In recent years there has been much debate about whether a person should date before marriage or just court the person they intend to marry.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, dating can be defined as an engagement to go out socially with another person, often out of romantic interest. Courtship alternatively can be defined as a man’s courting of a woman; seeking the affections of a woman (usually in the hope of marriage) – Webster Dictionary. Or in more simple terms dating is perceived as a fun social outing, which could lead to marriage and courtship is perceived as a social outing where both parties have an intention of marriage in their minds from the outset.
Campaigners for both camps lay down strong arguments as to the virtues of their particular viewpoint. Sometimes to the extent that some singles are confused as to what to do if they desire to enter into a relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Would I be perceived as being non-spiritual if I date someone? What if I enter into courtship and it doesn’t work out because I don’t know them? What is wrong if I date someone just to get to know them first before I commit to marriage? Is courtship similar to an arranged marriage, as both parties do not necessarily know each other before the nuptials? These are some of the questions asked.
In this article I am not going to justify the position or indeed analyse the pros and cons of either lobby but instead I want to suggest another dimension to having a meaningful relationship by going above the arguments and by saying that singles should relate with a godly purpose.
Everything God does has a purpose; a specific end result He had in mind. E.g. He gave Adam Eve in order to complete him. Dr Myles Munroe has said, “Where there is no purpose abuse is inevitable.” The argument therefore follows; if a single does not understand why they want to have a godly relationship or indeed understand what a relationship means, abuse will surely transpire. This could lead to pain, disillusionment, discouragement, bitterness and hurt. Relationships do not have to lead to these negative outcomes. They can be positive if we relate to one another with a godly purpose. In other words, we should approach relationships with the mind of Christ.<>1. UNDERSTAND THE MEANING OF RELATIONSHIP
Many single Christians are entering into relationships, which in reality they should never have begun because they were unaware of what having a Godly relationship involves.
The Bible says: And the Lord give thee understanding in all things. 2 Timothy 2:7b. A solid foundation can only come when a true understanding of the meaning of relationship forms its basis. With such an understanding, a relationship not only becomes more meaningful it is also more likely to last because it is built on Godly wisdom, principles and understanding.
2. DEFINE THE RELATIONSHIP
Before embarking on any relationship, ask yourself some questions. For example, why do I want to enter into this relationship? Where will it lead? Is God involved in my decision-making? Did I hear from God or is my flesh speaking/motivating me?
Defining the relationship helps you to determine your own personal expectations and will help you to shape those of the person you wish to relate to. Once you know what you want it is best to communicate that to the person you wish to relate with in order to avoid unwarranted conflict later.
3. PRAY THE RELATIONSHIP THROUGH
It is so important when you have to make minor and major decisions in life that you approach them with the mind of Christ. The Word of God commands us not to lean on our own understanding but to acknowledge God in all our ways, so that He can make our path straight. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
When we pray we are having an intimate relationship with God. It is in the communion with Him that you are able to know His mind (the Word of God) on matters pertaining to your life. Through prayer you will, in your connection to God, be able to choose appropriately, speak correctly and conduct yourself in a godly manner. Intimacy with God in prayer will also help to guide you through the complexity of relationships and enable you to relate to another person in a stress free manner.
4. KNOW THYSELF
A relationship cannot be wholesome if one of the parties in the relationship does not see themselves as separate, unique and whole. Where this does not occur in a relationship, one of the parties will start to feel drained by the other as they are relating to a Very Draining Person or a Very Needing Person. To avoid being the person that weighs down the person with whom you want to have a meaningful relationship with, you need to know yourself – your strengths and weakness. Simply, you need to know what makes you ‘tick’. It is in the understanding of who you are as a child of God and as a human being that you can relate more effectively with another person.
5. GET TO KNOW THE PERSON WELL
Sometimes when couples relate, they interact on a superficial basis in an attempt to present a positive side of themselves. The fear of being open and vulnerable to another person causes some to play a charade of surface level relationship right up to the time of commitment to marriage.
Once the couple cross over into marriage, their eyes ‘open’ and the rose tinted glasses are removed. They have to spend time and make an extra effort to work through issues which could have been dealt with prior to marriage. Couples looking to have a meaningful relationship should not major on the minors but focus on the fundamentals which will form the basis of their marriage e.g. spiritual life, family relationships, approach to money, child rearing, each others’ vision, etc. Success will come when you know and understand each other.
6. COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE
Talking and listening are key tools for anyone desiring to have a meaningful relationship. If you are able to talk freely to another person, who is not going to negatively use what you share with them, it is a good indication that you will have a meaningful relationship with them.
When you talk you are able to share your heart. The person with whom you are talking to, through the things you say, your thought processes, tone of voice etc. is able, if they listen with the ear of the Spirit, to ‘know’ the person you really are. Listening therefore is as important as talking. If talking is the main focus and not listening as well, the relationship is in danger of being shallow. Listening allows you to get to hear what is really in the mind of another person. When both are done in tandem, a couple stand a better chance of their relationship surviving the storms of life.
7. BE DETERMINED NOT TO COMPROMISE
Sin brought about the schism in the relationship between Adam and Eve. Prior to the fruit incident, Adam related freely with Eve. They were naked and not ashamed. However, once the fruit had been eaten their relationship changed with each other and with God. The blame game began and they started to play hide and seek with God. Relationships today are still undergoing the same experience once they move from relating God’s way to introducing sin into their relationship e.g. sleeping together, heavy petting etc. thereby compromising their position in Christ.
Once a couple determines not to compromise on their relationship despite temptations, societal pressures and personal emotions, they will triumph through Christ in every area of their relationship.
Finally, whilst all of the above are important, God must be the central focus for any couple desiring a meaningful relationship. God centred relationships can never fail. When a couple focus on God as the binding force in their relationship, they will have a confidence that their relationship cannot be broken. God will bring about a meaningful relationship because all issues of life can be found in His Word. Solutions can be obtained, healing and deliverance can also be achieved.