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Arrow Staff writer, desiringGod. Date for at least a year. Date exclusively in groups. Make sure you get plenty of time one on one. How can you know you have chemistry without kissing? Put clear boundaries into place. Spend lots of time together. Be careful how much time you spend together. Date a bunch of people before getting serious. One Lord, one faith, one baptism — and a billion different dating tips. The First Rule in Dating The first rule in dating is the first rule in all of life: You will not truly love anyone else if you do not love God first and most. And no one will truly love you if they do not love God more than they love you. The first step in dating should always be the step of faith we take toward our Lord, Savior, and greatest Treasure, King Jesus. He captures our heart; we find our deepest joy in him. We hide our soul in him, and stop trying to save or prove ourselves. We devote our minds to knowing him more and more, and plead with him to conform our mind and will to his. We put all our strength into his goal and plan for our life: If our heart is not there — if our soul is not already safe through faith, if our mind is distracted and focused on other, lesser things, if our best strength is being spent on the things of this world — jobs, sports, shopping, entertainment, relationships, and not on God — we simply will not date well. Do you want to date and marry well? The Golden Rule in Dating But after embracing and applying the first and greatest commandment, I have found that the golden rule in dating is this: Do we love him more than anything? Will we obey him, even when it will cost us? Are we willing to set anything aside for his sake? Will we trust him, even when we want something else for ourselves? How far should we go physically before marriage? How soon should I start dating after a breakup? What things should I be looking for in a guy? What are girls looking for in a guy? Should couples live together before getting married? The scary reality is that we can find an answer somewhere to justify what we want to do — right or wrong, safe or unsafe, wise or unwise. The advice we choose might be from a book by a doctor, or a random conversation with someone at church, or a blog post by a teenager, or just something we found on Pinterest. Instead of getting the qualified perspective and direction we desperately need from people around us, we walk away eating a candy bar for dinner, again, and washing it down with Dr. Real friendship, with real life-on-life accountability, may not offer the same amount of information or advice, and you will not always like what it has to say, but it will bring one new critical dimension to your dating relationships: These people know you as a sinner, and sinners who are never being confronted or frustrated by inconvenient truths are sinners drifting further from God, not towards him. The closer we become with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the more removed we are from other important relationships. Satan loves this, and encourages it at every turn. One way to walk wisely in dating is to oppose absolutely everything Satan might want for you. Fight the impulse to date in a corner by yourselves, and instead draw one another into those important relationships. The people willing to actually hold me accountable in dating have been my best friends. They stepped in when I was spending too much time with a girlfriend or started neglecting other important areas of my life. They raised a flag when a relationship seemed unhealthy. They have relentlessly pointed me to Jesus, even when they knew it might upset me — reminding me not to put my hope in any relationship, to pursue patience and purity, and to communicate and lead well. And I wish I would have listened to them more in dating. Maybe that term — accountability — has dried out and gone stale in your life. But to be accountable is to be authentically, deeply, consistently known by someone who cares enough to keep us from making mistakes or indulging in sin. You desperately need truth, wisdom, correction, and perspective. The Bible warns us to weave all our desires, needs, and decisions deep into a fabric of family who love us and will help us follow Jesus — a family God builds for each of us in a local church Hebrews To challenge and correct them: And to build them up: And as inconvenient, unnecessary, unhelpful, and even unpleasant as it may feel at times, God has sent gifted, experienced, Christ-loving men and women into your life too, for your good — and for the good of your boyfriend or girlfriend and God willing, your future spouse. The God who sends these kinds of friends and family into our lives knows what we need far better than we ever will. We all need courageous, persistent, and hopeful friends and counselors in the dangerous and murky waters of dating. Marshall Segal marshallsegal is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod. He and his wife, Faye, have a son and live in Minneapolis.
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