Right around the time I started taking some proactive steps toward growing in my faith, something struck me about my lifestyle that made me want to reassess how I spent some of my free time. Midway through the first semester of my junior year at college, I came to the realization that I had planted myself firmly in the middle of the Christian subculture that existed at my school. Quite literally, all of my close friends were Christians. And, deep down, I knew there was something wrong with that. I knew I needed more motivation to be connected with people who wouldn’t call themselves followers of Jesus Christ.
The truth was, however, that I was surrounded by non-believers all the time every day on campus. I ate meals on campus with them, I was in a study group or two with them, and I even sat next to them every day in classes. So why wouldn’t I call any of the people I interacted with outside my Christian world a true friend?
The Christian life is always meant to be experienced in the context of community and fellowship with other believers. When we begin to separate ourselves or break away from the pack, so to speak, a number of bad consequences start to creep into our lives. The Christian’s three enemies: the world, the sinful nature or “flesh,” and the Devil, can easily gain a foothold and influence our decision making in a negative way. However, if we proactively involve other caring believers in our lives, they are often able to spot areas where we might be prone to compromise and succumb to temptation.
For dating couples, the urge to isolate frequently rises up and it can be tempting to cut other people out. “My dating life is nobody else’s business,” someone might say, or “We just want to be left alone because we don’t get enough time with just the two of us.”
Whenever I end up talking about the subject of sexual purity and the importance of remaining sexually pure in a dating relationship, I inevitably end up getting asked a series of very legitimate follow-up questions about sexual impurity in the past. Anxiety can flood someone’s heart when they hear what I share, and thoughts somewhere along the lines of, well, that’s great for people who haven’t screwed up their past yet, but what about me?, end up rising to the surface.
Questions like this are valid. If we neglect these kinds of issues and pretend that nobody has ever messed up in the past, we are being obtuse and ignoring a large section of the population who longs for answers and the kind of grace that is lavishly poured out on each of us in the truth of the gospel.
The three enemies of a Christian (the world, our sinful nature, and Satan) are professional liars. That’s all they do is lie. The Bible even goes so far as to say that the Devil is the “father of lies,” and when he lies he is “speaking his native language” (John 8:44). There is no truth at all in anything our three enemies tell us about how to achieve a healthy sexual relationship, but the astounding thing is that nearly everyone on the planet has bought into those lies.
The Enemy would have you believe that getting married as a virgin is ridiculous because why would you “buy a car without test driving it first?” Why on earth would you walk into marriage without knowing what your partner is like in bed? You don’t really even know who they are if you’ve never had sex with them, right? “You need to have plenty of sexual experiences,” says the world, the sinful nature, and the Devil, “then and only then will you have a thriving, intimate relationship with your partner, because practice makes perfect.”
People are pretty split on the idea of the all-you-can-eat buffet: some love it, some gag at the thought. But as a general demographic, I think it’s safe to say that most American college males love the concept.
“Pay one low price and get to eat all you want? How on earth could this be considered anything but amazing?” says the dude. However, there are many people in society that would rather eat at a gas station on their birthday than pay good money to eat from what I sometimes call a “trough of poorly prepared, poorly warmed, bland tasting slop for the masses.”
A lot of people talk about what they think dating should be like in order to give definition to it. I like to talk about that when I’m able, but let me take a different approach for a moment…here’s what I think dating should not look like. As Christians, we allow culture to define who we are and how we behave in our everyday lives way too often. This is especially true when it comes to the practice of relating with the opposite sex. What is widely accepted as standard or “normal” in the dating world at large, sadly becomes the standard for Christians as well.
According to a recent NY Times article1, many young singles are now in the practice of living inside a “dating culture [that] has evolved into a cycle of text messages.” Because we live and breathe and hide behind our phones, the non-committal “whatever” attitude in culture has downgraded this opportunity for encouragement into something referred to as, “one step below dating and one step above high-fiving.”
When I was about 15 years old, I went on a camping trip with my sister, my ex-Step Mom, and her current boyfriend, who later became her husband. (This is a story in and of itself, but I’m not going to go there right now.) It was approaching the end of a summertime trip of seeing most of my extended family in California and I decided to take this camping trip with the aforementioned group of people to a lake in Oregon before the vacation was over.
Now, once we got there, we weren’t really going to rough it in tents or anything like that, because we had a huge pop-up fifth wheel camper in tow, complete with kitchen, shower, and one of those toilets you have to hook up to a giant hose to empty when you exit the campsite (think cousin Eddie from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation). So this was a “camping” trip in the loosest of terms.
When we completed the drive up north and pulled into the campground, the beauty of the area literally took my breath away. There were cedar trees that seemed taller than skyscrapers and the lake was the clearest I had ever seen in my life. There were small fields of clover and wildflowers, populated by deer and birds that literally came up to humans and ate tiny scraps of bread from the hands of children. And the coolest thing of all to me were the hundreds of prairie dogs that skittered through the patches of flowers, dodging tree roots and diving into their subterranean homes.
I’m old enough to remember a time when if you wanted to get someone’s phone number, you had to write it down. Can you imagine that? Writing it down! With a pen on a piece of paper and everything! I know—such archaic times I lived in as a youth.
Nowadays, it’s super simple to get someone’s contact information through various means of digital transfer because of the glorious invention of the smartphone. The smartphone is a product that nearly everyone in America has these days (especially the younger generation), and one of the major benefits of owning a device like this is that you’re able to share information with another person relatively fast. Phone numbers, email addresses, pictures, documents, and videos are all transferable at lightning speed in the palm of your hand. I’m so thankful that I live in a time when ease of use is on par with content quality…unless that content happens to be a three-minute recording of a cat playing the piano. Nobody needs that.
What do women want in a man? What qualities are men looking for in a woman? These questions are often raised in movies, television, internet articles, and even blanket books that give lists on the 38 things every woman should do to land herself a man, or the top 10 things a Christian woman is looking for in a godly man. However, addressing these questions formulaically can be dangerous. Often, the cases that become exceptions to the rules pile up higher than those that fall under the “normal” categories explained in detail inside an article or book. There’s no such thing as normal because everyone’s different.
What might be super appealing to one person can fall flat with another. For example, I could tell you that girls like guys who are athletic and work out multiple times a week. Now, that might be true for a lot of girls, but there are just as many women out there who are repulsed by the idea that a man can spend a considerable amount of time at a gym all week, every week. Opinions and tastes vary.
When we talk about romantic relationships today, there is now an added wrinkle in the conversation that comes with the onset of internet dating. This is a variable that simply didn’t exist for much of the time when I was single. We are just beginning to understand how this can be done in a healthy way, and how the Lord can work in the process. It brings into question the balance between our diligence and God’s sovereignty in a rather important way, similar to the way birth control did when it arrived on the scene.
How much responsibility do we have in this dating world, and how much responsibility belongs to God? Birth control brought this issue to the forefront by offering people control over when/if they wanted to conceive children. Many followers of Christ were (and still are) very much against it, and another large section of the Christian community embraces it.