I C A N N O T T A K E A N Y M O R E C H R I S T I A N B O O K S A B O U T D A T I N G.
Is it because my heart is hardened?
Is it because I’m living in sin and want to avoid conviction?
Is it because I am resistant to wisdom?
No. It is for this simple reason — in no other area of Christian life have I seen Christian wisdom take such a phariseeical turn so quickly.
The authors are not necessarily to blame for this, but I think this is what happens — a Christian man/woman/couple figures out a way to date that seems in-line with the Christian faith. They then share their insights and wisdom from their own personal experiences. Christians read these books, and instead of seeing them for what they are – musings by good but still-being-sanctified people – they see them as RULES that we all must follow, lest we be pegged as pagos. #pagopegged #ouch
But let’s all take a step back and get a little perspective — in biblio times, dating didn’t exist. You were a child, then boom you go through puberty, then boom you are married. This doesn’t mean that the Christian faith is irrelevant to how we date, but it does mean that pretty much any *specific* dating advice is just that – advice from humans – not the Word of God.
So let’s not perpetuate self-righteousness and phariseeism by acting as if the compilation of some Christian dude’s musings on dating is The Way the Truth and the Life. There is probably wisdom in many Christian books on dating, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that if you don’t follow that author’s recommendations you are rebelling against the God of the universe. For example – In Single, Dating, Engaged, Married,* Ben Stuart talks about how he would always tell his now-wife Donna the next time he was going to contact her. He saw this as a sweet way to reduce her stress – she didn’t have to worry about if / when he was going to contact her, she already knew – “I’ll call you tomorrow.” I agree, that is sweet. Does that mean that if a guy doesn’t communicate like that to you, you should kick him to the curb? No! It’s a nice specific example of how Christian faith can play out IRL, but it is by no means a rule.
Side note 1 – many dating books are probably somewhat useful for high-schoolers who are still living with their parents, and truly have zero life experience to help them navigate dating with wisdom. But there are some dating practices that are absurd if not impossible when you are living on your own (e.g. the dude asking the Dad’s permission to date). So let’s recognize that not ALL Christians get married when they are 19, and what worked for a man dating his wife in undergrad may not be useful for a 29 year old woman.
Side note 2 – I’m also getting cranky with Christian women who assume they are entitled to impart their sage dating advice. I don’t owe it to you to spill all the beans of my romantic life just because we are both Christians, and frankly many of you haven’t earned the right to tell me what to do or hear the intimate details of my life and heart. If you are concerned about my dating choices, how ’bout you pray for the Spirit to convict me directly instead of appointing yourself as my accountability supervisor. I suggest with all the gentle love I can muster that you are just as likely to turn me into an anxious self-righteous snoot pants than to protect me from harm. Just sayin’. As the modern sage John Crist would say, “check your heart.”
I plan to approach dating with the freedom Christ gained for me, as captured by the idea “Everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial.”** Earlier this year I demoralized a dating decision and thought “I can date this person if I want. We could have wild sex every night and guess what.. I would still be a Christian. Jesus might be grieved, but he would still love me. Now, knowing this, do I want to? What would be the consequences?” And that actually led me to a healthy decision that was MY decision, not a half-hearted, dutiful response to the pressures of others.
Okay.. that’s all! Be free!
— EDITORIAL NOTES —
*At least he talked about this in his Single | Dating | Engaged | Married sermons when he was preaching at Breakaway. I actually never read his book because I heard it was basically the written version of his sermons. 😀
**1 Corinthians 10:23