Christian Courtship

I have come across this theme of "Courtship", or "Courtship versus Dating", several times in the past few weeks, and there was one thing that made me stop and think:

Whenever a young Christian lady or gentleman writes about it, they seem to feel the need to start out with a kind of "disclaimer", saying that courtship is different from family to family, or couple to couple, and that what follows are just some personal ideas, guidelines, or expectations. Then they usually continue by elaborating on purity of heart and body, and by stating that courtship differs from dating furthermore because it is meant to lead to marriage. Some writers mention their parents, how they supervise or guide the courtship process, others don't. Some hold that courtship is basically about finding the one spouse Yahweh has made especially for you, others don't.

While there certainly are things to say about the idea of a "split apart", and whether or not it is actually biblical, which I won't do here, and while there certainly is something to say about the role of the parents in the courtship process according to Scripture, which I will do later, what strikes me first of all is that Christians seem to lack a general, reliable and valid guideline for courtship. Nobody seems to know where to turn to to find such a guideline, and so they make one up, basically, and call it a family idiosyncrasy. 

Some read the most popular books on the matter that a quick search on amazon's website will provide, with titles like "Her Hand in Marriage: Biblical Courtship in the Modern World", "Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship", or "When God Writes Your Love Story: The Ultimate Approach to Guy/Girl Relationships". Others only involve the family circle in the matter, but overall, there seems to be a lot of guessing and praying going on, so that one may be led on the right path. Please do not get me wrong, praying is certainly an important thing when it comes to courtship, but in this case, it would still be a very personal matter, and most probably won't lead to a general Christian guideline on courtship.

And so I am wondering: Why do people not turn to the bible for guidelines in this very important matter ? Why do they rely on their own, or some author's understanding, rather than turning to the one and only reliable guide that Yahweh graciously placed in our hands, His Word ? Well, I do not know why, of course, but I would like to mention here on my humble blog a few things that Scripture says about "courtship".

"Where do we find instances of courtship in Scripture ?", was my first question with which I opened my ESV. And I did not have to look far into the book, because there are only two explicit examples of young men acquiring their brides, if we exclude the cases of Esther and Ruth, as both do not really apply these days: Hardly anyone becomes queen by winning a "beauty contest" anymore, as in Esther's case, or is ransomed by her kinsman redeemer like Ruth. The two cases I am talking about are both to be found in Genesis: I am talking about Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 24), and Jacob, Rachel and Leah (Gen 29). Whatever else we find in Scripture concerning betrothal and marriage guidelines, mainly in the case laws, are regulations as to whom not to marry (which amounts to "close kinfolks") and what to do if someone tries to avoid taking responsibility for a woman he has made his wife.

"What do these two cases tell us about courtship ?", was my next question. Comparing the two cases, you find that both Isaac and Jacob are to take wives not from among the Canaanites, but from their own people. This is decided by their parents: Abraham sends a servant to get a wife for his son from his own people, and Jacob is sent to Rebekah's brother by his parents to find a wife there (and be safe from the wrath of his brother). In both cases, the sons end up with wives they love very much, Jacob even loves Rachel so much that the many years he has to work for her just fly by for him.

So there are two clear biblical directives to glean from this:
We are to marry amongst kindred people. Paul repeats this for a more spiritual context in 2Co 6:14, saying "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.".  Parents play an important role in choosing the future spouse, or at least in choosing the family this spouse is taken from.

If this is the case, then parents should again turn to Scripture and figure out what the qualities of a good husband or a good wife for their children would be.

Since all Christians are using the same source to find those qualities, Yahweh's Word, the list of godly qualities should not differ too much from Christian family to Christian family anymore, and as long as a young man or woman marries among-st like-minded, kindred people, both sides should know what to expect as well as what is expected. Such a list would also enable parents to easily weed out possible suitors for their daughters, and to advice their sons properly on whom to court or not to court. If compiled early on, such a list will help parents to raise their own children properly, so that their children both show these qualities themselves and learn to value these godly qualities above all else.

I will outline a few basic qualities/ general principles here, without going too much into detail, starting with the qualities of a godly husband. The Scripture references do not claim to be exhaustive, as Yahweh's Word is full of examples of godly behavior that serves as role models for ourselves and our sons and daughters.

A godly husband should
be God fearing, as the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Psa 111:10, Pro 1:7; 9:10), so that he may discern the will of Yahweh (Pro 14:8, Rom 12:2)
be a prudent man who is able to lead his family both practically and spiritually in the ways of Yahweh (for a call to prudence, see, for example, Pro 10:5; 13:16; 14:8; 15:5 and 24; 22:3, and also Amos 5:15; for leadership, see Gen 3:16 as well as Tit 2 and 1Cor 11:3) ), so that it might be well with him and his children after him (Deu 4:40; 5:33; 6:3 and 18; Jer 7:23), so that he can present his wife unblemished on the last day (Eph 5:25-27), and so that his house may be faithful even after his death, that he can say confidently with Joshuah "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Jos 24:15).
teach his children in the way they should go, day and night (Deu 6:7; 11:19; Psa 78:5; Pro 22:6)
be able to support his own, so that he may not be worse than an infidel (1Ti 5:8)

A godly wife should be God fearing as the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Psa 111:10, Pro 1:7; 9:10; 31:30), so that she may know about her role as a wife and mother (references will follow below) and learn quietly in all submissiveness (1Ti 2:11)
be submissive to her husband, i.e. follow his lead practically and spiritually (Titus 2:5, 1Pe 3:5-6), and love her husband and their children (Titus 2:4)
be willing and able to run her husband's household affairs prudently, economically, readily and effectively, so that he can safely trust her with this task (Pro 31:10-31)
be modest and pure (1Ti 2:9-10, Tit 2:5, 1Pe 3:3-4)

Finally, what is the conclusion of my little study here ? 
As far as I can see it, Scripture tells us that parents need to take an active role in the process of choosing a spouse for their children if they wish to follow biblical guidelines, and should not reduce their help to gently guiding or supervising a courtship process. For sons and daughters, it means that they need to trust their parents to do what is best for their children, and that they are sure to value in a future spouse what is good in Yahweh's eyes, not in the world's opinion.

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