The Dangers of Dating
By Richard Bacon
Copyright © 2000 First Presbyterian Church of Rowlett
(From The Blue Banner, v. 9 #4-6, April/June 2000)

[This is the second of a four part series on the subject of finding a life partner and the danger and evils of ‘dating.’ The first part, Dating: Finding a Life Partner, appeared in the December 1998 issue of The Blue Banner, volume 7, number 12. The third part, Dating and Courtship, appeared in The Blue Banner, v11#4. The fourth, Practicing for Divorce, may appear in print in the future. These four lectures form a part of the 25 tape series, A Directory for Domestic Duties, for which see a notice in the advertisements for audio tapes at the end of this issue.]

In the first part of this four part series, we began dealing with how one goes about finding a husband or a wife – a life mate. Last week we studied why this is so important: once married, forever married. Once we have made that marriage covenant, once we have made that marriage contract, it is inviolable by us. We must indeed keep the promises we have made to God. Even as the king (Psalm 61) who makes vows must keep those vows, so must everyone who makes a vow before the Lord keep their vows. The only biblical exception is if a maiden makes a vow without her father’s knowledge or consent. As soon as the father finds out about the vow, he may annul it. But he has to do it as soon as he finds out about it. If he does not annul it immediately, his silence is regarded as consent. Let us learn from this a further Scriptural principal: when we give silence to anything about which we have knowledge, we have consented. According to our place and stations, we have a responsibility to speak against that which is in error, or that which is wrong, or that which is immoral. We need to remember that this principle applies to us according to our places and stations. We must speak in the proper manner and place. Nevertheless, we dare not remain silent in the face of injustice. If we do, we have, by our silence, consented to the injustice.

In part one we began to look at dating — the system used in this country, and throughout the western world, for finding a life partner. The first thing we saw that was wrong with it was that it makes a mockery of parental supervision, oversight and authority in the lives of young people who are of an age to look for a life’s partner. Remember how Rebecca’s soul was grieved within her when Esau married women from among the Hittites? Basically, he had begun dating some of the unbelievers in the neighborhood. As a result of that dating, he married with unbelievers. He married with idolaters outside the covenant, and it grieved his mother’s heart.

Inordinate Desires

We are going to deal with a second problem this morning, and that is the problem of lust. Lust is an inordinate desire for anything. Lust is when you desire something either more than you ought, or in a way that you ought not. There are perfectly legitimate desires in life. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul spoke of his desire for people to be saved. He spoke of his desire to see people come to the Lord Jesus Christ. He spoke of his desire to preach the gospel — so much so that he said in verse 16, “woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” What a strong desire that is! Unlike the stoics, we do not say that desires are inordinate because they are strong! We ought to have strong passions and strong desires. A desire becomes inordinate — a lust — when it is either for the wrong thing, or it is held by the wrong person, or it is exercised in the wrong way. That is what we mean by an inordinate desire. It is one that is not bounded properly by God’s word; one that is outside the ordinances of God.
The Nature of Fallen Men and Women

Why is lust one of the problems with dating to find a mate? It is because men lust for women, and women lust to be lusted after by men. Men are more keyed to the visual. Men are more keyed to what they see. Thus Jesus taught in Matthew 5:28, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” He has already committed adultery with her in his thinking, in his heart. He has already turned it over in his mind; he has already given in to the inordinate desire for her. Job said in Job 31:1, “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” The lust gets into the heart through the “eye-gate.”

Women, on the other hand typically lust to be lusted after. This is one of the things that makes us different As you look through the animal world, the way God made birds and mammals and so forth, which is usually the more ornate, the more beautiful? All things else being equal, generally speaking, the male is the more ornate of the two. For instance, of the cardinals, the male is the bright red one and the female is the dull brownish-red one. But in the human species, what do women do? They dress themselves up to be the more ornate, do they not? Why? Because it is the nature of women to lust to be lusted after.
True Beauty

Why is it that Peter warns women about plaiting their hair and about wearing gold jewelry? It is not because plaited hair or gold is in and of itself evil. In fact, according to Genesis chapter two, the gold of that land was good. The reason that Peter dissuades the women from plaiting their hair and wearing gold ornaments and jewelry is because they tend to think of that as beauty rather than thinking of what God calls beauty as beauty. Why is it that we Presbyterians refrain from decorating our walls and putting up statues and making our houses of worship as ornate as do others? It is because we believe that the beauty of holiness is preferred to the ‘wanna-be’ holiness of beauty. Now, that is not to say that we do not want beautiful things, which we do. But we need to be careful that they do not become to us an inordinate lust.

Flee Youthful Lusts

In 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul tells young Timothy[1] to flee youthful lusts and follow “righteousness, faith, charity and peace, with them that call on the Lord with a pure heart.” In Romans 14:13-14, Paul writes “Let us walk honestly as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wontonness, not in strife and envying, but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” The main thing that dating does, with respect to inordinate desires of the flesh, is to make provision for the flesh. What is it to make provision for the flesh? Someone who intends to go on a diet, but goes to the bakery and stocks up on cakes and puts some in the refrigerator has made provision to break that diet. And so Paul tells us here not only to flee youthful lusts, but also not to make any provision! Don’t stock it up in the refrigerator! Don’t put things aside hoping to come back to them later. But what are we doing when we set aside Friday night or Saturday night as date night, when we set aside such time to spend alone with some member of the opposite sex who is not our spouse? We are making provision for the lusts of the flesh.

Note, if it is necessary for us to avoid sin, then it is wise and lawful for us to avoid temptation. We ought to avoid that which tempts us to sin. Do we not pray in the Lord’s Prayer that He would not lead us into temptation? And yet, so often, He does not have to lead us into temptation, does He? We find our way there all by ourselves. These verses tell us that we are to avoid sin and we are also to avoid the occasion of sin.
Disheartening Statistics

I am not going to go into the details -- just the facts without the details are disheartening enough. According to both Northwestern University Medical School and Barna research, over half (55%) of evangelical youth, have engaged in the sex act by the time they reach age eighteen. Is it any wonder that people cannot see the difference between the church’s children and the pagans’? Nearly three-fourths of them (74%) have engaged in some level of sexual immorality by the age of eighteen.

Why is that? In part at least, it is because the world’s movies, the world’s literature, the world’s television, the world’s songs, the world’s radio, the world’s culture, are all telling our children that there is nothing wrong with it. In fact, the world claims, that is what love is. Yet, these same movies and literature and television and songs and radio do not warn our children about date rape and about unconsummated sex. And where do such things go on? They go on in cars. And why are that young man and young woman together in a car? Because they are on a date. And it results in fornication, guilt, pregnancy, disease, abortion, estrangement and bitterness.

The Bible does tell us about these things, and that is why we need to follow God’s way instead of the way of the world. That is why we need to look to God’s Word for instruction on how to find a life partner instead of looking to the world for instructions on how to find a life partner. We know how things end up when we do it the world’s way. We have seen that! It ends up in teen pregnancy, it ends up in welfare, it ends up in diseases like AIDS. People are dying from this sin! Yet it goes on. And how dare we — how dare we — think that our children are somehow different so that they will not be infected by the world when they do things the world’s way. That is not faith. That is just plain presumption. It is presuming upon the grace of God.
Awaken Not Love Before Its Time.

Well, the Bible it seems to me does have the answer. I agree with those Puritan divines who understood the book of the Song of Solomon to have reference to Christ and His bride the church. However, remember that when the Song of Solomon speaks, even in that symbolic way, it does use that language of male and female love. We can learn much from the Song of Solomon about that subject. Song of Solomon 2:7: “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and by the hinds of the fields, that you stir not up nor awake love until it please.”[2] This means: ‘Do not stir up or awaken love until it is the right time, until it is the pleasing time, until it is the right time for it to happen.’ In Song of Solomon 3:5 it says “I charge you, O ye Daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and by the hinds of the field, that ye not stir up nor awake love until it is the right time,” – i.e. until it pleases, until it is appropriate, until it is the blessed time. There is almost the same thought repeated in 8:4. Now, whenever a verse like that is repeated almost verbatim three times in the same book, it practically takes on the nature of the theme of the book. We are not to awaken, we are not to arouse, and we are not to stir up the desires of male-female love until it is the right time.

When people date and spend time alone together, is it not the case that love is being awakened, and stirred up? Not just the physical desires, but the emotional and spiritual desires as well. Doug Wilson, the pastor of a Protestant church up in Moscow, Idaho, has said that when a person gives himself or herself to another person emotionally and spiritually, they cannot refrain from giving themselves to them bodily any more than you can unroll the left end of a carpet without unrolling the right end of the carpet. When a man and a woman give themselves to each other emotionally and spiritually, giving of themselves bodily follows as well. So, Solomon here in the Song of Solomon cautions us not to stir up love, not to stir up that feeling, not to stir up that attachment until it is the right time.

As to the statistics mentioned earlier, it behooves to ask how it could happen. They have been taught better, haven’t they? Yet they go out and do it in spite of all the good counsel they have received. It happens anyway. How does it happen? Romantic desire is stirred up. A boy and a girl together, alone, unsupervised, untrained, in the dark, in a traveling bedroom; a bedroom on wheels. That is how it happens.

But the Bible says to flee youthful lusts and to give no occasion to the devil. If it is unlawful for us to do, then it is wise for us to avoid. We are to avoid that which stirs it up. We should avoid that which stirs up inordinate desires.
Men: Make a Covenant with Your Eyes

So, keeping in mind the fact that men lust after women, what are men to do? We do as Job did, and we make a covenant with our eyes that we should not look upon a maid. I believe it was Luther who said that temptation is like a bird flying overhead. You cannot help it when a bird flies over, but you can keep it from building a nest in you hair. Yes, from time to time, you will see women who are immodestly dressed, and that is the time to avert your eyes. What became of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife when they spent time together alone? It was only because of Joseph’s commitment to God that he was able to withstand her seductions. And what did he do? He ran away! He fled youthful lusts. What were they doing? They were spending time together alone. Yet even as righteous as Joseph was, it gave Potiphar’s wife occasion to lie about him when he was alone with her. Men, do not spend time alone with young women, or with other men’s wives.

Women: Dress Modestly

And also, keep in mind that women lust to be lusted after. Women should watch their clothing; watch their apparel; watch the way they make themselves up. Now, I realize that part of the lust, part of the desire that goes on in a man’s heart is biological and part of it is cultural. In certain cultures, because some things are forbidden to be looked at, they are taboo, as it were. Just looking at them causes us to be stirred up. We should avoid anything doubtful. If there is any doubt about it, cover it up. Now, I am not saying that dresses have to be this far off the ground and this far below the knee, and that the preacher and elders need to go around with a tape measure. That would be legalism. I’m suggesting the same kind of thing that Paul said he would do in 1 Corinthians 9: I’ll lay down my liberty rather than cause a brother to stumble. Ladies, that is what I am asking you to do and to teach your daughters to do. Lay down any liberties you may think you have in order to keep a brother from stumbling. That is not unreasonable. Again, if it is doubtful, cover it up. Something that is modest when you are standing up, ladies, may not be modest when you are sitting down. Especially given the height sometimes today of car-seats and so forth, as you are driving down the road, or as you are seated even in a pew, you need to keep modesty in mind.

So, we have talked about spending time together alone, and about immodest apparel. How about idleness? Did you ever stop and think about how your mind wanders and which direction it wanders in when you are idle? My grandmother always said that idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Well, that principle is in the Bible. When we are not about our callings; when we are not doing the things that God would have us to do, then, as likely as not, we are over here in the area in which we are being tempted. We are not fleeing youthful lusts. One of the worst things that we can have, is time on our hands. It can be so detrimental to us simply because of how our minds work. King David should have been off at war when he was tempted to sin with Bathsheba.

Another thing to avoid is emotional and spiritual involvement with somebody too soon. Again, we cannot give ourselves to someone emotionally and spiritually without other things just following naturally. So, if we avoid that which stirs up lusts we are fleeing youthful lust. And what were those things? No time together alone, no immodest apparel, no idleness, and no emotional and spiritual involvement too soon.

Choosing Someone to Love

We do not need to learn everything there is to know about someone before we get married. Here is a personal anecdote. I did not have a parent or church session that was interested in helping me choose a wife. I really did not have many older brothers in the Lord who were interested in counseling me about how to choose a wife either. So, I know I made some mistakes -- not mistakes in whom I chose but mistakes made in the way I went about doing it. Nevertheless, I want you to think about whether or not God would have you to do something very similar to the approach I took. Once I decided it was time to get married, one of the things that I did was to sit down with a pad and a pencil and write down what it was that I thought God wanted me to look for in a wife. Then I spent time observing how the women on campus behaved. I watched to see which women would pick up their tray in the cafeteria and carry it back to the kitchen instead of expecting somebody else to do it for them. I watched to see which ones were dressed modestly. I watched to see which ones were at the events that I thought a sober-minded person should attend, and which ones were absent from those events. In other words, I was looking for an out-working of the qualities that I expected to find: a sober-minded, modest, helpful, humble, and submissive woman. As I saw those things being worked out in several young women’s lives, I had a list that I narrowed down from around twelve hundred women to five young ladies. The commitment that I had to my list at that point was that I was willing to marry any of them. Whichever one I married is the one I would love.

Here is the point: First you choose who you are going to love, then you love the one you chose. Do not become emotionally involved with your choice before you make it. Make your choice based on biblical principles. Do not settle for less than God’s best. Make that list, know what it is that you are looking for and then observe to see who it is that is living that way. That is a story from my life; it’s an anecdote and not Bible. But it certainly is a way of unemotionally — that is, pre-emotionally — selecting someone whom you will then chose to love.
Westminster Larger Catechism

The Westminster Larger Catechism on the Seventh commandment has some pertinent things to say on this subject.[3] The seventh commandment requires not only the preservation of our own chastity but the preservation of our neighbor’s. That means that not only does God require you to maintain your own chastity in body, mind, affection, word and behavior, but also the preservation of it in others. Not only that, but it requires that you shun all occasions of uncleanness, and it requires that you resist all temptations thereunto. “Watchfulness over the eyes, all the senses, temperance, keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel, marriage by those that have not the gift of constancy, conjugal love, co-habitation, diligent labor in our callings [remember what we said about idleness], shunning all occasions of uncleanness, fleeing youthful lusts, and resisting temptations thereunto.” In accordance with the Westminster Larger Catechism, clearly what I have advocated is not at all unusual. The system of dating as the pagans practice it in this country is completely contrary to question 138 of our Larger Catechism, which we understand simply to be an exposition of the requirements of the seventh commandment.

Larger Catechism Question 139 talks about that which is forbidden in the seventh commandment. It forbids unclean imagination. Now it may be that there are people who can go to certain stage plays and movies and look at certain books and pictures and sing certain songs and not have unfruitful, lascivious, unclean imaginations. But I doubt it. We should just avoid these things: Unclean imaginations, unclean thoughts, unclean purposes, unclean affections — even foolish talking and jesting. We are to take ourselves out of situations where these things may prove a temptation. I suppose it is possible that the Westminster Divines had dirty jokes in mind here, the kind of thing men may hear at work. We should just shut our ears to them. We surely do not repeat them, and as much as lies within us, we shut our ears to them. If it is happening at the water cooler, start bringing a thermos of water to work. Shun such things as may cause you to stumble.

Warning and Admonition to Parents

If those who are past the age where hormones are still surging through their bodies, find it difficult because of the lust of the eyes, how much more difficult is it for children, who are going through puberty, who do have the various hormones of puberty surging through their bodies at a level that will never be repeated? Parents have a responsibility to keep their children from being stumbled. Jesus said if we let a little one be stumbled, or if we cause a little one to stumble, it were better for us if we had a millstone attached to our necks and we were cast into the sea. It would be better for you if that happened. So there is some fate worse than that in store for those who stumble one of these little covenant children. Parents, when we put our daughters and our sons in that rolling bedroom alone after dark with no supervision, asking them only to be home before midnight, it is hard telling what temptations they will be confronted with before they get home. And we dare not so stumble our children. To keep that from happening, from the very earliest stages, from the very earliest days, raise your children explaining to them that Christians do not find a life partner the same way the world tries to find one.

[1] Although Paul refers to Timothy as youthful, Timothy was not some sixteen-year old teenager. Timothy was a mature man. He simply was not as old as some of the men in the church, and compared to Paul he wasn’t an old man.

[2] In the King James Version, the word ‘my’ has been supplied by the translators; it is not there in the original.

[3] Westminster Larger Catechism 138-139.