By Eric Demeter, Crosswalk.com
I've circled the Christian and non-Christian dating block more times than I'd like to admit. I was twenty-one before I became a follower of Christ and attended church regularly. Though Christian dating was new to me, I began noticing several pernicious myths that needed to be dispelled. Here are four of these myths and the truth that will help you build healthier relationships.
1: Dating Another Christian Is Enough
Choosing a mate who is a follower of Christ is foundational. 1 Cor. 7:30 states, "A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord" (NIV, italics mine). See also 1 Cor. 6:14-16 for a parallel passage. The Bible teaches that we need to start by choosing a marriage partner who follows Jesus, but that doesn't mean it's the only factor—far from it.
Simply put: It's not enough to only marry another Christian. If you ask someone, "Are you a Christian?" they might respond with an eager "Yes." But more important is finding out, "What kind of Christian are they?" Are they the kind who attends church every week or believes that once a month is enough? Likewise, some men and women are new believers, while others made Jesus their Lord decades ago. It's not about being judgmental but about figuring out who works best for you. Dedicated Christians can range from being Pentecostal, Catholic, or Presbyterian.
2: All the 'Good Ones' Are Already Taken
This myth isn't based on a shallow pool of singles but lousy theology. God isn't up there scratching His head, wondering who you're going to marry. Rest in the faithfulness of God and trust that if He has marriage in His plan for your life, it will come in His timing. Also, current statistics reveal that 96% of men and women will have been married by the time they are seventy-five years old. Not soon enough? The same dataset reveals that, on average, 71% of people will be married by age thirty-five.
Even so, it will probably take work to find the person you'll spend the rest of your life with. Getting married might mean you need to get out of your comfort zone. The person of your dreams might be waiting for you on a new dating app, in another country, or a nearby city. One woman began driving two hours to be part of a different Bible study. The Single's community around her was a dead-end, so she kept going even though driving that far every week was inconvenient, time-consuming, and out of her comfort zone. Eventually, she met a man there that she married.
Trust that all the "good ones" aren't already taken, and let God's grace empower you as you look. Don't be afraid to try something different.
3: God Will End Your Relationship if it Isn't Right
When my Fiancé and I broke up, it felt like someone had dropped a piano on my heart. We didn't wait for God to do it, though. Are you caught in what Lady Gaga calls a "Bad Romance"? The relationship might not even be "bad" or unhealthy per se, but you know the person isn't right for you. Part of you knows all the time and energy you've put into it and doesn't want to lose that investment. Trust yourself to make a good decision with the information you have at this point.
Pray and get counsel—don't go through a big decision like this alone. Proverbs 15:22 states, "Plans fail with no counsel, but with many counselors they succeed." Indeed, pastors, mentors, and close friends can provide much wisdom. Ultimately, allow yourself to make the final decision. It sounds crude, but your pastor won't be the one to wake up next to them each morning. Your mentor won't be the one who is intimate with them, starts a family with them, or goes on vacations with them. It'll be you, so you alone must make the final choice.
One guy I know is happily re-married, but his first marriage was a disaster. He avoided the difficult talks with his first Fiancé and knew she wasn't suitable for him. He married her anyway, and they divorced a decade later.
If you're not sure about being with someone, you have everything to gain by praying for wisdom, getting counsel, and letting your heart pause to evaluate things.
4: "I've Had Premarital Sex, and Now My Sex Life in Marriage is Ruined"
If your past includes sexual promiscuity, God wants to remind you that you can still have an amazing, satisfying sex life when you're married. Past sin doesn't need to dictate your future.
What has helped me to get free of my past is praying verses like 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." I also love this picture in Micah 7:19: "You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." In other words, if you've repented, your sin is on the ocean floor and can't be brought back up. It's done. Dead. It doesn't have to affect your future.
If you were steeped in sexual sin (or are now), talk with someone who can help. God puts leaders, mentors, pastors, and Christian counselors in your life to bring healing.
Also, find someone else with a similar struggle and teach them all you have learned. Use your past and your current success to punch Satan in the face. Indeed, God will use your pain for the good of others (Romans 8:28).
Let the Truth In
Wisdom and truth are required to overcome these myths and legalistic dating culture. Which myths can you relate to? What other ones do you notice in Christian dating?
Photo credit: ©Unsplash/Jonathan J Castellon
Eric Demeter is a relationship and conflict resolution specialist. He is currently a missionary with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) based in Athens, Greece where he disciples young people from the Middle East. He is the author of How Should A Christian Date?: It’s Not As Complicated As You Think (Moody Publishers).