What would I say to a young college man who’s dating a girl?
I would say that the impulse towards pairing off is good, it’s from the Lord. But I would caution them. I think a lot of young men and young women want to create this unique semi-covenanted space that, under God, doesn’t really exist. If you look at how God identifies relationships between men and women, if you’re in Christ, you’re either brother and sister, or you’re husband and wife. There’s not really some middle place. I would encourage a young man, if you’re interested in a girl, think she might be marriable, spend time with her, great. But I think in your mind you need to discipline yourself to think, “She is my sister in the Lord.” First Timothy is clear. Treat older women as mothers, younger women as sisters with absolute purity (1 Timothy 5:2). You don’t fool around with your sister, because that’s nasty, right?
You go, “I have to treat her with purity. I have to treat her like I would want someone to treat my baby sister.” What would that look like? It would mean they use all their resources to help her be all that she’s meant to be under God. I encourage her to go to church. I encourage her to be around other women who inspire her. I encourage her to pursue the Lord. I celebrate her victories. I don’t try to take that from her or lead her like I’m her husband.
I’ll talk to young men sometime that say, “I’m dating a girl. How do I lead her? I’ve already fused our quiet times together.” I’m like, “I don’t know what that means, man. You’re not her leader. You have no stake or claim in her life. She’s a sister and you’re a brother. Now, are you starting to enjoy time together? Do that.”
Then I give them Romans, “Make no provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:14). I tell them, “Be private in public. Spend time with her but do it with a group of friends. Spend time with her but do it in a coffee shop or at a restaurant where you’re much less likely to grope each other.” I say, “Go someplace public to be private. Don’t square off into each other’s bedrooms, dorm rooms. Stay out of that space. Make no provision for the flesh.” You get out in the place where you can talk about things that are holy and good and encouraging because ultimately if you are going to marry her, that sexual desire, tension, all that’s good, but when you’re married, a good percentage of your time is just going to be hanging out.
If you hit the gas on expediting the physical part, you’ve missed what dating is for. That is, to see, “Do I like hanging out with this person?” That’s the piece I would say push this one back. Hold off from anything physical, so you can evaluate, are we made to be with one another? Do we enjoy each other’s company? Would she be a good friend? Would I want to hang out with her for the next 30 years? If that’s the case, the physical will naturally follow after you’ve gone through the covenant of marriage.
That’s what I would tell him. Live in the tension of having no claim in her life. Trust her with God. You treat her with purity. Then, as you get to know her emotionally, you start to connect and go, “I think this is the one.” Then you can enter that covenant of marriage, and you’re off to the races.