If you had jumped onto the DOTS (or Descendants of the Sun) bandwagon back in the day, you would be familiar with the Korean drama’s whirlwind romance between the two leads. Even if you never did watch the drama, you may have seen on a billboard somewhere the classic pose captured of Song Joong Ki kneeling down to tie shoelaces for the beautiful Song Hye Gyo. The image encapsulated the bittersweet romance that captured the hearts of so many.
The love story featured in DOTS is simply one of the many stories out expressed through the media about romantic love and dating, and together with other stories of love they inevitably form a composite voice and picture of what love is to the generation who grew up with them.
So what is the picture of love in YOUR mind? Is it the warm feeling of holding someone’s hands? Is it that heady feeling of being with someone that makes your heart ache?
And perhaps importantly for today’s discussion, how can Christians navigate these waters of love and relationships in today’s world?
Well firstly, there is no easy or immediate answer to this because the whole concept of ‘Dating’ as we know it today is a relatively modern contraption. Our current understanding of the word “Date” only developed over the 100-odd years. Prior to that, the word ‘courtship’ was the word to describe young eligible men and women meeting and getting to know one another.
This means that one would be hard-pressed to find a direct answer in scripture to the issue of Dating, simply because this phenomenon never did present itself the way it is today during biblical times!
In my little research into this arena I have discovered that whilst the Bible does not have verses that says “Thou shalt date to marry”, it certainly has many things to say about Love.
Here are 3 simple rules about love and dating that may be useful for us based upon my reflections from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient; Love is kind; Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
#1 Don’t Date for Ego’s Sake!
1 Cor 13:4-5a says “Love is patient; Love is kind; Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way”
Here, we see that Christian Love is ultimately anchored upon the value of humility. It is not about what ‘we want’ but it is about loving the other.
This is very much counter-intuitive to the modern ideas of “listening to what your heart”, or “go where your heart desires” when it comes to relationships. Christian love is one that lays down his life for the other (John 15:13), and considers others before their own interests (Phi 2:4).
As we approach dating and love, we ought to come into it with a heart of humility and self-honesty.
Often, faced with societal pressures or a need to feel loved, we may unwittingly say ‘yes’ or jump into relationships that make US feel good. We may avoid relationships with people who may be perceived to be ‘lesser’ than we are in terms of education levels, popularity, looks etc.
We have been trained to want relationships that ‘makes US feel good’. Yet Christian love teaches us that we come into relationships thinking about how we may serve and love the other.
So, don’t date for Ego’s sake!
While I am not discounting the importance of the other person to also love and respect you, it is important that we ourselves approach dating/relationships with self-honesty and a right perspective. Check your heart – Why do you want to get on this app? Why do you want to go out with this person? Are you simply trying to get into relationships in order to get it off your bucket list? Are you here to love someone, or are you simply getting into something in order to feel loved?
#2 Don’t Compromise on the Truth
1 Cor 13: 6 says “it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth”
Christian Love is also one that Rejoices in the Truth. Often we may interpret this as relational honesty, i.e. the importance of being honest with your partners.
Yet the idea of ‘truth’ here in scripture is not simply about telling the truth. The word alethia, translated as ‘truth’ here not only means the content of what is true, but also the TRUTH of the Christian faith and doctrine.
And this makes sense in light of the entire line of scripture “it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth”.
Christian love is hence not about condoning wrongdoing or giving of yourself so sacrificially that you undermine the truth of God. It is not about losing yourself so completely that you turn your back on your faith.
A simple guideline then, to how we may not compromise on the truth, could be this: is the act of getting into this relationship in any way violating the 10 commandments? This may sound archaic, but hear me out. The 10 commandments can be a simple guide as we reflect on whether we are compromising on the Truth of God.
For example, is this relationship or person becoming an idol in your heart? Perhaps even the DESIRE to be attached could be the idol itself! Are you dishonouring your parents by going ahead with this (e.g. if they only permit you to date after 18 years old)? Are you stealing/coveting someone else’s partner? The list goes on.
Let us not compromise on the Truth of God.
#3 Be Patient and Wait for the right time, right person!
1 Cor 13:7 says, “It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Lastly, Christian love is one that is longsuffering and patient. It is one that believes and hopes.
It is not impulsive, and it does not run on passion alone. This also runs counter to the popular images of ‘love’ depicted by the world; “love” is sizzling, passionate and all-consuming.
At this point you may roll your eyes, and think “easier said than done!” After all, so many love stories do start with that flame in the heart that practically forces people towards one another.
Well, I am not saying that Christian dating should hence be sterile, and void of emotions. Not at all!
What I am emphasizing here is that how we respond should be based upon much MORE than the feelings that we have. Feelings are important, but they ought not to be the main deciding factor.
As we look and consider getting into a relationship, it is important to consider our 1st two principles as a way of helping us navigate through the matter.
Find a good friend/mentor who can be a spiritual partner to process through your reflections for the 1st two principles. If your heart and motives may not be right, or if you find yourself having to do something that goes against the Truth of God – then perhaps it is important to learn the art of waiting for the right time, and for the right person.
The act of waiting is also the act of hoping – not in that the ‘right one would come’, or that ‘this person would change’, but in God. We hope in God, because our Lord is trustworthy and His plans are higher than ours.
So be patient, and wait upon the Lord!
Love is a tricky thing, and the aches that come along with it has inspired countless poems, songs, movies and books. It is not easy, and sometimes we wonder why did God create such a difficult emotion?
Yet when we remember that God IS Love – that He is the one that embodies and defines Love, it is only wise and logical that we return to the source of it all in order to gain understanding and wisdom about Love. And it was His Love for us that sent Jesus to die for our sins so that we may be reconciled to Him for all eternity.
Perhaps you feel like you are in a rut, or perhaps you are contemplating on whether to leave a particular relationship, or perhaps you really do not know how to include God when it comes to dating and relationships – talk to God about it. Pray and ask the Lord to examine your heart and motives, to provide you wisdom and strength for patience. Surrender your love life to Him and trust in the Lord who is your satisfaction and hope.