Some thoughts on Christian dating apps
Navigating through romantic relationships in a porn-filled, Tinder-loving, swipe-right culture is difficult enough for anyone.
How much more for Christians who God calls to purity, peace and patience? (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
Enter Christian online dating platforms.
These new social networks have been planted into fertile soil – a society which believes that we can’t be human without sex, a church culture which celebrates marriage over singleness, and our human hearts which want to control our own lives.
So they’re growing. Fast.
But like anything in the Christian life; we have to think hard about what it looks like to pursue godliness in our use of them. We have to think hard about how the Bible talks about relationships and marriage and then apply it in the context of online dating apps.
So here are three cautions and three pieces of advice to help you do that.
Caution #1: “We’re all Christians, right?”
Christian dating isn’t about casual hook-ups or even having a bit of fun. We date because we’re asking ourselves if this relationship would make for a God-glorifying marriage.
Behind your decision to follow Jesus, this could prove the single most influential decision on the rest of your life – one that will cause you to flourish or flounder in your faith.
But a flourishing marriage isn’t guaranteed because all the potential daters you’re swiping through are Christians.
There are misguided Christians out there. Christians who think church is an option; that the Bible is a good guide but not much more; that being saved by grace means that we’re free to live how we want.
These differences may seem small. But imagine if one rail of a train track were out by a few degrees with the other one. Within a few miles, the train would derail itself.
Over decades, what seem small differences in belief begin to grow into arguments, into full-blown differences in opinion about which church to go to, how to raise kids, whether to have kids…
So if you’re using dating apps, how might you go about finding a great spouse?
Advice #1: Ask Intentional Questions
When your relationship moves on from messaging to meeting face-to-face, ask your date questions. I’m not suggesting you ask them to sign a statement of faith before going. But take the conversation beyond hobbies, mates and work.
Ask them about church. How they serve. What they were struck by after Sunday’s sermon. And later – but not after you’ve fallen for them so whatever they say makes no difference – ask them how they see their life in ten years.
Do they want children? What’s their view on this or that controversial issue of theology? Could God use your life and service better together than apart?
It might seem intense. But if you’re not in a more natural environment where these things come out over time, this level of intensity might be necessary to ensure this relationship could work.
Caution #2: What are you looking for?
Online Christian platforms tend to have space for a small bio. This is a good thing, but let’s face it: how much can you tell about a person from a bio?
The result is that our decision to click ‘match’ with someone will be largely linked to how they look.
This isn’t all bad. It’s a good thing to be attracted to the person you’re dating. The problem is that we tend to believe that attraction is primarily about what someone looks like.
Ask anyone in a godly marriage and they’ll tell you that their spouse becomes more attractive as they age. This is because a person’s character gives a person a deeper beauty (1 Peter 3:3). And this character growth increases over the course of life.
So that person you just swiped past really had no chance of showing their beauty. So what can you do?
Advice #2: Take it very slowly
Any kind of dating is best taken slowly. But even more so online dating.
We’re all on our best behaviour when we first start getting tables for two. Our true selves only come out over time in different contexts – with friends, at work, on a Sunday morning.
If you belong to different churches, it will take longer to see a person’s sin as well as the Spirit’s work in their life.
(But one thing not to be slow about is meeting face-to-face. Messaging for weeks gives you time to imagine that there’s a perfect person typing away behind the screen. Don’t fall for someone who isn’t there! Meeting up sooner rather than later is fair to both parties.)
Caution #3: Are you doing this alone?
Our biggest concern about these apps should be how private they are.
The Bible has no category for believers to be alone. To be a follower of Jesus is to be a member of his body (1 Corinthians 12:13).
And yet the vast majority of our online interactions on dating apps will be away from other people. They happen between one person and another – away from Christian community.
Contrast this with becoming friends with someone in your church, and seeing that friendship flourish into something more.
You know the people who know him or her. They probably know the people who know you and what you’re really like. There’s no hiding. There’s no show.
As Jesus’ body and bride, church is where we’re known, challenged, and loved. The wise voice of godly people at church, speaking into your relationship should be received with gratitude. And acted on.
But who’s speaking into online interactions?
And do we trust ourselves to meet privately and not end up not pushing boundaries? Or worse, end up sleeping with that person in the safety of knowing that there’ll be no consequences at church?
This is what King David did: ‘But the thing David had done displeased the Lord’ (2 Samuel 11:27). And if he could do this, I certainly could too.
Of course, you may say: There’s no single people in my church who are my age. If so, here’s the best piece of advice for Christian online daters…
Advice #3: Welcome others into your relationship
If a relationship is forming with someone you’ve met online, you should look for as many opportunities to conduct that relationship, not away from church family, but with them.
When you go to the cinema together, why not bring along some friends from your church? Have you invited them to your small group? A Sunday service? Why not serve together at the local homeless shelter or on a summer camp?
This approach has two big upsides.
Firstly, it will enable the people God has put around you to speak godly wisdom into your relationship (Proverbs 12:15).
And secondly, and importantly, if this relationship does end in marriage, it sets you on the right path toward everything a Christian marriage should be – a shared mission to enjoy and spread the fame of Jesus Christ in the local church and beyond.
Asking ourselves if we can commit to and serve with this person for the rest of our lives is what dating is all about.
Whether we meet our date online, through friends or at church, we need to make sure that we’re on the same page with what we believe, we must see their character over time, and we should participate together in the life of the church.