Thursday, June 7, 2012
Are you under a Dating Law?
Note: This is the first of four posts of a series i’m entitling “Dating Law vs. Dating Gospel”. Looking at dating through the lense of law and gospel has freed me from the crushing weight I put on myself and those I pursue in relationship, and I hope it will do the same for you.
Have you ever been golfing? It’s difficult. it’s expensive. And yet every weekend, the courses are full of men and women in goofy outfits having minor Turette’s episodes regarding the number FOUR. Similarly, every weekend you’ll find restaurants and movie theatres full of men and women wearing their best outfits and trying to disguise who they really are. Now, pepper some American evangelical nonsense into all that, and it’s enough to turn anybody into one frustrated curmudgeon. I know because I have experienced this first-hand over the last ten years, with little fruit to show for my hard work.
Dating culture in the modern church seems to be lost in-between two worlds: that of the biblical Christianity that we try to take seriously, and that of the secular world which has an invisible grasp on our decisions, standards, and practices. Most of us desire to live lives of holiness (especially when it comes to dating), and so when considering who to date, we have things like purity, trust, and service in mind. What we don't often realize is the world around us is subtly feeding us ideas about what we should look for in a potential mate. These would include social status, income, how they make us "feel", and most importantly, sex appeal. Now these things aren't inherently bad (for example, no one wants to date someone they are not attracted to), but they do need to be assessed biblically in order for them to contribute positively to a healthy dating relationship.
American evangelicalism has "Christianized" this second list, taking all that we want in a boyfriend/girlfriend and justifying it spiritually. For example, "income" becomes "can he provide for me?", "How they make me feel" becomes "Do they speak my love language?" and sex appeal becomes "will she protect me from lust"*. For example, I think somewhere in the mid-90's, many Christian girls I knew were being told that they were princesses; they were "daughters of the King". This led to the only logical conclusion that if they were princesses, then they must be waiting for a prince. This set an incredibly high standard for the average Christian guy, one that many, if not all, felt they could not meet. The qualifications necessary to date a Christian girl became so ridiculous that Jesus himself could've walked into the room and five of the girls would have said, "I don't like beards"**.
So what was the solution?
1) learn to play the acoustic guitar,
2) lead a small group
3) start working out at The Lord's Gym.
I did all of these things fairly early on in my Christian life, thinking that if I could just get these things down, maybe I could snag a nice church girl of my own. When it came to actually taking her on a date, it all had to be perfect. The date had to be elegant, not too cheap, creative, and fun. It had to be approved by your pastor, her parents, your small group, and her BFF's. Everything had to be perfect.
Do you see what we have done? We have created a set rules and standards that nobody in the world could possibly keep. We have created a Dating Law.
We have, in effect, created our own Mosaic Law when it comes to dating. In biblical terms, the Law is a list of 613 rules and practices that God gave to His people through Moses in order that they might thrive in relationship with Him and with each other. It provided a diagnosis of their spiritual and relational condition, but It was never supposed to the cure. A law can never solve a problem, it can only point it out. So, do you have a "Ten Commandments of dating"? I did, and I have only began to see that I thought God did not trust me with any kind of romantic relationship unless there were strict guidelines, which brings me back to my original observation:
We have merged Biblical Law with modern dating, and the outcome is a lot of broken hearts.
You see, the Law works on an "if/then" principle. If you obey these commands, then God will bless you. Dating has subsequently taken on these same parameters; "If" you meet my requirements, "then" I will give you my attention and affection. But does anyone want that? Don't we all feel a little despondent, just wanting to find love without all the stupid rules? Is there a better way?
Well if there is a spiritual answer for those who can't keep the Law, then there must be a relational answer for the same. But that’s for next week...
*I am not saying a woman is responsible for a man’s lust (which she is not), I am just pointing out what happens when we justify worldly ideas with “spiritual” answers.
**This isn’t to say that guys haven't set an incredibly high standard as well, but that doesn’t really flow with the joke.