Young Christians who engage in dating should be prudent; otherwise they will make it easier for the devil to tempt them.
Proverbs 22:3 speaks of the “prudent” or cautious man, who anticipates danger and avoids it. The prudent man is then contrasted with the “simple” or “naïve” (NIV) man, who fails to foresee danger and barrels ahead thoughtlessly, ultimately to suffer for his lack of wisdom and understanding. Paul, in the same vein, warns Christians to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18)—“flee also youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22). Rather than trusting in our own strength to be able to resist temptation, Paul warns us to be humble: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Do we need to take Scripture seriously when it makes such admonitions, or can we ignore God like the world does? When young Christians engage in dating, should they be prudent? The devil says, “No. Don’t worry about it. Do what’s fun and feels good.” Here are three ways young people can help him meet his goals for them while they date.
1. Don’t worry about why you date or when you start.
One of the young, college, Hispanic men at my home congregation told me about dating in Mexico when his parents were growing up. Girls were not allowed to begin dating until they had proved they could be a wife—having demonstrated their proficiency in house management, for example. Clearly, dating did not begin until a girl was old enough to actually be a wife! I had already studied other “western” dating practices of the past, like those of Ireland, England, and America, and knew that they had similar mindsets. Such thinking is rare today, but I still asked myself, “Why would societies of the past want their young people to wait to begin dating until they were old enough to begin considering marriage? Did they just make up unnecessary rules to control people?”
While doing youth work in urban Texas in the 2000s, the reason became crystal clear. Our teens were obviously not treating dating seriously. They were interested in having a good time getting to know the opposite gender (as did many of us as teens). However, a high percentage of the time, after a few dates the young people would enter into a “cloud-like phase” (what psychologists call the period of “infatuation,” “euphoric feelings,” or “limerence”) where the relationship uncontrollably and quickly became very serious. In that state, the young people were unable to be reasoned with about their relationship. They could “hear no evil” concerning their boyfriends or girlfriends. “He’s perfect.” “She was meant for me.” Almost inevitably, the young couples proceeded to become physically involved with one another and, in many cases, fell away from the church.
It quickly became clear to me why many civilizations of the past—those who did not use arranged marriages—made up for their looseness in allowing a couple the freedom to choose dates, by having careful rules in place to protect the couples from making unwise decisions while they dated. After all, only the naïve are unaware of the dangerous effects of unbridled, raging hormones coupled with imprudence and a lack of wisdom during the teen years. No wonder civilizations of the past—fathers and mothers—required their children to wait to date until they were old and mature enough to think rationally, and old enough to be seriously thinking about marriage in case the relationship progressed to that point. “Dating for fun” would not have been acceptable, since such flippant behavior would be viewed as “playing with fire.” Based on my observations, this is the first way we can help Satan hurt our young people while they date: let them date the way Hollywood teaches them to, not worrying about such “trivial things” as when and why they date. Assume they have complete control over their hormones and emotions, and great wisdom beyond their years. They don’t need to be prudent.
2. Don’t worry about who you date either.
Whether or not we intend it, a romantic relationship can unavoidably become serious. A person with whom we are in a serious relationship can and will influence us, no matter how hard we try to remain unaffected. No wonder Scripture repeatedly warns against developing strong relationships with those who are not God’s disciples (e.g., Genesis 6:1-2; Exodus 23:31-33; Deuteronomy 7:3-4; Judges 14:1-3; 1 Kings 11:3-4; 2 Kings 8:16-18; 2 Chronicles 19:2; Ezra 9-10; Nehemiah 13:23-27; Psalm 101:6; Proverbs 12:26; 13:20; 22:3; 31:30; Amos 3:3; Matthew 6:33; 7:6; John 15:19; Romans 8:5-8; 1 Corinthians 5:6; 15:33; Ephesians 5:11; James 4:4).
In the New Testament, God’s disciples—those who have been baptized into Christ for the remission of sins—are called “Christians” (Acts 11:26). A second way we can help Satan hurt our young people while they date is to tell them they are better than the sons of God of Genesis 6, Solomon, Samson, and King Jehoshaphat; they can develop strong relationships with people of the world and escape unscathed. Unlike others, they don’t need to be prudent.
3. Also, don’t worry about how you date.
If I wanted to date in such a way that I would be much more likely to succumb to temptation, destroy my Christian reputation, and become serious with someone who will not be the best for me spiritually, what would I do?
- I would not date in public. I would seek dark or secluded, intimate places, like cars and parks at night, dark movie theaters, and empty apartments or houses. I would be much more likely and able to lust and engage in lewd and sexual activity in such settings.
- I would not have a “chaperone” with me in such places to help me resist temptation. A chaperone would just be in the way of me indulging my flesh.
- I would not bring my date to meet my parents and get their thoughts on whether or not I should pursue him/her. After all, they may say I shouldn’t!
- I would be as physical as I can be—the more touching, hugging, and kissing the better. It feels good to get my hormones stirred up.
- I would not be concerned about a girl being immodestly dressed. It’s too fun to look at her in lust and covetousness.
Many “Christian” societies have had dating “proprieties” that disallowed all of the above behavior for the protection of a couple’s purity, reputation, and posterity. Those principles were based on Scripture (e.g., Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; 22:3; Matthew 5:16,28; 1 Corinthians 6:18; 10:12; 2 Timothy 2:22; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:2,7). So, a third way we can help Satan spiritually hurt our young people while they date is to tell them that the modern way of dating is not dangerous. It isn’t causing lust and pre-marital sex to skyrocket. It isn’t causing couples to enter into marriage with spiritual scars that generate relationship insecurities that contribute to the divorce rate. They don’t need to be prudent.
Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’” (Jeremiah 6:16).