You may be unaware of it, but it is no secret that marriage rates are on a steady decline in our nation. I would give you some links to look at, but all you have to do is type “marriage statistics 2013” into Google, and you will see for yourself the vast qualitative data showing this trend.
When I hear these stats I have to ask myself some questions. Mainly: “What are all our dating people doing?” While marriage rates may be decreasing, our desires to enter into romantic relationships haven’t. In my time in student ministry I have not seen a decrease in those wanting to date. What I have seen is people wanting to date earlier. I saw a T.V. show the other day which showed a couple in high school who had been dating since the second grade!
It could be the success of the popular show, “The Walking Dead,” or the endless amount of zombie based movies Hollywood pumps out, but I think the zombie mentality has invaded our thoughts on dating. Not only are marriage rates down, but unmarried cohabitation rates are at historic highs. Our goals and thoughts on dating are just about as intentional as the zombies we see on television. We just wander aimlessly.
The Danger of Thoughtlessness:
People are not dating sooner, and getting married less because they really want to keep up the national statistics. They do so because as a whole, we approach dating thoughtlessly. We do it because on one hand it is fun, and on the other hand it is expected. Why are the cohabitation rates so high? Because people enter into dating relationships without any idea of what they are doing, and after you have been aimlessly wandering the post-apocalyptic streets of relationships for three or four years, the natural (and thoughtless) step is to move in together.
The most important question you can ask yourself (or parents, a question you can ask your kids) is “Why?” Why are you dating? That simple question can stump even the most veteran dater. Because without much thought, all of our answers sound pretty shallow and vague: “Because I like them…,” “Because they make me happy….” Well, I love calzones, and calzones make me extremely happy, the only difference is my lips don’t linger on my calzone the way yours do on your girlfriend. We need to have a different thought process when it comes to dating than we do when it comes to ordering food at Applebees.
Pre-marital sex isn’t the killer of marriage. Cohabitation isn’t the killer of marriage. Liberalism isn’t the killer of marriage. Thoughtlessness is the killer of marriage. This cannot be the case for those of us who are Christians.
Christians shouldn’t seek to date. Nor should Christians seek to “court” (a “Christianeese” and Holy sounding word for dating). Christians should seek to glorify God in all they do and that requires an active, thoughtful, commitment. Godly, Christ-centered relationships are a grace, and also a means of worship. Here are two thoughts which should grip the mind of any Christian who is considering dating someone. Not coincidentally these are two thoughts which manifest themselves in God glorifying activities.
Our default mode for dating is always, “What can this person offer me?” The default mode God gives us as Christians is, “How can I serve this person in love.” This is the second greatest commandment is it not (Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, Leviticus 16:18). This isn’t unique to dating either. If you struggle to love others, dating will be a challenge for you. Dating is a great opportunity to model a life of service which makes you a better Christian, and ultimately a better spouse. We don’t aim to serve because it is a legalistic command (this would be thoughtless and zombie-ish). Rather we constantly seek to bathe our thoughts in the service Christ exhibited on the cross, and that beautiful picture fills our sails with the wind of service. Dating doesn’t make you less selfish, but it does give you the opportunity to become humble. This is seen ultimately in marriage (Eph 5:25).
While the gospel deeply speaks to the reality of dating, the Bible never explicitly addresses it. The Bible does however explicitly, and often, address the idea of marriage. This should shape how we date. My wife and I talked about marriage on our first date. Daunting for some, but we found it beneficial to lay our goals on the table upfront. We date not because we “like” someone, or because we enjoy a casual cuddle, we date because God has 1.) given us to capacity for love, and 2.) God has ordained marriage as the capstone of human affection and a posture of continual worship. Ephesians 5 says that our human to human relationship is representative of Christ and the Church: the greatest relationship we have ever known. Our marriage is then evangelistic in how it testifies to Christ. This too takes much thought and discernment to do well. It is the climax of service in a relational context.
So if you want to stop your zombie wanderings, start thinking Christianly. Are you mindful of marriage as the end goal? Are you talking of marriage? Are you intentionally seeking to serve? Are you fixated on how your relationship with this fellow Christian (2 Cor 6:14) will impact your worship of God? Stop flailing. Start focusing. Stop wandering. Start setting goals.