Here are my two disagreements with Jonathan’s post on courting that appeared on this blog yesterday.
He writes this:
If you have followed the above procedure and have gotten as far as the relationship stage, I would suggest that there should be an increasingly greater level of commitment as the relationship continues to progress. In my case, I would not terminate a relationship without a very good reason once I have agreed to commit myself to the relationship. Do not take this commitment lightly.
It is important, however, that both parties take care to guard their (and each other’s) hearts, especially during the early days of the relationship, in case the relationship for whatever reason does not work out. This practice ensures that you will both be able to give your heart more completely to your future spouse. If you end up not being the husband of a girl whom you have dated, you want to be able to look that girl’s future husband in the eye and tell him with a clear conscience that you took good care to guard her heart for him.
I would suggest limiting physical contact to holding hands and the occasional hug during the early days of the relationship. Kissing should be reserved for significantly downstream in the relationship, until you have been together for a considerable period of time.
You should also avoid, whenever possible, being left alone together for long periods of time – where temptation may strike you and cause you to fall into sin. Meet together in public places or involve family and friends.
I disagree that the correct interpretation of “guard your heart” (from Proverbs 4:23) means “don’t love someone to the best of your ability until you are sure you won’t get hurt”. The correct thing to do is to love God with everything you have, and then to let that flow to others – especially others you have chosen to court because you see glimpses of who God wants them to be and you want to invest in them to get them there.
Here’s an article from Relevant that makes the point:
When it comes to our relationships, I think we’re missing something. Jesus summarizes our highest command as: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).
[...]According to Mark 12:30, Jesus wants us to be all in. And when we love Him with our all, it will help shape our perspective of earthly relationships, romantic and otherwise. When we are totally firm and secure in God’s love for us, we will be less worried about “guarding our hearts” from pain and heartbreak as we relate to others.
Jesus is the greatest example of this. He loved His Father so much He was not afraid of getting hurt by loving others. On the contrary, He died for relationships. Jesus sacrificed everything for love. He did this to restore not only our relationship with Him but our relationships with each other. His body was broken for us—not just His heart. Clearly, Jesus wasn’t afraid of a broken heart, mind or body. What would happen if we had the same perspective?
Relationships are risky business, and there’s no guarantee you won’t end up with a broken heart. But because of Christ’s love, the fear of a broken heart no longer has to be the motivating factor. 1 John 4:18 says: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” We can fulfill the greatest commandment because of God’s perfect example in the flesh.
Christ’s mission was to leave Paradise and sacrifice Himself on the altar of love. Even when it appears Jesus struggles with going through with this plan, He prays: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:42). His whole life was dedicated to making us whole; He loved us with His mind, body, heart and strength so that we might also be able to love wholly.
And here’s another support from Mars Hill Church:
The first error we can make is to guard our hearts in such a way that there is no possible way we can get hurt. We keep relationships shallow, people at arm’s length, and anyone from getting to know us at the heart level. The Bible is the most honest book ever written—it makes no claim that if we “guard our heart” we will avoid pain and heartache in this life (1 Peter 1:6–7). It is simply not God’s will for us to be isolated, walled off, and invulnerable.
I have heard the “guard your heart” barrier invoked by Christian women who urge me to read the Bible more and be more spiritual, and it makes me suspect that their sexual history is coming into play – they’ve made poor decisions with non-Christian men and now they are misusing the Bible to refuse good things to good men because of their past experience with bad men. When a woman is on a marriage track with a man, she needs to love him like she’s never been hurt.
I do not think that it is fair for bad men to be trusted MORE than good men. Women need to learn to 1) make better decisions when they choose a man (don’t choose an immoral and irreligious man in order to avoid moral/spiritual judgment and/or abandonment), and 2) to love good men as if they have never been hurt, lest those good men get sick and tired of being distrusted and pushed outside barriers, and move on to someone else.
Men like to be trusted. Men like vulnerability. Men like authenticity. Men like engagement. If we are constantly rebuffed even though we are chaste, we do move on to someone who is more lovable. I don’t think that an unchaste man deserves to have access to trust, vulnerability, authenticity and engagement – but a chaste man does. That’s what he is offering, too.
As long as the couple avoids sexual physical contact, then any break up is going to be far less painful than it would be if there were a physical (especially sexual) component. To love someone well, to build them up, to let them go do amazing things for the Lord – this does not hurt. I am still friends with women I’ve courted who hurt me, but it doesn’t last more than a month or two. Then you’re friends again and the friendship lasts.
My second disagreement with Jonathan is about kissing. For me kissing on the cheek or hand is OK, but kissing on the lips should be reserved for the day of engagement. If the man is on his knees with a ring, and she accepts, he should kiss her on the lips to seal the promise. After that, kissing on the lips is fine with me. But not before.