Should Christian Teenagers Date?

The Bible doesn't talk a lot specifically about dating.  There is a reason for that.  Dating is a very new practice in the history of humanity.  The idea of choosing someone to go out and spend one on one time with outside of a marriage commitment is still very new.  In biblical times, there was no "dating".  As a result, there is no passage that instructs specifically how Christians should handle the issue of dating.  However, the Bible does share many truths and theological principles that help us think Biblically when it comes to modern cultural issues like dating.  My fear is that many single Christians think about dating, relationships, and marriage just like the world.  There is a great failure of building our thinking about dating on the Word of God.
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As a youth pastor, I get a front row seat to the morally murky waters of teenage dating.  Last night at my youth group I taught from 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.  This passage describes a distinction between the people of God and the unbeliever.  Paul gives us the command to not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever and concludes this section in 7:1 where he tells us to cleanse our self from worldly defilement and pursue holiness through fear of the Lord.  As I taught this passage I made applications to teenage dating and relationships.  However before I started teaching this passage I shared my own personal opinions about teenage dating for Christians.  Although it is not necessarily a sin to date in middle school or high school, I argued that dating in middle school and high school is very unwise and a risk that should be avoided until you are ready to be married.  I know how radically counter cultural that sounded to my teenagers who seem to be in a new dating relationship every other week. However, here are my reasons.

1. Your primary focus should be on your relationship with God.  Dating can distract you.

Dating can be so distracting for Christian teenagers.  I watch them as they gossip about who is dating who.  Who broke up with this person.  There is a massive amount of emotional and intellectual engagement about the dating life of their peers.  It seems that teens are either working on getting a date, currently dating someone, or recovering from a breakup. Singleness seems to be taboo in teenage culture.
For the Christian teenager this whole business of dating can be very distracting.  As Christians, our primary focus, especially in our single years, should be on our relationship with God.  Rather than spending their energy pursuing the Lord, they are distracted by the dating culture.  Rather than spending their evening in prayer with the Lord, the spend it texting their girl friend. (FYI, Teens don't talk on the phone anymore, they just text)  Teenage dating is unwise because it can distract you from pursuing the Lord.

2. You place yourself into unnecessary temptation and sin.  Dating can defile you.

Our bodies naturally long for physical and sexual intimacy.  Teenage dating unnecessarily puts the Christian in temptation and possible sin.  It is like playing with fire.  This is why kissing always lead to more intense kissing.  Teenagers who are sexually charged with hormones as it is, put themselves at risk when they pair off and isolate each other.  Building intimacy without commitment is dangerous.  I can't tell you the number of Christian teenagers I've seen fall into sexual sin due the pseudo marriage the've made out of their marriage relationship.  Don't play with fire unnecessarily, don't start dating until your able to commit in marriage and then you will be able to joyfully and freely act out on your God given, but sin corrupted, sexual desires.   Teenage dating is unwise because the temptation to sexual sin is great, and sin defiles you.

 

3. You don't have the spiritual maturity and refuse to guard your heart. Dating can damage you.

Many teenagers just don't have the emotional or spiritual maturity to handle dating.  I see this especially in teenage girls.  In a culture of absent Dad, these girls long for the affection and care of a boy.  As a result many teenagers go from boy to boy looking for something that only Christ can give.  In the process these sweet young girls get their heart abused and taken advantage of time and time again.  Before you every start thinking about dating you must make sure your identity is sealed in your union with Christ, not in a boyfriend or girlfriend.   Teenage dating is unwise because it can damage you when you refuse to guard your heart and find your identity in Christ.

4. You affections for your date is greater than your affections for God. Dating can deceive you.

We live in a culture that idolizes romance.  At the time of this writing it is Valentines day, the holy day of our false-god cupid. So many Christian teenagers get caught up in the idolatry of the culture and begin worshiping the idol of romance.  As a result, we can be deceived to idol worship if we are not careful.  As I watch the dating life of Christian teenagers, so often their affections for their boyfriend or girlfriend exceed their affections for Christ.  When this happens, idolatry has occurred in our hearts.  Teenage dating is unwise because it can deceive you to bending knee to cupid instead of the Lord Jesus Christ.

5. Dating handle wrongly can hinder your witness as a missionary.  Dating can hinder you.

Christian Teenagers are missionaries.  They have been sent by God into their local schools to be ambassadors for the Gospel.  Yet, the dating life of teenagers often hinders the evangelistic mission God has given them.  Many Christian teenagers are known more for who they date than for their love for Jesus.  Lunch table conversations revolve around dating drama about them then their radical unselfish love for Jesus and other people.  Dating for teenagers often damages their witness to the unbelievers in their school.  This is a shame.  Rather than distinctness from the world, Christian teenagers imitate the culture of their school.  Their dating lives often hinders the mission God has called them to do.  Teenage dating is unwise because it hinders the mission of sharing the Gospel.
It is no sin to date other people as a teenager, but these five reasons I think are enough to put dating on hold until you reach the place in your life when you can begin to seriously think about and prepare for marriage.

Amendment One and the Christian Mission

The following is a letter I wrote yesterday to our local newspaper the Wilson Times.  Since it may never make it in the black and white, here is a copy.  At the time of this writing, voting on NC amendment one was still taking place. At the time of this writing, it is voting day in NC.  As we all know, one of the most controversial items on the ballot was Amendment One.  As I’ve read the editorials of this  Wilson Times and have watched the vigorous debate over this issue it seems to bring out the worst out of both sides.

As a pastor and a Christian, it has been very intriguing to watch the Christians in the city of Wilson as they handle this controversial issue.  Although I personally supported the amendment, I think some of the zealous passion Christians have shown over this amendment has been misguided.  Christians must indeed stand firm on the truths of Scripture despite the cultural milieu of the day.  However, I am terribly afraid that through this vicious debate over the marriage amendment, Christians in our city have indirectly tarnished the mission Christ has called us to do.  Our task as Christians is not necessarily to create a Christianized American but to proclaim the hope the everyone can find in our Lord Jesus Christ.  As Christians we want people to realize the treachery of their sins so that they can find peace and forgiveness at the cross of Jesus.  At the cross, Jesus absorbed the wrath deserved for our sins and as Christians we believe that forgiveness comes through the perfect son of God, Jesus Christ.  The message of Christianity is the good news that salvation is found in and through Jesus.  That is the center of our message and that is the purpose of our churches existence.

My fear as a Christian is that through the commotion of this amendment, our enthusiastic passion has indirectly communicated to our city that our churches care more about a Biblical definition of marriage than people finding hope and joy through Jesus.  As Christians, we must share the good news of Jesus to both the heterosexual and the homosexual in Wilson and pray that all would repent and believe.  Because no matter what NC or the United States will ever decide on the issue of marriage, it never changes the centrality of that mission.  Even though we might disagree with our neighbor, we still must love our neighbor and point them to the hope and joy that can only be found in Jesus.  May we fight to spread the good news of Jesus in our community with the same passion and ferocity we had with the marriage amendment.

Handling Those Who Disagree with You

Christians have the broad reputation of being closed minded.  And lets face, based on the way we interact with people who think differently than us, it is easy to see how the world gets that opinion of us.  When we encounter someone who disagrees with us, we tend to belittle them and ignore them.  For example if we sit down with an atheist we brush them off and just think they are morons.  When we encounter a person who is a homosexual we just ignore them, call them sinners, and move on.  As a result, Christians have come across of prideful, superior, and closed minded. As Christians, we need to engage the culture, not isolate ourselves from it. If we are going to enter into the public square and state what we believe, we must be prepared to dialogue about our beliefs.  For example, if we are going to claim that this is one God, and his name is Jesus, we must have the respect to dialogue with our atheist friends about our worldview.  If we expect them to listen to us, we need to at least have the kindness to hear them out as well.  This does not mean we accept their views, but just that a dialogue about these things take place.  So often, when someone disagrees with Christianity we get angry, take our toys, and go home.  We don't even try to reason or give an apologetic for what we believe.  We do not try to understand their perspective, we just get up and go away.

I remember a time in high school where I went out to dinner with a friend of mine for the sole purpose of arguing with this atheist class mate.  The whole conversation was unhelpful as we both began to get angry, hostile, and mean. Needless to say, it didn't go well! Although we are told to give a reason for everything we believe, we must understand that conversion is a work of the Spirit.  No man can convince another man to become a Christian.  It is a work of the Spirit alone.  As we engage in healthy cultural discussions, we must be filled with prayer as we ask the Spirit to break down walls and soften hearts.  The reason we often get so angry and hostile with those who disagree with us, is because we think we can actually change their minds!  It is not us but the Spirit, and as you go out and engage in conversation always be filled with love, always be filled with grace, and share the amazing story of what Christ has done for us!

If we are going to reach our culture with the beautiful truth of the Gospel, we must at least be willing to sit down amicably and have a conversation.  Don't create unhelpful stereotypes about atheists, homosexuals, Muslims, or any other group that Christians so quickly write off. Don't create blanket judgements that prevent a conversation that could lead to a Gospel presentation.  As Christians we are called to be missionaries to the world.  This means engaging with the world views around us, and encouraging a healthy dialogue about these controversial issues all the while showing the love of Christ and sharing the truth of the Gospel.

How have you handled those who disagree with you? How can we foster better communication? How can we better engage those around us with the Gospel?

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!