Over the past one year, I have had several twenty-something year old Christians inbox me questions about dating. I found several negative themes in majority of these questions (not all, but majority). Some of these were: difficulty to maintain sexual purity, identity crisis, disillusionment about a good marriage, scepticism about their current relationships and uncertainty of dating again. To sum up all the issues, Christian dating was failing. Why would followers of Jesus Christ undergo the same struggles that the world goes through yet they have the Holy Spirit as a guide and the Scriptures as a reference? The simple (even perhaps simplistic) answer would be that many of these followers of Jesus are not living their lives differently from the world. However, that question could generate lots of other intricate answers e.g. little time in the scriptures, poor men leaders, desperate women followers, spiritual warfare etc, however, today I want us to focus on just a few basic reasons that can help us get mileage in our relationships. Hopefully these reasons, alongside the teaching of other seasoned men and women of God, will help believers in our generation make wise relationship moves.
Before we begin: The terms dating and courting have been used interchangeably throughout the century such that the meanings seem uncertain when you mention them in public. However, for our context, the man-woman relationships we refer to are exclusive (meaning that the persons in them are faithful and committed to relating to each other as a couple to each other alone). In light of that, we will use the term dating.
So, here are top 5 reasons why Christian dating is failing in the 21st Century:
- We are dating too much
In many of the aforementioned situations, the people had dated several people prior to their current status. Most of these relationships had ended painfully. A few had ended amicably and some were just complicated. Some of the questions stemmed from current relationship problems but I noticed that majority had to do with past boyfriends and girlfriends. In my mind, while replying to some of them, I kept thinking, “Beloved, I wish you hadn’t dated four men before your current boyfriend” or “Beloved, I wish you had not experienced that side of life by dating those three girls.” Many of them had nothing positive about past relationships. With dating several people, came several sexual temptations, several emotional entanglements and several heartbreaks. The result: baggage. These individuals ended up having so much baggage that it discouraged them from any other relationship, dissuaded them from a potential marriage and even interfered with their personal walk with God. Am I saying that if you date only one person and marry them that you will not have baggage? No, it’s not a guarantee. However, the eyes of wisdom can see clearly that the repercussions mentioned manifest in greater measure when an individual gets into several dating relationships as opposed to one or few. Beloved, the less people you date, the less baggage you are likely to deal with. Several dating relationships mean several break ups. And several break ups means lots of baggage. Christian men and women need to aim to settle with the person they get into an exclusive relationship with. But that doesn’t happen because…
- We are not dating to get married
Several born-again Christians are jumping from relationship to relationship with the mindset of the world. The world runs on the mindset that you can get into a relationship and change it when you don’t feel the spark anymore. That a breakup is like changing a tire; if it doesn’t serve you well, get rid of it. So you jump from relationship to relationship with a shopping mentality. You are shopping for feelings and for things you can get from the relationship. God’s mindset of a relationship is quite the opposite. God’s mindset for a man-woman exclusive relationship is to get into it with an aim of giving not getting. Instead of shopping, you supply. Instead of asking what can this relationship do for me, you ask yourself, “How can I serve my partner?” The world’s mindset is selfish, only thinking about self, and is not ready to commit to marriage. The world’s mindset panics at the thought of marriage because it is not sure if it can get as much as it wanted in this relationship. God’s mindset is focused on serving one another and thrives towards marriage to serve and commit to each other more. While the world dreads and curses marriage, God elevates it and makes godly hearts for those that trust Him in it. So, when I meet dating believers who say, “we don’t plan to get married,” I also hear them say, “We plan to get baggage,” “we plan to waste each others time,” or “we plan to confuse each other with our sexuality.” Of course not all Christian dating relationships end up in marriage even when they were aiming for marriage. And that’s okay because at times it happens; at times it doesn’t work out. However, that’s the exception, not the rule. If you are a born-again believer dating someone and not planning to marry them, you are courting heartbreak. A born again 16-year-old asked me once if they were too young to date. You can guess the answer I gave them. It was this: Will you lead it to a marriage in the not-so-distant future? And like that 16-year-old girl, that answer makes many born again Christians angry and frustrated because…
- We think singlehood is a problem
A friend of a friend of mine broke up with his girlfriend. Two weeks later, he was telling my friend of this new girl he had met in church and wanted to start dating. When my friend suggested that he takes things slow and evaluate his previous relationship, the man told my pal that he just couldn’t imagine himself single. He had no time because the girl could go; he had to be in a relationship. This was causing him to jump into a new relationship with a girl barely three weeks after the previous break up that had been of a relationship that lasted over two years. Do you see the problem here? The man here thinks singlehood is a problem. Many believers have swallowed this lie, hook line and sinker! Beloved, don’t do something about your singlehood; do something with it. Singlehood is not a curse. It is a blessed time to explore yourself and do so much in preparation for a dating relationship. However, the impatience of rushing into a dating relationship comes with its own hurts and pains. I strongly believe that single born-again men and women ought to confidently answer these questions affirmatively before changing their status from single to dating:
- Do I know and understand my personality?
- Do I understand my strengths and weaknesses?
- Am I ready to sacrifice some personal ambitions for the sake of the relationship?
- Am I spiritually mature?
- Do I plan to marry this person?
- Do I desire to be in a relationship?
Christian men specifically need to ask themselves these other questions:
- Am I working hard to plan to provide for her materially?
- Am I able to lead her in matters concerning the faith?
- Do I have a burning purpose that requires a help mate from God?
However you will still find born-again men and women who meet these requirements and get into godly relationships but still abandon ship because…
- We give up too quickly- even on good relationships
Beloved, relationships are work. The false idea that a relationship is meant to be magical and devoid of problems will be the death of you if you don’t change your mindset. In your relationship (even with the most mature person) you will have to confront times of jealousy, insecurity, doubt, pet-peeves, anger, frustration, disrespect, no romantic spark etc. The relationship gets cemented when you work through these issues, apologise for hurting each other and resolve them with humility (not proving that you were right). However, if you give up too quickly, you end up garnering more baggage and operating in fear because you believe that good relationships are trouble-free. Beloved, as our marital counsellors would say, “Conflict isn’t what destroys relationships; it is unresolved conflict that does.” Abandoning ship because you felt disrespected is simply procrastinating the battle you need to face. As long as you date a descendant of Adam and Eve, they will sin and they will offend you at some point in your relationship. Men and women walking with God who get into serious relationships need to be patient with each other during difficult times. Often I have heard of two well-meaning people who lose a good relationship at the first sign of trouble. When the mushy feeling disappeared, when one ate with their fingers instead of using a fork, when one said something shady etc. Many of these things are simple flaws yet you find born again men and women abandoning ship. If he mismatched his shoes and shirt, if she burped in public, if he farted loudly or if she was late for a date, please extend grace. It could be a one-time mistake and not necessarily a habit. You could be missing out on a potential husband/wife who can actually change some of these minor flaws. If we don’t end the trend of giving up quickly on relationships, we end up creating a bigger problem. It’s this: I believe that the multiple jumping from relationship to relationship among believers is practising for divorce; we are sharpening the axe of dissatisfaction that we may easily wield in the battlefield of marriage.
- We think our relationships are the exception to the rule
The final point why Christian dating relationships are failing is thinking that our relationships are special. I have met believers who tell me that they know they shouldn’t be dating unbelievers (as hinted by 2 Corinthians 6:14) but they believe they should go on because they will convert their partner because their relationship is special. I have heard of believers who say they make out while dating and don’t think it is sinful because they are devoted to each other purely despite what Ephesians 5:3 says. Why? They believe their relationship is special. The list can go on of how believers hold fast to the idea that their relationships special nature gives them leeway to discard God’s commands. It’s wrong, Beloved and it always ends up in heartbreak. The trouble with some of these testimonies is that if by some stroke of luck the unbeliever dating the Christian converts while dating this person, the Christian, will most likely use that as justification for not adhering to 2 Corinthians 6:14. It’s wrong and it is even a bigger mistake to use an exception as a rule. God’s command in 2nd Corinthians 6:14 to not be unequally yoked to unbelievers respects no person. I have seen believers insist on their way and ignore the scriptures and then end up really hurt. I have seen the believers who kiss and make out and profess pure love to each other get into sexual addictions and procure abortions to cover up their sin. No, beloved, your relationship is not special. It is like everyone else’s. The moment you think that you are on some higher anointing for relationships, pride has a field day in your life and you end up crashing to the ground. Pride comes before a fall. However, if in humility, you recognize that like everyone else you could have a breakup, like everyone else you have a powerful sexual drive that can lose control, like everyone else, you can be a bad example in the faith, like everyone else you are not the exception to the rule, like everyone else you could be very wrong, like everyone else you can mess up badly, then will your relationships work in a world full of trouble. Why? Because God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4).
Do you have any other reasons why Christian dating is failing among many born-again believers today?