Every culture has its own unique approach to dating. Regardless of how traditional courting takes place, seeking to develop a relationship is a common practice throughout most of the world. As arranged marriages decline in some cultures, meeting and interacting with the opposite sex by dating as a means of finding a marriage partner is becoming more and more universal.
Dating is exciting! It provides opportunities for going out to dinner or to movies or other various activities with enjoyable company. While it seems most parents are wary of the question, "When can I start dating?" it's only natural for teenagers to want to begin this thrilling experience.
Testing the dating waters
I began dating when I was 16 years old—right around the time my family began returning to the Church of God. I wasn't ready to change the way I looked at dating simply because my parents had decided to follow a different path. But as I began to change my views about the Church, I started to seriously look at how my relationships influenced my beliefs.
I wasn't dating terrible, evil guys—just ones whose beliefs were different from my own. But what I didn't consider was that their beliefs could influence mine. Then after dating the same guy for about eight months, he began to ask questions—questions that were challenges, not inquiries. In his view, my beliefs restricted our relationship.
I took time off from dating to focus on understanding what I believed. I didn't want to be in a relationship where I would be challenged and not have the answers.
Focused on beliefs
The Bible's words in 2 Corinthians 6:14 began to resound louder than ever: "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?" It became clear to me that not being "yoked" to another person means more than not marrying him or her. It also means that we should not seriously date someone with whom we have conflicting spiritual beliefs, since dating is a gateway to marriage.
Looking back now on my experiences, I would recommend to younger girls (and guys, for that matter) to seriously consider how important your beliefs are to you before dating somebody with different beliefs. Relationships are built on having things in common. If what is most important to you is different from what is most important to your boyfriend or girlfriend, it will be very difficult to ever see eye-to-eye.
God knows best
Hanging out with friends from school in groups is a great way to learn about different personality traits and quirks that we might find attractive (or completely unappealing!). But since their beliefs and values are in conflict with yours, it shouldn't go further than that.
I've heard the complaints that there are "too few options in the Church" or that "the guys in school are just as nice." In the end, it comes down to knowing what is truly important to you. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus Christ tells us to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." God will provide for you if you truly are seeking His Kingdom.
Obeying God's instruction in 2 Corinthians 6:14 and then trusting Him to provide a relationship—and later a spouse, if it is His plan for us—takes faith. Dating a person who does not follow your beliefs is risky. On rare occasions this has worked out when the unbeliever has come to live God's way of life, but you cannot expect to convert somebody. Only God can call people to His truth (John 6:44). Dating someone who shares your spiritual beliefs is always the wiser approach.
When you choose this path, dating will still be fun, and you can have many opportunities to connect with those who share the same core beliefs as you do. This kind of dating produces such an incredible feeling and blessing! Coming to the realization that a relationship cannot continue because of conflicting beliefs will hurt an incredible amount if you have already developed an emotional attachment. Avoid putting yourself in that position by putting confidence in God and following His guidance to not date an unbeliever. VT