before you sell that field.” Well, yeah, of course you have those conversations. Right? But this woman is empowered. This woman has the full and complete confidence of her husband. And her husband knows that she is plenty capable of doing these things. He doesn’t need to be over the environment. Sometimes my wife says, “You don’t need to be in the room right now. Be gone. I’ve got this covered.” That’s a standard.

So these are two standards that we’re talking about. We see here though in verse 30, really the summation of the whole thing.

V-30 – Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.

Fear of the Lord – here it is again – the fear of the Lord. This is a God-fearing woman. In dating, you’re looking for character. Don’t imagine that a 20-year-old or a 23-year-old or a 25-year-old has perfect character. That’s not what you’re looking for. Really, the point is, that you’re looking for somebody who’s on a path of understanding, a path of self-examination, a path that begins with the fear of the Lord – a man who’s growing into the image of Jesus Christ, a woman who’s growing into the image of Jesus Christ – heirs together of the promise of life. That’s really what you’re looking for, and it starts by developing it in yourself.

Now let’s go through a few questions that come up about dating.

Is it okay to live together before marriage? This may seem like an obvious question, or an obvious answer, but let’s just make sure we know what we’re talking about. Because I’ve counseled people, in the church, who were living together before marriage, and they didn’t know that was wrong. So let’s just be sure that we’re clear on this.

According to Robert Muller in an article titled, America’s Morality Report Card, “by the mid-1990’s about two-thirds of married women in their 20’s had lived with their future spouse before getting married.” And that’s pretty much been the case since the mid-90’s – about two-thirds of women lived with their boyfriend before they get married. Growing up, I knew this was going on and the church consistently said, “It is not good to live with somebody before you get married.” And the question would be, “Why not?” If you’re going to buy a car, you want to try it out,” and all these kinds of things people say. And what the church consistently said was that actually people who live together before they get married have higher rates of divorce afterwards.

Now, interestingly enough, there’s an article in Time Magazine, from March 12, 2014 by Brenda Lipscomb, where she says the majority of research studies show – I’m quoting Time Magazine now. By the way, Time’s a little liberal. I don’t know if you knew that. It’s kind of a liberal magazine [laughter]. “The majority of research studies show that couples who live together prior to getting married divorced at higher rates than those who did not live together prior to marriage.” Finally, somebody…. This is not Christianity Today. This is not the Good News magazine. This is a liberal publication that is saying, “It is true. Research shows that living together prior to marriage results in higher divorce rates.” This is not the church saying this. This is a liberal writer from Time Magazine. This article (I have it, by the way, if you want to look at it) then goes on to say, “Yeah, yeah, but…. Actually those studies didn’t take into account this. They didn’t take into account that. Actually, if you do these six things, then it’s going to be okay.” That’s what the rest of the article says. So if you want to look at the article to see this – I want to make sure I’m representing the article correctly. But the fact is, that people who live together prior to marriage actually divorce at a higher rate.

Now, if you look over in I Corinthians 7, verse 1, because that’s great. Research shows – right? – research studies show, but what does the Bible say? 1 Corinthians 7, verse 1 is very clear on this.

1 Corinthians 7:1-2 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 [1] Now concerning the things whereof you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. [2] Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
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Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me – the people of Corinth wrote to Paul about this. They wanted to have some answers. It’s like, “Paul, can you tell us about dating?” You kind of imagine that, right? “Paul, give us some answers about how girls and boys and men and women should get together and how that should work.” It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.

Sexual relations are designed to be within the confines of marriage. This is what he’s saying here in this verse. To make it even clearer, if we go over to Philippians…actually I think it’s 1 Thessalonians – let’s go to 1 Thessalonians 4 – I didn’t write it down, but I believe that’s where it is…yes, there it is – 1 Thessalonian 4, and verse 1. Paul makes this even clearer. I’m going to read this from the Phillips translation, because I think it really makes it a little more modern. We’re going to read verses 1 through 8, so follow along here.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 [1] Furthermore then we beseech you, brothers, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as you have received of us how you ought to walk and to please God, so you would abound more and more. [2] For you know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. [3] For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you should abstain from fornication: [4] That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; [5] Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: [6] That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. [7] For God has not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness. [8] He therefore that despises, despises not man, but God, who has also given to us his holy Spirit.
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To sum up, my brothers, we beg and pray you by the Lord Jesus, that you continue to learn more and more of the life that pleases God, the sort of life we told you about before. You will remember the instructions we gave you then in the name of the Lord Jesus. Okay, so he’s going to summarize the things that he told them face to face, and this is what he says – verse 3. God’s plan is to make you holy, and that entails, first of all a clean cut from sexual immorality. I talked about this last week – holy, righteous character – and that means that you need to stop all sexual immorality. And in the ancient world, that means going to a temple prostitute, because that was a form of worship. That means living together. That means having any sexual relations outside of marriage. Every one of you should learn to control his body, keeping it pure and treating it with respect - again, I’m reading here in verse 3 and verse 4 – treating it with respect, and never regarding it as an instrument for self-gratification, as do pagans with no knowledge of God. You cannot break this rule without in some way cheating your fellow-men. And you must remember that God will punish all who do offend in this matter, and we have warned you how we have seen this work out in our experience of life. The calling of God is not to impurity, but to the most thorough purity, and anyone who makes light of the matter is not making light of man’s ruling but of God’s command. It is not for nothing that the Spirit God gives us is called the Holy Spirit.

This is a pretty clear indication that Paul, writing to the Thessalonians and also the Corinthians, made it clear that men and women should not be engaged in sexual relations prior to marriage. Of course, no the question is, as I shared there before, “We’re just living together, but we’re not having sexual relations.” So now the question comes up, “It’s very expensive in the Bay Area. I’m paying $1500 a month, and she’s paying $1500 a month, and we could save a bunch of money. And we won’t do anything. In fact, we’ll probably have another roommate, so it’ll be three of us. And so that way, it’s just economically…it’s just the reality of how we have it.” You know, I hope the way that comes across, and even you can hear that kind of justification – kind of like, “I want to do this. I know it’s not quite right, but here’s a good reason anyway why I should do that.”

 Biblically, there’s another important issue here, and it’s on my same page here – 1 Thessalonians 5:22 1 Thessalonians 5:22Abstain from all appearance of evil.
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. Why is it not okay to live together – even if you have your own bedroom with a bath, and she has her own bedroom and a bath, and maybe there’s even a third roommate and a third bedroom, and you’re all sharing rent, and that’s cool, right? So there’s something in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 1 Thessalonians 5:22Abstain from all appearance of evil.
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, where it says:

1 Thessalonians 5:22 1 Thessalonians 5:22Abstain from all appearance of evil.
American King James Version×
Abstain from every form of evil. Now, one of the translations – and it’s actually a very good rendering – is, Abstain from the appearance of evil – or every form of evil. So if you’re living together, let’s just be honest, it’s presumed that you’re sleeping together. That’s what our modern society says. So you have an appearance of evil that’s going on.

If you go back to 1 Corinthians 6, there’s also something else going on – 1 Corinthians 6, verse 18 – that’s important. And by the way, this also fits for sharing hotel rooms on trips. I’m really getting very specific here, aren’t I? I’m really meddling. “Well, but you know, we’re traveling cross country, and it’s $100 a night, and it’s really ridiculous we have to spend $200 a night to have her have a room and me have a room. We’re not going to do anything, and economically, it doesn’t make sense.” Well, you know what? It’s wrong. Let me just say it. A man and a woman who are not married, traveling cross country, sharing a hotel room…it’s wrong. It’s just wrong. And it’s wrong because of 1 Corinthians 6, verse 18.

1 Corinthians 6:18 1 Corinthians 6:18Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is without the body; but he that commits fornication sins against his own body.
American King James Version×
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.

This is tempting. This is a huge temptation, especially if you’ve been together for a while. It’s a huge temptation! You are putting yourself into a position where you are very likely going to sin. And you are told, and I am told here, to flee sexual immorality. You run from it. You don’t run to it. You don’t go in, “Okay, you use the bathroom. I’ll sleep on the floor. Oh, we have double beds.” No, flee sexual immorality. Have no appearance of evil. That’s what the Bible says. I would love to talk with you about this afterwards, if you have some counter points.  But I think it’s very clear, and I think we need to be on the same page as well.

If you go to the next question, which is: What about holding hands, or kissing, while you’re dating? What about PDA? Do you know that term? Personal displays of affection. Everyone needs to know PDA. What about PDA? PDA is interesting. Look over in Song of Solomon 2, verse 7 – often not quoted in sermons, but it is in the Bible. It says:

Song Of Solomon 2:7 Song Of Solomon 2:7I charge you, O you daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that you stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.
American King James Version×
Do not awaken love until its time. Do not awaken love until its time.

So, this is interesting, because personal displays of affection, or kissing or holding hands, these are physical actions that we take, and these physical actions have consequences. They create bonds between men and women. And these bonds are serious bonds. They’re serious, physical bonds. And as you’re getting to know somebody, if you come to the conclusion that that person is actually really not ready for a serious relationship, or that person has some pretty serious character flaws, and you’ve already crossed this boundary of awakening love and creating these physical bonds, then you’re going to subject yourself to a great deal of pain – best case. Best case – a great deal of pain, by saying, “I need to break off this relationship.” Worst case – your judgement is going to be clouded by the physical bond that’s been created, and you’ll get married to a person that’s not ready to be married, or to a person with very serious issues, which then you, as the person who went ahead with it, are going to have to deal with for the rest of your life. All because you felt like it was necessary to kiss or hold hands, or do something that before you were ready.

So there is a time. That might be an engagement, that might be prior to an engagement, but there is a time where there is a level of commitment in the relationship that has been based upon a very rational, intelligent, academic, thoughtful, prayer, fasting, and so forth without any physical confusion in that, where physical affection is appropriate – certainly appropriate. But don’t cross that boundary until you’re ready. I think, unfortunately, people just, “Oh, we’re just holding hands.” “I’ve just got my arm around her.” I’ve just got my arm around her on the couch, in the movie theater, on our own in the car.” Right? You can see it just snowballs as we go. So these are questions that come up.

Probably one of the most difficult questions that comes up all the time is, “Is it appropriate to date someone of a different faith?” Let’s go to 2 Corinthians 6, and verse 14 – a very famous scripture. Let’s start in verse 11.

2 Corinthians 6:11-14 2 Corinthians 6:11-14 [11] O you Corinthians, our mouth is open to you, our heart is enlarged. [12] You are not straitened in us, but you are straitened in your own bowels. [13] Now for a recompense in the same, (I speak as to my children,) be you also enlarged. [14] Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness?
American King James Version×
O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. Verse 12: You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open. Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

So, unequally yoked – the language here is clearly about unbelievers. That’s the term: unbelievers. So we have to understand this in the context of those who were called into God’s church and those who continued to follow pagan practices of the Romans, of the Greeks, and so forth. So, if you were considering dating a Wiccan. The Bible says, “No.” Are we on safe ground there? Everyone’s comfortable with that one? No controversy. If you were considering dating an atheist, if you were considering to date a Buddhist, or a Hindu, or a Muslim, this says that they are unbelievers. They do not believe in the grace of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They are unbelievers. They do not believe in the God that you believe in. That’s what unbelievers mean. Okay. So that’s pretty safe.

So now the question comes up, “What about people who are Christian – mainstream Christian – in some way?” In fact, sadly, some people might say, “The guys out of the church are nicer than the guys in the church.” You’ve heard that. Well…maybe. Yes, certainly, we all have things we have to learn and grow in. The question comes down then – if we’re clear – if you have a desire to date somebody who’s a Muslim, don’t do it, because the Bible says don’t do it. That’s just what it says. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. So now the question is what about somebody who does accept Jesus Christ. They might even say that, “I accept Jesus Christ as my personal sacrifice and Savior, and will you come to mass with me on Sunday morning. We’re going to pray, and there He is right up there. There’s an image of Jesus Christ, and I accept Him.” Really, what it comes down to is the Church of God is spiritual Israel – spiritual Israel – and so we really need to consider what God says about this subject. Deuteronomy 7 – let’s go over to Deuteronomy 7 for just a moment – Deuteronomy 7, verse 4 – verse 3, sorry:

Deuteronomy 7:3 Deuteronomy 7:3Neither shall you make marriages with them; your daughter you shall not give to his son, nor his daughter shall you take to your son.
American King James Version×
Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.

Now, clearly this is again talking about the pagan rituals of the Canaanites, but there’s a principle here. The principle is they “will turn your sons away from following Me.” All of Solomon’s wives and concubines…and what was God concerned about? He was concerned about the fact that they turned Solomon’s heart away from following Him. And that’s what happened with Solomon.

So, if a young lady or a young man decides to date someone outside of the Church of God, I really counsel you to consider whether or not that relationship is going to lead you closer to God or farther away from God. That’s really the principle here in Deuteronomy 7. Is that relationship fundamentally going to strengthen and draw you closer to God or not? And if the answer is no, then you have to accept that answer for what it is. When you decide to date somebody who keeps Christmas, who keeps Easter, who is not interested in saving 2nd tithe to observe eight days in the place where God’s name has chosen, you’re getting into situations where you’re going to get into conflict. And that conflict can create a lot of issues. My counsel is: Proceed with great caution, because in my experience, I haven’t really seen it work.

I know I’m going on record saying that because there’s people who’ve married outside the church, and people who are dating outside the church. I just haven’t seen it work. I would love to see it work. I think Deuteronomy 7, verse 3 is an individual choice that each person has to make, in that regard, as to whether or not they are going to be drawn to God or taken away from God. What I see is, I see people marry a Catholic, a Protestant, whatever it might be, and they come to church less frequently, they have to compromise on the Feast, because the money isn’t there or there’s something going on. They’re sitting at a Christmas dinner, when they’d rather not sit at a Christmas dinner, to have peace in the family, and there’s a whole set of compromises that flow from that. I just don’t think it’s wise. I just don’t think it’s wise.

Now this situation did exist in the ancient world. Go to 1 Corinthians 7, verse 13. We typically understand this passage in the context of somebody who was called when they were already married and not necessarily dating. 1 Corinthians 7, verse 13 says:

1 Corinthians 7:13-14 1 Corinthians 7:13-14 [13] And the woman which has an husband that believes not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. [14] For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
American King James Version×
And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.

I think there is a role, nonetheless, of a woman preaching to her husband – and we have this example here, and I think you can see it the other way too – but there’s an opportunity to witness. There’s an opportunity to set an example. Peter talks about it. I don’t have time to go over there – you can look it up in 1 Peter 3. He talks about the example that a wife sets for a husband in that way.

All right, lastly: Should teenagers be dating one on one? Should teenagers be dating one on one? Look over in 1 Corinthians 13, and verse 11, just a few scriptures over. Now, as I shared in my introduction, even worldly wisdom, with the top ten dating safety tips, including, taking pepper spray with you, says, “Group dating is good.” Group dating is good. So should teenagers be dating one on one? Should they be pairing off so that they can gain the benefit of learning what that other person is like, because they need time to really understand that person. I think 1 Corinthians 13, verse 11 says something very interesting.

1 Corinthians 13:11 1 Corinthians 13:11When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
American King James Version×
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

When does a person become a man? When does a person become a woman? Biologically, men and women typically become men and women around puberty. A woman can have a child at 13, 12. A man at 16 kind of looks like a man – voice is deepened, taller, broad shoulders. But this verse says something interesting. It says, When I became a man, I put away childish things. What Paul is saying is, becoming a man is about putting away childish things. So just because biologically somebody is a man, doesn’t mean they are really a man mentally. They have to put away childish things. That means there are fruits shown of manliness. There are fruits shown of being a woman. And those fruits are that those things that used to be important when you were 12 or 8, are no longer important, because those are childish things and you’ve moved on to bigger things, more important things – things that are adult types of things.

So, I think serious dating is not for children. I think we’d all agree with that. A teenager is often a person in a man or woman’s body, who is going through the process of putting away childish things. I’ve met very mature teenagers before – very mature. In fact, I have some good friends who met one another when they were both 18. Very mature people, and they got married in their early 20’s and now, here they are 27 years later, very happily married, wonderful people in God’s church. So, teenagers can meet and date at 18. It does happen, but that’s been less my experience, because it takes time to put away the childish things. It takes a life experience to put away childish things.

Time Magazine again – I quoted from that article – an interesting thing that they mentioned in that article is that research shows that getting married before 23 is incredibly risky. Your risk for divorce, if you get married before the age of 23, shoots up exponentially. In fact, every year - and, again, they’re quoting studies from this article – every year after 23, the chances for a successful marriage goes up. And they say that’s actually kind of counter intuitive, because a woman thinks, “Oh, by the time I’m 30, I’ll never get married” – because the chances are so slim. But in actual fact, the chances for a successful marriage go up every year from 23-30, because you’re developing more of who you are. You’re putting away more of those childish things. So is it necessary for a 14 year old to go on a one on one date because they want to make sure that nine years from now, “I’m going to be ready to marry that person, and I really want to know who they are.” That doesn’t make sense, does it? You don’t need to date someone for nine years. Besides, the person, when they’re 14, is going to be so different by the time they get to be 23. So, going on a date one on one when you’re 14, or 15, or 16 or even 17, it really doesn’t lead to anything. It’s fun, which is why group dating is great, but it really isn’t necessary in this grand scheme of things. There’s lots of other ways to have fun with your friends than going on a date when you’re 16.

The other thing that’s interesting is that research shows that impulse control in the brain is not fully mature until a person is 20 years old. This is from a book entitled, A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults, by Dr. Frances Jenson. That’s interesting. She actually shows that the brain itself has not fully developed the capability to regulate control. Now, everybody who’s a teen is like, “Woohoo! I have an excuse! Mom, you can’t blame me. I’m not biologically developed. I had to do it!” No, you can’t use that as an excuse. You still have to put yourself in the right situation.

So what you have then is like, “Okay, let’s take two young people with raging hormones and put them together in a darkened place, and nothing’s going to happen, because they’ve got full impulse control.” I mean, just nothing adds up in that equation. Parents, I really counsel you to exercise wisdom there, and to explain this. And as young people, I really ask you to ask yourself, “Am I really ready to be put in that situation.”

I hope these points have been helpful in considering these scriptures. I hope it is an invitation to more dialogue – that it’s not Tim Pebworth’s opinion. It’s not the United Church of God’s teaching. All right? More importantly, it’s the Bible. That’s what we’re really talking about.

I hope you take seriously the homework to read Genesis 24. It’s a really interesting chapter of how God works things out in relationships.

I do want to mention just one final point, and that is that dating needs to be done in a safe environment. And when I mean safe, I don’t mean drive your own car safe, restaurant public safe. I mean safe in terms of emotional safety and so forth. So what that means is that people need a chance to date without people going, “Hee hee hee, when are you going to get married?” Right? I know we love to do that, but don’t. I know it sounds fun, but don’t. If in this Bay area, two people, whether they might be 21 or 41, are spending more and more time together, just don’t say anything about it, please. Just don’t say anything to them. Don’t gossip. Don’t talk about it. It’s really not cool. Because what it does is, it creates an unsafe environment. He might be like, “I’m just getting to know this person. We’re taking it slow. Don’t rush me to the altar.” Because that’s what people want to do. “It’s so cute, look at them, they’re sitting together.” Don’t say anything. Don’t gossip. Don’t say anything to them. Give them space, because it may be that three weeks later, two months later, they’re not together, because they realize it’s not going to work. And that way they don’t have the whole congregation going, “Oh, it’s so sad. I thought it was going to work out. They were so good.” Just don’t say anything. We need to create that safe environment for people. And people are so well meaning…. I’ve experienced that. When my wife and I were dating, I had this great idea to go to the Feast in France, and then I found out she wasn’t going, because she couldn’t get a visa and get out of the country. So I ended up going to the Feast in France without her when we were pretty seriously dating. People began to ask, “Why are you hanging out so much with her sister?” Now, her sister was married with three kids, so that was okay, but people started talking, and it was like…. “Just give it some space.” Last thing that I’d mentioned.

So, marriage is good, dating is good – if it’s done right – and it can lead to a beautiful life-long relationship. I hope I’ve just introduced a few key principles to consider, and let’s take the time to study this. Whatever stage of life you might be in, let’s take some time to study these things so that we can grow in grace and knowledge into the image of Jesus Christ.