“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).
If Christian courtship is to be properly approached, then it demands first of all a proper definition. Our young people and their parents must know what covenant courtship involves. They must believe in their hearts the spiritual nature of a covenant relationship and seek to apply biblical principles in their relationships. Only then will their relationships and marriages be strong. Only then will their families be spiritually happy ones. Only then will the church grow in true spiritual strength and unity. Only then will the cause of God’s covenant be established and promoted in the midst of this world.
A Christian courtship is most importantly a relationship between two individuals with God at its center. In his sovereign providence, God brings a young man and a young woman together. Whether they are in the same locality, church or denomination, the covenant God in his wisdom causes their individual paths to cross. It is important to know that God does this in eternity. According to his eternal counsel he has purposed the specific young man and woman to meet, engage in courtship and then marry. The sovereign God does not simply leave it to the will of his children to decide by themselves whom they will marry, but leads them by his hand each step of the way. Christian courtship is therefore covenant courtship because God is the source of the couple’s life and journey together. This is a profound truth which deeply humbles the child of God as he considers the extensive power of God’s providence.
Covenant courtship is essentially covenantal because these two individuals are friends of the living God. They delight to be intimate friends with each other because they share a common, intimate friend. Courtship with unbelievers is not covenantal because they are the enemies of God. This is why the apostle sternly warns believers against being unequally yoked together with unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14-17). Therefore only a couple who are equally yoked together will grow in true love because that love is rooted in God. God binds them in holy union as members of his covenant.
In covenant courtship, God is the head of the couple. He governs the couple’s way of thinking, feeling and deciding on issues during the course of their relationship. He rules by leading them according to his Word and Spirit. He directs their minds to the Holy Scriptures and governs their relationship by his revealed will. A godly couple thirsts for the Spirit’s guidance and instruction. No wonder a couple that prays together stays together!
Covenant courtship prepares a young person to leave his father and mother and to cleave inseparably to his wife. It must be approached with all seriousness because it must always be done with a view to marriage—a lifelong commitment. Relationships are not playthings. They involve a great degree of emotional attachment, often leaving painful scars when not properly handled. Far too often these relationships end in breakups because they were not given due seriousness when they were established.
What beautifully characterizes covenant courtship is the spiritual unity established and growing between both believers. Together they are bound by the same faith, truth and love for each other and for the God who has first united them in his eternal love. This unity is an expression of the unity that Christ shares with his bride, the church. As the couple grows in their love for God, for his covenant, his truth and his kingdom, so do they grow united in their love for each other. Together they become one as this unity finally reaches its strongest manifestation in marriage.
Covenant parents play a crucial role in the way their children engage in courtship. What kind of partners their children choose is strongly dependent on the instruction given by them and the way they live with each other in the home. Indeed Scripture insists on training up a child to prepare him for covenant courtship and marriage. Covenant instruction is the instrument that God uses to save his people and their seed.
So then we shall proceed in further depth what covenant courtship entails. May our covenant God establish our minds and teach our willful hearts his truth on this subject, so that we may humbly obey to his glory and our eternal good. In the next issue, the Lord willing, we will explore the topic of “choosing wisely.”