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|“The LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep SILENCE before him.”|
Yes to Courtship
Traditionally, parents were deeply involved in finding a spouse for their children. Abraham for example initiated the search for Isaac’s wife and did so according to God’s will and covenant that he would have many children (Gen 15:4–5).
There is wisdom in parental involvement. Calvin said, “Wherefore the wantonness of youths is to be restrained, that they may not rashly contract nuptials without consulting their fathers.” In the past, children were happy to have their parents involved. We are not talking about prearranged or forced marriages, but marriages where parental counsel is sought and children’s consent obtained. There is this mutual trust between parents and children. This good relationship and interaction is premised upon God’s command for children to honour their parents and to heed their wisdom. Proverbs 1:8–9 says, “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.” When parents are loving and careful guardians of their daughters, suitors will come with honourable intentions.
Know that matchmaking and courtship was instituted at the beginning when God made for Adam a wife and then brought her to him. Even now, God is involved in bringing a man and a woman together in holy matrimony. God is the perfect Matchmaker for sure and one can never go wrong when the believer seeks God’s will and wisdom in finding a spouse.
Now biblical courtship should not be confused with pagan matchmaking where marriage is forced upon children based on the superstitious or unilateral decisions of parents. Parents should be involved in their children’s marriage but they should not force their children into marriage. On forced marriages, Calvin rightly said, “Let no father compel his children to such a marriage as seems good to him except with their good will and consent.” Parents must know that although it is their office “to settle their daughters in life, they are not permitted to exercise tyrannical power and assign them to whatever husbands they think fit without consulting them.” Children likewise should be mindful of their parents and not make independent decisions without consulting them. There should be mutual regard.
It ought to be emphasised that only believers should be sought for a spouse. The very first criterion is that the other party must be truly born again, just as Abraham declared that Isaac’s wife must not be a Canaanite but a believer of the same faith (Gen 24:3–4). Calvin warned against starting a close relationship with an unbeliever, “but if we approach nearer, so that a greater intimacy should arise, we open the door as it were to Satan… Those, therefore, who mix with idolaters, knowingly and wilfully devote themselves to idols.”
Finally, in determining who is to be one’s spouse, according to God’s specific will, the Co-operative Will of God comes into play. In the case of Isaac and Rebekah, the servant’s prayer for a sign (Gen 24:12–14) was answered immediately (Gen 24:15). God is very pleased to co-operate with us when we pray and He can answer us even immediately when we are in crucial situations and need His help.
No to Dating
Dating is a 20th century invention and phenomenon. It comes from the modern age of rebellion against authority. Young people want to be free from parental supervision, free to sow their wild oats. They want to experiment with sex and to experience sex with as many partners as they can in their quest for a suitable mate. They think that good sex equals good spouse. It is utterly selfish and carnal, dangerous and destructive.
God’s Word, Not World’s Way
It is important for men and women to know how to conduct themselves in courtship so as to maintain a healthy relationship. 1 Thessalonians 4:3–4 says, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour”.
In a courtship, one should conduct himself or herself in a chaste manner. Motives in a courtship must be pure and kept pure. The motive is not to exploit each other’s body but to edify each other’s life. A healthy courtship is one that causes the couple to grow in faith, not in lust. It is a time when two believers seek God’s will and direction for their lives. Proverbs 3:5–8 says, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.”
There are two biblical principles to remember in following God’s way.
Abstain from Fornication
Fornication comes from the Greek word porne. That is where we get the word “pornography”. Fornication refers to all kinds of immoral sexual behaviour, and pornography stirs up all kinds of perverse sexual desires. Since we are living in a pornographic age, it is vital we heed the commands of 2 Timothy 2:20–22 which says, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
Courting couples should keep their bodies pure and chaste. They should not play husband and wife before they are properly married and should avoid all forms of sexual immorality. Note the command to “flee … youthful lusts”. The command to “flee” does not mean a one-time fleeing but a continual fleeing from sin and temptation. It is like the metal and the magnet. The further the magnet is away from the metal, the lesser its power to attract it. We need to stay clear and to keep far away from such immorality so that we might be clean vessels fit for the Lord’s use. Courting couples should keep each other at arm’s length and avoid any physical contact that stirs lustful thoughts and feelings. They should pursue after godliness, which is “righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
Sanctification comes from the Greek word hagiazo which means “to make holy”. It is the process by which a believer becomes more and more like Christ. It is the constant pursuit of personal holiness and moral perfection. Courting couples should aim towards spiritual maturity and Christlikeness, and that means their courtship should be conducted in a godly and honourable way that glorifies God.
1 Thessalonians 4:4 says that the man “should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour.” The “vessel” here refers to the woman (cf 1 Pet 3:7). The man must have honourable intentions when courting a lady. He should not do so in such a way as to defile, pollute or contaminate her. The man must treat a woman gently and gentlemanly. There should be godly behaviour and proper conduct in a courtship. The man ought to excise all lustful desires and exercise great care in preserving her chastity. The woman on the other hand should present herself not as a sex object to be exploited, but a chaste treasure to be protected. Be careful how you dress.
Holy Word, Not Hollywood
Traditional courtship which is parent-centred is today replaced by the try-your-luck, score-your-points “dating game”. “Dating” is all about the world and not the Word. 1 John 2:15–17 warns, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
The way of the world is all about “the lust of concupiscence [ie inordinate sexual desires], even as the Gentiles which know not God” (1 Thess 4:5). It is about polluting and not protecting the fairer sex. 1 Thessalonians 4:6 warns, “That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.” To defraud is to steal, to take away something that belongs to another. In this case, it defrauds a father of giving away a virgin daughter, and her future husband is defrauded of a virgin bride. The godly ideal and divine standard is for the bride to be presented as a chaste virgin (cf. 2 Cor 11:2). Contrary to God’s way, the way of the world as presented by Hollywood is both exploitative and corruptive. It is the way of the thief and robber. JK
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