Final Paper Submitted to Dr. Steve Tracy Phoenix Seminary Scottsdale, Arizona

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for TH 506 Contemporary Moral Issues

by Justin G. W. Bellars December 5, 2005

Though marriage is one of the first concepts established in the Bible 1 , the road that a man and woman travel to arrive at the ceremony is somewhat of a mystery 2 . The Biblical record indicates that marriages were often negotiated within the established customs or traditions of the culture in which they took place 3 . Every culture seems to have a different model by which they arrive at marriage. The current standard in postmodern America would appear to be that of dating, whereas a seemingly growing subculture within the American church gravitates towards the practice of courting. Some would argue that courting is just a term resuscitated for differentiating “purposeful” (i.e. marriage-oriented) dating from casual dating 4 . Neither dating nor courting are inherently biblical concepts, though there appears to be a growing debate between proponents of both, that would argue over which is a more God-honoring method of conducting oneself in relationships with the opposite sex. My contention is that the manner in which we arrive at selecting a potential mate, pursuing them, and ultimately stepping towards marriage with that individual should flow out of our relationship with God. The preeminence 5 of Christ in our lives, that tempers all we do and checks our attitudes against His Spirit within us, should be the gauge by which we are able to determine whether or not our ethic toward dating, or any other contemporary moral issue, is in fact Christian. Everything we do in the Christian life, including dating, should be done in faith 6 as unto the Lord 7 .

I was awkwardly blindsided by the concept of courting. I had no idea it was a growing movement within the American church. Outside of Victorian tales from another

1 2

Gen. 2:25, Heb. 13:4, 1 Cor. 7:38, Rev. 19:7 Prov. 30:18-19 3 Gen. 29:26; Gen. 34:11-12; Gen. 24:4 4 Josh Harris, Boy Meets Girl, 33-34 5 Col. 1:18 6 Rom. 14:22-23 7 Col. 3:17

time, it seemed unfathomable that enough people would have revived the concept such that it would be considered a viable alternative to contemporary dating. I was, however disturbed to discover that proponents of the courting movement maintain such claims as, “dating is practice for divorce”; the heart of man, even believers, is evil and not to be trusted 8 ; that the emotional pain derived from dating relationships can be avoided by courting; and that there are certain rules of conduct to which one must adhere in order to honor God in our male/female relationships. I believe that some key assertions made by courting proponents are based on inherently flawed arguments, although I do not believe that the concept of courting itself is good or bad. Courting can be a valid relational tool that has the potential to be used for the glory of God. My concern is, however, that in its current incarnation it seems to be misapplied. Whether we, as Christians, initiate a relationship through dating or courting, we cannot place our faith in the method through which we build a relationship with a member of the opposite sex. We cannot rely on a system over Christ, for conceiving and nurturing a Christ-centered relationship with any individual in our lives, especially someone who has the potential to be a marriage partner.

If any initiative in our lives flows out of anything other than our relationship with God, it would seem that the Christian ethic for it is lost. It is the centrality of Christ in the life of the believer that sets Christian ethics apart from any secular conceptualization of morality. Norman Geisler does a fairly extensive job explaining the premises of various ethical systems in Christian Ethics and analyzing the advantages and deficiencies of each of the systems. Of all the ethical systems that are examined in his treatment of the subject, one thing is clear – they are all noticeably inadequate. Not one of the ethical models seems even remotely able to capture the mind of God in its attempt to reduce

Josh Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, 137.

morality to a mechanized system. This is another example of how man attempts to reduce the unfathomable nature of God’s wisdom 9 to a digestible set of principles or formulas, in order to make life manageable, predictable, and tame. An ethic devoid of Christ may be secularly “moral”, if indeed such a thing exists, but it falls far short of the example of Christ which His followers are called to emulate. To illustrate the point, by omitting the centrality of Christ in a sermon that preaches the ethical commands of the Bible, though it may still appear moral, if it could just as easily be preached in a Mormon temple, Orthodox Jewish synagogue, or Islamic mosque, it not only ceases to be a sermon, it is reduced to merely becoming a speech; in a more emphatic way, however, it ceases to be “Christian” 10 altogether. To apply a Christian ethic to male/female relational dealings, as Christ-followers, our methods for initiating and conducting relationships with the opposite sex should take on a completely Christ-centered form. This may seem a lofty goal, but just as the Word of God is Christocentric, being inspired by the Holy Spirit of God, our lives, as followers of Christ, have likewise been made “new” when God breathed new life into us by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. Our lives should conform to a Christocentric configuration evidenced by the “fruit” of every aspect of our lives, including our conduct in dating or courting relationships.

What does it look like to have a Christ-centered life? The primary mission of the New Covenant seems intrinsically geared towards illustrating what a Christ-centered life looks like. Just as a sermon lacking a Christ-centered message ceases to be either a sermon or Christian in its composition, I likewise believe that a moral life that doesn’t flow out of the preeminence of Christ is something less than a “Christian” life. I believe the Christ-centered life produces noticeable outpourings referred to in Scripture as the fruit of the Spirit. We are told that the primary distinguishing characteristic, or “fruit”,
9 10

1 Cor 1:20 Arturo G. Azurdia III, Spirit Empowered Preaching, 75.

borne of the Christ-centered life is love 11 . In his first treatise to the Corinthian church, Paul describes the characteristics of that love. He describes a love that is patient and kind; not envious, boastful, arrogant or rude; not insistent on its own way; not irritable or resentful; a love that does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. This Christocentric love, “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things” 12 . Christian behaviors depicted in the epistles are descriptions of a Christcentered life, not a new law which prescribes a new and improved laundry list of do’s and don’ts for those who designate themselves “Christians”. It is equally important to note that the fruit of the Spirit and the characteristics of Christian love are not goals after which a follower of Christ strives, but are evidence, even by-products, of the authentic Christian life. Though we are presented with the Christocentric model in the New Covenant, to which our new lives in Christ are intended to conform, we are simultaneously cautioned that it is plagued by the unrelenting interference of sin 13 . Specifically, it is the sin which resides in our flesh that contaminates our walk 14 . Our flesh is the only component of our beings, as followers of Christ, which remains unregenerate in this life 15 . In Romans 7, Paul writes of his struggles against the desires of the flesh, and in doing so makes a valuable observation. It is no longer him, nor us who engage in sin as followers of Christ, but rather sin dwelling in our flesh 16 . Of the God-honoring intentions expressed in Josh Harris’ books on courting, as a chief proponent of courting, he commits a gross disservice toward the body of Christ, in making the assertion that the heart of the believer is inherently evil and not to be trusted. The source of our corruption is thus

11 12

John 13:35; 1 John 4:8 1 Cor. 13:4-7 13 Rom. 7 14 Rom. 7:20 15 1 Cor. 15:35-49 16 Rom. 7:17

falsely attributed to something which God has made new within believers 17 , instead of being more accurately ascribed to that part of our person which we will leave behind in the resurrection 18 . John Eldredge makes the statement, “too many Christians today are living under the Old Covenant,” in reference to the overuse of Jeremiah 17:9, which is used to convince Christians that their hearts are deceitfully wicked. Such is my contention with Mr. Harris’ theology which undergirds the fabric of his courtship doctrine. It is a blatantly fallacious hermeneutic that would take a passage, such as Jeremiah 17:9, describing the heart of unregenerate man prior to the coming of Christ, and misapply it to those whose hearts the Lord has presently seen fit to indwell with His Holy Spirit 19 . Later in the book of Jeremiah, God proclaims the cure for the wicked heart, stating that He will put His precepts in our minds and write them on our hearts 20 . This is the reality of what Paul refers to as the circumcision of the heart by the Spirit 21 . John Eldredge contends that the big lie in the church today is that we are nothing more than sinners saved by grace. He argues we are much more than that – we are new creations in Christ. 22 This is a reaffirmation of Paul’s epistles to the Church. It is not our hearts that are the problem, but the sin of our flesh, a fallen, sinful world, and the enemy of God with which we must contend as believers.

A view that promotes self-effort over the message of grace is a far cry from a Christocentric viewpoint, and therefore necessitates differentiation from what I endeavor to define as a Christian ethic for dating. In addition to basing his writings on the false assumption that a Christian individual needs to protect him or herself from a perpetually wicked heart, Josh Harris’ writings presume that the behaviors of the individual are
17 18

Ezek. 11:19, Ezek. 18:31, Ezek. 36:26 1 Cor. 15 19 Rom. 5:5 (… God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit…) 20 Jer. 31:33 21 Rom. 2:29 22 John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, 144.

instrumental in containing and controlling the sinfulness of the heart. He suggests following various steps to “get on track with God’s plan”, and suggests ways of achieving a Godly lifestyle. Furthermore, Mr. Harris suggests endeavoring to busy oneself out of a desire to please God 23 . Whether intended or not, this would seem to espouse a performance-oriented Gospel, in which the individual’s actions, rather than God’s Holy Spirit direct us as believers through the sanctification process. We are told that when we receive the Holy Spirit, we will be guided in all truth 24 . Attempting to “manage” our lives, circumstances, or relationships, is to usurp the role of the Spirit in the life of the believer. It would be pharisaical to emphasize personal effort and achievement over the primacy of God’s love found in the gospel of grace 25 . The fruit of the spirit includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control 26 . To attempt to produce that fruit apart from the Spirit is another example of a performance-oriented misrepresentation of the Christian life. To see the fruit of the Spirit manifested in your relationships, they need to flow out of our relationship with Christ. Why are we anxious, why are we continually striving? In Matthew 6:33, we are given a response to our anxiety and striving for things in this world: “…seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you“. Perhaps more than anything, the notion that conforming to a set of artificial guidelines to exude some sense of holiness, speaks to a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit to work through us, guide us in our endeavors and manifest in us the attributes of someone with a heart that has been fully given over to God. What appears to be a clear lack of both trust and Christ-centeredness remains my contention with those who would argue that a rule-based, performance-oriented courting methodology is an intrinsically holy method to approaching relationships between men and women.
23 24

Josh Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Ch. 12 John 16:13 25 Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child, p. 86 26 Gal. 5:22-23

Often times, it seems we fail to recognize that God is relational in His dealings with man. In stark contrast, there inevitably seem to appear those theologies and religious practices that arise out of a view that attempts to reduce God to more of a mechanical, impersonal being, rather than a relational person. This undermines the biblical teaching that we as human-beings are image-bearers of Christ. Our identity in Christ is fundamental. We cannot afford to miss the liberating message of the Gospel, which asserts that our identity is in the eternal, rather than the temporal things of this life. In Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning goes to detailed lengths to drive home the concept that our identity as children of God is derived from our spiritual relationship with the Father. He states, “…the noblest aspiration and the most demanding task of our lives is to become like Christ.” We need to take that identity into every part of our lives and apply its truth. It is by the Spirit of God that we receive that message, just as it is by the power of the Spirit of God that we are transformed by it.

There is a sense that the average Christian man and woman that you encounter in American culture are something less than they were designed to be. The typical Christian male has been emasculated, stripped of his passion, left bored and domesticated. Ask a Christian male what message the church sends him about who he is supposed to be and it will probably amount to something along the lines of a “really nice guy”. John Eldredge recalls a Christian man in his fifties who spoke of trying for 20 years to be a “good man”, as the church would define it. When asked what exactly that was, his reply was, “dutiful … and separated from his heart” 27 . I would have to agree with him, that it is as sad as it is unbiblical, yet, that is a perfect description of what we see. I find there to be an unfortunate parallel between this distorted view of what constitutes a Christian man and tenets of the courting movement. In a like manner, the

John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, 7.

Christian females tend to be also driven to an overwhelming sense of duty. They shroud themselves in busyness and church activities, unsure of their beauty, unsure of their value, prone to hiding 28 . The problem with trying to be a “nice” person who is both dutiful and separated from his or her heart, is that neither is Christ-centered nor an identifiable outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Rather, these amount to caricatures of Biblical masculinity and femininity and are directed by human expectations and effort. Wild at Heart is John Eldredge’s attempt to identify those parts of a Christian man’s life that apply to his identity in Christ and how that is key to the questions every man struggles with about himself. Not only is the text about identifying who we are in Christ, as men, but also those things that drive a man in his relationships and how they relate to the example of God’s relationship to the body of Christ. We are cautioned about the need to take questions about our masculinity, identity, and purpose to God, whereas man seems to have a well-ingrained bent to misguidedly take his defining questions to a woman or his career or something else other than his Creator. The problem with which a man is faced is that when he takes his self-validating questions to temporal things, he empowers those things or people with the ability to invalidate him as well. To believe that one’s validity is contained in something that can be lost or whose opinion can change as quickly as our own is a troubling prospect and a destructive way to live. In a like manner, John and his wife Stasi Eldredge wrote Captivating to address the struggles of the Christian woman, her questions about her value and beauty, as well as the coping mechanisms she uses to medicate her insecurities. The purpose of both works is to point men and women back to Christ, so that they can be caught up in something grander than themselves, something for God’s glory, something they can be passionate about, and something upon which they may embark together.


John & Stasi Eldredge, Captivating, 45.

In his book, Boy Meets Girl, Josh Harris describes the worldly form of dating as a “lifestyle of short-term relationships that is a detour from serving God as a single.” 29 Not having been raised in the church, I find it difficult to understand how someone engaged in a Christ-centered journey would intentionally pursue a lifestyle of distracting shortterm relationships for self-gratification or entertainment. It seems that early on in the church Paul addressed those individuals who contemptuously viewed marriage as a detour from serving God to the fullest of one’s potential 30 . Even having grown up outside the church, I find it just as odd to assume that a non-believer would truly desire a lifestyle of short-term relationships, expecting to gain some form of personal fulfillment from transitory romantic relationships, though it would seem more plausible for a nonbeliever. I am not sure if this speaks to my own naïveté or that of Mr. Harris’. Nonetheless, it is clear that such a lifestyle does not speak to a clearly Christ-centric lifestyle, if transitory relationships with members of the opposite sex, rather than an individual’s relationship to Christ, form the foundation of an individual’s identity in life. I therefore, do not believe that this is an accurate depiction of a Christian’s intentions when pursuing a dating relationship.

Henry Cloud suggests that people need to be cured of the notion that the purpose of dating is to find a marriage partner 31 . Dr. Cloud’s suggestion is an entirely foreign concept to the tenets of courting, but speaks to the value of relationships that do not culminate into a marriage. Dr. Cloud asserts that, “dating is as much about learning what you need and want, and how you need to grow and change, as it is about finding the ‘right’ person.” Recognizing who you are in Christ can sometimes be easily processed intellectually, but challenging to assimilate at the level of the heart. It is in our
29 30

Josh Harris, Boy Meets Girl, 17. 1 Cor. 7 31 Dr. Henry Cloud, How to Get a Date Worth Keeping, 33.

relationships with others that challenges arise to test how completely we live out of our identity. Often the challenge is to maintain trust in the message of Christ over the lies that the enemy sends us to doubt that identity. It is the insidious lies of the enemy, in the form of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life 32 that cause us to live and behave in ways that are inconsistent with our true identity. Perhaps nowhere in life is our faith in our Christian identity challenged more than in our relationships with members of the opposite sex. The Lord wants us to be ready for the work He’s prepared in advance for us 33 , and that includes our relationships.

Essentially, what I propose as a Christian ethic for dating is the glorification of the Lord 34 , whereby the purpose of our interpersonal relationships becomes something more eternal in its breadth, rather than something temporal like marriage, happiness, self-importance, or self-gratification. In his book Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas addresses the notion that marriage is more about a refining process designed to make a couple holy, rather than achieving a state of wedded bliss. Though I concur with his assertion, I would contend that that particular sentiment is not only true of a marriage relationship, but also a dating relationship, if not any relationship. If our lives are truly Christ-centered, every part of our lives, including our engagements, thoughts, and desires would reflect that, and our relationships would be instrumental parts of the sanctification process. In the Book of James, we are encouraged to consider it all joy when we encounter trials of various kinds, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance 35 . If this perspective is truly accepted, we would not shun the risky prospect of enduring relational pain and rejection from a potential relationship, but would accept it in all joy, knowing that the Lord can use it to our advantage when He is central in our
32 33

1 John 2:16 Christopher L. Burge & Pamela Touissaint, His Rules, 20; Ephesians 2:10 34 John Piper, Desiring God, Ch 1. 35 Jas. 1:2-3

lives. Our character cannot be tested and formed apart from living out of who we are in Christ in the presence of others.

Terry Wardle contends that our lives are composed of three journeys, based on his own observations of Christ’s life, as portrayed in the Gospels. The first, is an upward journey, in which we commune with the Father; second is the inward journey, in which we apply our identity in Christ to every part of who we are as an individual, and thirdly the outward journey, in which we take our identity in Christ and live out of it in our relationships with those around us in this world. We saw Jesus’ upward journey, evidenced by the manifold times He approached His Father in prayer. We saw Jesus’ inward journey in the Garden of Gethsemane, in which He applied His identity to those things He would have to endure for those He loved. Additionally, we saw His outward journey in the teachings and miracles He revealed to those in the world. The Lord has given us examples of the journeys we must make to follow Him and how it looks to have God be the center of all activity in one’s life. In the Book of John, Christ declares 28 times how He only does that which the Father has revealed for Him to do. How many of us even think to operate in such a way? I believe we can trust Jesus just as ruthlessly as He trusted the Father when He went to the cross for us. I believe that we can trust His examples and live in a radical way that flows more out of who we are than what we think we should do.

In the Biblical example of Isaac and Rebekah, Abraham undertook the responsibility for securing a bride for his son. The distinguishing feature of this example of a situation that led to marriage was the overt desire to please the Lord by seeking out

a bride that would not sway his son from following the one true God, whom he served 36 . Ravi Zacharias makes the point that when Abraham sent his servant to find his son a wife, he was not the only one involved in the selection process, but, rather, it is pivotal to note that God was concerned 37 . The method, that is the arrangement of the marriage, was not what honored God, but rather the attitude of heart with which it was conducted. It is important to note, that the Lord is never absent in any relationship, situation, or location 38 . In applying that example to our own initiative to seek a mate or a date, it is important to likewise pursue someone who belongs to the family of the one true God, someone who will help and not hinder our relationship with the Lord. The implication of Amos 3:3 is that two people can not take the journey in a relationship, let alone a lifelong commitment together, if they are out of step directionally.

Jesus talked about loving God and loving others as ourselves 39 . Jesus gave us an example of how to treat broken, disenfranchised people. He also exemplified how to handle the proud and the self-righteous. We are to love the people, but challenge their beliefs and attitudes, sharing our faith, our hope, and His love along the way. The love that we share with people is not to be fabricated. If it is authentic, it will flow out of the abundance of our relationship with Christ. Loving people into the kingdom of God is not about performance, it is about sharing the truth in love 40 . The problem with human affection is that it is performance-based 41 . Christ’s model of loving us is that He loved us initially, specifically, and sacrificially 42 . Whether we are engaged in a friendship or a romantic relationship with another person, our model for sharing the love of Christ with

36 37

Gen. 24:3-4 Ravi Zacharias, I, Isaac, take Thee, Rebekah, 19. 38 Ps. 139:7-9 39 Luke 10:27 40 Eph. 4:15 41 Rob Eagar, The Power of Passion, 19. 42 Rob Eagar, The Power of Passion, 23-25.

them is exemplified by Jesus Himself. Our relationship with Christ precedes any other relationship in our lives. In order for us to have strong, healthy, growing relationships with others, we must first have a strong, healthy, growing relationship with Christ. This is not to negate the legitimacy of a desire for a mate or date. Scripture clearly states that it is not good for man to be alone 43 . Man and woman were created for a relationship with God, but as two distinct aspects of being image-bearers of God, they were created for a relationship with each other. We are social beings, and we are to take the love of Christ into the world around us. Whether with a spouse, potential spouse, acquaintance, or friend, that extends to anyone with whom we would seek a relationship. John Eldredge identifies distinct roles that men and women were created to fill in the story of life. The roles of each are extracted from examples given in the Scriptures. He identifies a man’s story as having three essential elements, namely a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. Likewise, women are given a beauty to reveal and an irreplaceable role to play in the adventure. Each is created with an identity in a story that is bigger than them, bigger than anything they are or can be apart from Christ. In a Christ-centric view these roles obviously apply to much more than a dating relationship, yet at the same time, that does not negate the importance of those roles ordained for men and women in the story of their dating relationships in this life. Just as man and woman complement one another physically, we complement each other spiritually, as well. As men and women, we sometimes forget that we are both part of a fierce spiritual battle. We have the same enemy to fight, though the specific battles may differ. Those battles must be fought. Wounds must be risked in order to fully experience life. It


Gen. 2:18

is said that our wounds are given in the place of our true strength 44 , in the area of our greatest potential strength. For many of us, our greatest wounds involve our relationships with those of the opposite sex. Our attitudes must be challenged. Companions must be encouraged. Our prayers need to be united. Prayer cannot be neglected. None of these things can be done apart from God, if they are to make a difference. We are never given a situation in the midst of all our battles that is too daunting for the One who dwells in our hearts to accomplish 45 . We are equipped for the roles we have been given when we are Christ-centered. The Christian life is not one that was designed to minimize pain and/or suffering. We are fore-warned, that if Christ endured abuse and slander, we, as His followers, can anticipate suffering in a similar fashion. At the same time, we are told in the book of James, that we are to consider it all joy when we endure trials of various kinds, knowing that it tests our faith and produces endurance. Relational pain cannot be minimized or managed, regardless of what rules or guidelines man sets forth, because of sin in this world. If anything, the Christ-centered approach to relationships should reveal our utter and complete dependence on God to guide and nurture our motives, our relationships, and our lives. Our responsibility is to lay down our lives daily and crucify our flesh for Him. Security is not found in the absence of danger, but in the presence of Jesus 46 .

In the Power of Passion, Rob Eagar discusses how the Lord has given each of us unique preferences. Some of us are attracted to very specific characteristics in members of the opposite sex, some physical, some spiritual, some intellectual, some personality-related, etc. Some of us have preferences for brunettes over blondes, and for some of us, the condition of an individual’s heart, and walk with God overrides
44 45

John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, 137. 1 John 4:4 46 John & Stasi Eldredge, Captivating, 206.

physical characteristics. There are certain things that we look for in a relationship, just as there may be things we avoid. We have each been configured in ways we cannot completely understand on this side of heaven. The eventual question that is presented to us concerns whether or not the individual who attracts us is someone with whom we want to spend the rest of our life. Perhaps one of the most important parts of this process is determining if this is not merely a person to whom we are attracted, but someone who could be our friend 47 .

Being Christ-centered in our relationships does not negate unique preferences that each of us hold. The Holy Spirit imparts unique spiritual gifts to each of us, to fill a unique function in the Body of Christ. None of the unique gifts imparted to any of us is inherently more holy than another, merely different. Our preferences in regards to dating relationships are to be directed under the power of the Holy Spirit, just as our unique spiritual gifting. Paul states that every part of the Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit, while at the same time, it is evident that unique traits of the individuals who penned them, such as their personalities and writing styles find their way into those Scriptures. The uniqueness of each of those individuals in no way negates the inspiration, inerrancy, or truthfulness of the messages that God intended to convey to His people through those writings. In the same way, our personalities, preferences, and mannerisms do not negate the ability of the Holy Spirit to flow through us and manifest His work in our relationships.

If we are secure in our identity in Christ, we will approach relational challenges knowing that their outcome does not affect who we are. In Philippians, we are told the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds

Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend, Boundaries in Dating, Ch. 7

in Christ Jesus. The centrality of Christ in our lives necessarily has a direct impact on how we interact with not only Him, but also with others, even how we internally dialogue with ourselves. Recognizing our identity in Christ alleviates much of the shame and selfcontempt in which the enemy of our soul would prefer to have us drown. When we take the question of our identity to the Lord and seek out the truths that He has to say about us, it frees us to be who He created us to be. We must seek the counsel of the Lord first and foremost 48 . Likewise, we must take stock in the wisdom of those around us who exude the love of Christ 49 . When we fully subscribe to the revelation of who we are in Christ, things that formerly would have amounted to seismic activity in our worlds will become insignificant. The centrality of Christ should make us responsive and adaptive to His will in our lives. Sometimes there are things we did not cause in a relationship that are still our responsibility to deal with 50 - other times ownership is entirely ours. Regardless of the source, this will become easier to process when our focus is directed on glorifying Christ. Sometimes, perhaps more often than not, things do not go as we plan, with someone in whom we’ve taken an interest. Ultimately, the Lord has better plans for us than we are able to conceive of in our own effort. In obedience to His will, we grow. In defiance, we perish. The Lord often has far different timing than we do 51 for seeking the things after which we endeavor. It may be a frightening prospect to be left without a static mechanical solution or coping mechanism, yet this is a lesson which is gleaned, often through harsh life experiences. Christ-centeredness, however, regardless of the situation, keeps the focus off of us and our circumstances. It is never clarity that we need in order to successfully engage in relational endeavors in our lives, it is a heroic

48 49

Ps. 16:7, 73:24 Prov. 15:22 50 Dr. Henry Cloud, How to Get a Date Worth Keeping, 28-29. 51 Eccl. 3

courage to trust in the love of God regardless of the outcome 52 . When the Lord is our constant companion, we need not fear whatever the day may bring 53 , for God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind54 .

I believe that by letting Christ assume the preeminent position in our lives, we become free to date or court at our leisure. I say preeminent, in an effort to In fact, I believe we can be confident enough in our identity in Christ to pursue a member of the opposite sex in any manner that is not contrary to the nature of God or His Word. When we walk in the power of His Spirit, we need not be burdened by a hedge of prescriptive ordinances that dictate acceptable and unacceptable behavior. We become free to trust the Lord to guide us in your dating or courting relationships, rather than rely on our own ability to meet relational challenges or expectations. Whether we date or court, we must do it in faith 55 as unto the Lord 56 if we are going to either at all.

52 53

Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 4. Matt. 6:34 54 2 Timothy 1:7 55 Rom. 14:22-23 56 Col. 3:17

Bibliography Azurdia, Arturo G., Spirit Empowered Preaching. Christian Focus Publication, 2003. Burge, Christopher L. and Pamela Toussaint, His Rules. Waterbrook Press, 2005. Cloud, Dr. Henry, How to Get a Date Worth Keeping. Zondervan, 2005. Cloud, Dr. Henry and Dr. John Townsend, Boundaries in Dating. Zondervan, 2000. Eagar, Rob, The Power of Passion. Grace Press Publishing, 2002. Eldredge, John, Wild at Heart. Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2001. Eldredge, John and Stasi, Captivating. Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005. Geisler, Norman L., Christian Ethics. Baker Books, 1989. Harris, Joshua, Boy Meets Girl. Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2000. Harris, Joshua, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 1997. Manning, Brennan, Abba’s Child. NavPress 1994, 2002. Manning, Brennan, Ruthless Trust. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2000. Piper, John, Desiring God. Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 1986, 1996, 2003. Thomas, Gary, Sacred Marriage. Zondervan, 2000. Wardle, Terry, The Transforming Path. Leafwood Publishers, 2003. Zacharias, Ravi, I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah. W Publishing Group, 2004.

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