As a parent of young kids, “dating” is not a topic I want to think about yet. So far, my 12-year-old son sinks in his seat and covers his eyes any time kissing happens on TV. My 8-year-old daughter simply sees boys as friends she can have sword-fights and take bike rides with. I don’t want to think about dating mostly because I’m not ready for the drama, intrigue, and heartbreak. I’m not ready because I’ve been there, on both sides. The pain of being dumped was flooring, and especially after years of reflection, the pain I caused others when I broke up with them floors me too. But dating will happen, so I need to be ready.
So what is a parent to do? Go to scripture! And there is a lot of scripture out there about men and women and relationships. What keeps coming up are words like “love” and “holiness” and “chastity” and “sexual immorality,” and I feel like I want to run away! Yes all those things are right and true and wise and need to be understood and followed, but I don’t want to lean first on the rules for the idea of dating.
Enter 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Paul's advice to the church in Corinth. While we’re taking Paul’s letter slightly out of context, I am struck by the simple idea behind it as well as the complex implications of it. “Whatever you do...do it to the glory of God.”
There’s a peace and timeless wisdom to those words. We affirm it in church, we affirm it in our actions with one another, we affirm this when we start a job. It’s understanding that we belong completely to God and that he is working mysteriously in our lives FOR HIS GLORY, even in dating. So no matter if you bag groceries, or pick up litter, or argue cases at the Supreme Court, or run a daycare, you do it all to the glory of God.
I benefited from some amazing advice from a lady in our church. When her then-boyfriend proposed to her, she had to spend some time with God not only asking for wisdom and guidance but really asking if this relationship would allow her to glorify God more. That is, could she as a married woman bring glory and honor to God more than she could as a single woman? What a powerful question that gives context to romance!
When I was young, I thought only about me when it came to dating. Was the girl cute? Did I make her laugh? Did I enjoy being around her? Was she really cute? As a young person, those were the only four questions I was concerned about. I realize the selfishness at their core, and that give me insight to share with my young people. Yes, God wants us to find joy and delight in being with other people, and I affirm that God has created pleasure within our senses, but those aren’t the heart of our calling in relationships. Life isn’t about those things: life is about God.
Dating is about finding joy in others and then really asking that hard question, “How can I bring glory to God in this relationship?” And you may or may not like the answer. God may make it abundantly clear that this person is not only unhealthy for you but un-glorifying to him. Then again, God may blindside you and say, “Yes, you two will bring me honor and you will do it more as a couple than as individuals!” What’s really great about Paul’s words here is that they are also applicable to the set of questions after you decide if you are able to glorify God in that relationship. Because when the conversation comes to sex and anything else in a dating relationship your question should fall back upon the question: “does this glorify God?” As we seek to bring glory to God, he will make our path clear.
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra