Dating: To go out on usually social/romantic dates (taken from dictionary).
It is a word that strikes terror (older generation) in some and excitement in others. It’s another question on which the Bible speaks not. Dating is a rather new phenomenon, and thus the Biblical writers had no concept of seeing someone without being engaged to them. However, perspectives can be gleaned on this subject by looking closely at the principles presented in the Bible. Please do not expect the Indian Orthodox Church to have a doctrinal view on this. This is silly. Dating, mutual interaction with the opposite sex is all cultural but should be within a Christian context. To an older generation Malayali who is settled in US, Canada, UK, Australia, Middle East, India etc the East (where they come from) is always right and the West is bad. According to the latest statistics of Human Behavior Programme conducted in Indian by Oxford University, UK, it was shocking to find that Kerala is the most sex-starved state. This leads to all the rape, harassment and abuse of woman. We claim that we are the most literate state but we have the highest number of female abuse in the country.
It is wrong to think that because our children interact with each other that they are having sex. How many parents are able to openly talk about sex with their children? How many parents can openly discuss sex with each other? Yes, we need to watch what our children are up to, but before throwing dirt at them and their ways, we have to accept certain facts. Our children born and raised in the US (UK, Australia etc), are American and not Indian. They might have an Indian identity, and you might want then to have Christian and Indian values, but never forget that their motherland (US, UK, AUSTRALIA etc) have something positive to offer them.
But, an even more pressing question for many is “OK, dating, but how far is too far”? Dating is problematic because one usually dates several people before settling down and marrying one, so there is the potential of giving a piece of yourself away to several people, thus leaving one’s spouse with a used and weathered heart.
One view, the most common, is that dating is “just for fun” and is a way to get to know people and discover what kind of person you want to marry. Children should be able to discuss this with their parents and parents should and must give them advice. Locking them in their bedroom is no option. I do not think that children who are 14 – 21 would be wise in their decision on who they want to marry at such a young age. At that age it is all about passion, looks, etc. These are important, but once you have a job, steady on your feet; set aside certain criteria that you would like in a person, make friends and get to know them. Be open and tell your parents about it. Most parents might discourage you from going out with someone who they think is not right. They have their own reason, but some of the excuses are funny and silly.
- Family is not on par with us (because the dads fought in some committee meeting!!!! silly isn’t it?).
- The guy or girl is not a doctor, engineer, consultant, pharmacist, investment banker.
- Daughters will surely be discouraged from dating or being good friends with seminarians or deacons because they have no money or will be forced to be a ‘kochamma’.
- The girl or guy is dark and should be white (when have we become Anglo-Saxons or Caucasians? Do not forget we are Dravidians and so dark complexion is part of who we are).
Another view is that dating leads to heartbreak and is inherently faulty for finding a suitable marriage partner. This is because dating can be a preparation for divorce because it involves breaking up when the going gets tough. It also likely leads to giving oneself emotionally and physically. Thus, young people are encouraged to practice Courtship (What exactly this is, besides dating with Christian morals and a purpose, is fuzzy) and waiting to practice Courtship until marriage is a foreseeable option (within the next couple of years). Before Courtship young people are encouraged to get to know others of the opposite sex through group activities and friendships.
Still, another view is that one should not date at all because of its dangers and that instead one ought to leave it in the hands of God. It is a bit dubious, however, that God will plop someone in our laps if we are doing nothing (is it likely God would give someone a job if they don’t go out and look for one?).
For “how far is too far” some say no physical contact should be had before marriage because we are to “flee” (2 Tim. 2:22), and physical contact is playing with the embers of a fire; one will eventually get burned.
Another view for “how far is too far” is that there is nothing inherently evil about physical contact, and thus is OK if handled responsibly. My confessor’s advice was “don’t do anything you would be uncomfortable doing in front of your parents.” However, I feel pretty uncomfortable just holding hands in front of my mom, so that maxim can be difficult. The difficulty with this view is that it takes maturity and responsibility on the part of those dating. But does not God call us to grow up and be mature and responsible?
Dating is something that has to be a learning process. I began with the “it’s just for fun” view of dating, but then saw how much it could hurt others, and so decided dating involved too much pain for being “just for fun.” I toyed with the idea of not dating at all, but found it rather impractical. My view now is that God has created us to have relationships with the opposite sex and that it is a good thing to get to know the opposite sex, either through friendship or dating. Many problems are caused by lack of communication and misunderstanding between the sexes.
However, in dating I think it important to take it seriously since it can involve so much pain, and thus only engage in it if marriage is a viable option. Additionally I think it important for God to be the foundation of a dating relationship, because everything else about us is much too fickle. Finally, the New Testament’s principle of respecting others, loving them as Christ loved them, and desiring the best for them should be paramount when dating.