Does online dating go against God's guidance?
Bryce, a single stockbroker, is one of the most sincere Christians we know. He's devoted in his faith and eager to find a woman who shares his heartfelt values. "I never thought I'd still be single at this stage of my life," Bryce says, "but I know that God has a plan, and I'm just trying to live in His timing."
Some of his friends have encouraged Bryce to try an online dating site for Christians, but Bryce has his doubts. "I'm not sure that it's something I should do," he confides to his pastor. "I mean, if I sign up for a dating site and pay a company to help me find my future wife, doesn't it mean I'm not trusting God to do that for me?"
"That's a good question, Bryce," his pastor responds. "But nowhere in the Bible does it say, 'Thou shalt not use the Internet to find your spouse.'"
"I know," Bryce says with a smile, "but this is such an important part of my life, and it seems that God would want me to trust Him, not my computer, to find the woman He wants me to marry."
"Maybe so," his wise pastor continues, "but maybe God also wants you to use this tool to help you do just that. Maybe the woman He has in mind for you is looking for you online already."
"Do you think so?"
"I don't know, but I have a tough time believing that it's not Christian to use the Internet to find your spouse. If you were looking for a job, Bryce, you'd want to trust God in the process but still do everything you could, including using the Internet, to help you."
What about you? We assume that you're a committed Christian. Do you have the same sentiment as Bryce? Do you wonder whether God would want you to use online dating or not? Do you fear that using the Internet to find your right someone would mean that you're not trusting God?
Seeking God's Will for Your Love Life
Let's start with the fundamentals. As a Christian, you want God's leading for your life — you want to avoid making a decision that goes against His will. Theologian Garry Friesen outlines four debilitating traps that ensnare even sincere Christians who are a bit naive about finding God's will on important decisions, such as how to find their future spouses. Consider each one:
- Justifying an unwise decision on the ground that "God told me to do it."
- Fostering costly delays in the process because of uncertainty about God's will.
- The practice of "putting out a fleece" — allowing circumstances to dictate the decision.
- Rejecting personal preferences when faced with apparently equal options.
If you were to select the one item from this list that you might be prone to do in following God's will for your life, which one would it be? Now explore how it might hinder your thinking about online dating. Are you tempted to put out a fleece? For example, does God need to bring you "the one" within one month of online dating? Or do you think online dating is against God's will for you because it's something you'd actually prefer to do? As you apply these debilitating traps to your thinking about online dating, you may see just how naive they are.
The bottom line is that the Bible nowhere forbids online dating, and therefore, neither should we. There's no need for guilt. We don't want to make the mistake the Pharisees did and invent "sins" that weren't mentioned in the Bible.
What Matters Is Your Motivation
If you are using online dating to find a God-honoring person to date and eventually marry, your motivations are in line with Christian standards. That's pretty obvious, and it's bound to bring God pleasure. But Scripture often urges us to carefully examine our motives (see Jeremiah 17:9; Luke 6:43-45; James 1:14), so let's go a bit deeper.
When it comes to online dating, there's a subtle motivator that can creep into the process almost without your noticing. It's a motivation to take the steering wheel of your life out of God's hands. It happens when you feel hopeless about God's provision and timing in giving you a spouse. In other words, you may have an underlying motive that says, I don't trust God anymore in this area, and I'm taking matters into my own hands. If that's the case, of course, your motivation needs some careful reexamination. We're certainly not saying that you shouldn't be proactive in pursuing the prospect of marriage in your life. Far from it. But we are suggesting that you consider any unhealthy motivations that push God out of the process. This is just as true in traditional dating matters, by the way, as it is for the online approach.
As long as you're motivated to let God direct your steps, even in the online dating process, and to follow His will as He reveals it to you, you'll make decisions that honor Him. Of course, this means taking time for daily prayer and meditation on God's Word. It means routinely evaluating your motives in calm, non-pressured moments. It means acknowledging the Holy Spirit's direction in your life. It also means seeking the counsel of wise Christians you respect who can speak truth into your life and give you feedback on any decisions you're contemplating.
The Best Way to Keep Online Dating Holy
Perhaps the biggest danger of online dating for Christians is that it can become a solitary act. That is, it can occur in isolation. As Christians, we are called to live in community (see Proverbs 15:22; 24:6; Hebrews 3:12-13; 10:24-25). And for good reason. We need the fellowship and guidance of other believers who can offer wisdom about our situation — and that includes something as important as looking for love online. You need people who know you and care about you to walk with you through the process.
This is one of the best ways to ensure that your decision-making standards remain high and that your motivations are honoring to God. For this reason we believe it's generally a good idea to invite family or trusted friends into the experience with you so you have people with whom to talk through your decisions. Of course, this is a personal thing, so we're not suggesting you broadcast it or that you delineate every detail. We're simply saying that having a small community of support as you pursue online dating is a great way to be sure you stay in God's will. This is particularly important as your online exchanges evolve into in-person dates. Bringing your new dates into your Christian community is vital to nurturing a relationship that honors God.
If you're feeling at all uneasy about using an online matching site to find the love of your life because you think that it may not agree with your Christian faith, consider the following suggestions:
Pray for guidance: As you explore the idea of online dating — and even if you're already using it — ask God to guide you in the process. Ask for discernment and help at dating wisely; ask for ears to hear a person's heart rather than being distracted by superficial qualities. Surround the experience in prayer by seeking wisdom along the way.
Talk with Christian friends: If you are in a small group at your church, for example, bring up the topic of dot-com dating, and ask others to weigh in on it. If you're feeling emotionally safe, ask them to speak into your own life as you explore the idea of finding love online. They know your personality and may see things you're not aware of that can be helpful to you in the process.
Read relationship books by godly authors: The more you educate yourself on what others are saying not only about online dating as a Christian but also dating and relationships in general in the Christian faith, the wiser you will become. As you probably know, there are dozens of great relationship books by respected Christian authors to choose from.
Consult your minister: If you are particularly uncertain about whether there is a place in your faith walk for using an online dating site, you may want to meet with someone on your church's ministerial staff. Let that person know what's on your mind, and ask him or her to pray for you and to offer guidance.
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Reprinted with permission from Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, IL. This excerpt is from Dot.com Dating written by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott and published by Tyndale House Publishers.