Back to Issues Christians Face
DATING vs COURTSHIP part FOUR
A trip into the future :)
How does this all work?
The previous articles have mostly described the "what" and the
"why." At this stage, it would probably be helpful to describe the
"how", to give a step-by-step account of how a courtship could work. I'll start
out by describing how I would like my courtship to work, "the ideal scenario!"
Then I will go on to discuss a few possible variations on the theme.
Since this is me, I'll be talking about my wife -- ladies can flip all the gender
pronouns around for their prospective husbands :) Specifically, I should point out that I
make a number of demands on her character. I similarly expect that I should fulfill these
demands before I begin to court her.
Step one: Some pre-requisites
She must be a friend!
This is true even in the dating model. A romantic relationship is a form of more
intimate friendship. If you aren't friends, then you are going to have to expend a lot of
time and energy developing a simple friendship, which is going to be a lot more
complicated with all these emotions flying around! From a courtship perspective, I am
basically entering the first phase of marriage here, so I need to know at least a few
things about her and her character to make this rather momentous decision!
She must be a commited Christian
I emphasized "commited" because I would expect to see her commitment to
Christ worked out in her daily life. [2 Cor 6:14; See also 'Unequally yoked: Marrying your
match!'] She will be eager to know more of God, enjoy going to church, enjoy serving
others and generally be a faithful and diligent member of her church and her community.
Most importantly of all, she must be willing to address her faults and work them out with
God and her leaders. [Pr. 3:11-12; Pr. 1:5-7; Rom. 13:1-5; Lk. 7:6-10] She doesn't have to
be perfect by any measure, but she does have to embrace the fire and desire to be
more like Jesus, whatever the cost!
She should have similar belief systems to me
We're getting more controversial here, so I just said "should" but this
quite important to me. I'm not talking about totally agreeing with each other about every
little point of doctrine, but merely emphasizing that we should have similar views of the
world. [Amos 3:3] I enjoy being generous. I enjoy interacting with people from other
cultures. I feel that accountability groups are very important for successful Christian
life. These aren't essential things, but if my wife doesn't embrace them, it will put
extra strain on our relationship -- things that are important to me won't be important to
her. Yes, we could work it out, but it's a lot easier to establish these things
marriage than after! I would hope that my wife shares my
vision for the generations, and a
desire to see people from all nations get saved. I hope she likes
VeggieTales too! :)
She must have a dowry
In Jewish culture, both parties had a dowry. Today, this would mean that a husband
could probably buy a house whilst his wife could probably furnish it (full amount of three
years wages each). [Romans 13:7-8] The responsibility for the wife's dowry lay with her
father, ie. it was his blessing on their marriage.
The concept of dowry has been (fairly, IMHO) extended to include character. This means
that, just as getting married with a huge financial debt over your head is unwise, so is
getting married with a huge emotional debt over your head. Issues such as unforgiveness,
bitterness, abuse and lust need to be addressed before marriage. Otherwise marriage might
merely be the result of people trying to fulfill these needs in a partner instead of God.
By "dealt with" I mean there should be no areas of unrepentant sin, ie no-one
should be able to walk up to you and say "You still ..., and you've never
done anything towards fixing it." This is not the same as saying that you never
struggle in that area, more that you have addressed all your past struggles. As I
said above, perfection isn't necessary, but a desire to change is, as displayed through a
commitment to embracing loving confrontation. [Ecc. 11:9; Rom. 13:5; 1 Tim. 3:8-11; 1 Pet
Step two: Her parents must be involved
The parents would have close relationships with the children. The children would
usually know each other well, have ministered together, served in church together, etc,
and so are familiar with each others' values and belief systems.
Based on God's leading, the parents, together with the children, initiate the courtship
process. Once both children commit to this process, they are "betrothed." In
their cross-family relationships, they should have already addressed all
"compatability issues" before the couple's relationship ever began. Usually, the
girl's father would disciple the son, so he, having an intimate relationship with his
daughter, knows what she wants, and through his discipleship of the son, knows if he's got
Step three: The engagement period
After betrothal comes the commitment to marriage. When the commitment to marriage has
been made, the couple are free to express their emotions. Up until this point, they should
hide their feelings in their hearts, avoiding expressions such as "I love you"
and "I will miss you" which naturally evoke emotional responses.
Step four: A very happy marriage! :)
Of course! ;)
But what if...?
Okay, so that's how it might happen in an ideal world. But what if her parents are
dead? Or just aren't Christians? Or are Christians, but don't like the idea of courtship?
These are all important questions, and I will address them in turn.
The most important points about the interaction with the parents is the process; and
the principle of submitting to spiritual authorities. Therefore if her parents are no
longer alive, or refuse to participate in the courtship process, you could turn to another
spiritual authority in her life, like her pastor or youth leader. What is needed is
someone who knows her well, who can protect her from "unqualified applicants."
and can help her to build a relationship with the right young man.
If the parents aren't Christians, but are willing to be involved in
the courtship process, then they should be. God's authority structure still stands, even
when it is not fully embraced by those who are part of it. And who knows, your courtship
may well be a very influential example to your unsaved parents! It would still be wise,
however, to also involve some spiritual authority to cover the spiritual aspects of
discipleship and relationship.
And here's quite possibly the hardest question -- what if her parents don't want me to
marry her? Then, quite simply, I cannot violate their spiritual authority. I have heard of
unsaved fathers who exercised great discernment, one who did not like any of his
daughter's suitors prior to the one who married her. She is now very happily married --
and grateful to her dad!
We need to understand that when we marry, we marry the family too. So, if I, their
daughter and our spiritual authorities feel we should marry, but her parents still do not,
then we would take our case up with God. This is a matter of trust -- is God in control of
your world, or her parents? If you truly believe in a sovereign God who answers prayer,
then this presents no problem at all! :) I also believe that it is similarly important to
have her pastor's blessing.
What if she's divorced, or already had a child out of wedlock? Personally, I feel quite
strongly about divorce and remarriage, see 'Covenant and
divorce' for further details. Essentially, my conviction is that marriage is an
unbreakable life-long covenant that is not based on performance, much like God's salvation
covenant to us. Outside of the sin of divorce (which I believe is best resolved through
reconciliation with your spouse), no other sin is important to me, as long as she has
resolved it with God and those involved. If she has children, then I guess we get some
extra blessings right from the word go! :)
I'm really not quite sure what to say here, but it seems I too should have a heading,
for completeness! :)
© Copyright 1997-2000, Nathan Bailey, All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to
print these articles for personal use, in whole or in part, provided the extract
references the original URL, http://polynate.net/books/courtship/,
so that people can find the latest version.
Back to Issues Christians Face