Dating and courting done right

Romans 13:8-14 calls us to love others, to work for their souls' good rather than looking to please ourselves.

More specifically, verse 10 reminds us that "[l]ove does no harm to its neighbor." Romans 14:1-15:7 offers a discourse on favoring weaker brothers and sisters above ourselves, valuing and encouraging that which is good in the souls of others.

Unlike most other people of our age and experience, we are (insert favorite answer here) a) really astute students of our own and each other's hearts, b) -clear and talented communicators, c) always honest with each other, even when such honesty entails huge vulnerability for whoever is speaking, d) all of the above." Maybe.

But here I would pose the question that is relevant to so many aspects of the courtship and dating topic.

Yes, I know, the other person is an adult who is free and responsible to walk away if he or she is so unsatisfied, but like it or not, it tends not to work that way. Especially if it's the woman in this position (as seems to be the case more often than not) she will likely feel that if she pushes for something more than friendship, she may lose the interaction and companionship she currently has.

To the extent that one person's romantic feelings have been clearly articulated to the other (and were met with an unfavorable response) to continue in some no-man's land of "good friends," is arguably to take selfish advantage of the vulnerable party. What if one person develops romantic feelings in a friendship in which no "clear words" have been spoken, such that the desires of the other person are a mystery?

This is especially so in a culture — and a church — that struggles with the widespread sociological trend in its young adults known as "perpetual adolescence." Albert Mohler, Alex and Brett Harris, Candice Watters and other Boundless authors have written about this trend at length.

In fact, the failure of many Christian men to pursue marriage well into their 20s and 30s may be one of the most disturbing results of this trend, but that's another topic for another day.

First Thessalonians 4:1-8 admonishes us not to wrong or "defraud" our brother or sister by implying a marital level of commitment (through sexual involvement) when it does not exist.

As I've discussed before, a broad (but sound) implication of this passage is that "defrauding" could include inappropriate emotional — as well as physical — intimacy.

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