Genesis 24-25 Dating or Courtship? And Whats the Difference?
Before Abraham finished his life, we read in Chapter 24 of his concern for his son. He sent his servant to go and find a bride for his son. There are many marriages mentioned in Scripture,but only two marriages that we see clearly as being God-ordained. One was Adam's Eve was definitely God's choice. The other was Isaac's marriage. Rebekah was God's choice too. If someone asked me if arranged marriages was scriptural. I would have to say “Yes! I believe in marriages arranged by God!” God may arrange it through one's parents (as in Issac's case or apart from parents (as in Adam's case. The thing that matters is that it must be arrange by God.)
If you are a godly father, you will have a concern for your children's marriages. If you as a young man are fortunate enough to have a godly father, I would say that you should tale his advice very seriously. If such a godly father says “No,” to the one you want to marry, wait. God may be testing you there. Your father's “No” may only be for a time. After God sees that you are willing to respect your godly father's advice, He will give you the partner He has chosen.
Before we continue on in Chapter 24 of Genesis, let me spend a few moments on biblical principles concerning Courtship and how, unlike Dating, It is the First Step Toward Marriage.
What Is Courtship?
Understand how courtship differs from dating
Courtship is a relationship between a man and a woman in which they seek to determine if it is God’s will for them to marry each other. Under the protection, guidance, and blessing of parents or mentors, the couple concentrates on developing a deep friendship that could lead to marriage, as they discern their readiness for marriage and God’s timing for their marriage.
Have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not upon thy own prudence. In all thy ways think on him, and he will direct thy steps. Be not wise in thy own conceit: fear God, and depart from evil: (Proverbs 3:5–7).
Courtship is a choice to avoid temptation and experience the blessings of purity. It is a choice to not emotionally give away your heart, piece by piece, to many others through casual dating relationships and instead to give your whole heart to the your husband or wife.
It is a choice to wait for God’s best, for His glory. It is a decision to walk by faith, to trust in God, to honor others above yourself, and to believe that God will deal bountifully with you, because He is love.
For we walk by faith, and not by sight. (II Corinthians 5:7)
And let them trust in thee who know thy name: for thou hast not forsaken them that seek thee, O Lord. (Psalm 9:11)
Loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing (preferring) one another. (Romans 12:10)
He that loveth not, knoweth not God: for God is charity. (I John 4:8)
Because each individual, family, and set of circumstances is unique, each courtship will be unique. While those who choose courtship will hold to general guidelines for the relationship, their specific choices about when, where, and how to court may differ according to their needs and circumstances.
If, during the courtship, one or both parties realize that marriage is not God’s will and they end the relationship, the courtship has not failed. On the contrary, the courtship was successful, because God gave the direction that was sought through it.
Although the termination of a courtship most likely will be painful, damage and hurt—which can lead to bitterness—can be avoided. Both parties, as well as their families and all the people who love them, should continue to trust in the Lord and accept the grace He gives to deal with any disappointment or unfulfilled hopes.
Being justified therefore by faith, let us have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access through faith into this grace, wherein we stand, and glory in the hope of the glory of the sons of God. And not only so; but we glory also in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience trial; and trial hope; And hope confoundeth not: because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us. (Romans 5:1–5.)
Let love be without dissimulation. Hating that which is evil, cleaving to that which is good. Loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another.(Romans 12:9–10).
The Difference Between Dating and Courtship
Purpose of the Relationship
The main difference between dating and courtship involves the goals to be reached by spending time with a potential marriage partner. Men and women who choose to date often have no commitment to consider marrying the other person. Maturity and readiness for marriage are not considerations in the decision to date. Instead, couples usually date with the selfish goals of having fun and enjoying romantic attachments.
In contrast, courtship is undertaken only when both parties are prepared to make a commitment to marriage. Dating normally tries to answer the question, How can I find the one who will make me happy? Courtship strives to answer the question, How can I honor God and discern His direction regarding my Husband or wife?
Accountability to Authorities
In a dating relationship, there is little if any accountability for the couple and little or no interaction with family members. The dating couple is merely attracted to one another in some way and often pursues an exclusive relationship that is independent of others’ influence or counsel. Since the boundaries of the relationship are self-determined, the couple may easily succumb to temptation and fail to consider their responsibility to honor each other in purity and genuine love.
A couple participating in courtship seeks the accountability of their parents or other mentors. As they establish guidelines for their relationship, they can more easily recognize that God also holds them responsible to honor one another. Receiving God’s grace and the support of others strengthens them to maintain their commitment to purity.
Exposure to Temptation
In a dating relationship, self-gratification is normally the basis of the relationship. Instead of focusing on God’s pleasure, the couple is often looking for personal pleasure. This oblivious self-centeredness can lead only to dissatisfaction, promoting an attitude of lust (taking what I want) rather than the Scriptural attitude of love (giving unselfishly to others).
Consequently, dating can open the door to many temptations. If defrauding (stirring up desires that cannot be justifiably satisfied) occurs, the couple can foolishly and tragically give away both emotional and physical affections that should have been reserved for a husband or wife. Thus, in a dating relationship, frequently intimacy precedes commitment.
A courting couple can evade numerous temptations by the choice to be held accountable to God-given authorities. The dangers of defrauding can be avoided more successfully, and an honest, open friendship can be nurtured and protected. Thus, in courtship, commitment precedes intimacy.
Focus on God’s Kingdom
Since one of the most important decisions we will make is the decision of marriage, we should make every effort to know and do God’s will in this area. A dating relationship is usually based only on what the dating couple presently knows about each other. In contrast, a Biblical courtship is based on what God knows about each partner and on His plans for their futures.
Jesus gave this instruction with a promise:
“Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33).
When a person makes a growing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ the foundation of all decisions—as he or she seeks God’s kingdom—God will provide all that is needed, including the marriage partner prepared by God just for that person.
He that hath found a good wife, hath found a good thing, and shall receive a pleasure from the Lord. He that driveth away a good wife, driveth away a good thing: but he that keepeth an adulteress, is foolish and wicked. (Proverbs 18:22)
House and riches are given by parents: but a prudent wife is properly from the Lord. (Proverbs 19:14)
Concepts to consider for a successful courtship
Every individual, family, and situation is unique, and therefore, the process of each courtship is unique. What worked well for one couple might not be the best choice for another couple. The concepts presented here are helpful guidelines to consider, but the list is not exhaustive. Each couple, along with their parents or other mentors, must discern God’s direction for the specific steps of their courtship.
Courtship Is the First Step Toward Marriage
Do not enter into courtship until you are at a stage in life when marriage is a realistic possibility. Understand the importance of the decision you are making regarding marriage, and establish commitments about your relationships prior to entering a courtship. Until you are ready for marriage, ask God to lead you in developing friendships with Godly men and women, but do not try to win the affections of those friends.
The Man Initiates the Courtship
When a man senses God leading him to pursue marriage with a particular woman, he should seek counsel from God-given authorities. In most cases, he will consult his parents, but in some situations, such as in the absence of parents due to death, other Godly mentors such as a priest or a spiritual director may fill this role of counselor.
As God’s direction to pursue courtship is confirmed through the man’s authorities, through insights from God’s Word, and through prayer, he should contact the woman’s father to request permission to initiate the courtship. Only when the woman’s father has given the man his blessing to enter into a courtship relationship with his daughter is the man free to focus on winning her affections.
The Initiator of the Courtship Has Special Responsibilities
The husband, who is the head of the family, has unique responsibilities. Similarly, the man who initiates the courtship has unique responsibilities.
He should have a dynamic walk with God prior to marriage, so that he can be the spiritual leader of his family. God prepared Adam for marriage through His personal relationship with Adam—before He provided Eve as a helpmate.
He should follow the admonition of I Timothy 5:1–2 to treat all young women to whom he is not married as sisters, with absolute purity. The man should take care not to treat any woman like his wife who is not his wife. Of course, he must get to know his courting partner well enough to make a decision about marriage. However, prior to the decision to marry, he should always interact with her in a way that he would be happy for other men to interact with her.
He should demonstrate leadership and a willingness to bear the risk of rejection by defining the nature and pace of the relationship. He also should seek to ensure that an adequate amount of time is spent with their families, other couples, and friends.
He should determine how he will provide for his future family’s basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, and transportation. Prior to the union of Adam and Eve, God made provision in the Garden for all of their basic needs. (See Luke 14:28–30.)
The Couple Should Get to Know Each Other’s Families
The family plays a critical role in helping a man or woman identify characteristics and traits of a potential partner that are important to know before deciding to get married. (See Proverbs 1:7–9.)
The couple should get involved in family functions by going to each other’s homes and doing things with parents and siblings. Even if family lives far away, make the effort for potential future spouses and the families involved to get to know each other well. Family members will have a significant role in any marriage relationship, and their support throughout the years is an important component of a successful family.
Accountability Is a Key Factor
It is human nature to strive harder to achieve a goal when we know someone will be checking up on us. The courting couple should be held accountable to God-given authorities for the spiritual health and progress of their relationship, as well as for their emotional attachment and physical intimacy. In a courtship relationship, a couple turns usually to their parents to be their mentors.
Ideally, the two families will communicate with each other to establish the best way to encourage and protect the couple with a plan for accountability. Love should be the motivation for accountability, with a goal of supporting the couple’s decision to obey God and honor one another with their words and actions.
As the couple experiences the joys of a deepening friendship, they will also face many challenges. Their mentors should guide the couple, helping them keep on track and stay focused on the goals of a Biblical courtship. Mentors can hold the couple accountable to consider insightful questions to gain wisdom as God leads them forward in the relationship or directs them to end the courtship.
To defraud another person is to stir up in them desires that cannot be righteously satisfied. A woman can defraud a man by the way that she dresses, talks, or acts. A man can defraud a woman by improper touching or by talking about a marital commitment that he is not able or intending to carry out.
Failure to safeguard your affections can result in disaster. If you don’t settle this issue before temptations come, inevitably you will make choices that you will regret. As you choose to carefully guard against inappropriate emotional attachment and physical intimacy, you can avoid much heartache and pain, particularly if the relationship does not culminate in marriage.
If the courtship relationship does lead to marriage, you will discover the great rewards of being faithful and self-sacrificing to one another. Guard your heart so that you don’t ignite passions that should be reserved only for marriage. The wait will make the expression of physical intimacy that much more exciting and wonderful. Ideally, you should be able to look back at your courtship without shame or fear, confident that you honored God and each other.
The Couple Deepens Their Friendship by Spending Time Together
During courtship, the man and woman should spend as much time together as is reasonable. If they do not live close to each other, creativity and flexibility will especially be needed in order to plan opportunities for their interaction and fellowship.
As the friendship deepens, both parties are responsible to be open and honest with each other. The topics, manner, and frequency of conversations should be characterized by the desire to become acquainted with each other more deeply, but not in a way that is defrauding.
When taking time to be alone, make sure that your time is spent wisely. The temptation to go off alone and spend countless hours talking often leads to premature emotional attachments. Too much time spent alone also serves as a temptation to experiment with physical intimacy. Whatever you do—stay visible. Be accountable to your authorities. For times of private conversation, take a walk together, or do something else that offers you some privacy, but avoid seclusion.
Participating in a variety of activities together is the best way to discover each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Get out there and have fun.
Get together with like-minded friends and enjoy group activities.
Go out for dinner.
Play sports together.
Get involved in ministry together.
Read books out loud to each other.
Study the Scriptures together.
Pray with one another.
Participate in small group Bible studies and other activities at your Parish.
A Short Courtship Is Best
There are practical reasons for keeping courtship short and not extending it longer than necessary. Obviously, as the couple’s hearts are knit together through their deepening friendship, it will become more and more challenging to manage emotional attachment and remain objective in the decision-making process. When they both sense God’s direction to move forward to the commitments of engagement and marriage, and this direction is confirmed by their authorities, they should joyfully take those steps.
A long courtship can become confusing and frustrating, often leading to disillusionment. Also, the deeper the friendship becomes, the more painful a separation will be, if the courtship does not lead to marriage. The couple should seriously, earnestly seek for God’s direction, and the parents or mentors involved should not unnecessarily lengthen the process of courtship.
While single, both the man and woman are free to concentrate on pleasing the Lord. However, married couples are directed by the Lord to see how they can please one another. (See I Corinthians 7.) During the time of courtship, neither person is able to focus his or her full attention on either of these goals. Therefore, a lengthy courtship should be avoided.
Remember the Goals of the Courtship
Throughout the courtship, both the man and the woman should diligently seek to find out whether they should be married—whether they can serve and honor God better together than apart. As they seek the Lord’s will together, they will discern God’s direction for the courtship. (See Proverbs 3:5–7.)
It is important for both the man and woman to understand that a decision to enter into a courtship is not a commitment to marry. The goal of courtship is to determine if the couple should get married or not, according to God’s direction. It is likely that many Godly men and women will participate in more than one courtship before God leads them to the right life partner.
Receive Hope and Healing if the Courtship Is Ended
As soon as one of the individuals discerns that marriage is not God’s will, with the counsel and affirmation of his or her parents, the courtship should be ended. If either person or any of their family members or friends are tempted to become bitter about the outcome of the courtship, they should remind themselves of the goals of the courtship: to discern God’s best, for His glory.
By God’s grace, instead of becoming bitter, everyone involved can choose to have a grateful heart for the provision of God’s direction and the protection that was afforded by a Biblical courtship. The conclusion of a courtship can be painful, and the couple should seek the support of parents, mentors, and friends, and the Lord’s healing. (See Psalm 147:3).
Each one can find hope in God’s promise: “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee." (Psalm 84:11–12). God wants to guide every man and woman to His best provision for each of them. (See Jeremiah 29:11–13.)
Marriage is part of God’s plan for most of His children, as is evidenced clearly in Scripture. “And the Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself.” (Genesis 2:18). “He that hath found a good wife, hath found a good thing, and shall receive a pleasure from the Lord.” (Proverbs 18:22).
These basic guidelines are recommended to encourage you to honor God’s design for marriage, even before you enter into it. Jesus said: “Who answering, said to them: Have ye not read, that he who made man from the beginning, Made them male and female? And he said: For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:4–6). A Biblical courtship will bring honor to the Lord and will contribute to the prosperity of a lifelong covenant marriage relationship.