A Response to “The Dangers of the Dating Game”
By David A. Huston
I read with interest your Opinions column titled “The Dangers of the Dating Game” (IBC Perspectives, Vol. 16, No. 12). After reading what these college students had to say, I was reminded again why young people are not the ones to be determining what is proper and what is not in dating. For example, one of the students stated that many teens would not go along with the idea of being chaperoned on a date. She suggested that parents talk to their children about dating but cautioned against grilling them. She proposed instead “simply letting them know you’re there for them if they have any questions and staying informed (without being too intrusive) of what’s going on.” This is the kind of passive parenting that results in countless young people falling into sin and turning their hearts away from God. This same student then said that she believed 17 was an appropriate age for young people to begin single dating, implying that 17-year-olds are mature enough to make wise choices in the “dating game.”
Another student asserted that chaperoning would send “a message to our young people that they can’t be trusted.” He then concluded, “The bottom line is that a lot of teens don’t realize that you absolutely cannot trust your flesh.” This is the whole point. To require singles to be accompanied on a date by a responsible adult is simply acknowledging the reality that regardless of the purity of their intentions, under certain circumstances any young couple can find themselves doing things they never thought they would do. This has happened far too often to simply right it off as an occasional lapse in judgment. It is part of the reality of being human.
To think that a young person who has never been married understands the potential for yielding to sexual temptation is naive. And when you add in the exposure so many young people have had to Internet pornography and the sexuality found in even many PG-rated motion pictures, the idea of two single young adults going off together is fraught with the potential for immorality. Most simply do not have the strength of character to stop themselves once the heat starts rising.
One student wrote, “I don’t think you can stop someone from dating.” It is this kind of defeatist attitude that concerns me the most. Apostolic parents better have the ability to stop their children from dating. The Bible instructs children to obey their parents in all things (Colossians 3:20). Until they are married or have graduated from school and are living outside the home, children have an obligation to obey their parents “in all things.” But this means that parents must step up to the plate and make clear what they expect from their children. Sure, children can sneak around behind their parents’ back and do what they please. But the point is, parents need to take a stand for what is proper and spiritually safe. Decisions about being alone with a member of the opposite sex must not be left to the children to make. They don’t have the wisdom born of experience.
The Real Issue
The real issue that surrounds the whole dating question is, how do we help our well-meaning young adults to keep from damaging themselves spiritually by engaging in premarital sex? I believe that the first thing we need to teach our young people from the earliest age is that the purpose of dating is not having a good time, having lots of fun, or filling up on pleasurable experiences. The purpose of dating is marriage. This means that if there is no immediate possibility of marriage, then there is no purpose in dating. And dating someone who is not even saved makes no sense at all. These people need a Bible study, not dinner at a nice restaurant.
Young people need to understand that the reason they should be very careful about both who they date and how they date is because human beings have the capacity to become emotionally connected to one another. This is something God has put within us for the purpose of holding us together in close, loving relationships. And this is especially true in relationships between males and females.
Contrary to the popular belief promoted by Hollywood, there does not need to be deep emotional connection for a man and a woman to get married. Throughout history, many marriages have been arranged and the bride and groom barely knew each other before the wedding. Once married, however, it is vitally important that they become deeply connected emotionally. This is because we all tend to care about and treat well the people for whom we have strong feels of affection. These deep feelings (not merely raw passions) are what bind a couple together.
Hollywood teaches that emotions are the basis for getting married, but God teaches that they are intended to be the result of marriage. This why Moses taught, “When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken” (Deuteronomy 24:5). During the first year of marriage a man should be totally intoxicated by the feeling of being in love with his wife (thereby making himself useless as a soldier or businessman). But Hollywood has taken what God intended to be a sacred aspect of the first year of marriage and moved it out of the marriage relationship all together. This is why so many young couples are quickly disillusioned after the honeymoon. Because they experienced their rapturous feelings of love prematurely, there is nothing new to experience after the wedding except the struggles of learning to share your life with another person.
The Proper Path
Young people need to be taught that it is God’s intention that deep emotional connection to be reserved for marriage. They also need to understand that deep feelings for another person is what leads to the desire for physical connection (sex). When physical connection is experienced, this in turn leads to even deeper emotional connection. This is God’s plan for keeping married couples together over the long haul. This is also why it is both wrong and dangerous to become deeply connected to anyone you are not married to. Deep feelings toward a member of the opposite sex cause a person to want to be with that person and be close to that person. But that is not appropriate except in marriage. Most extra-marital affairs do not begin with sex but with a deep emotional connection.
Emotional connections form and become more intense by physical contact (hugging, kissing, holding hands, etc.), by talking for long periods of time (especially personal self-revealing talk, whether in person, on the phone, or over the Internet), and by staring for long periods directly in the other person’s eyes. If a young person wants to avoid the temptation to engage in sexual activity, then he or she should not engage in the things that foster deep emotional connection. And if anyone does not want to engage in the things that foster deep emotional connection, then he or she should not get in situations where those things can happen. In other words, not be alone with a person of the opposite sex.
One of the students wrote, “You need alone time to understand who that person is and get to the heart of their convictions and see how they interact with people and society.” This comment is not only untrue, but is a dangerous rationalization for two young people putting their spiritual lives at risk. This student went on to write, “At 17, I would allow my teenager to go on one-on-one dates but I will need to know where they’re going, what time the date is starting, etc. If they’re going to dinner and are gone for five hours, obviously other things happened. Some account would need to be made of how that time was spent.” This approach lacks the proactive parental involvement needed to keep good kids from going bad. In addition, it assumes that two young people who would engage in “other things” when they were supposed to be a dinner would be honest about what they were doing. Children need the supervision of their parents, especially when they are stepping into activities that are potential dangerous.
There are two dating alternatives that every apostolic young person should be aware of so they can make fully informed decisions. The first is improper dating, which provides opportunities in which touching, excessive talking, and staring can take place, which leads to deep emotional connection and frequently sexual immorality. The other is proper dating, which allows for no opportunities in which touching, excessive talking, or staring can take place, which prevents deep emotional connection and precludes sexual immorality. Proper dating follows the path of engagement, marriage, touching, deep emotional connection, physical connection, even deeper emotional connection.
The Necessity of Self-control
Any apostolic young person who wants to enter marriage pure needs to know that it all starts with making sure he or she is never in a situation where deep emotional feelings can be inflamed. This means that there may be occasions where it is necessary to move farther apart, to leave the room, to end the conversation, to hang up the phone, or to look somewhere else. This is called having boundaries. It is also called exercising self-control.
Paul admonished the believers in Rome to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:14). This requires self-control. He told the Corinthians, “Flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18). This requires self-control. And he instructed the people of Thessalonika, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). This requires self-control.
Among the Gentiles (unbelievers) of our society, the majority have engaged in sexual immorality by the time they get out of high school. But we are not to act like the Gentiles. We are to live by a higher standard. This is certainly a challenge in the day we live in, which is precisely why young people need the close involvement of their parents. Passive parenting is no parenting at all. Young people need to continually be reminded that their actions today will impact the quality of their tomorrow.
Paul wrote, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:1-2). Touching leads to sex. This is why the biblical perspective is, if you want to touch, get married. Any person who is either not ready or unwilling to get married should not be touching members of the opposite sex. This means that he should not even be placing himself in a situation where he could touch. Since countless believers have fallen from the faith due to sexual immorality, we must view this as a salvation issue (see Revelation 21:7-8).
One of the students in your Opinion column wrote, “Most teenagers that I know think with their heart instead of their head.” Even when a person is filled with the Spirit, when raging hormones are combined with an immature, undisciplined heart, you have a prescription for reckless behavior and much spiritual damage. This means that parents must take on the responsibility of overseeing their children’s relationships with members of the opposite sex. Commenting on the idea of chaperons, another student wrote, “I think it would produce more rebellion.” If this were true, then we could eliminate all rebellion simply by having no standards of conduct at all. Rules and supervision are not the cause of rebellion; a self-seeking spirit is. Another student wrote, “In general, I guess it’s just up to the individual.” No, it should be up to their parents. Until young people can learn to think with their heads, someone older and wiser needs to be assisting them in their thinking.
A Response to “The Dangers of the Dating Game”. Written by David A. Huston.
“This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”