I still remember the hike I was on when I was confronted. A couple from our church noticed that my relationship with my girlfriend was unhealthy. We were not sinning sexually, but they thought that we were being unwise. We were spending far too much time together. I arrived at the Masters College with a desire to serve the Lord for the rest of my life, I had never dated before and was not prepared to enter into a relationship. Little did I know that on the first day of school I would meet the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. We began hanging out, and very soon we were studying together, having meals together, and pretty much spending hours a day together. And despite the fact that we were being pure, we were risking a great amount.
Looking around today it is quite difficult to find a couple who is dating wisely. Many people sleep together (even some within the church), and those who don’t, seem to get to the point where they are acting married soon after they begin their relationship. Some spend far more time together than most married couples do. They text each other dozens of times a day, they have most meals together and they spend full days together. They may call each other names of endearment, and talk about the kind of furniture they want to buy for their home together. Maybe they refer to each other as “my guy” or “my girl” before there is any real commitment. And even if they are staying sexually pure there can still be areas that need to be re-evaluated within their relationship. Of course, there must be time spent together in order for them to get to know each other to determine whether they ought to marry. I don’t know your heart or situation, nor am I the Holy Spirit, all people in a relationship must look to their own heart in order to determine whether they’re acting married in any way. Following are five dangers to consider when in a dating relationship that looks like a marriage.
- You’re not using your spiritual gifts on the Church
A simple reading of the New Testament would lead someone to understand that all of the spiritual gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit were given to be used on the Church. Not for ourselves, but for others. And what is important to understand is that the “others” is plural. If you’re spending most of your day with one person, you are neglecting the rest of the Church. This is more problematic when the dating couple attends the same church. They tend to spend most of their time together while there, and not encouraging the other believers around them. Paul spends a whole chapter (1 Corinthians 7) elevating singleness. Single people are freed up to serve the church like no one else can. Paul says this knowing that most people will eventually marry. And whether you have the life-long “gift” of singleness or not, one thing is for certain, everyone will be single for many years, and these are precious years that the Lord can use to bring much glory to himself through our service to Him. Marriage is a huge blessing, but it does have its “worldly troubles” (1 Cor 7:28). Singles must do their best to serve the Lord and His church with all their might until they are married. We must remember that, while dating, until this person is their spouse, they should be seen as belonging to someone else; we must be balanced in how we use the gifts God has entrusted us with.
- You set yourself up to fall sexually
When God designed marriage, He expected a man and a woman to leave their parents and to cleave to one another and become one. This is ultimate intimacy. So many young people, attracted to each other, spend countless amounts of time together. With marriage a long ways away (because of finances, age, or maturity level), they still spend as much time together as married couples if not more. With all their time together, their intimacy is growing exponentially and their desire to be together sexually grows as well. A wise couple will allow the intimacy to grow slowly over time and only grow as the level of commitment grows, finding its way to completion on the wedding day.
- You set yourself up to break hearts
Over the years, I’ve seen many men break off a relationship with their girlfriends without losing an ounce of respect from the girl and her family. Sadly, and more often, I’ve seen young men break off their relationships, leaving girls’ hearts broken, as well as whole families. So many young men in relationships are unwise in what they say. Perhaps maliciously, but more often naively, they make promises to their girlfriends that they ought not to. Their commitment level is zero, but yet they continually speak as if they plan to marry their girlfriend, and they treat them as if they already are. Perhaps some guys don’t care, in which case, none of these dangers will matter to them, but many young men, perhaps unintentionally, are setting the girlfriend up for a heartbreak that will feel like getting a divorce. They must honor a woman as someone else’s (future) wife and must treat them with respect by allowing the relationship to grow slowly in an upward trajectory towards the wedding day.
- You’re hurting your future spouse
There aren’t many people who married the first person they dated. In America, in this day and age, that is simply unheard of. It seems as if young men and women experience many relationships over their young lives. And, while this is not an anti-dating post, it must be pointed out that so many of these relationships seem to be initiated without really thinking about marriage as the ultimate goal, but simply for the purpose of fun and wanting to receive some type of personal validation through the relationship. While sexual immorality is certainly going to hurt your future spouse (of course I must say that you can receive forgiveness for this through Christ, and that is the purpose of why He came to save us), even relationships where the couple acts as if they are married while dating can hurt their future spouse. The fact of the matter is that we don’t know God’s plan for us. So many people have lost their fiancées to death. Despite the belief that they will last forever, most dating relationships end up in a break-up. We must have eyes only for our wives and husbands (Job 31:1). The question is if your future spouse asks you about this past relationship will you gladly speak about it or will you be ashamed? Most people who read this still believe that their relationship is the exception. Even so, going too fast in the relationship will hurt your future spouse even if your future spouse is the one you are currently dating.
- You’re a bad example to others watching
Perhaps you haven’t considered this, but many in the church are watching you. Many are younger than you, and either in a dating relationship or will be in one in the not too distant future. Of course, everyone is responsible for their own actions, but we can play a big part in helping the younger eyes around us to learn how to glorify God. The young men and women around me who dated “the right way” were a huge encouragement to me. Not only was I able to emulate them and treat Jenny the same way, but, in turn, I was able to encourage others who were watching our relationship.
Having that conversation early on during our own dating relationship made a huge difference. We had an opportunity to re-evaluate how much time we spent together and to please the Lord more in our relationship. We both began serving more in our church and focusing on others, as well. It was convicting to realize that just because we were staying pure it didn’t mean that we were being wise or without sin. It was critical for us to understand–and I believe for you, as well–that it is never too late to set the reset button, repent, and begin to date the right way. God will forgive you and has provided a way to help you to date wisely in order to serve the local Church and obey His Word.