Can The Bible Teach Us to Date? Part II

This month’s blog post will continue the series started last month. I am examining the principles of male and female relationships that can be gleaned from the Bible. In doing this I hope to demonstrate the natural endowments God has placed in men and women, and how we can start to implement them into our twenty-first century dating relationships. As such, I will pick up with principle #3:   

3. Men are tasked with taking a wife. God designed men to be pursuers of women. Pursual is in the male DNA. When Adam was given the task of naming all the animals in creation, he discovered that there was no suitable partner for himself (Genesis 2:18-20 NABRE). God then removed a rib from the man’s side to create the woman. Upon presenting her to him, Adam exclaimed:

Men are tasked with finding a wife

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.” (Genesis 2:23)

It is apparent from Adam’s words that he had been looking for a suitable partner: “This one, at last…

God removed the man’s rib and forged the woman from it. From the very beginning God designed a man to be inclined to look for the very thing he was missing. Man has a natural attraction to a woman because she is created from the very piece of him that was removed. It is part of his dignity and essence to seek after and marry a woman.   

I know our culture has gotten a bit chaotic, to say the least. You hear all the time about women asking men out. In more recent times, some women say that they were the one to pop the question. But I often wonder how the woman feels deep down knowing that she had to do the asking. Does it ever bother her as the relationship goes on? Are there insecurities she never discloses because of having been the pursuer?

I believe so as it goes against the grain of how we were designed. Especially when men reflect Jesus and women reflect his church. Jesus came to seek out and sacrifice for his church. The church longs to be sought after and saved. Men are challenged by a chase. Women yearn to be pursued and loved.  

Today’s modern dating culture has done the exact opposite. Often, it leaves men with little to no challenge and the chase has almost disappeared from the mix. Women frequently do much of the pursuing and are still left craving love.

When women do the pursuing, it goes against our natural dignity. Also, it can keep a relationship ongoing that would have fizzled out much sooner or would not have started in the first place.

How can we start to change the tide in our romantic relationships? For starters, men must be encouraged to pursue women as they are built for this. Men bear the characteristics and the image of the bridegroom in male-female relationships.

Psalm 19:2-7 reveals this precept:

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
The sky proclaims its builder's craft.
One day to the next conveys that message;
One night to the next imparts that knowledge.
There is no word or sound; no voice is heard;
Yet their report goes forth through all the earth,
Their message, to the ends of the world.
God has pitched there a tent for the sun;
It comes forth like a bridegroom from his chamber,
And like an athelete joyfully runs its course.
From one end of the heavens it comes forth; its course runs through
To the other; nothing escapes its heat."
The Sun rising is like a bridegroom – it has its mission!

Athletes run (or play sports). The sun rises and sets each day. And a bridegroom comes forth and seeks his bride. These are all foundational principles God has set into the order of his creation. Nonetheless, we live in a fallen world.

There are all sorts of disorder in our relationships with each other ever since that fateful day back in the garden. The point is each of us can and should look to do what we can to fix our exchanges with the opposite sex.

When I was single and trying to figure out how to date in accordance with this principle, I had to discipline myself not to pursue men. There was much trial and error for me; more error then success, to be honest. I believe that God honored my attempts to do things his way. How this will look for each of us will be different, as our dating relationships and personalities are all diverse.

There are two sets of scriptures that support this principle:

Proverbs 18:22:

“He who finds a wife finds happiness; it is a favor he receives from the Lord.” (NABRE)

1 Thessalonians 4:3-6:

“This is the will of God, your holiness; that you refrain from immorality, that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion as do the Gentiles who do not know God; not to take advantage of or exploit a brother in this matter, for the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you before and solemnly affirmed.”  (NABRE)

4. Follow Ruth’s Example.

Women do not have to sit by passively and do nothing at all. There are subtle (and not so subtle) actions we can do to let men know we are interested in them.

In the Book of Ruth, a young Moabite widow accompanies her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, back from Moab to Bethlehem. To find food for the two of them, Ruth gleans barley in the field of a wealthy man named Boaz, who just happened to be a kinsman redeemer. (Gleaning was a form of charity commanded by the law to allow those in need access to grain at the Harvest; see Lev. 19:9-10. A kinsman redeemer was a male relative, “next of kin”, of the same clan. This man had both the right and duty to marry the widow of a deceased brother to carry on the deceased man’s name. This was known as a “levirate” marriage; see Deuteronomy 25:5-10)

Boaz took a liking to Ruth and Ruth was interested in Boaz. However, he was much older than she was and there was a male relative closer in line with the right to redeem Ruth in marriage. Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, mentored Ruth in how to “encourage” Boaz as was appropriate for their time and culture:

“When she went back with her mother-in-law, Naomi said to her, ‘My daughter, I must seek a home for you that will please you. Now is not Boaz, with whose servants you were, a relative of ours? This evening he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. So bathe and anoint yourself; then put on your best attire and go down to the threshing floor. Do not make yourself known to the man before he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, take note of the place where he does so. Then go, uncover a place at his feet, and lay down. He will tell you what to do.’ ‘I will do whatever you advise,’ Ruth replied. So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had instructed her.” (Ruth 3:1-6)

Women can follow Ruth’s lead

By going to the threshing floor, Ruth put herself out there for Boaz to pursue. Afterwards, it was incumbent upon Boaz to do the heavy lifting to move the relationship forward. He needed to decide he wanted the relationship. He needed to go and speak with the kinsman redeemer that held the first right to marry Ruth. When that relative did not want to marry Ruth, Boaz had to follow through on his marriage to Ruth.

Once Ruth had done her part of encouraging Boaz, of letting him know of her interest, she needed to sit back patiently and let him do the pursuing. When Ruth went home that night and told Naomi what had transpired at the threshing floor, Naomi responded, “Wait here, my daughter, until you learn what happens, for the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today.” (Ruth 3:18) When a man is interested in a woman, he does not rest. He pursues.     

Father Stephen P. Kelley, a priest in the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, advises “There is a difference between women hunting men and putting out bait.” I could not agree more. Specifically, I think it is important to differentiate between putting yourself out there and chasing men. Especially when we are dealing with the online dating platform. 

With online dating, the physicality is removed. As such, I recommend that a woman “like” someone’s picture or send a short email to a man to show interest. In my opinion this is not chasing men, it is putting yourself out there in a way that does not leave you super vulnerable. If the man does not respond or declines the e-mail, a big emotional investment has not been made.

In person it is a little trickier. Some options may include being set up on a blind date, asking a third party to play match maker, or delicately expressing interest to someone. All these scenarios, however, come with the risk of rejection. Can you live with the rejection and move on? Our modern society does not have kinsman redeemers or any formal process to help women and men get to marriage. There is no hurt-proof way to act like Ruth today. But the rewards are worth it if you do so wisely.

The scriptures that support this principle are the Book of Ruth, Ephesians 5, and Proverbs 19:14:

“Home and possessions are an inheritance from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.”

In the third part of this blog series, I will continue with the dating principles that can be mined from the scriptures. The fifth principle is “God Works Within Established Practices.”

By Julieanne M. Bartlett All Rights Reserved Copyright 2020

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