While the culture has its ups and downs and continues to change its fashions and values like the average person changes socks, some matters remain perennially pertinent. When we approach those in their teenage years, the subjects of romance, dating, and relationships remain forever appropriate. Many factors influence the phenomenon, including culture, marketing and advertisements, entertainment, and, most importantly, physiology. Whatever the reasons, the rare teenager does not desire to jump into whatever dating scene he or she can.
So we ask ourselves as Christians and parents: how do we think on the matter?
We remain committed to the position of sola Scriptura—the Old and New Testaments alone prove infallible for guiding our doctrine and our practice. What happens when the Bible does not speak directly to a matter like teenagers dating in the contemporary West?
One error we certainly must avoid is attempting to shoehorn ourselves into ancient Near Eastern practices. Genesis relating the narrative Abraham sending an envoy to his homeland to find a wife for Isaac only tells us what Abraham did, not what we must do. Efforts to replicate these cultural practices generally wind up wildly inconsistent. In all the reading on family, dating, and relationships I have done, I have never found anyone who betrothed their children in their early teen years with the requirement of a legal divorce if the teens in question never married one another.
At the same time, we recognize Scripture does not sit silently regarding the practices and habits of any person or people at any time. While it may not speak to a person attaining a certain age or precise character qualifications, it unequivocally states the two greatest of all commandments. Matthew 22:35–40 relates,
One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great
commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your
heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost
commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two
commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.
The greatest commandment serves as a filter. When our son or daughter asks us about dating in general or a relationship in particular, it provides a wise and incisive question: Is this desire of yours going to help you love God with your heart, soul, and mind?
Of course, answering open-ended questions do not prove everyone’s forte. Often, when provoking people to think with these sorts of questions, one only receives repetition of the question in the form of a statement. To help sort the matter out, follow up with these:
The list above certainly cannot serve as an exhaustive one, but it certainly gets the gears of the mind turning. If a dating relationship draws a young person away from his or her own Jesus-exalting covenant community, then we may reason the same individual will suffer a declined spirituality. Likewise, If the relationship produces a decreased desire to conform to Christ, we can also see why it would be a negative thing. Finally, a relationship generating estrangement from parents, siblings, friends, and godly leaders proves it has something to hide or at least that the individual possesses a willingness to sacrifice long-term relationships for something new.
The great commandment filter serves not only the issue of dating and relationships, but others as well. Scripture serves all Christians at all times and all places. Our brothers and sisters in the global East and South observe different traditions and cultural mores than we do in North America, however, it guides and governs them as well. The great commandment serves as but one way to ensure our rootedness in God’s revelation to us as we seek to take even our romantic lives captive to Christ.
Next up: There is a second greatest commandment filter as well!