Courtship: A Pathway to Marriage
Courtship is a pathway to marriage. It is a set of biblical principles applied to our present day to help guide young singles into marriage. Courtship is about how to build the right foundation for marriage so that young couples can meet and marry with the greatest possible harmony and blessing. The goal is for the early years of marriage to be spent in happiness rather than strained conflict. Throughout America many of the old cultural mechanisms that used to usher young people into marriage have broken down. Christian parents and young people need a new set of guidelines, based upon the Bible, to help young singles move from singleness to marriage in a joyful, pure, and Christ-honoring way. These principles are most applicable to youths transitioning from their teen years into their twenties – the period most natural to prepare for and form marriages. Clearly there are many who will marry outside this window of being young adults. They will have to evaluate for themselves in their particular situation which of these principles are helpful and applicable.
What is Courtship?
Courtship is distinct from typical dating practices. The current dating scene can be summed up in five basic ways. First, dating encourages physical intimacy before marriage. This includes everything up to, and including, sex. Young people pair up into dating couples to create opportunity for physical intimacy. Dating is unnecessary for the typical aspects of friendship which form the foundation of courtship and then marriage. Today it’s well known that youths are become sexually active at younger and younger ages, and are being encouraged to express their sexuality by parents and mentoring adults. The Centers for Disease Control reports in its most recent Adolescent Fact Sheet that of the 26 million sexually transmitted diseases reported in the most recent data year, 12 million of these were reported in the age range of 15 to 24. The National Institute of Health estimated in 2018 (its most recent year of complete statistics) that one out of every four sexually active adolescent females had a sexually transmitted disease. I state this only to make sure parents and youths understand how seriously off-track American youth culture has gotten. If Christian young people are going to form happy, healthy, wise, and pure marriages, they will have to follow a course of action that is dramatically different than the world around them.
[[NOTE: Do all dating relationships result in sinful physical conduct? No, but Christian youths are called to the highest standard of purity, not the lowest. The Proverbs are clear that if we try to hold the fires of passion too close, we will be burned by them (Proverbs 6:27). One of the central goals of Christian living is holy purity. Those who remain pure in heart will see the Lord (Matthew 5:8) and will one day be welcomed into His kingdom (those known for lives of sexual sin will not enter heaven – Revelation 22:15). All in all, young adults have the same calling as all other Christians, which is to live blameless lives worthy of the calling which they have received in Christ (Philippians 1:27). May Christian youths rise to the call of holiness and purity, rather than always longing to run after the wicked. Remember Proverbs 23:17, “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in the fear of the Lord always.”]]
Second, dating does not have marriage as its stated end. Generally dating couples find themselves in an unbiblical relational twilight zone. The two aren’t single anymore, but they also aren’t married. The coupling effect of dating gives the illusion that the couple has more right to physical intimacy, when in reality they do not (1 Corinthians 7:1-2). Dating relationships among young adults often give the illusion that the pair is moving toward some good end, when they usually are only rapidly moving down the dead-end road of sexual temptation. If a couple is of age, prepared, and are seeking marriage, then they really are not dating but courting in a basic way.
Another popular step beyond dating that many young adults use to justify a sexual relationship is “engagement.” Communities across the country are filled with couples living together, even having children together, who are “engaged” and planning to eventually get married. The rights of marriage, such as full emotional and physical release, are not granted gradually, but all at once following marriage vows made before God and witnesses. In reality, engagement carries with it no more “rights” (1 Corinthians 7:3-5), it is merely a more intentional time focused more intensely on preparing for a soon approaching wedding day.
Third, a mindset of dating creates an expectation that all young singles should be paired up. Teens and college students that remain single during these years can face ridicule or feel that they are failures for not pairing off in dating relationships. Many parents with an ingrained understanding for the need to date, can also join the crowd of those concerned that their child has never, “been on a date,” or “ever kissed a girl.” At the worst, older teens and college students who do not enter the traditional dating scene can be persecuted for their virginity and commitment to physical purity.
A mindset of dating during the teen years also robs the young person from freely using their energetic youthful years of singleness to serve the Lord. No teen or college student should be hindered from serving Christ in every possible way by a dead-end dating relationship. This means that a young person in a typical dating relationship should not pass on opportunities for sacrificial missionary and Christian service to maintain a premature dating relationship. Once a person marries, the opportunity to spend a summer abroad in sacrificial mission service is no longer be possible. Those who fill their single years with service to Christ, will find their love of God greatly increased and two things will happen. First, they will find themselves gladly obeying the will of God concerning physical purity (1 John 5:3). Second, their increased love for God will teach them the true nature of love, later making them a better spouse and parent.
As will be discussed later, once a young person has matured and is prepared for marriage, the situation will change. In this new season of life, the deepening friendship with another godly person will strengthen each individuals godliness. This will become an indicator that they are a good marriage match. But this season comes after a significant degree of maturity.
Fourth, the hook up / break up cycle of dating is a great way to train young hearts in relational discontent. Should anyone really be surprised when young adults who have been dating, sleeping together, and breaking up with lots of people for years, get married and are soon divorced? No surprise here. It would be surprising if these couples remained faithful after being schooled in unfaithfulness for years. The way of Christ is a way of faithfulness.
Fifth, typical dating couples do not heed the wisdom of the Proverbs which calls for the heart to be guarded. Proverb 4:23 says that the heart should be guarded with all diligence. This means that passions should be carefully revealed and only in the proper setting. Young people must especially hear this wisdom, for often they are too quick to give away their hearts and speak words of love that are premature. When dating is the typical pattern of a young person’s life the heart inevitably gets scarred and hardened through a lack of protection. When a girl or guy are told by one person after another that they are “loved”, only to be dumped for the next “love,” this important and precious word loses its powerful meaning.
Through this common but needless cycle, hearts become hardened toward the reality of true Christian love. When a guy paints grand visions of a future together only to walk out unexpectedly, abandonment deeply scares the heart. Many people have been relationally hurt so many times that they become jaded and hopeless as early as their late twenties. Today an expectation of failure seems to pervade most relationships, even marriages. But the Christian is to be one filled with hope for the future! Those who are wise and guard their hearts, and who place their hope in Christ, will have a greater capacity to show true love when the right time comes.
In summary, modern dating regularly leads to sinful physical intimacy and sexuality that is off limits except for married couples. Typical dating does not have marriage in mind as the intended end goal. Young dating can rob teens of potential years of service to Christ in singleness. The dating and dumping process develops a mindset of discontent and distrust rather than the virtues of faithfulness and hope. Finally, dating fails to emotionally guard the heart.
Courtship is a reversal of everything just stated plus the addition of parental authority and guidance. Courtship is God-centered rather than self-seeking. Courtship revolves around a mindset of purity, service, and marriage. Parents who raise their children with a mindset of courtship will raise their children with a mindset toward marriage. Courtship involves young people growing in godliness under the discipleship of their parents and seeking to use the strength of their youth to serve the Lord rather than rebel against Him. This is a step of faith by all involved. It is a choice to live counter to the strong current of rebellion and sexual sin that dominates our time. But it must be a choice entered into with gladness and hope firmly set upon Christ our hope.
First, courtship recognizes that marriage is a norm, a basic and biblically expected relationship among adults. A mindset of marriage takes seriously God’s requirement that all people live before Him in sexual purity (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). A courtship mindset does not treat marriage as an elective relationship that may or may not carry positive benefits, but views marriage as a normal part of passing into adulthood. Parents who raise their children with a mindset of courtship, rather than dating, raise their children with the assumption that when they reach adulthood they will marry. Therefore, part of the parent’s role is to equip their young person to assume the role he or she will eventually take on in marriage. There should be a direction and intentionality to the later teen years, as a time when training concerning biblical manhood and womanhood coalesces around the purpose of marriage.
The later teen years are in part so difficult to navigate because it is a time when older children become young adults, and each teen must decide what kind of an adult they will be. One of the most important decisions for every teen will be whether they will personally resolve to live lives of self-controlled purity. However, the desire for purity must rise from within the heart of each young adult, because of their personal love for Christ and desire to serve Him. Stemming from a desire to honor God with a pure life and to save oneself in purity for a future spouse, physical sexual purity becomes a serious matter within courtship. This is why inappropriate relationships that may lead to physical intimacy before marriage are to be intentionally avoided since they only hold the potential for harm.
However, there is a significant difference between courtship and an unrealistic rejection of sexuality. Often teenagers are urged to commit themselves to remain pure in their sexuality until marriage, but they are not given a pathway to enter marriage—only the command to remain celibate. This is an unrealistic situation that has proven to ultimately fail. The sexuality ingrained into humanity by God is not meant to be indefinitely suppressed, but rightly expressed within a healthy marriage. Courtship is a call to continual purity, consisting of abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage.
Second, since courtship revolves around one’s personal devotion to Christ, instead of around a boyfriend or girlfriend, it frees young people to devote their single years to Christian service. In fact, it is through and during such service that a young adult will often meet their future mate. Courtship is not a matter of hunting for someone to marry or pining away in solitude waiting for love to find you. God does not work this way. God’s will for each of our lives unfolds as we pursue His will at the time. As young people actively serve the Lord in their churches, their local communities, abroad, and in every other way they may be led, they are also interacting along the way with other godly young people and relationships are formed—many of which result in marriage.
I will discuss our story more in depth later, but this is how Maria and I met. During high school we both felt led to serve the Lord as summer missionaries with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). It was at the North Carolina statewide summer missionary training camp that we first met. We were both sixteen, and by God’s good providence we were assigned to work together as teaching partners! Earlier that year I was led of the Lord to serve Him in a more devoted way, and during the year the Lord worked to open the opportunity with CEF. At the same time God was working in Maria’s heart, and thankfully we were both obedient! We didn’t serve with CEF having marriage in mind, but God honored our service and had a greater plan in mind!
Third, courtship also works to guard the heart from premature and inappropriate emotional release. By establishing marriage as a worthy goal, by avoiding premature relationships, and by directing single years toward serving Christ, courtship trends toward the keeping of the heart. The goal is to guard the heart so that the heart remains unbroken and uncorrupted, so that it can be given away in fullness and without regret on the wedding day. The opposite of this is found among young singles that are continually pairing off, becoming intimate with each other, and breaking up in a constant downward cycle. The more of your heart that you give away before marriage the more emotional baggage you will carry into marriage – if your wedding day ever comes.
The final distinguishing element of courtship is that of parental authority. Yes, I did say authority. The authority of parents over their children has been greatly diminished, to where many parents are not even comfortable exerting their authority over young children—much less teenagers. For many, authority in general is seen as a negative concept, and the best parent is understood to be one who can nurture without authority. However, the Bible assigns to parents a position of authority because they will need it to effectively shape and discipline the character of their children. Parental authority must be recognized by young people as a blessing, and a part of God’s good design and structure.
There are two general commands given in the Bible concerning parental authority. First, in Exodus 20:12 children are commanded to “honor your father and your mother.” This general command forbids rebellion against proper parental authority and has no age limit. Second, there is the age limited command of Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” The authority of a parent is understood as a delegated authority from God for the good of the child. A child needs the authority of loving and godly parents to teach them right from wrong, and to discipline their talents and energies for good. An older child also needs a parent to help them make very significant decisions that will have lifelong consequences. Marriage is such a decision. A child who learns to come under the proper authority of a godly parent as a child will have an easier time accepting the authority of that same parent when it comes to big decisions later in life.
Courtship gives the father, as the head of household, the authority to bless or withhold blessing from a potential courtship. The last act of authority by a father toward his child is giving his permission for marriage. Once marriage takes place a new household has been established with its own structure of authority. This is opposite of the typical scenario where a young man and a young woman decide to marry and come home to announce to their parents what they have decided to do—whether anyone approves of it or not. The godly young person must recognize their continued place under the authority of parents, especially the father. To marry without the blessing of both the fathers (the father of the young man and the father of the young woman) should be considered an act of rebellion, which God will not bless. This is usually the most controversial aspect of courtship, but it is an important aspect of God’s design.
As will be outlined in detail later, courtship begins with a young man seeking the permission of the girl’s father to court her. If permission is granted, then the couple begins to explore whether they are right for each other under the guidance and protection of her father. In a courtship the young woman’s father is the gatekeeper for the relationship. This is for the purpose of protecting his daughter from predatory men and from foolish decisions that she may not foresee because of a lack of experience or perspective. If the courtship progresses in love and compatibility, then the young man must return to the father to ask for the young woman’s hand in marriage before asking her. If her father agrees, then he may ask her. If she agrees then they may marry. This is courtship in a nutshell. Some of you might close the book right now, but I would ask you to consider what advantages this progression has?
This progression is the best possible way to get all the significant information about two people and their families out in the open before they are married. It nearly eliminates negative surprises and cultivates strength of character and family bonding. Scripture mandates that the husband must be the head of his household and the spiritual leader of his family (Ephesians 5:22-33). A godly young woman will be seeking just such a young man, and it is right because of this that the young man initiate the courtship relationship. This means that he is the one who formally initiates movement toward marriage when it becomes clear that there is interest and compatibility.
The godly young man will recognize that the girl he is interested in remains under the authority and protection of her father, and he would do well to express his intentions to her father and seek his permission. This step will reveal two things. First, it will allow the father to initially size up the young man interested in his daughter, as worthy or not. Second, it will also allow the young man to understand what kind of family he is getting involved with. One of the most common mistakes that young people make in pursuing marriage is to misunderstand that when they marry a person, they are also marrying into that person’s family. It’s a package deal. If you can’t stand his/her family, it is going to cause serious problems later.
However, if the young man is approved by the father, and the young man approves of the young woman’s family, then a serious step in the right direction has been made. The period that follows has a clear purpose, to decide whether the couple ought to marry. This is the courtship period. The couple is spending time together with family, with friends, in ministry, but with an eye toward marriage. This relationship should not be allowed by the father of the young woman, or sought by a young man, until both the young man and the young woman are ready for marriage. I will discuss what this means shortly. This period of courtship (consideration) need not last a long time. When two people know what they are looking for, secrets are not kept, and there are many counselors (surrounding family) confidence and love can grow quickly.
Many young people do not understand their parents’ hopes for them. They often think that since their parents may not have approved of a past boyfriend or suitor, that they really do not want them to marry. This is usually not the case. Christian parents want their children to marry, but they want them to marry a godly and prepared person. They understand the gravity of this step in a way that a young person cannot grasp. Usually, the first person that comes along will not be the right one. The wise parent will express their hope for the happiness of their child, but also ask their child to trust them to hold authority over this hugely important decision. In courtship parents are not around simply for advice, but for consent and blessing.
I understand there are exceptions to this basic norm. The older a person is, the less relevant these ideas of permission become. Once a young adult has become an adult living fully independent, the permission of a parent moves more to the consent of a parent. However, all the principles still hold. I also understand that parents can be so selfish or ungodly that they act in a truly wrong way, forbidding a good union. However, I have found these circumstances to be the exception, and the rule for meeting and marrying should not be formed by the exception.
When is a young adult ready for courtship?
- Spiritually mature: Growing in godliness and ready to lead a household with godliness, wisdom, and love. Sufficient development of the fruits of the Spirit.
- Purity: Self-controlled in aspects of personal purity, including being pornography free.
- Can support a household: Has a steady job with prospects for advancement, can support a simple household without the income of the wife.
- Positive outlook on fatherhood: Few are really prepared for their first child, but no one should marry who, “Does not want children!”
- Finance: Prepared with rudimentary financial literacy and discipline necessary to manage household finances.
- Prepared to be a servant: Lives a life of everyday service toward others (Philippians 2:3,4)
- Spiritually mature: Growing in godliness and ready to love her husband with godliness, wisdom, and kindness. Sufficient development of the fruits of the Spirit.
- Purity: Self-controlled in aspects of personal purity, and dresses with Christian modesty.
- Can manage a household: Can manage a simple home, prepare meals, and live within a budget.
- Positive outlook on motherhood: Few are really prepared for their first child, but no one should marry who, “Does not want children!”
- Career: Does not have career goals that will inhibit her ability to manage the home and nurture children.
- Prepared to be a servant: Lives a life of everyday service toward others (Philippians 2:3,4).
This may seem like an overwhelming list, but that is only because the standards of godliness have been dropped so low in our day. By God’s grace, any determined person can reach these standards of preparedness. These aspects of preparation are meant to express a general preparation of spirit, emotion, and finance. Which of these can be left out and still produce a healthy marriage? What if a young man has it all together, but he can’t quit with pornography? He is not ready to marry, because he is unfaithful with his mind. What if a young woman has it all together, but spends money without self-control to keep up with all the latest trends? She is not ready to marry, because she will wreck the finances of a home.
The only aspect of these minimum requirements that can remain outstanding while still allowing a healthy courtship to go forward has to do with the provision of the husband and the ability of the wife to operate a household. These factors are important, but they often come into full strength during the courtship. For instance, a young man who is on track to graduate from college (or on track to achieve trade licensure, etc…), and has a strong track record of success up to that point, may not be able to fully support a family at the moment he initiates a courtship, but should not necessarily be turned away for this reason alone. He is working toward the ability to support a family on a defined timeline that will very soon be reached. Once that future milestone is passed, he will jump from ineligible to eligible almost immediately. I am not advocating that courtship should be delayed if the fulfillment of this requirement is close at hand. This same situation can be true of a young women who is making strong progress toward home management, and shows every sign that by the point of needing to manage her own home she will be ready.
The minimum requirements of marriage preparedness should be taken very seriously and will be explained more fully in chapters three and four. Young people who do not meet these aspects of preparation should not allow themselves to enter romantic relationships and their parents should not allow them to enter a courtship. To do so only allows for the cultivation of powerful emotions before they can be given a righteous outlet. Young people must be patient and allow the desire for marriage to press them toward disciplined godliness.
Chapter seven will explain the courtship process step-by-step, but in summary courtship recognizes that young people should begin to pair off only when they are of a marriageable age and situation. Junior high relationships should be off-limits and high school relationships should be delayed and carefully guarded. It is not feasible that anyone from those age groups could be prepared spiritually, emotionally, or financially for marriage. Courtship also, calls for strict physical purity between non-married couples, and the emphasis is instead placed on growing a friendship for the purpose of exploring compatibility. If the courtship transitions to engagement and then marriage, this emphasis on friendship will serve the couple well in marriage. A courtship relationship can begin only when both young people are at, or nearly arrived at, a position in life where they are ready to marry.
Adopting a mindset of marriage
Courtship does not begin in one’s early twenties. Courtship begins with parents raising their children to love the Lord and with a desire to obey His will. Courtship begins with parents raising their children to become husbands and wives. This may sound unusual, but children quickly grow into adults and one of the main purposes of parenting is to raise children who are ready to live as godly adults in the real world. A major part of this preparation is preparing our sons to be godly husbands and preparing our daughters to be godly wives. It is right to recognize that it will be God’s will for almost all of our sons and daughters to marry, for this is God’s design. This preparation begins with training of character, evangelism of the soul, and prayer to see children and youths come to personal faith in Christ as their Savior. Attempting to direct a non-Christian child in the pure ways of the Lord will fail.
After conversion, the parent enters a discipleship role, training their child up in the ways of the Lord. One aspect of discipleship is preparation for manhood or womanhood. These aspects of preparation are different, as will be explained. Children who are raised to love the Lord and with an expectation of marriage will more joyfully and seamlessly make the transition from singleness to marriage. Those who have not been raised in these ways will have more struggle. It is also vital that every parent understand that a church youth minister will never be able to adequately prepare their young person for life or marriage. Church ministries, in general, do not exist to replace the ministry of parents, and certainly do not exist to raise children. Parents must ask God for the courage, wisdom, patience, and love necessary to shepherd their children into adulthood.
Unfortunately, many parents no longer understand godliness or marriage as top priorities for their children. Far too many parents have raised up “college” as the great and often all-consuming end to which they raise their children. The thinking often goes that if a child can excel in high school, get into a good college, and perform well in college, they will hopefully land a high paying job. If they can get a high paying or prestigious job then the parents will think they have succeeded in raising their child. This type of thinking is not godly and does not place an emphasis on the soul or godliness which must be preeminent for all Christian parents. Since this mindset of parenting does not focus on godliness and character building, it turns out young adults that are worldly, self-centered, and not prepared for marriage.
Some years back, my wife and I had the chance to go on a two-week mission trip to China to visit missionary friends of ours. The trip was eye-opening in many ways, but one particular aspect of Chinese culture should stand out to us as a warning. China was still enforcing its “one-child” policy. This national mandate required that Chinese married couples have only one child. The enforcement of this policy over decades had led to many serious cultural imbalances, one of which related to priorities. Most modern Chinese families were hanging their hopes for the future on one child, and that hope often took the form of material advancement. Similar to many western families, modern Chinese parents longed to see their child succeed and the Chinese definition of success also revolved around wealth and notoriety stemming from job placement. In order to achieve this “success” countless Chinese parents sacrifice deeply to give their child the best schooling and tutoring possible. These single children who are given every possible advantage by their parents have become known as “little emperors.”
During the child’s teenage years of schooling, many families completely revolve around the educational success of the only child. In China, the competitive nature of high school education is much greater than in America since there are far fewer university openings than students applying. Those students who do not achieve entrance into universities must enter the laboring class—which translates into lower wages and less family honor. When success is defined according to earning power and position, work as a laborer is understood as failure. The nature of this situation is further aggravated by the Chinese system for entering a university.
At the end of high school, in early June, Chinese students aspiring to enter the university system must take the “National College Entrance Examination.” In Chinese it is called the GaoKao, which means “most high test.” A similar US standardized test would be the SAT or ACT. Students taking the NCEE prepare feverishly because only the highest scoring students will receive university placement opportunities. The Chinese themselves describe this test process like, “1000 horses converging on a one-horse bridge.” Only a few will make it across.
Sadly, a great many who do not make the cut leave the test and commit suicide. They know that their performance was sub-par. Many students so closely associate that test with success and honor, that failure seems to be the end of hope. This is a radical, yet real, example of what it means to exalt material gain and worldly position as the highest measure of success. Without Christ, these young people and their families have nothing to live for beyond earthly achievement, and when that achievement becomes impossible despair often overwhelms them.
The more that we exalt university education for the purpose of earning power and worldly fame as the end goal of raising children here in America, the closer we drift to the radically dysfunctional situation currently unfolding in China. Neither university education, nor wealth, nor title should stand as the top priorities of Christian parents or Christian young people. Christian parents must have the priorities of Christ for their children, the first of which is to seek God’s kingdom above all else. If we raise our children to seek with the greatest part of their energies and time all that the world has to offer, we should not be surprised when they grow up and go the way of the world. When we raise our children with affections set upon the world we should not be surprised when as adults they love the world. May parents and youth alike remember that, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15b).
Psychology Today addressed the psychological strain placed on Chinese young people preparing for the NCEE. [[Qoute]] www.psychologytoday.com/rss/pto-20080623-000004.html
Parents who truly love the Lord will instill in their children a love for the Lord. Young people who love Jesus Christ will not reject His plan for living.
An over-emphasis on university education is already causing an entire generation to significantly delay marriage until their thirties and beyond. This exaltation of education and worldly position is turning the passions of youth away from marriage, and too often giving young people in their twenties a “pass” on sexual sin in order to finish college and other graduate degrees. As a culture, we too often tell young people that marriage and children should be avoided as a drag and hindrance toward achieving more important career goals. I am heartbroken over how often I hear of young people delaying marriage indefinitely for the purpose of completing a degree. They have been falsely convinced that higher education and marriage are incompatible. This unnecessary delay almost always involves some form of sexual sin—either physical sexuality or pornography. Both of these sins will deeply trouble a later marriage. Also, once the degree is granted, the pursuit of the actual career for which the degree was earned can become just as all-consuming as the degree itself—continuing to delay marriage. Then the whole mess perpetuates itself, driven by the lust for wealth and worldly position.
A Call to Dedication for the Purpose of Preparation
Despite the increasing emphasis upon worldly success to the exclusion of marriage, and counter to the increasing immorality of our age, great numbers of young people still marry. There is an innate longing within the soul for companionship that is very difficult to stamp out. Young singles who still long for marriage should not lose heart. If you do not know Christ as your Savior, you must begin there. Christ stands ready to redeem and minister to you. You cannot walk in the ways of the Lord without calling upon Christ to lead you. I encourage you to first repent of your sins and accept the salvation of God. You will never be able to love as a spouse or parent as you should if you do not first have God’s love in your heart.
Second, get serious about following Christ and walking in all his ways. Ask God to help you make up for lost years. Ask God to rapidly grow the character qualities that are lacking in your life. Start seriously reading and studying the Bible. Take seriously what it means to live a holy life, separated from the ways of the world. Learn to walk in purity at all levels of your thoughts and life. Run in the way of God’s commands and he will enlarge your heart (Psalm 119:32). After making the first step of becoming a Christian you must prepare for marriage before becoming engaged or marrying. If you are currently sexually involved with someone, or involved in a romantic relationship with someone who is not a Christian, you must stop and break off the relationship (2 Corinthians 6:14-16). There must be sufficient progress in both your lives, so that you can rightly approach marriage. If you will prepare and follow the design set forward by God, you will quickly find yourselves walking a path of blessing that will lead to marriage in God’s time.
It’s my desire for both parents and young singles to read the following chapters. Both must find their appropriate place in God’s plan. Courtship works best as a four-part harmony including the young man, the young woman, the young woman’s parents, and the young man’s parents. Parents must exert their God-given authority with wisdom and love. Young adults must come under the authority of their parents with respect and patience. Parents must prepare and train their children and teens for marriage, and children must accept this instruction and apply themselves to wisdom. It is a mentoring process that, if carried out with wisdom, perpetuates a continuous family cycle.