Don’t Date in Isolation

Throughout most of history and in most cultures around the world, marriages were arranged; your community chose your spouse for you. Personally, I’m glad we’re not there anymore—because there were a lot of problems with that system. But in our culture, we’ve gone to the opposite extreme. In what is arguably the most important decision of our lives, we isolate ourselves and tell ourselves that our heart knows best.

I hate to break it to you, but your heart usually doesn’t know best.

When you’re dating, more than ever, you need to immerse yourself in the community of God’s people. You need the godly and wise counsel of friends who have a clear perspective, experience, and wisdom. You need people who can see your blind spots, like when the other person can’t control their anger, or is irresponsible with their money, or—most importantly—doesn’t share your faith.

Listen: God’s greatest gift to your dating life is not the person you’re dating. It’s the godly community around you.

Perhaps you’ve heard 2 Corinthians 6:14 in the context of the dating conversation: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? …” (ESV).

Most of us tend to hear this as a restrictive rule. Well, if it were up to me, I’d do things differently. But God has his rules, and I don’t want to make him mad, so …

We need to see this verse less as a restrictive rule and more of a loving guideline, because to be unequally yoked to an unbeliever means you will never be able to share the deepest parts of yourself with them.

Understanding the imagery here may help. A yoke was a harness put on two animals who would otherwise pull in opposite directions. But with the guidance of the yoke, the animals go the same way.

There’s some good, old-fashioned common sense here: If the person you’re dating doesn’t share your faith in Christ, then that person is going to be pulling in a totally different direction than you. When it comes to your time, your money, your goals, your future children, you’ll want to pull toward Jesus. They’ll want to pull somewhere else. It just won’t work.

Many people know the biblical story of Balaam (he was the guy whose donkey miraculously talked to him), but fewer know the details behind it. When God wouldn’t allow Balaam to curse Israel, Balaam told the king—who did want to curse Israel—that there was another way: Send in all the Moabite women to infiltrate the camp and seduce the Israelite men. The problem here wasn’t their ethnicity—God made it clear all throughout the Old Testament that he intended to redeem people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. The problem with the Moabites was their religion. Since the Moabites did not worship God, their kids would grow up in homes unsure of who God was. Balaam knew this was the quickest way to destroy the faith of the next generation.

Satan still does this today. He gets us into relationships that will stop the forward progress of Christianity in our family.

This is why you need community around you when you’re dating. Otherwise …

Well, he doesn’t follow Jesus, but he’s such a good guy! And that counts for something, right?

Or …

She has the best heart of anyone I’ve ever known, and I really think she could one day give it to God.

Or …

I feel like the Holy Spirit is telling me this person is the one, and I trust God to fix all of the parts that seem troubling right now.

It’s good to trust God, but you cannot always trust yourself when you are in the thick of dating. There could be all kinds of red flags about someone that you cannot see with stars in your eyes.

You need other believers to remind you that, while it’s often difficult, following God’s loving wisdom in his Word is the only way to have a lasting love. You need to hear from people who want you to grow as a disciple as you grow in your relationship. You need to hear from people who love you but who aren’t falling in love with your significant other.

That can only happen when you stay connected to the church, ask older believers to speak into your dating life, and surround yourself with a community that wants God’s best for you.