For the most part, the Christian dating relationship is a counter-cultural one that can be summed up as a chaste pursuit of marriage. While there are infinite sources to get dating tips from, it is essential that the Bible be the ultimate resource for your standards. Romans 12:2 puts it this way, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world."
Despite the pressures of the culture we live in for women to pursue men, it is clear in scripture that men are expected to step up as leaders in the church and relationships. Because the purpose of dating is finding a marriage partner, Ephesians 5, which speaks to husbands and wives, provides the foundation for a Christian dating relationship. It is important to note that this is not a mark of inferiority for women or a license to abuse for men. In fact, as a part of leadership, men are charged to "love their wives as they love themselves."
Boundaries are a critical part of protecting your relationship from falling off the tracks into temptation. 1 Corinthians 6:18 teaches that fornication or premarital sex is sinful behavior, but how you manage the gray areas determine your ability to remain faithful to this commandment. Set curfews for hanging out alone, avoid petting and making out, participate in group activities to increase accountability and reserve conversations on sexual topics for engagement counseling. Remember, what seems harmless can turn disastrous in the heat of the moment.
The people you confide in and rely on for advice are critically important to the health of your relationship. While you can have friends from many different walks of life, get your advice from the people who are living the example you want to follow. In times of trouble, other people's opinions can shape how you view the situation, so remember Proverbs 11:14 and choose your confidants wisely.
Praying that you know and stay in the will of God and that you are serving each other's needs in a Christ-like manner are two ways to keep your priorities straight. This is truly an area where you can't overdo it, so pray for each other and have your mentors, friends and church leadership be praying for you as well.
Because we all have imperfections and weaknesses, it is good to be open about your dating relationship to someone who can advise and even intervene if necessary. This may be a church elder or a spiritually mature mentor or friend with whom you can be completely honest. Mistakes don't have to be the undoing of a relationship, but if they are left unchecked, they will be. Accountability partners are a safeguard against sin and provide motivation to do the right thing.
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