Welcome to the gray space! For the next six weeks, we’re going to write about dating, including waiting, love languages, boundaries, and intentionality.
We’ve titled this series thoughtfully. In Romans 14:1-15:7, Paul writes to the members of the Roman church about their differences in convictions, particularly about eating certain kinds of food and observing holy days. He concludes that each individual should do what he believes honors the Lord:
“Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind...For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's...Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:5,7-12)
Scripture absolutely contains clear do’s and don’ts about relating to members of the opposite gender, but other parts of the 21st-century dating scene exist in the “gray space” that Paul defines here. Since people simply didn’t date in Biblical times, Scripture doesn’t have black-and-white rules about every aspect of dating. However, the lack of clear rules doesn’t mean the gospel doesn’t apply. How we relate to others as we look for lifelong partners is one of the ways we glorify God as followers of Christ. As it always does, the gospel matters.
God didn’t give us a color-coded rulebook, and we’re not trying to write one. The three of us are at various stages in the dating process ourselves. We certainly don’t have it all figured out, nor do we want to pretend that we do. What we write here is intended to encourage you, make you think, and above all to glorify God. So, with that said, welcome to the gray space.
Daughter, Not Damsel
As a girl who’s been a little boy-crazy in the past, I’m all too aware of how central this issue can become. So, ironically, I’m kicking off this series with a giant disclaimer: dating is far from the most important issue in a Christian life.
Of course, dating is important. Marriage is a high calling meant to reflect Christ’s relationship with the church (Ephesians 5:22-33), so dating, the process of deciding who to marry, should be taken seriously. However, no dating relationship can fulfill your hunger to be fully known and fully loved. Looking to another human being to fill that void – the one that only God can fill – is idolatry, plain and simple.
Yet this idea that you need someone else to complete you permeates both our culture and the church. Singles groups in churches often turn into places to meet people, and single people in the pews are often overlooked. And in the world – well, ever heard the phrases “my other half” or “you complete me”? Bombarded with this language, we begin to believe exactly that: that another human being can complete us.
The Bible says otherwise. Friend, God is bringing the good work He began in you to completion through Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6; see also 2 Timothy 3:16-17, James 1:4), not through another human being. You are not a damsel in distress, waiting for someone to come and save you. You are a daughter of the King, with access to all His promises and all His goodness, all His mercy and all His grace.
Whether you’re married, single, or dating, the gospel remains the same. Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised again for your salvation. He defeated death, and by trusting in Him, you can attain eternal life and take part in His promises in this life. This good news bears on how we date, just as it affects how we work, play, and eat (1 Corinthians 10:31), but those are all secondary to the truth that we are saved. God has the power to use romantic relationships as part of His sanctifying plan for us, but they cannot save us.
Neither dating nor marriage are the Christian’s ultimate calling. We’re to steward creation (Genesis 1:26-30), go forth and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20), and love God and obey his commandments (1 John 5:1-5). Having someone by your side for all of these callings is a beautiful gift, one God put in place before the fall, but it is not the point. You are not a damsel waiting for a human savior, because your Father, the King, has already saved you.
Loving Christ First
We love because Christ first loved us. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the definition of love. If we don’t understand this definition, how can we love someone else?
In middle and high school, I was boy-crazy. I put them on a pedestal, convinced my life would be perfect if the boy of the moment would just like me back! I idolized attention and romantic love. God waited until I was completely committed to trusting Him, rather than another human, for my salvation to allow me to enter into a relationship. In fact, from a few journal entries, I can point to the exact moment I verbalized this commitment – and the relationship that came about shortly after. At the time, I probably would have written the story differently, but looking back, I cannot emphasize how grateful I am that He made me wait.
If Christ is not on the throne in your heart, reigning over your life, this is not the time to be thinking about dating. After all, Christ’s love for us on the cross is the model for how we are to love others (1 John 4:10-11, 19). So whether you are in a relationship, hungering for one, or not even ready to think about it yet, I encourage you to seek Christ first. No human being can save you, but He can.