“Quick! She’s coming…” “He’s right over there! Do you think he saw me?”
From daring feats of athletic show-offs to giggling girls, our students can seem most interested in each other when they show up to our ministries. Add hormones to this and throw in #relationshipgoals, and you’re asking “How am I supposed to keep the students focused on anything else?”
What can we do? How do we navigate not only the idea of dating, but also address singleness and what we hope dating leads towards: engagement and marriage?
Ben Stuart, pastor of Passion City Church in Washington, D.C., has wisdom to share to help your students navigate Life + Love, excerpted and adapted below. Life + Love is a young adult Bible study that would be great for older high school or college students.
The longest chapter in Genesis is about finding a wife. This is good news for us for two reasons.
- It shows us that God cares about our dating life and our desire to be married.
- The narrative in that chapter provides us with principles that will help us evaluate a potential mate.
Starting in Genesis 12, the author, Moses, began to focus on a single family, the family of Abraham. The approach Abraham took looks a bit different from ours today, but the narrative contains principles that can be applied to our modern context.
- Look for a serious commitment
When planning to find a wife for his son (arranged marriages were the practice in that day), Abraham called his most trusted servant and made him swear in the Lord’s name with one of the most serious of oaths in that day. Why this ceremony? Because Abraham knew that the person Isaac married would have more influence on him than any other person.
Abraham was serious because marriage is serious.. dating exists for evaluation. Dating provides spaces and context to evaluate whether you should marry someone. This doesn’t mean you should on every date expecting to marry the person sitting across from you. However, it does mean you should discontinue the relationship at the point it becomes clear that marriage isn’t an option.
- Find the right criterion
Abraham was commanding his servant to find a wife for his son who was of the same faith… He told his servant not to get a Canaanite woman, because these people were polytheists, with the worship of their gods centering on violence. These beliefs and practices stood at odds with Abraham’s primary criterion for dating. In fact, the only criterion Abraham specified was that the woman must be a believer in the one true God. And he was sending his servant on a journey of over five hundred miles to find her!
Maybe the person God has for you isn’t part of your current relational circle, just as Isaac’s future wife wasn’t part of his.
- Don’t compromise
Notice the resolve in Abraham’s instruction. If the servant didn’t find the right woman, he was free to come home. If seeking marriage and living for God found themselves at odds, Abraham said, “Choose God!”
In deciding who we’ll date, compromise is only one decision away. And with every compromising step we take, our hearts become more and more calloused. Abraham wasn’t willing to give an inch. Neither should we. More often than not, we feel that compromise happens after we begin dating someone, when we’re tempted to compromise our standards of sexual and emotional purity. But integrity starts well before that.
- Seek character and chemistry
Abraham’s servant was hoping the woman would offer to give water to his camels, so he was looking for someone who was gracious and hospitable, even to a stranger. The implications are huge for relationships today. Our posture toward hospitality and generosity speaks volumes about our character and love for people.
Usually when we talk about having chemistry with someone, we’re talking about physical compatibility. Although this is important, it’s not the only form of chemistry we should look for. Through observation Rebekah realized she had chemistry with Isaac. She observed his faith and theological compatibility (see vv. 26-27), his vocational compatibility (Abraham’s servant had brought camels with him, v. 10), and his social compatibility (Abraham’s servant stayed with her family, v. 31). These factors of chemistry and compatibility are vital in deciding who we’ll date.
This is just the beginning of what Ben dives into in his Bible Study Life + Love: Navigating Singleness, Dating, Engagement, Marriage. Addressing all four stages through content, group discussion questions, and solid video teaching, discover how to bring your students on this journey: LifeWay.com/Life+Love.