Relationships can be messy, and love can be complicated. Here are "10 Don'ts of Christian Dating". They are raw and honest, compiled by the many failings of my own life and the wisdom of a collective group of voices. Remember, relationships are Gods idea! Marriage, love, family (sex) are all really good things and God wants you (and I) to experience them in all their fullness, but sometimes that means avoiding certain pitfalls and dangers. So here goes.
1. DON'T MARRY SOMEONE JUST BECAUSE YOU WANT TO SLEEP WITH THEM.
This is honestly such a bad motivator to jump into a relationship, or marriage. Yes, sex is an amazing (let me emphasise A-M-A-ZING) part of a marriage, but it's not the only part. If you're primary desire for getting married (especially super young) is to have sex, you're setting yourself up disaster. Sex is like icing on the cake, but if the rest of the ingredients aren't great, your cake will be a dud. Don't settle for someone you're simply physically attracted to. Dig a little deeper. Looks fade and attraction can fluctuate. Go after someone who propels you forward into your God given calling, who energises your soul, and aligns with your core values. Look for someone that you click with, laugh with and dream with. Most importantly pray that God would lead you to the best choice for you personally. Marriage is a partnership that should be based on friendship, attraction, commitment, compatibility and hopefully a divine collision of purpose! It is so much more than a permission slip to get busy. Don't date just because you like each other, or you want to see how it goes. Enter your dating relationship with vision, conviction and absolute intention!
2. DON'T BECOME EMOTIONALLY DEPENDENT
It's so important to establish healthy boundaries. I've seen so many couples (and at times fallen victim myself) to becoming completely emotionally dependent on the other person. They become your primary source of joy. Instead of functioning like an individual everything revolves around you as a couple. I recently saw a friend do this in her relationship. They would talk for hours every day and text non-stop. Unfortunately, when they broke up 9 short months later it became a very messy situation. They were so deeply intertwined it was like untangling a sticky spiders web. Young person don't share your deepest secrets, fears and dreams early on in the relationship. Tim Keller puts it so well, "Don’t let things get too passionate too quickly – Emotions can come on very strong in the beginning of a relationship. Infatuation is often misinterpreted as deep love, and people become blind to each other’s flaws, and disillusioned. Take your time to build up an all-inclusive attraction which will be a more sustaining, stronger love through years of marriage".
3. DON'T TRY AND GET AS CLOSE TO THE LINE WITHOUT CROSSING IT.
When I was a Youth Pastor lots of teenagers would often ask me, "so how far can I go"? My advice still to this day, is run from that line for dear life honey! It’s like lingering on the edge of a cliff hoping not to slip. You wanna pull it back as far as you can, because inevitably you will creep closer. Trust me! I may not have gone all the way but we definitely toed the line a time or two. And just because it's not "sex" (technically), doesn't mean it's not connection. The point is not avoiding intercourse, the point is not bonding emotionally, physically, psychologically and sexually with someone that you're not married too! Because whether you like it or not, any attachment that is broken has ripple effects. Sex is the strongest adhesive available. Handle with care friends.
Ask yourself, "how is this choice affecting my future"?
Ask yourself, "how much can I experience with my future spouse"?
Ask yourself, "is what I am about to do, honouring God, my future spouse and this person if we break up"?
4. DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP WHEN YOU MAKE A MISTAKE
Like I said relationships can messy and we all stumble through, but I'm so glad that God's love for us has no strings attached! He loves us when we're good, He loves us when we fall short. He loves the person we present in public, and the one only we see in the dark. Nothing you've done can ever separate you from His love. So when you miss the mark or cross the line (whichever one that is) don't stay down, go on get back up. No choice defines you, and no mistake disqualifies you. God made you, and me. He knows your humanity, your weakness and your frailty. If you make a mistake don’t beat yourself up. Run to God, not away. The key is repentance, which simply means to change your thinking, to do a u-turn. Realize that Jesus is grace personified. Be honest with Him. Admit your failings. Take ownership for your actions and be empowered by His grace to go and sin no more.
5. DON'T ISOLATE YOURSELF FROM COUNSEL
So many people live by the mantra, "It's my life, I can do what I want." Yes, it's true, it is your life and you can do what you want. But if you're smart you'll seek out Godly wisdom and the voice of the Holy spirit to guide you. There’s a verse in Proverbs that says, “Where there is no guidance, people fall, but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety.” When your parents, your pastors, or even your close friends try and speak into your relationship, don't pull back and ignore what they say. Often times we isolate ourselves when we know the decisions we are making aren't great. Foolish people ignore counsel and simply do what "feels" right. Be wise and listen to godly & good advice. When the Holy spirit presses on your heart and you feel that knot in your stomach don't ignore His promptings or warnings. Far too often I have seen people ignore their pastors, parents, friends and even God and end up in toxic relationships (and worse yet marriages) that leave them heartbroken and living with regret. We aren't meant to do life alone, so lean into the good relationships that God has positioned around you.
6. WHEN YOU START DATING DON'T STOP CHASING YOUR DREAMS AND SERVING JESUS
Just because you start dating someone doesn't mean everything else in your life has to take a back seat. If you've got a dream to finish a degree, start a business, do bible college or pursue a specific career path, don't give it all up because you got into a relationship. Stay motivated, keep seeking God for direction for your life, work hard, have fun, serve God. When you find the right person, they propel you into your destiny, not drag you down to mediocrity. And honestly don't become less involved in Church because you got a boyfriend or girlfriend. Like seriously? The amount of youth leaders I have seen step back from serving in the house of God because they started dating or got married is crazy. We all have commitments, we all have active lives. Make God's house a priority, whatever stage of life you are in.
7. DON'T DATE SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T HOLD THE SAME CORE BELIEFS AS YOU.
If you're a Christian, then for heaven’s sake don't jump into a relationship with someone who isn't. This is not my opinion. This is bible. 2 Corinthians 6:14 "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers." They can be the most attractive person you've ever met but if they don't love Jesus. Stop. Time & time again I have seen Christians hook up with people just because they're nice, but somewhere along the way they either break up because they weren't heading in the same direction or the believer turns their back on what they once held dear. This doesn’t mean that someone who isn't a Christian is a bad person or evil. Seriously, I am sure we all have many friends and family members who aren't believers, yet are still some of the most beautiful, caring and fun people in our world. This is not about belittling someone who doesn't hold the same beliefs as we do, this is about aligning our lives with someone who does! Because it's pretty hard to follow Jesus with all your heart and hook up with someone going in the opposite direction.
8. DON'T HAVE UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Don’t get hung up on the "perfect" relationship or being with the "perfect" person. Listen no one is perfect, (despite how amazing their Instagram feed) and the facade Hollywood keeps trying to sell. The truth is not even Hollywood can live up to its own expectations (why do you think they all break up?). It doesn't matter what you crop or photoshop your relationship is with a real person, not an image. Who you date (and then marry) is a real-life person. They will not be perfect (I'm certainly not). So, do yourself a favour and drop the unrealistic expectations. Because, "when expectations are not met, disappointment sets it." Be real, be raw, be gracious with your partner. A relationship is seeing someone at their worst and loving them regardless. Marriage is an exposure to the good, the bad & the ugly. When you're dating you can hide the flaws, the imperfections, the insecurities. Marriage is revealing your whole self. It is complete vulnerability - physically & emotionally. It takes maturity to stick around when you see every part of a person. But that is what marriage should be - embracing your lover, flaws & all. “Marriage provides the solace of worked-on friendship and the joy of being known profoundly.” - Imogene Stubbs”
9. DON'T ACT LIKE A MARRIED COUPLE
Listen, until you're actually married, don't act like it. Don't sleep together, don't live together and don't plan your whole life around one another! According to mainstream media those things are no biggie and have become the norm in most dating relationships, but as Christians we take our cues from the bible, not pop culture. Romans 12:2 (The message) "Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognise what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." Until you marry someone you don't get the privileges, nor the challenges of that relationship status. So, cool your jets and get your hands of her hips. She's not your playground and he's not your ATM. Don't expect him to pay for everything, and don't expect her to want to do everything. You're not "one flesh" yet so don't mimic the married couples around you. Respect and value one another. Honour God and apply His principles.
10. DON'T THINK THAT A ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP (OR GETTING MARRIED) WILL COMPLETE YOU
You see, no matter how much water you pour in, if there’s a hole in the bucket it will always run dry. No matter how perfect your Mr. Right (Or Mrs Right) is, they can’t keep you happy all the time, and the truth is, it’s not their job too. It’s yours, and mine. So, learn to love yourself the way God loves you. A spouse does not complete your life, they complement it! If you expect a person to fulfil you, you will be bitterly disappointed. God is the only one who completes us. God has to be our source of identity, security and joy or we will eventually be left unsatisfied. Like I've said so many times marriage is good! (great actually) but REAL LOVE, everlasting love, complete love is found in Jesus. You don’t just need that as a single person, you need that every day of your life. You and I will always be sons and daughters of God, before anything or anyone else.
You see, no matter how much water you pour in, if there’s a hole in the bucket it will always run dry. No matter how perfect your Mr. Right (Or Mrs Right) is, they can’t keep you happy all the time, and the truth is, it’s not their job too. It’s yours, and mine. So learn to love yourself the way God loves you. A spouse does not complete your life, they complement it! If you expect a person to fulfil you, you will be bitterly disappointed. God is the only one who completes us. God has to be our source of identity, security and joy or we will eventually be left unsatisfied. Like I've said so many times marriage is good! (great actually) but REAL LOVE, ever lasting love, complete love is found in Jesus. You don’t just need that as a single person, you need that every day of your life. You and I will always be sons and daughters of God, before anything or anyone else.
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