"So where did you guys meet?" Pause. We're getting more used to the answer ‘on the internet' and less shy about saying it. Some of us have met our spouses through a dating website. Lots of us are already online or thinking about doing it. Is it OK for a Christian to use a dating website? Does it fit as part of a holy life? If only there was a Bible verse that made it clear! To internet date or not? There's lots that's attractive about it as an option, but it's got some downsides too.
So, here are five reasons to pause (and think!) before we start internet dating:
It can convince us that there's always a better option out there
The dilemma of choice! In economics it goes something like this: the more varieties of marmalade that a supermarket stocks, the less marmalade people buy. Why? The endless varieties on offer make them more picky, and less likely to choose any marmalade. This is our FOMO generation - always hedging our bets, in case there's a better option out there. Could it be that Internet dating makes us more commitment-phobic?
It takes dating out of the context of church community
Christian dating is less about dating and more about establishing someone's character and building a solid friendship. That happens best when two people get to know each other in the context of a church family or a wider group of friends. People who know us well and can observe the relationship progress will be a wealth of wise counsel. Dating in isolation from our church communities can make it easier to hide things. And while it's not impossible to discover those things, you've got to work much harder to find them.
It's an individualistic solution to a church family problem
‘It's hard to make good friends at St Helens, especially friends of the opposite sex.' I think there's some truth to that analysis. Is turning to the internet the right response? How can we make progress as a church family and serve our brothers and sisters in this area? Host a party? Organise a holiday? A few groups in RML have recently been organising things with other groups to build more friendships. Could we do more of that before we go online?
It perpetuates the myth of the ‘spark'
More than one friend has dismissed a great, godly guy on the basis that, after three dates, there was no ‘spark'. Now, there is certainly some mystery to romance, and sometimes when you know, you know. But making relationship decisions based on a mysterious, unquantifiable force is potentially quite short-sighted. I suppose this is true of all dating, not just on the internet, but the nature of getting to know people from scratch makes us more likely to resort to the ‘spark or no-spark' category. The qualities we're looking for in a best friend can be hard to discern quickly, especially when we're feeling nervous or awkward on a first date! More on this next week.
It takes an enormous amount of time
It's always worth thinking about where you want to invest your time and what will be most profitable. Doing internet dating well takes time; more time on the internet, more time emailing, and more time dating. That's time you can't spend reading your Bible, building friendships at church, being committed to your small group, and so on. A realistic look at the diary might be worthwhile before you launch yourself into cyberspace!
Still think you might like to give it a go? Here are five questions to ask yourself before you click ‘sign up':
1. Can I in good conscience say that I'm not overlooking godly people in my church family, just because they don't fit worldly stereotypes of the ideal man or woman?
2. Have I prayerfully considered what God expects me to value in a potential husband or wife? Am I willing to look for those things over and above more worldly attributes?
3. Am I trying to ‘take matters into my own hands' because I don't trust that God is in control, or am I pursuing this course with an attitude of prayerfully trusting God to provide a spouse?
4. Have I considered the fact that God has gifted me with singleness now? (Have I prayerfully considered 1 Corinthians chapter 7, and do I believe that it's true?) Have I considered the possibility that I could choose to be single, for the Lord?
5. Am I convinced that this course of action will bring glory to God?