Dear Young People,
Courtship Is A Better Way
Let’s say that you are of marriageable age and you meet a believer who seems to have all the qualities that you wish for in your life partner? What should you do to get to know that person better? In the last issue, we mentioned that dating, the way it is practiced today, is wrong. Courtship seems to be a better way.
We cannot deal with every possible situation in this article and so we will content ourselves with laying down some basic principles and guidelines.
Girls in this situation should ensure that they are of marriageable age. Marriageable age is usually when you are completing your basic academic qualifications. So it is usually later than the age stipulated by the law. (In India, Section 5 of the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929, defines the end of childhood as 18 for girls and 21 for boys. Those who perform or conduct a marriage with children below this age are liable to be punished with fine/imprisonment.)
Boys in this situation should not only have completed their basic academic qualifications, but should also be employed. You should be financially capable of setting up your home independently. If you depend on your parents financially, you are not ready for marriage yet.
Take It to The Lord in Prayer. First of all, even before you approach that person, you need to bring the matter to the Lord.
Ps 127:1 Unless the LORD ______________ the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD _____________ the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
So if you do not have the Lord’s blessing, your plans will come to nothing. Although, you may be very attracted to that person and wish very much that your are able to marry that person, you must remember that you do not know the future. You do not really know if such a marriage will bring happiness. You do not even know all that much about that person. But the Lord knows everything. Even though your heart might want the Lord to approve and bless the match, you should be disciplined enough to pray that His will alone be done in your life.
Your prayer could be something like this: “Lord, I am very attracted to this person and want very much to marry him/her. I want this very very much. But You alone know if such a marriage will bring glory to Your name. You alone know if such a marriage will be a blessing to us and to those around us. Let Your will alone be done. Help us to yield ourselves to your will. Amen”
Approach all interaction with one another in holiness. When it becomes clear to the boy and girl that they are interested in one another and want to take the matter to the next stage, they must become very watchful about their interaction. Certainly they cannot treat their communication as dating is generally treated by their counterparts outside the church. To spend too much time alone in confined places and so on is to tempt temptation itself. Remember Prov 6:27-28 that we studied in the last issue.
Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared?
Ask permission of the girl’s father. In western countries, especially in homes where God is feared, the boy is expected to approach the girl’s father and ask him for his permission to court his daughter. Young men in our church who want to court a girl may find this model very difficult to follow. Who is to say if they will come back in peace or in many pieces after meeting the girl’s father!
For us, in the Indian context, where we have practiced arranged marriages for generations, it is appropriate for both the young man and the young woman to let their parents know about the matter. The boy and his parents can approach the girl’s parents.
You may wonder if it is so necessary to involve the parents. This is necessary for several reasons.
Firstly, according to the Bible, the girl is under the protection of her father until her marriage. Secondly, your parents have cared for you for two decades and you are in their care until your marriage.
Set times and places to meet one another. Your parents/guardians can also be involved in this process. Ideally you should plan to meet in such a way that you can be seen but not heard. In other words, you must not meet alone in a house or even in a lonely park. It is reasonable that you will want to have private conversations with each other. Any conversation or gesture too intimate for this setting is too intimate for this stage of the relationship.
Christian courtship involves a young man and young woman getting to know one another better, preferably under their parents’ or guardians’ supervision, for the purpose of finding a spouse while seeking the will of God.
Courtship need not be a public matter. Courtship that is handled in a dignified and holy manner is pure and good because God understands that it is good for a man to be married, and you are in the business of finding the right girl. Purposefully looking for the right girl, is something that the Lord will bless.
Prov 18:22 He who __________ a wife finds a good thing, and obtains __________ from the LORD.
Another principle to remember in courtship is the honoring of our parents. Young people, see that you honor your parents during your courtship.
Eph 6:2-3 “Honor your ______________ and ______________,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
If during the courtship, you realize that you are not well suited for marriage, you can end the matter with a minimum of fuss. But young people must enter into a courtship after serious consideration and only when they are reasonably sure that the person they wish to court is a good match.
Something to think about for EBA youth: If you have any doubts about whether courtship is practically possible, or if you do not agree about any aspect of this lesson, it is your duty to let us know. We are not inspired like the apostles, and what we say and write is not the word of God. In some ways, because we do not culturally have a strong foundation based on Christian principles, an article like this is pioneering work. Unless you raise questions, we will not know where the gaps are. But if you give us your feedback, we can revisit the matter and make whatever changes need to be made. But if you do not raise any doubts about this, we will take it that you understand and agree with the principles outlined here.
(Nahomi Dhinakar; Published in Youth Column of Dhyanamlar Mar 2005) Click here for other Youth Column articles