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Conduct in Courtship

For those of us who are "second-generation" Christians, our "survival rate" is unfortunately very low--even among the homeschooled variety, to whom I am mainly referring. It would be easy to become sidetracked on the many causes for this falling away, but letís now look at the effect; we of the "second-generation" who desire to remain steadfast and faithful to Godís ways, and unpolluted by the world, are an endangered species! As is also often the case with an endangered species--isolation from others of the same kind is one of our greatest enemies. As an example; how many young Christian men do you know, or have known of, who, being in their late 20ís, 30ís or even 40ís, are still unmarried--some of them still desperately searching for a suitable young lady to be their wife--others having given up their search in despair? If those who spring to my mind are anything to go by, Iím sure you can think of an improportionate number who fit into that category. Iíve just used believing men here as an example--though Iím sure there are many faithful young women who find themselves in a similar predicament--but now, please start counting the number of weddings you have known of, within Godly circles over the past 5 years (you should only need one hand). Something tells me itís time we had a close look at the way we do things, because somethingís not working...

Too many parents are failing their children, and too many children are failing their parents and their God. Itís simply unacceptable--yet many parents seem to accept it with a shrug and say; "Well itís their life now--itís up to them--if they sink...thatís just too bad, because Iíve done my bit..." and too many children just cruise straight through life, ignoring the consequences of their actions, and forgetting how many of their brothers and sisters or friends are watching their example, looking for a role-model. Now--suppose you do meet the right young lady, or a suitable young gentleman... What next?

New Ground...

With so few real role-models worthy of following, many young Christian folk, whom youíd think would know better, falter at this point, while others, also through a lack of good guidance and suitable examples, just donít know what is right and wrong when it comes to this most important, yet wonderful aspect of life--courtship. Indeed, often itís not a case of an easily defined "right" and "wrong," but more, whatís proper and whatís improper. When we begin courting the one we may think is going to be our future bride or bridegroom, weíre suddenly on new ground, where weíve never been before--where we probably havenít seen anyone else before--and in most cases, our parents havenít been there either, having in all likelihood been brought up with the worldís ways of dating, and so on.

In order to do all things "decently and in order," (1st Corinthians 14:40) we are left with what evidence we can find in the Bible, and the examples left to us from more Godly societies, in more Godly places, at more Godly times in the past. As unfortunately very little is actually written specifically concerning courtship in the Bible, we must go by the general principles found throughout.

Arranged Marriages?

Most of the examples we find in the Bible seem to indicate more of an arranged marriage situation, which may not necessarily seem all that agreeable with some, but I think that if things are "arranged" by all who are involved--the parents of the young woman, the young woman herself, the young man, and his parents--then it is a much safer and more satisfactory method of choosing a future spouse, than those used in our society today. After all, our parents are generally much older and wiser than we, having been both young and old--and thus probably can see more clearly, without our clouds of emotion to inhibit their judgment on what is indeed best for us in the long run. I certainly am not, for a moment, suggesting that a son, or daughter, is in any way obliged to marry against their will--for what righteous father, with the best interests of his daughter at heart, would ask her to marry a man she did not love? Even in the case of Isaac and Rebekah, we read, "And they said, 'We will call the damsel and enquire at her mouth.' And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, ĎWilt thou go with this man?í And she said, ĎI will go.í" (Genesis 24:57 & 58)

But what I am saying, is that Rebekahís marriage to Isaac was still arranged with her parents, as with many of the examples we are given in the Bible. To mention but a few...

"...and he [Jethro] gave Moses Zipporah his daughter..." (Exodus 2:21)

"...and he [Caleb] gave him [Othniel the son of Kenaz] Achsah his daughter to wife..." (Joshua 15:17)

"And he [Samson] came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, 'I have seen a woman in Timnath therefore, get her for me to wife'..." (Judges 14:2)

Be this as it may, however, just remembering at the very least, that the permission of a young ladyís father ought to be sought at every step of the courtship/engagement (betrothal)/marriage process.

Godly Standards

The Bible places great emphasis on the reputation of a young woman. For instance, in the law, if a man untruthfully claimed that the young woman he was marrying had not kept herself pure prior to marriage--"And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him... because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel..." (Deuteronomy 22:18ó19)

Thus, following the principle illustrated here, we must be careful not only in the way we actually behave (if the manís accusation proved correct in this instance, the young woman would have been stoned to death) but also we must be aware of the way our behavior is perceived by others, so that a young womanís honor and reputation cannot be tainted by rumors, or the suspicions of others, and that no "reviling accusation" may be brought against us. Thus, the "out-of-date" and "old-fashioned" concept of chaperoning for courting couples is justified as having much merit in it. In other words, an unmarried, unbetrothed man and woman should not be together out of sight of others who can be called upon as witnesses to their chaste conduct.

Down through history, within most God-fearing nations of the "western" world, we find much more clearly defined social rules for preserving chastity within society. For instance, up until around a hundred years ago, within many various European cultures, if a man so much as greeted a young woman by her first name, without first obtaining permission to court her from her father, he could reasonably expect to be warned in no uncertain terms (either verbally or physically...) by the young maidenís father or older brothers. Though of course this is going to extremes, compare that with todayís standards!

Doing it Right!

It was the expected duty of the young man ó if a young lady had taken his fancy, and he wanted to become better acquainted with her, with a view to marriage--to go and speak with her Father and formally request permission to court his daughter. In this manner, the young man would know where he stood with his potential father-in-law right from the start--the daughter would know that she was hiding nothing from her parents, and could therefore be more open with them, in seeking advice, etc.--the father would know what his daughter was doing, and could expect to see more of the young man, and to get to know his potential son-in-law better (or if, on the other hand, the man was, for some reason ineligible, or in some way offensive enough to make him unsuitable as a husband, he could steer him away from his daughter right at the beginning) and those looking on would understand where the young couple stood, and that all things were again being done decently and in order...

Once this permission has been obtained, I think it a wise and proper thing that any show of intimacy be reserved until the couple is betrothed, again for the sake of the young ladyís reputation. To an extent, I think at this stage the finer points of proper conduct during courtship, and then engagement, have to be governed by what the young ladyís father determines as acceptable ó and the young coupleís conscience.

An appropriate piece of advice I once read, dating back to around the time we were talking of, when virtue was still a part of society, went something like this: "Young men--until marriage, always treat a lady as you would have another man treat your future wife--for as yet you do not know whether this lady will indeed be your wife..." And I think that makes a good benchmark by which to judge all our actions in this area--donít you?

When things were done in a manner somewhat like this--when society had a stable, time-tested moral framework and known guidelines based on chastity at all times--we had a much more pleasant society where we would all have known where we stood, and right and wrong were clearly defined. In such an environment, one could be truly happy at a wedding, because weíd know that both bride and groom had kept themselves pure for each other, right up until that most important of all days in their lives--and one could truly rejoice at hearing of the arrival of a new-born baby, because weíd know the mother was married to its proud father, and the child would grow up in a Godly home.

Therefore, let us aim at getting back to that way, where men truly behave as chivalrous gentlemen, and women are virtuous ladies--and where there cannot be any opportunity for doubts to be raised about our conduct.

Come on--letís raise the standard and show the world THERE IS A BETTER WAY!

This essay was written by Joshua Morris.