The term ‘dating’ that we are familiar with today actually comes from the late 1800s, 1896 to be specific. The story is that the word came from “George Ade, a columnist for the Chicago Record, in 1896. In a column about “working-class lives,” he told of a clerk named Artie whose girlfriend was losing interest in him and beginning to see other men socially. When Artie confronts his fading love, he says, “I s’pose the other boy’s fillin’ all my dates?” Taking our reference, it is pretty safe to say that the term ‘dating’ did not come from the bible. However, it is an activity which confuses many Christians and for most young adults the question “are you dating?” can be a dangerous one to ask. What may have once been a straightforward question, can be answered with several responses, from yes, not really, it’s complicated, to ask me again next week, to a straight-up NO.
As I have goten older, I have seen the term or activity of dating, less of a romantic thing but more of data collecting. Gathering as much information about someone so I can make a sound decision with the ultimate guidance of the Holy Spirit. However, men and women in the bible did not date, in fact, the word ‘date’ isn’t even in the Bible. I am pretty sure that statement stands true in the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic languages too. So how can we as modern-day, bible-believing Christians use the bible to help us how to date?
Let’s look at a trusted old testament love story where boy sees girl, girl likes boy and boy and girl get married. Let’s see what practical tips we can learn from the story of Isaac and Rebekah. Although their scenario was very typical in Eastern culture, it is not so typical in our modern-day and society. But I believe there are some beneficial lessons that can be lifted.
Be clear on your expectations
Abraham’s servant was sent with some specific instructions (Genesis 24:3-4). it was clear that the servant was to go where Abraham had come from and find a wife there and not from Canaan. There were no ‘take-backs’ on this. We could call this, Abraham’s deal-breakers and he had good reason, which was based on the instruction and word of God and verses 6-8 explain that clearly. So, what are your expectations in a partner, and have you had direction from God, via His word or revelation about that? For example, my ultimate deal-breaker is that no relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour = no relationship. I have some scripture to support that. What are yours?
Prayer is the key
When the servant got outside the city of Nahor, he cried out to God for His kindness in this matter. Matthew 7:7 is what I call the ASK rule. Ask, Seek and Knock, and keep on doing so. If you are actively dating, preparing to date, or even done with dating currently; prayer is essential. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in His will and reveal what He has for you. A powerful prayer I have been praying has been “Lord remove any unprofitable connection from my life and let me be attracted to what You have for me”. You can start from here and then let your prayers be more targeted to your situation.
Work on your character!
When Rebekah was approached, she followed the cultural rules of hospitality, she was ready and willing to do so. She knew the common practices and followed them through. She showed kindness to a stranger, something God holds dear, (Hebrews 13:2 and Exodus 22:21). And although the bible tells us Rebekah was beautiful, it wasn’t her beauty that would provide an answer to the servant’s prayer. It would be her acceptance to give him water and even water his camels (Genesis 24:14). Looks can only get us so far, character is what will sustain and carry us. Let us all be keen to do the work in our characters, regardless of our relationship status. A good checklist could be the descriptors of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22.
Community and accountability!
Abraham’s servant was not able to whisk Rebekah away without permission. He asked her where she was from, he had to present his proposition to her family. I am big a fan of this! During my early twenties I did not understand the need for community, why did people around me need to know who I dating or hanging out with? These decisions to hide my dating life didn’t fare well for me and when I was heartbroken or gone too far with someone, I had to explain myself from start to finish because those I claimed to be accountable to, had no idea. Get a community and be transparent. These are people you trust and value their input, who disciple you, mentor you and CORRECT you. In our social media age, we have become more open and secretive at the same time. Let the person you are dating or thinking of dating know, that you are no a loner in this world. You are a part of a tribe and community. Trust me, it helps.
Let your yes be yes and no be no!
When Abraham’s servant made his offer to Rebekah and her family, she was not playing! She knew exactly what she wanted, and she made it clear to those above her that she very much wanted to go, Genesis 24:55-57. Now in our day and age, it is very unlikely that someone will will be sent for you and ask you to leave with them so you can get married. But on your dating journey, when we’ve made a decision on whether we like someone or not, let us be clear on that decision. It is so heartbreaking to see, brothers and sisters in Christ, in the SAME body, treating each other so badly. Of course, sometimes, relationships break down, but if you know you’re not interested in someone, is it fair to keep spending time with them when you know they are emotionally investing in you? If you know, you don’t have the emotional, mental, financial or even spiritual capacity to date someone, why are you engaging in conversations that will essentially lead to nowhere? The honesty, transparency of both the servant and Rebekah is a major key we all ought to carry in our interactions with others, romantically or not.
So there we have it, some key lessons we can learn from an old testament love story. Let us know if there are any other lessons you have taken away from this classic love story. We know no love story is perfect, this is the same Rebekah who helped Jacob deceived Isaac, so nobody is perfect. But I enjoyed breaking down this traditional story and lifting some biblical principles for a modern-day phenomenon. I hope these tips are both helpful and practical and show that even in this area God can truly be glorified.