Can The Bible Teach Us to Date? Part III

In September I began the current blog series, “Can the Bible Teach Us to Date?”  This is a three part blog series concluding this month wherein I have been examining biblical principles that can be applied to dating relationships. Last month’s blog post concluded with principle # 4, Following Ruth’s Lead. This month, I will pick up below with the fifth principle:

5. God Works Within Established Practices. I discovered a saying from the Midrash Genesis I found quite interesting:

A Roman matron once asked a sage, “How many days did it take your G-d to create the world?”

“Six,” he answered.

“And since then, what has He been doing?”

The sage replied, “Making matches.”

I have come to realize that because God loves marriage so much, he delights in bringing men and women together to be married. And God has been doing this across the centuries. While the practices, customs, and societal norms vary across cultures and have been transformed throughout the millennia, God surely does not change (Malachi 3:6b NABRE). Therefore, he works through the established practices of the time and place we happen to find ourselves living in.

God orchestrates the events of our lives to bring people together.

After creating Adam and Eve in a primordial state of marriage (Genesis 1and 2), God continued to bring people together through the established practices prevalent at any given time. Some examples from the scriptures include the following:

a. Both Isaac and Jacob found their wives at a well back in the homeland and family of Abraham. The parents of both men did not want them to marry a Canaanite woman (Genesis24 and 28). God provided for both of them.   

b. In Part II of this series we discussed the levirate marriage, especially how it was applicable to Ruth and Boaz. The levirate marriage was a provision under the Law of Moses. This type of marriage was another way that God intervened to support widows and assist with marriages. It involved a kinsman redeemer which 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 his name. (Deuteronomy 25:5-10)

c. After Moses killed an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew slave, he fled to the land of Midian. Moses was hanging out at a well when a group of sisters came to draw water. Some shepherds harassed the sisters, however, Moses intervened and defended them. He ended up being invited by their father, Reuel, for dinner, and marrying one of the sisters, Zipporah (Exodus 2:15-22)

d. In the Book of Tobit, God provided a spouse for a woman, Sarah, who was under severe spiritual attack. He sent forth the archangel St. Raphael to introduce Sarah to her future spouse, Tobias. St. Raphael also instructed Tobias in the deliverance method necessary to free Sarah from the spiritual warfare she was in bondage to.

In our modern society, there are no instituted provisions or courting arrangements to assist people with the “getting-to-marriage” process. However, God is still orchestrating the events of people’s lives to help bring them together. He will use the “established practices” that are currently available to us. This can be an internet dating forum, a blind date, a matchmaker service, or plain ole meeting someone out and about. Because with God nothing will be impossible, and he is still in the business of helping people get married.

This principle is based on the scripture verses quoted herein.

6. Men Should Provide for the Date. I know I may bear a lot of heat for this one, as it may not be socially acceptable to suggest such a thing today. However, I am looking to the scriptures for support and not the world.

Ephesians 5:28-30 indicates that, “husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”

In our modern society, dating is what we do to get to marriage. Regardless of how a man and a woman meet (i.e., an internet dating site, a blind date, at a party), there will be some dating involved before there is an engagement and a marriage. As such, it makes proper sense to look for the traits in future spouses that the Bible tells us are essential to marriage.

These traits and characteristics will include many things. The Book of Ephesians homes in on one of them for us in this passage of scripture cited above. Specifically, Saint Paul tells us that a husband should love his wife as he loves himself.

Particularly, the emphasis here is on how the husband loves his own body. A man does not hate his actual body but feeds it and cares for it. It is disordered to hate your own body and not care for it, a result of sin. As such, it is rightly ordered for a husband to care for his wife as he does himself. In doing so, a husband is modeling Christ’s provision for his bride, the church.

Let us look at this principle at play in a dating relationship. The term “dating” covers a wide range of situations from a first date, to several dates, to a serious relationship heading towards marriage. It goes without saying that dating is not the same as the holy bonds of matrimony. The couple does not enjoy the same privileges nor shoulder the same responsibilities as a married couple does.

A man providing for a date can take all sorts of f

Nonetheless, God inscribed this principle delineated in Ephesians 5:28-30 into the natural essence of who men and women were created to be. And it has a place in modern dating relationships. No matter how advanced we become as a society, the heart of who we truly are does not change. It just longs more to be fulfilled.

As such, this scripture denotes that it is part of the natural dignity and order of a husband to care and provide for the physical well-being of his wife as if he were doing so for himself. Dating is a prime opportunity for this axiom to be demonstrated and observed.

Both people in a budding relationship should observe each other’s behaviors and traits to ascertain the character of the person they are relating with; this precept cannot be ignored. It has a direct correlation to how well each person will mirror Christ the bridegroom and his bride if the relationship moves forward to marriage.  

You see, the scripture passage continues as follows:

“For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church. In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:31-33)

Patterns of relating started and established during the dating season of a relationship will not miraculously change overnight once a couple is married. Dating is a time to get to know one another and enjoy each other’s company. It is also an opportunity, nonetheless, to discern the moral and ethical fiber of the other person. Marriage forms each of you into one flesh with the other. Is this someone you can literally be bound together with?

When the man takes the initiative to provide for the date, he is demonstrating that he can live out this basic but most excellent principle of marriage. When a woman expects the man to provide for the date, she is respecting his inherent dignity as a man and her inherent dignity as a woman. Regardless of how much or how little either of them earns.

As a relationship progresses from “we just met” to “we are only dating each other,” I believe there are times where it is appropriate and right for a woman to graciously cover the cost of a date. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7)     

When my husband and I were dating, especially in the beginning, he always provided for our dates. After a couple of months, I occasionally treated because I wanted to do something nice for him, to demonstrate my appreciation for all he did for me. I never felt like I had to do it or that it was necessary to keep him around.

After we were married, we both continued to work. Every couple has their areas of conflict, and we are not exempt from this. However, finances have never been a source of strife for us. I credit this partly to how money was handled while we were dating. A couple of years ago I genuinely felt called to leave my job and pursue writing. This choice resulted in a dramatic reduction of income for us. While we both experienced a natural fear initially (who would not?), we believed it was the right path to take. Based on how my husband had treated me when we dated and throughout our marriage with regards to money, I knew I could trust him to support and care for me now. I had seen his character in action and had no doubt he would love me as he loved himself.    

By Julieanne M. Bartlett All Rights Reserved Copyright 2020

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