Is it OK for a Christian to date a nonbeliever for practice, even if she doesn't intend the relationship to progress because the man is an unbeliever? I'm single, 26, and going on three years as a Christian. I haven't dated in three years since becoming a Christian because I haven't met any single Christian men who want to pursue me.
I've never been skilled at dating, and I worry when Mr. Christian finally comes along I'm going to be even more socially cumbersome due to years of inactivity. What do you think of casually dating (no commitment, no physicality, etc.) as a sort of practice, even if the other is not a Christian?
Thank you for writing with the good news of your recent conversion to Christianity. You were once dead in your sins, but were brought to life and hidden in Christ. You deserved the wrath of God's judgment but now stand before Him as the righteousness of Christ. Christ's perfect, sinless life becomes as if it were your own. God sees you through the life of His Son, and you are justified. That is a miracle of grace!
That is all part of what happened the moment you believed. But the Christian life also requires a commitment to learning and growing in grace and understanding who God is and what He requires of us. We learn this by reading and studying His Word, the Bible, and by walking alongside other believers in the local church.
This life-long process is called "sanctification," and it means daily becoming more Christ-like. It includes maturing in your faith and your understanding of the Christian life including an increasing longing for holiness. The shocking gift of grace that is the Gospel — the substitutionary death of the perfect, sinless Christ on behalf of fallen men and women who deserve to suffer punishment — should affect not just your view of where you go when you die, but of every aspect of how you now live. Life in Christ is meant to be all-encompassing. He is not just Savior, but Lord.
Why go into all this? Because it's something we all need to be reminded of daily. The very Gospel that first saved us is the same message of saving grace that when considered daily, transforms us. I used to think the Gospel was a one-time burst of news that opened the door to God's kingdom. Now I realize that the Gospel is the kingdom. It is, as one author said, not just the diving board, it's the whole swimming pool. Swimming daily in the awareness of Christ's substitutionary death on my behalf is something I need to keep always at the front of my mind.
Why? Because it's what keeps me honest about the holiness God requires and of my inability, in my own strength, to be holy. Apart from Christ, I can do nothing. But in Him, I can do all things because He is the One Who gives me strength.
There is a short and simple answer to your question based on what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:14 about not being unequally yoked with unbelievers. Since the purpose of dating is to find a spouse and since believers are not permitted to marry unbelievers, we must not deceive ourselves into thinking it's OK to date — as long as we don't marry — unbelievers. It's simply too likely, and too common, that what begins as an innocent, friends-only, non-emotional, temporary form of relating, progresses into affections that long to be satisfied. You would not be the first to think it harmless, only to set yourself up for either a heart-wrenching breakup or faith-wrecking disobedience.
As a new believer, it can seem overwhelming to learn all of what it means to follow Christ. But even getting the head knowledge isn't the biggest hurdle. Because we live in a Genesis 3 world — one that is still marked by the curse of sin and the consequences of the fall — we face temptation and the tendency to wander from God. Until Christ comes again and begins His eternal reign over the new heavens and new earth, we will struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil.
Part of what makes this struggle bearable, and what helps us make progress in sanctification, is life in the "body," the church. In the church we form relationships with other believers that help us grow in grace and godliness. This happens by hearing the preaching of the Gospel from the pulpit, as well as through the friendships we form with other church members. There is much to learn as a new believer, and once learned, much to practice. Your question about whom it's wise to date is one of many reasons we need each other to help us on this journey.
Rather than worrying about being out of practice of dating, I pray you will focus your efforts and all your attention on practicing living the Christian life. Let the truth of God's grace, of the price He paid to ransom you back from the evil one, motivate you daily to read His Word and obey it. Let it transform you to make you more like Christ. That is where maturity will begin, and as you grow, that maturity will be most attractive to a godly man.
Copyright 2012 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.