Courtship and Betrothal are words that have been tossed around for years in Christian home- schooling circles (See David Crank's article). Depending on whom you follow, one could come away with varying degrees of emphasis and understanding. Various passages are used to teach this but fall short when biblical hermeneutics are applied. Many of these teachers are misapplying the "biblical" principle illustrated above.
The idea that parents should be involved in dating and marriage propositions on behalf of their children has become popular, and with good reason. The culture is corrupting the church in ways that are not repairable. Reverence for God and a resultant concern for others has been lost. Thus, the activities of church-going individuals with regard to dating has seriously devolved into selfish gratification that is harmful to all involved. I like to refer to what we are seeing today as "recreational dating". No purpose, just fun and excitement. There is little regard for young ladies as "sisters in Christ" or young men as "brothers in Christ". Everyone is fair game and my happiness is the goal! I wonder, is this idea biblical?
This downward spiral is no surprise, is it? Is Christian culture in the US becoming more like Christ or more like the world? The result is that parents are becoming involved in the dating process. They want to be sure that their son or daughter does not make a mistake in marriage. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, this godly concern is a biblical concern because marriage is to be a picture of Christ and his church, his bride. But, how we get there is the thing with which I have a problem. In other words, How parents become involved and stay involved in this process is where there is an issue.
Some parents err on the side of patriarchy and force themselves into this process against the will of their young people. They are well intentioned but wrong. This is simply a short cut. They have never had much of a relationship with their kids. So, they have forced obedience and neglected to look at the heart. I must say they have done their best, but simply did not know any different. Other parents err on the side of humanism, thinking that junior is 18 now and they have no right to speak into his life. They stay out of the entire process and give no guidance at all. They "hope" junior has found a good match but have never really taught him what to look for.
I would like to bring balance to this whole issue. Are you ready? The key to this whole thing is very simple and biblical. Develop such a thriving relationship with God that your life overflows into a fruitful relationship with your children so that when they come to the place of making these kinds of decisions they will desire your input with open hearts and minds. No coercion, no manipulation. John Wesley said something to the effect; "don't look for a ministry but anticipate the fruit of a disciplined life". This begins at a young age and carries through. Start today. You may have blown it many times over. Start today. Your kids might be older now. Start today. Create a culture in your home of loving God and loving others because it is the right thing. Put away the legalism and forced "godliness". Allow God to change your heart. If you have taught your children to know and love wisdom then they are going to desire all the counsel they can get (Proverbs 11:14). Allow Spurgeon's Catechism to guide your emphasis and motivation for living:
Q. What is the chief end of man? (what is man's purpose?)
A. Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
There is a culture in your home. You may not be aware of it but there is one. In your home, projects may be more important than people. Things might be more valuable than godly character. Anger and coercion may be the means by which you get your kids to obey you. Manipulation may be the way you relate to your spouse. Achievement may be more important than humility. This is culture. They key here is to find out what Scripture says about culture. On what does your family place value? (Proverbs 29:21, 12:15-16; Colossians 2:8; Ephesians 5, 6; Luke 6:45)
Quick guidelines for relationships
- Until one is ready to support a family, or is on a reasonable path to this, no thought should be given to dating, courtship, betrothal or whatever you want to call it. But, one should always be preparing spiritually by being under sound biblical teaching and engaging in ministry.
- Ask others more mature than you if you are ready for marriage based on issues of spiritual maturity and responsibility. Be teachable and listen.
- Parents, if your kids are in a youth group, the inevitable dating will only complicate things and cause harm in the church and drama in your home. Your young person will end up being affected by hurt feelings, misunderstanding and wrong assumptions. (I do not care for youth groups because unhealthy dating is virtually impossible to avoid)
- Can premature dating help my child grow in godliness and increase in godly character? I think not. If godly character and a rich relationship with God through Christ is not my goal for my children, I must reevaluate my focus. Sound radical? Living for Christ is supposed to be radical (Luke 9:23). There is no other kind of Christianity.