I was 12-years-old when a pastor taught a group of us about dating. This is the first thing he taught me: Get your Bible out and create your own dating standards from it. And make up your mind NOW that you won't compromise and lower those standards--even if someone comes along who is really good-looking but doesn't meet those standards. And...if you find a standard you expect someone else to meet, you must measure up to that standard first.
I always share the #1 thing every believer should have at the top of their list for dating: A Christian. II Corinthians 6:14-16 says that we are not to be yoked to unbelievers. Light and darkness have nothing in common. In dating, and then marrying, the absolute #1 undisputed standard should be "Christian." We shouldn't date an unbeliever if we want to marry a believer...because we marry who we date. But is dating a Christian enough? What kind of Christian? A growing Christian, a worshiping Christian, a mission-minded Christian? Answer these questions for yourself. What is important to you--for yourself and for your future spouse?
Another standard that should be on our list is: No Sex Before Marriage. And the reason we should set that standard is because God set that standard for us. Ephesians 5:3 says that believers shouldn't engage in any sexual sin. I Thessalonians 4:4-6 says we should learn to control our own body and not lust after one another. Sex in itself isn't bad or sinful--just the opposite. Sex is fun and enjoyable. But God put it within the boundaries of marriage to protect you. He knows that if you engage in sex before marriage, Satan will weigh you down with mental, emotional, and spiritual baggage...sometimes even physical baggage. It's wrong to have sex before marriage. If you already have, all you have to do is turn away from that sin and ask God to forgive you and He'll wash you whiter than snow. He's a redeeming God! I can promise that if you enter marriage without all that baggage, the wait is going to be worth it.
What standards should you set for dates? Will you go to an R-rated movie? Will you go to a club or bar? What kind of dancing will you do? Think through these things and compare it to Philippians 4:8. God's Word should be our guide. Is the activity pure? Is it wholesome? The reason we get into situations we don't know how to handle is because we don't prepare for it in advance. If we decide ahead of time what we will or won't do, we can be better prepared to make a stand. Daniel is a great example. Daniel 1:8 says that Daniel made up his mind that he wouldn't defile (trash) himself. You have to make up your mind now about what you'll do when you're faced with that choice later.
Andy & I highly encourage kids to just have fun in a group. Dating leads to break-ups and people being angry with one another and even hating one another. It can be so bad that it affects an entire school or youth group. The goal should be to get to know one another and just see if the other person has qualities you're looking for in a spouse. The goal isn't to have dozens of mini-marriages with just as many break-ups. You want to get to marriage with "forever" in mind.
Think about what you want in a spouse. Make a list. What's important to you? Does he need to love cats? Does she need to love the outdoors? Does he need to get along with your brothers? Does she need to have a sense of humor? Usually, we never even really consider what's important to us...until after the marriage. And then we wonder why that person isn't what we expected--when we never defined what we were expecting in the first place. Make a list of things that are important to you and look at it often while you're dating.
As you make a list of dating standards from the Bible and make a list of what you want in a spouse, you're going to become focused. With the standards, you'll be focused on what God wants for you...and He wants the very best. Keep your Bible open, read it often, and allow God to speak to you--He may even change your mind while you date. God loves you and wants more for you than you can imagine! I hope you come up with a full page of standards from the Word of God. Search for it like hidden treasure...because it is!
Oh! And that pastor who taught me? He told us we weren't ready to date until we'd come up with a list of dating standards from the Bible.
Coming up: Dating--Part 2 "Signs of a Bad Date"