By James McDermott
There is a growing movement among homeschoolers that rejects the custom of dating. Some support "courtship" and others support "betrothal" as more consistent with Biblical principles. Others counter that nowhere does Scripture condemn dating. After all, where is the Bible verse that condemns a young man for inviting a young lady to a restaurant for dinner or a cup of coffee? As for my household, our children will not be dating.
Dating is a relatively new custom and, whether you believe it is unscriptural or not, it has a very poor track record for protecting the sexual purity of its participants. Perhaps I was hanging around the wrong crowd, but it seemed that nearly everyone I knew that dated had some sort of intimate physical relationship before they married. For many, this meant "going all the way," but most of the rest were not opposed to long bouts of kissing and hugging. And typically, those who dated had this kind of physical relationship with multiple partners before they decided on a spouse. Perhaps the Bible does not directly address the issue of dating, but it does directly address the issue of sexual purity. Paul tells the young man Timothy, " Treat … younger women as sisters, with absolute purity." (1 Tim. 5:2) Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman." (1 Cor. 7:1 NASB) Paul says elsewhere, "Among you there must not be even a hunt of sexual immorality or of any kind of impurity." (Eph. 5:3) Jesus went even farther: "You heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Mat 5:27)
We know from these verses that "absolute purity" is the positive command and that "touching a woman" or even looking at her lustfully is forbidden. The young men should be treating the young women as sisters. Any honorable man would be revolted at the prospect of giving his sister a romantic kiss or touch. Therefore, any honorable man should avoid giving any woman who is not his wife any romantic kiss or touch. The Biblical standard is uncompromising. And the consequences of sexual sin were as severe as possible. Under the Law of Moses, adultery and homosexuality carried the death penalty. In addition, a girl who married and was later found not to have been a virgin was dealt with in this way: "She shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father's house. You must purge the evil from among you." (Deut. 22:21) This seems harsh to our enlightened modern ears, but these were only temporal punishments.
The New Testament describes a much more horrifying punishment for unrepentant sexual sin - horrifying because it is eternal. Paul writes, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral …nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders … will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:9) The writer to the Hebrews writes, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral." (Heb. 13:4-5) The Apostle John writes, "The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars - their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." (Rev. 21:8) He says something similar in the following chapter: "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood." (Rev. 22:14-15)
Solomon writes, "The lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave." (Prov. 5:3-6) Paul adds, "For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person - such a man is an idolater - has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient." (Eph. 5:5-6) Because unrepentant sexually immoral people will not inherit the kingdom of God, the Scriptures tell us to avoid it at all cost. Paul writes, "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (1 Cor. 6:18-20)
Jesus, himself, immediately after calling a man who looks at a woman lustfully an adulterer, says this: "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell." (Mat 5:27-30) Of course, sexual immorality may also have awful consequences in the here and now. Some will endure a lifetime of pain or a divorce because promiscuity was the glue that held a bad relationship together. Immoral behavior may also produce children out of wedlock. This may be embarrassing, of course, but children born out of wedlock may suffer more serious consequences. Some children will grow up without the love or financial support of a father and others will never know the love of the woman who gave them birth.
Unfortunately, we also know that millions of children never see the light of day because their mothers would rather kill them than face the consequences of their own sin. In addition, AIDS and a host of other diseases may result from sexual immorality. Even some cancers are more prevalent among promiscuous people. A person who indulges in immoral behavior, therefore, is literally risking his health and his life. Given the clear Biblical standard for absolute purity and the potential for disastrous temporal and eternal consequences for those who do not observe that standard, one can only wonder why dating is so popular among Christian families. Parents know very well - probably from their own dating experience - that their dating children will experience plenty of romantic hugging and kissing with an indeterminate number of partners before they are married. Parents know there is a very good chance their children will lose their virginity before they reach the altar.
Even so, Christian parents accept all this as inevitable risk and condemn parents as meddling radicals who would play a role in protecting the purity of their children. Why have so many Christian parents become so cavalier about their children's purity? Why would a Christian parent scoff at a parent for rejecting dating when participation almost guarantees that the Biblical standard of absolute purity will not be observed? Why would a Christian parent scoff at a parent for adopting courtship and/or betrothal when perhaps a majority of dating young people will not be virgins on their wedding day? I will offer an explanation. Most Christians in America have grown up in public or parochial schools, where dating and immorality were commonplace. Coarse humor, lewdness, and immodesty were experienced daily. We grew up on immoral music and immoral TV.
Sexually immoral entertainers, athletes, and politicians were idolized - their adulteries never condemned. We looked the other way for the likes of President Kennedy and John Lennon. Since then, the downward trend has only accelerated. In the schools, homosexuals are openly affectionate. Football's Lawrence Taylor writes a book about his exploits, broadcast television has given permission to use the "F" word, and cable and satellite offer pornography to the masses. We Christian Americans have become so desensitized by the immorality around us that we think it unreasonable to expect any normal teenager to abide by the Biblical standard. We are so wise to immorality that we have forgotten how to blush. We have also abdicated our responsibility to protect our children. We just throw them to the wolves and hope they don't get themselves into serious trouble.
Again, I realize dating is not directly forbidden in Scripture, but as Christians who are not naïve of these issues, we should know that a system that allows young singles unlimited and unsupervised casual romantic relationships will breed immorality. As parents, we need to teach our older children by word and example that the Biblical standard is absolute purity (no romantic kissing or touching with anyone but one's spouse). We also need to protect our children from immoral music and video, and not allow them to run around unsupervised with members of the opposite sex. This may seem extreme to many believers, but only to Western believers of the last 2 or 3 generations. These views would not have seemed extreme in America at the time the Pilgrims landed in 1620 and for the next 300 years. And even if absolute purity were extreme it shouldn't matter. It is the Biblical standard and, therefore, it should be our standard no matter how crazy we appear to others. We are called to witness to the resurrection of Christ and one of the ways we do that is by living as salt and light in a fallen and corrupted world. Living in a thoroughly immoral culture gives Christians an opportunity to witness to the power of the Resurrection by living to a higher standard. Instead, we have adopted the immoral practices of the surrounding culture.
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