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4 Principles for Dating by the Book

How can Scripture shed light on our current dating scene?

We can look at several stories from Scripture that shed light on our current relationship scene and provide timeless principles that apply today.

When I was a little boy, I loved to play games. Candyland, Operation, Monopoly and Battleship were some of my favorites. But when I got into my 20s, I took up a new game I thought I'd never conquer: dating.

I remember being so frustrated at one point in my life that I cried out to God to either make me a monk or zap that special someone into my life because I was tired of playing the dating game. Through many dangers, toils and snares I finally "won" the game and married a wonderful GGL - gorgeous godly lady.

The singles I work with frequently come to me frustrated with, in their view, the Bible's lack of relevance and direction to the dating scene. While the Bible doesn't give step-by-step or "how to" instructions, we can look at several stories from Scripture that shed light on our current relationship scene and provide timeless principles that still apply today.

Principle #1: Spiritual unity

One of the biggest mistakes Christian singles make is dating non-believers. Many singles get so desperate in their search for "the One" they compromise in this most crucial area of spiritual compatibility. The Bible clearly says believers shouldn't date or marry someone who is not a fellow Christ-follower (2 Corinthians 6:14-15; 1 Corinthians 7:39). If you're in a dating relationship with someone who isn't a Christian, then you are outside of God's will for your life.

Don't pray about whether it's right or not; don't waste your pastor's time asking him. God has spoken on this issue in His Word; it's not a grey area. You must date and marry a believer if you want God to bless your relationship.

Principle #2: Sexual purity

We live in a sexually saturated society. It seems like everyone these days is either having sex or at least talking about every detail of their sex lives. Despite the increased openness to discussing sex, people are still not satisfied with the end result.

Years ago, Jesus met a woman who had persistently tried to find meaning from her relationships with men. Jesus told her He could give her living water that would quench her thirst forever. Her experience with Christ forever changed her outlook on life. After her conversation with Jesus, she went back into town and told everyone about the Lord's power. Her story led to a major spiritual awakening in her community.

"That's fine and well and biblical," you say. "But as a single person, what am I supposed to do with a raging sex drive?" I like what John Piper says in his book Future Grace: "The fire of lust's pleasures must be fought with the fire of God's pleasures. If we try to fight the fire of lust with prohibitions and threats alone - even the terrible warnings of Jesus - we will fail. We must fight it with a massive promise of superior happiness."

Principle #3: Rock-solid character

Relationship expert Dr. Henry Cloud says, "In a relationship, we are attracted to what we see on the outside - someone's looks and personality; but in a long-term relationship, what we end up experiencing is what's on the inside - their character."

A large part of succeeding in the dating game rests on your ability to discern whether or not the person you're going out with has a rock-solid character. If the person is habitually late, never pays bills on time, or can't hold a job for more than six months, it's a sign of weak character. If you're going to spend the rest of your life with someone, be sure he or she can follow through on commitments, take responsibility for actions, and endure hard times with great faith.

Principle #4: Time

Far too many couples are in way too big a hurry to get hitched. Granted, you don't need to date someone for 14 years before you get married. But you do need to take your precious time in the dating game if you want to win in the long run. It takes time to get to know what someone is really like. It takes time to see if someone has what it takes to be a mate for life. If you're rushing things, then you're playing Russian Roulette with your love life.

Dating is fun. Dating is a pain. But make no mistake about it, dating is serious business. Why? Because everything rides on who you decide to date and marry. That's why you can't afford to get in too big a hurry to tie the knot. And it's why every move in the dating game has to be made with caution, patience, and a praying heart. It's your move.