James and Hannah spent their first year dating in different continents. James was in England, Hannah in Australia.

Do you know the 11th Commandment, "Thou shalt have ‘the spark"? No? Neither do we.

When it comes to dating, the world tells us that we need to have "the spark", that unmistakable feeling of connection and chemistry. Physical symptoms include butterflies, daydreaming at your desk and impromptu sighing. The spark is a sign that you may have found your match, and if you don't have it, a lifetime of misery and boredom lies ahead.

We as Christians can often buy into that lie. If there's no spark after the first date, we think it's not meant to be. But the truth is, God never mentions "the spark" in the Bible. And in fact, we think that deciding whether to pursue a relationship based on spark is potentially dangerous. A spark can soon fizzle into nothing. It's not necessarily a good indicator of a healthy stable Christian relationship. On the flip side, you might reject a perfectly good godly man or woman for the lack of an elusive feeling.

So if we shouldn't look for the spark, what should we look for in a date?

Spoiler alert: the Bible doesn't talk about dating. That's because the modern idea of dating is pretty different from God's blueprints for relationships. In our society, dating's designed for short-term, repeatable, low-cost, private love. But God's model for relationships is permanent, committed and public (Genesis 2:24). God's model is marriage! So Christian dating needs to be different. We think this means that Christian dating should be a process for discerning whether you could have a good Christian marriage.

So what should we look for in a spouse? The Bible's ground rules are that they're a human(!), Christian, of the opposite sex, single, and not a close relation. After that, we're in the realms of common sense. Ephesians 5:22-33 tells us what Christian marriage should look like: the man selflessly sacrificing his own interests for the sake of his wife and the woman respectfully submitting to her husband's loving leadership. Therefore, you want to marry someone that you could feasibly do that with.

So assuming your date meets the Bible's ground rules, here are some suggestions for things to look for rather than spark:

Girls: Would you be prepared to let him lovingly lead you?

Guys: Could you put her first... all the time?

Both: Do you get on well? If you do, this will make living out Ephesians 5 much easier.

Do you find each other attractive? You'll enjoy Ephesians 5:31 more that way! (look it up...)

Having said that, don't put too much pressure on those first few dates! You don't have to decide whether your date is a good spouse for you there and then. This will take time. And as for spark, if you don't have it, fear not. If you do, we wish you many happy butterflies.

Image by Flickr user Cameron Russell used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.