The other day I was thinking back when “the skinny jean” first came out. My sisters and I snuck into the dressing room, giggling trying them on… “Bahahaha! They’re like Mom-jeans! This tapered leg is so unflattering-who’s rear doesn’t look big in them?!” We talked about the ugliness of the 80’s, hoping big frizzy hair, zubaz, and neons didn’t show up again too… So I get a call from one of these ladies just yesterday, “Hey Ev, I just bought the cutest pair of white skinnies! Eeek!” Okay, admittedly, I own a pair too, but my point here is sometimes our gut-reaction is being put-off by unpopular things… seemingly out-dated or old-fashioned. That’s EXACTLY the reaction I got when it would come up in conversation that my family practiced courtship. “No one does that anymore…ask your Dad’s permission? Chaperones? Really?” Reactions were similar among Christians and non-Christians alike since the “casual dating scene” is powerfully trending for relationships, though there does seem to be a buzz going around about this “new style” of Christian dating. I hope and am prayerful these classic methods involved in “courtship” will make a HUGE come back…and not just so we get less of those raised, skeptical brows; it’s because many courting couples give God extra glory! Here’s why:
Courtship promotes healthier, Christian friendships
How should Christian friends conduct themselves? With love, care, and respect, right? Seemingly too often, “casual dating” enables two people to skip the process of forming a healthy friendship and jump into experimental romance. Noticing the attraction to each other, they “start going out,” romantic gestures and emotional ties soon following. One might not even be aware, but hearts are “played” with. One intent on courtship keeps in mind the importance of first, their own mental and spiritual maturity before even “looking around,” and secondly, recognizes the importance of forming bonds with Christians while searching for that companion (2 Corinthians 6:14). Where casual dating usually involves those of any age and place in life, courtship most often happens with those 17-18 years old at the youngest, both ready and able to marry. How much maturity is required to make the second most important decision in life?! Won’t this best be made by adults whose friendship has proven true and compatible without the constant distractions of flirting and showing off? With the focus to treat ALL Christians lovingly, being courteous and respectful, one person will stand out having the godly characteristics and personality traits the other desires in a spouse. THEN, knowing who a serious relationship would most likely be successful with, they can take the next step with hopefully just that one person, leaving as few broken hearts and as little emotional baggage behind with “ex’s.” This serves God, the church, and ourselves the best for the future because there’s godly treatment displayed of love and care for one another (John 13:34-35; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Timothy 4:12; Galatians 5:13-14) minus the awkwardness, hard feelings, and sin festering among Christians with impulsive, selfish, and then failed relationships (2 Timothy 2:22; Luke 6:31; Philippians 2:3-4).
Courtship emphasizes the family’s importance
Think when your average “meet the family” time is for a couple. Usually it’s when things are serious, and it’s like a “have to” for an engaged couple or those close to it. And why is it that way? Yes, some families might be a little scary (ha!), but like it or not, families join with marriage, and their impact can be significant–positive or negative. Something I especially love about courting families is their huge effort in acquaintance, if not starting during the friendship, for sure when friends are ready to move beyond friendship. With God’s created family unit, parents should train up their children in the Lord and children are to honor their parents (Proverbs 22:6; Deuteronomy 6:7; Ephesians 6:1-4; Proverbs 4:1-6). Can’t we parents be more responsible in teaching and setting proper standards for relationships according to our knowledge of God’s word and lessons we’ve learned than the couple themselves? Siblings can also be helpful for support, encouragement, and focus for the couple. Realizing not all family units are healthy, and many aren’t open and close enough to share with courtship goals, wouldn’t we all still agree it’s possible for more of us?! I’m so blessed to be able to say I’ve personally benefitted from this kind of family, and found a man who didn’t poke fun at the idea of having to call my father or be annoyed with stricter rules. As Toph left dating relationship styles for courtship, he noticed this family-involvement difference and also the change of “seriousness” in purpose. During their sit-down, my Pa stated “When you ask to court my daughter, you’re saying ‘I want to marry her.’ This isn’t ‘I’d like to get to know her better,’ this is ‘I want her to be my wife someday.’ The only reason courtship ends is you’ve found reasons you can’t marry. A proposal would then say ‘I will marry her.’” Toph knew there was no foolin’ around in this family (LOL!), and I knew from the very beginning I had my family’s support in my search for a godly companion…and would NOT have their approval or support by messing around with an unbeliever or irresponsibly or unbecomingly handling myself in relationships.
Courtship focuses on more propriety and purpose in romance
Our perfect God designed the perfect place for romantic touching and sexuality: marriage! Then, and only then, do our bodies “belong” to one another…to be explored and enjoyed (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 7:3-4). I realize the popularity, acceptance, and basically EXPECTEDNESS of two unmarried people participating in various forms of sexuality, but the fact is our scriptures never recommend or condone this in any way– quite the opposite. Aren’t immorality (fornication), impurity, and sensuality listed first in “the deeds of the flesh” of Galatians 6? If our bodies are to be used for God’s glorification, there should only be the appropriate behavior and treatment of others (1 Corinthians 6:18-20; Romans 12:1; Ephesians 5:3). This popular experimental romance before marriage isn’t just against godly wisdom, but much is sinful. Those believing in courtship tend to lay down stricter guidelines within all relationships, keeping “romantic gestures” at a minimum. Many wait for engagement or even marriage before kissing. Being alone is considered “inappropriate” as it’s the opportune time for temptation and sexual actions. I love in the movie “Eclipse” how Edward tells Bella that in his time they’d have “taken chaperoned strolls…” Even though such ideas seem “ancient,” there’s definitely wisdom in ridding Satan of these opportunities. This “chaperoning” is an obvious differentiation separating courtship from dating, and it takes planning and determination…with assistance from other caring Christian friends and family. A purposeful romance with conscientiousness, purity, and supervision has the best chance at success with the most of God’s glory attained!
So sisters…mothers…if you see what many of us have seen or felt already in the added godliness possible with courtship, please think and pray on these “old-school” ideas for yourself or your children. There are trends in our world that come and go, but when practices may help or better our attitudes and behaviors over current methods, pray on them, talk about them, and try them– no matter their original era! Plaster them on our posters and manikins! (Meaning your Facebook, blogs, etc., LOL!) Some denominational sects have been talking/writing about “a better way through courtship” for years, but I hope THE LORD’S CHURCH shines this particular light beam brightly bringing about serious change. Our Christian communities could have healthier friendships, properly focused romance before and after marriage, and our faith and family units could be stronger and more supportive of the right things. Think of the extra glory our Creator could receive with our children and grandchildren trained up with practices of extra respect in heart, body, and soul! Christians are highly needed as lights in this “dark era” of relationship malfunction. Isn’t this yet just another way to “stand out” and be separate for godliness’ sake? (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1; Philippians 2:13-15) Don’t be surprised when “modern notions” are a far cry from righteousness. It’s time for “casual dating” to be a thing of the past…and stay there.
“You are the light of the world… Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 5:14a, 16
By Evie Graber
Evie is a home-maker, child-care provider, and secretary for the South Twin Cities church of Christ in Rosemount, Minnesota where her husband is an evangelist. They’ve been married for seven years and have three wonderful little boys together: Noah, Javan, and Gideon. Both graduated from the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver in 2007.