I wrote this post in 2007 when I was a single-adult pastor in a church near Charlotte. Six years later, I still feel the same way? What is your thoughts?
Before answering this question I think there is a more important issue that needs to be resolved in the life of a single adult, namely: How do I define a biblically healthy romantic relationship? In other words, what type of relationship between a guy and a girl pleases God? Once that question is answered then the “dating service” question can be discussed in a more thoughtful manner.
Although Scripture does not give a set agenda for the dating scene, it does speak clearly to the nature of biblical love, in particular, that of a husband and wife (Ephesians 5:22-33). Assuming the believer intends to conform his or her life to the pattern of scripture with the hopes of someday being married, it only makes sense to begin with a proper understanding of biblical love.
Biblical love is best defined by the life and death of Jesus Christ. Everything about the life of Christ revolves around his sacrifice to redeem a people to himself. From the incarnation (Philippians 2) to his Crucifixion and resurrection his life clearly demonstrates a love unlike this world has ever seen. Using the life of Christ as the model for biblical love, the Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 5:22-33, gives guidance to husbands and wives on how to conduct themselves within the context of marital love. At the minimum, Paul encourages the couple, in particular the husband, to live sacrificially toward each other showing respect in every way. Thus, biblical love is rooted in a sacrificial lifestyle that always seeks the glory of God and the good of others.
So, our starting point for building a biblically healthy romantic relationship is sacrificial living, which results in the glory of God and the good of others. Therefore, if you are seeking out a relationship to fulfill your selfish desires you have missed the point. Biblically healthy romantic relationships seek to serve others while battling against “the what’s in it for me” attitude. Here is the reality: Ultimately, all divorces that occur and all relationships that go bad do so because someone pursued their own selfish desires over the good of the other person. I am not suggesting our needs are not important, but I am encouraging you to make a shift in your approach to relationships. At this point, you may be screaming, “My needs are important too!” I could not agree more, but may I give you a couple of things to consider: 1) God knows your needs. In fact, he knows your needs better than you do, and we must trust in Him. He is a gracious God. Scripture repeatedly teaches us to seek God first, and he will provide for us in his timing (Psalm 37:4 ; Matthew 6:25-34). 2) If you develop friendships with people that hold to this same view, you will always be served because they are attempting to live in a sacrificial way that promotes your good and God’s glory.
What does this have to do with online dating services, you might ask? Well to begin with, I would ask are their better ways to build a bibically healthy romantic relationship than online dating services? The answer is YES! God has given us the local church where we can develop friendships with people, whereby we can observe their life and character over an extended period of time. At the same time, your church leaders can serve as an objective eye, counseling you on the dangers or virtues of the person that you are considering for a biblically healthy romantic relationship.
What if my church has no prospects for a biblically healthy romantic relationship? I would never encourage you to leave your church and join another because it has more dating options. But if I were single, the overall church position on how to build a biblically healthy romantic relationship would play a significant role in my decision to stay or go. Let me explain: If you go to a church where the singles ministry is a meat market, and the underlining thrust is “hooking-up” then most likely you will end up being hurt and your faith weakened – dysfunction feeds dysfunction. However, if a church has a theology on relationships that fosters commitment, purity, and self-control, the percentages are high that you will build a relationship that honors God.
Secondly, are there dangers in online dating? The answer is yes!
There is oftentimes a stigma attached to online dating services because manipulative people have taken what was originally meant to be helpful (some online resources) and abused those services. Although many online dating companies have worked hard to protect their clients from dangerous people there are no guarantees you won’t interact with folks whose sole intent is to be hurtful and harmful.
Another thought to consider is that people can mask themselves more easily using online services portraying themselves in a less accurate manner. Of course that can occur in everyday living, but the ability or the temptation to play a role or fantasize is much easier using email or a phone than it is in person. I know people who thought they were ready for marriage after just a short while of correspondence only to be completely disappointed when they officially met face to face. Certainly, there are success stories of people meeting online, getting married and living happily ever after, but the percentages, I would think, are higher for deception or at least “false advertising” that almost always leads to disappointment and frustration.
Finally, dating services can be an easy escape from dealing with character issues that may be hindering a person from developing healthy relationships. Tragically, many people are not honest with themselves and refuse to admit or even address pride or insecurity issues. They walk through life blaming their singleness on circumstances, other people, and sometimes God, when in reality, there are serious character issues that keep them from ever meeting new friends.
So, my over all assessment is to skip online dating services, find a strong church, develop friendships within that congregation, observe the person’s character for an extended period of time (what you feel is adequate amount of time to discover his or her lifestyle traits -godliness, humility, self-control, etc.) and begin moving toward building a biblically healthy romantic relationship.