Chuck Lawless: 12 guidelines for God-honoring dating

I work with young adults, many who are singles, who are dating or considering dating. When they ask my advice about dating and purity, here are some of the guidelines I recommend:

1. Don't date a non-believer. You should date only someone you might marry, and the Bible speaks against being unequally yoked with non-believers (2 Corinthians 6:14)—so don't take a step in the wrong direction by dating someone who doesn't follow Jesus.

2. If you're committed to being a strong believer, date only another strong believer. I have seldom seen a strong believer positively influence a weak believer in a dating relationship without much confrontation and difficulty. I have, though, seen multiple times when the stronger believer becomes weaker in that kind of relationship.

3. Honor your parents by making right choices. I assume they've set some standards for you, especially if they're Christians; show them how much you respect them by living up to what they expect.

4. View your date first as a brother or sister in Christ created in God's image. When you see the other person as a creation of God first, a fellow believer second and a date third, you'll treat that person in a godly way.

5. Especially early on in the relationship, do group dates only. I know this guideline might seem strange, but alone time can quickly become dangerous time. Guarding your purity matters if you're a follower of Jesus.

6. Pray at the beginning and end of every date. Start and end the date with God. When you do that, it's tougher to do sinful things in between the prayers.

7. Set clear physical guidelines up front. I've known couples who determined not to do anything more than hold hands until they married. That seemed odd at the time, but there's wisdom in such a commitment. Whatever your commitment is, allow no room for physical touching you would not do if Jesus were in the room—because He is.

8. Plan some dates wrapped around the Gospel and church. You'll learn how committed your date is to the Gospel if you spend time together doing God's work.

9. Know that God won't bless an ungodly relationship. Why should He? He blesses those who walk with Him, not those who rebel against Him. If you want a God-blessed marriage, have a God-honoring courtship.

10. Think long-term rather than short-term. If you sin physically, know that you'll carry the memory of that sin the rest of your life. Realize that it'll be more difficult to challenge your own kids to be pure. The consequences of your actions will be costly.

11. Be accountable to someone for your godliness. That godliness includes your physical relationship, but it's much more than that. It's making wise choices in what you do and where you go. It's speaking only godly words and taking only godly actions on a date. It's modeling Jesus in front of your date.

12. If you mess up physically, immediately repent, ask God's forgiveness and put up stronger walls. If you don't stop after the first time, the pattern can quickly become controlling.

A godly marriage is part of God's design in creation. Especially today, we need believers who stand up for God's standards in marriage. Those standards, though, aren't limited to after we have a ring on our finger. If you date, do it well. Honor Him—you won't regret it.

Chuck Lawless, online at chucklawless.com, is a vice president and missions and evangelism professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

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