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Core Christianity: Tough Questions Answered

How to Hold the Line in Dating

by Stephen Roberts posted April 19, 2022

Dating can be one of the great experiences of life. A new portion of your heart is awakened, as well as a new capacity to love. At the same time, the feeling of being loved affirms your God-given worth and dignity as one created in his image and redeemed for his name’s sake. Even if the Lord brings a dating relationship to a close, you may come away with possible heartbreak, but also with new wisdom concerning your own heart and what you desire in a spouse.

At the same time, peril will shadow your every step in a dating relationship. Sexual temptation has always been an issue in this broken world of ours, and our time and culture aren’t exceptions. Sex is commodified and cheaply sold. It’s treated as the most important part of a relationship while being simultaneously devalued as something that should be given away freely without strings. Pornography weakens resolve by offering lust an everyday habitat in the heart. And hooking up requires only a few clicks and a meet-up time before fantasy can become reality.

With sex becoming the equivalent of a handshake in most relationships (including within the church), it is harder than ever to say “no.” But Scripture doesn’t give us an option. Adultery, which refers to any sort of sexual relationship outside of marriage, is strictly forbidden. Positively speaking, we must say “no” because God is calling us to say “yes” to something much better—the love of God in Christ Jesus and a loving marriage that models such love. So how do you hold the line with the one you love and hope to marry one day?

First, be upfront about what you expect in a relationship. If your girlfriend is just interested in fooling around, get out. If your boyfriend wants you to watch pornography with him, run away. If you both want to glorify God with your relationship and with your bodies, proceed.

Second, make your boundaries clear—like, embarrassingly clear. If you need to grab a doll and point to all the areas that are off-limits, do it. God’s word doesn’t give us exact lines, but it gives us broad parameters and consciences guided by his Spirit. My wife and I were committed to not going beyond kissing before marriage. By being clear and unequivocal about that line, we were able to then discuss how to hold the line.

Third, sit down and hammer out a plan. Make sure this discussion is held outdoors or in a coffee shop and not in dark basement. Speaking of which, that might be a good line-of-attack for how to maintain your boundaries. Date in public places and not in dark basements. The Lord created you with wisdom and saved you through the blood of one who is wisdom incarnate. It’s better to rely on such wisdom rather than will-power in a moment of temptation.

Fourth, seek out prayer and accountability. My wife and I were blessed to be set up by some of our best married friends. That couple loves the Lord and introduced us, knowing that we would seek to honor God with our bodies. Surround yourself with people like that—people who will ask intrusive questions and encourage you toward real love and good deeds by Christ’s power.

You will be ridiculed for wanting to hold a line that virtually nobody wants to hold any more. Back in my day, they’d call you a prude and repressed. Friends will suggest that your restraint is actually a sign of your perversion, or they’ll feel judged by your standard and ostracize you.

But it’s worth it. Sex is the ultimate celebration of marriage and the culmination of two people becoming one flesh for life. It points to the God who unites himself to us and to whom we’ll belong for all eternity. This is true love—not that we first loved him, but that he first loved us. And that love can help us stay the course until that great and glorious day when faith will become sight.

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Stephen Roberts

Stephen Roberts is an Army chaplain and also writes for Modern Reformation and The Federalist. He is married to Lindsey—a journalist—and they have three delightful and precocious children.

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