Is Courtship Biblical?

Now there’s a question you haven’t heard.

A lot of time we take courtship for granted as a Biblical concept, without questioning where it is found in the Christian faith — if at all.  Is courtship a Biblical concept, and if so, are Christians who do not follow it in sin?

There are some denominations who truly believe that courtship is a firm facet of the Christian walk; that to compromise in this area is indeed to wander into sin.  In these denominations, there is a specific way to go about courtship and each couple is to execute their relationship along those parameters.  Other denominations are much more lax in regard to male-female interaction — some just confront the issues pertaining to sexual immorality and leave it at that.  Are either of these branches wrong?  What about all the systems in between?  Is there one set method for courtship that God has ordained for His followers?

I truly don’t think so.  The relationships of Scripture were influenced by culture and era, so the example set by those will not be completely transferrable to our present society.  We can’t lift Ruth and Boaz off the pages of the Old Testament and pop them into contemporary, metro-sexual New York and expect the story to be the same.  Then again, some women like the idea of marrying their former mother-in-law’s cousin, who happens to be about twenty years older and considerably well-off due to a couple decades of careful investment in the wheat industry…

Does this mean that the Bible leaves relational methods for us to decide?  God is not into relativism, in case anyone  noticed.  Just like any other aspect of life our relationships are to proceed along specific guidelines that the Lord provides — but there’s no Dating Rulebook either.  Rules do not equal legalism — but legalism does equal rules.  The true Christian abides by the Lord’s commands because he honors Him and chooses to obey from love; the legalistic Christian abides by commands to one-up others and feel good about himself.  Whether those rules are right or necessary is not relevant to legalism. 

Picture a bowling alley.  You’re standing, ball in hand, about to hurl it down the lane and into the pins for a stunning victory to impress your friends.  But before you send it flying, you purposely put up the bumpers so the ball has no chance of spinning into the gutter.  You send the ball down the lane and — WHAM! A strike!  You walk back smugly… but  no one’s very impressed.  “Let’s see how you do with the bumpers down,” they say.  So you try it — and fail miserably.  You’ve played so long with the bumpers you can’t keep the ball in the lane without them. 

Unfortunately, many Christians operate in relationships this way.  By putting up the bumpers of legalism, they keep themselves on the straight and narrow, knowing that if they take down the bumpers they might head straight into the gutter.  Rather than strengthen and perfect they choose to operate in ‘safety’, within rules, so that they never have to face temptation.  One day the bumpers will come down.  When that day comes, if you can’t keep the ball in the lane, you will have a harder time re-learning so that you can keep it where it should have been before.

Legalism breeds weak Christians — and this means legalism in any area.  However, legalism as pertains to relationships is especially dangerous because of arrogance and selfishness that seep in.  Satan can use legalism to his direct advantage because legalism equals pride.

Am I saying that operating in discipline is legalistic?  By no means.  To live in the flesh, without reserve or control, is equally damaging and full of self.  We must strike a balance, and more importantly, understand our motivation for how we go about our relationships.  If a woman goes into relationships with the intention of landing the man, she may compromise many things in order to accomplish that.  If a man goes into a relationship with the idea that he will tread the line physically, he will be sacrificing his morality on the altar of instant gratification.

What guidelines, then, are given to us?  Check out Titus 1:8-9, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; and Romans 6:12-15 (view this link for an even more thorough Biblical support).  All these emphasize the fact that a Christian is to live a holy, upright life.  Part of living this life is not only to seek righteousness but avoid evil.  Where Christians go wrong in relationships is when they question, “How far is too far?” This clues us in to the fact that they are already wondering when sin becomes sin — and if it is really wrong at all.  The question should not be “How closely can I tread the line?” but “How can I most glorify God in this relationship?”   A person asking this question of himself will not need legalism to keep him in the middle of the lane.  His devotion to God will keep him there.

So then:  is courtship Biblical?  Because of what it stands for, and the concepts, methods and and ideas that are involved, yes.  But courtship in and of itself is not the God-ordained fashion that all people must use for their relationships.  For most of us, our parents dated and they grew to glorify God with their marriage even with any mistakes they may have made.  Even a couple that dates can glorify God if they are abiding by his painstakingly clear standards for sexual intimacy — it belongs within the bond of marriage alone.  If they choose to tread the line of that command it is their own spiritual walk they threaten.  It is their choice.  It is everyone’s choice — rules cannot protect, defend or excuse anyone before God. 

This view of courtship should not be viewed as threatening or undermining to its foundation.  Rather, it should be viewed as incredibly freeing to us as Christians.  We have the choice in all parts of our daily lives to choose God or choose ourselves.  Relationships will be no different, no matter what method you choose to go about them.  Temptation is not picky, and even with the bumpers up it can reach you — and destroy you if you aren’t able to stay true when they’re down.  We have an amazing freedom in Christ — for He “did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self control.” (2 Tim. 1:7).  Legalism operates out of fear — fear that without it you will fail.  Strength comes when you beat fear down and become victorious. 

Think about your motivations for choosing courtship.  But more than that, check your heart when it comes to viewing others and their decisions about relationships; especially fellow Christians.  Understand the freedom you possess — and that every one possesses in Christ — because grasping this concept will determine whether you keep the bumpers up in life or if you lay them down and send the ball straight into the pins.

Think of it this way:  I’ve just given you an incredible excuse to go bowling.

Flirtation 101: Effective Methods for Flirting

At a Christian homeschool conference a few years ago I happened to pick up a little book on a table.  The book was about dating.  I figured since it was a Christian, homeschool conference, it might have some interesting tips for single girls.  It did.

In the middle of the book were two pages — one for girls, one for guys — on how to flirt with the opposite sex.  For guys, it suggested smiling, winking, holding her hand, and commenting on her hair, eyes and skin (!).  For girls, it suggested flattering his ego, gazing into his eyes and touching his arm or leg seductively (!!).  I was flabbergasted.  What was this doing here?!  The little book was teaching how to be a Jezebel.  A hussy.  A manipulative, wily, deceitful woman of the world. 

Since we have already covered what to do when a man flirts with you, and since we have addressed the question of having friends that are male, now we turn to how to act with those friends.  Worldly girls learn by osmosis how to gain attention from men, and work that talent to their ‘advantage’.  Christian girls, however, are being trained to keep Christ as their focus, not their friends (male OR female).  Even in this, however, Christian girls can unintentionally flirt with a man. 

Methods of Flirtation

The Hair Toss:  You’ve seen it; in response to a compliment, she giggles, throws her head and flicks her mane behind her back.  This is probably the most apparent method of flirtation — painfully obvious and attention-grabbing.

Eye contact:  This, I think, is an easy place to stumble.  Where looking someone in the eyes is essential for good communication, steady eye contact with a guy send signals of “I’m really interested in you…” There is a fellow at my local college who consistently tries to make eye contact with me across the room.  If I accidentally happen to pass his gaze, he assumes I am interested in him!  Be careful how long you look into someone’s eyes. 

Giggling/Whispering:  Don’t giggle and whisper to a guy.  Doing so projects a closeness with him that either isn’t happening or shouldn’t be.  Also, giggling and whispering with a girl about a guy, with him present, is another way to gain his attention, or just attention in general.

Laughing:  Okay, here is where I have a problem.  My mom has a *cough* rambunctious laugh, and so do I.  Thus, whenever I laugh, it is usually rather loud.  This is just my natural guffaw!  However, when with young men, if you laugh extra loud or often at his jokes and comments, that is a way to tell him that you like him better than anyone else.  I have to consciously tone down my laugh around men because of this. 

Flattery:  I have one male friend who happens to notice whenever anyone cuts their hair, and he usually comments on it.  When I got my hair cut, he told me it looked nice.  I knew he wasn’t flattering me because I knew his personality.  With men you don’t know, or are only aquainted with, they may try to compliment you unnecessarily to get your reaction.  In the same way, don’t dish out compliments are that aren’t relevant to the conversation, the environment or the relationship.

*Special Note

In the olden days, when a young man thought a young woman was pretty, he would whistle at her.  This still goes on today.  Men are visual, and when they see a pretty girl, they may ‘compliment’ her by throwing out a little tune her direction.  This happened to me when I was skiing a few years ago.  A young man whistled at me, and utterly flabbergasted by it, I yelled at him to “Shut up!”.  Smooth.  When I told my parents, thinking they might understand my flabbergast-edness, they told me I had disrespected that young man.  My dad said the best thing to do in those situations is to smile and walk on.  Don’t return the attention —  but don’t scorn his attempts at a compliment either. 

Aggressiveness:  This is more common in preteen girls.  Still unaware of what to do when it comes to boys — half annoyed at them and half liking them around — they fight, wrestle and punch like one of the guys.  Girls left to themselves still do this into their late teens.  It is not attractive, and comes across quite masculine rather than feminine, as we should be. 

Touching:  Even with my friends, I really don’t touch them unless I have to — and then it’s a quick pat on the upper arm to get their attention.  Guys are very responsive to touch and it belongs within very strict boundaries.  There are certain male friends that I do hug on occasion — but then it is a ‘side hug’, never signalling any intimacy.  Of course, fathers will decide what it appropriate, but I don’t know a father alive that wants his daughter running about throwing her arms around every guy’s neck!  Now, standing stiffly next to a young man is not necessary either.  Good communicators turn and look the person in the eyes, stand close enough to talk easily but do not appear possessive of their conversation partner.

Posessiveness:  Possessive girls are often very ‘latchy’ and like to keep a guy ‘on their arm’ even if he isn’t literally on their arm!  They are also jealous and sarcastic toward other girls because they present a ‘threat’ to their crush.  Jealous girls tend to be insecure, while also assuming that the guy wants to be their friend in the first place.  Something I have learned over the years is that guys like to pick their own friends.  If they approach you, and talk to you on their own, they want to be your friend.  ‘Pushing’ yourself on them makes them feel disrespected. 

Most of these can be done, and are done, unintentionally.  This certainly isn’t Phylica’s List of Do’s and Don’ts — but I hope it helps you in evaluating your own actions when interacting with young men.  In addition, I interviewed five young men about how girls flirt, and the above methods were all given as evidence of flirtation.  

Finally, a girl who has Christ as her focus will not be concerned about getting attention from men, and will not need to use any of these methods to her ‘advantage’ — because she has the Advantage of being loved by the greatest Man of all!