There is no doubt in anyone's mind that knows me in any capacity that I am an introvert through and through. I am very shy, quite awkward and clumsy, and have never been particularly good with the ladies. Because of that and some other things as well, I have always found the prospect of dating to be frankly and frightening enterprise. There is no doubt that dating can be and often is a tremendously blessed thing that is filled with joy, smiles, laughter, and fulfillment. Indeed, I would even go as far as to say that dating has the potential to be something heavenly, as God created men and women, created their souls and bodies, created their desires for romance, and instituted marriage to be something men and women would be a part of and to be a parable for His relationship with mankind.
Be that as it may, and I stress that I do not in any way intend to be flippant with or downputting of the glorious truths of Scripture that show us what God has done and what His passions are, dating to me has always been frankly a scary thing. When I think of dating, I am often compelled by emotional burden to ask questions like "how many more times will I have to tell a young woman my deepest and potentially my most compromising stories before I meet "the one?" and "will I date someone for years and then have something happen that snips it off out of nowhere?"
Despite these very real anxieties, my purpose in writing this piece is not to communicate the woefully bad idea that dating is intrinsically bad and should be avoided. On the contrary, dating has the potential to be wonderfully life-giving, rewarding, blessed, genuinely fun, and most of all glorifying to the Lord. One of the foundational ideas of Christian theology is that God created the universe and the world ex nihilo, or "out of nothing," and that He made it good; that He made people, plants, animals, institutions, and all other things in a way that was good and reflected His purity and divine genius. In other words, the Bible teaches that God made all things for His glory, including romantic relationships, dating, and marriage.
Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians,
"For through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can't see — such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him." — (Colossians 1:16)
The most serious problems that are related to dating aren't problems with dating in and of itself but stem from approaches to it that are immoral and foolish. This, when you sit down and ponder the nature of things, is generally the case with everything. Marriage is good, but the fact that both people are sinners and are given to selfishness and other bad things makes marriage very hard and stressful even when the relationship is generally good. Work is good, but the fact that we are sinners and are given to laziness on one hand and overly competitiveness and workaholism on the other, and our co-workers are just like us in that respect, makes work overwhelming and even a bitter thing to deal with much of the time.
Dating is no different.
How? One example is the fact that people often look to the person they are dating to satisfy their souls and give them true joy and contentment, which is idolatry against God and is always exhausting to the person being idolized. Another example is the very unfortunate fact that dating is often filled with sex, which God intended specifically for married men and women to enjoy in light of their unique relationship as two people united together as one flesh.
In light of the knowledge that dating is a good thing, that God created human beings and impressed upon them the capacities for romantic relationships, and that He called those very relationships "very good" in the creation narrative, perhaps a good question to ask would be "how does a follower of Jesus Christ approach the subject of dating?" There are all sorts of ways that Christians tend to approach the subject of dating and just as there are all sorts of philosophical approaches to how to go about ministry and musical worship at the weekly gathering of believers, just to name two of many, it is such with dating. But let's ask this" are there any essentials? That is to, in effect, ask if there are any things to look for in a man or in a woman that if they are not present a deal has been broken, so to speak, with respect to dating. Biblically, there actually are several! In this piece, I will speak on two of them.
1. A Love for Jesus Christ
1 Corinthians 16:22 says that any person that has no love for the Lord in their heart is cursed, which I take to mean that such a person is under the curse of God, which essentially communicates that they are not saved and are in their sins and, as they presently stand, are under the condemnation of God. Also, to bring into view a classic text that is used in this discussion, 2 Corinthians 6:14 teaches that Christians should not become what Paul calls "unequally yolked" with people who do not love and follow Jesus. Finally, 1 Corinthians 7:39 says this concerning what a woman may do in the event of her spouse passing away during her lifetime: "A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord."
The Bible is very clear that a godly person should only seek other godly people to be in dating relationships with. It is consistent in its counsel that God is pleased when two people are in harmony as it concerns their faith and their joy and their worship. God's will in the case of dating and marriage is that (a.) the two people both having saving faith and therefore a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, and (b.) the two people have a passionate joy in Him and contentment that directly comes from knowing Him.
Why does God care about something such as this? One reason, I think is because if a person that loves Jesus were to marry, for example, an atheist, there would be unnecessary fights over how to parent and what to teach the children and on the most supreme level of existence for the two people, Concord is unobtainable. So, if a person you know is relatable, attractive, and fun to hang out with, but doesn't love the Lord, the Bible's counsel is to not even go there as far as dating is concerned.
2. A Loving Heart
One of the most recognizable fruits that are produced in the lives of believers by the Holy Spirit is love; a love first for God that is over all other affections and a love second for other people. Biblically speaking, if a person isn't loving, it is difficult to imagine they are a Christian at all. It is true that people are fallen and prone to attitudes and frames of mind that are selfish and unwholesome, but there is a definite difference in earnestly wrestling with your fallen nature by God's help and just diving headlong into sinful and rebellious activities. Because a person should have marriage in mind when they approach dating, a very practical question is this: would you want to be with someone for the next 50-or-so years that has a bitter heart? As is usually the case, the Bible's counsel is obviously wise when just considered for a brief moment of thought.