Would You Like to Go to a Movie?
Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources
Solomon Wrote (Ecclesiastes 1:9): “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
I think of this passage often as I counsel families facing medical challenges in this age of rapidly developing technology. The technology is new! We have advancements that are new! Could the passage be wrong?
No, the passage is not wrong. It is a commentary on some of the unchangeable realities of life, namely that we live, work hard and die. We can’t take things with us. Perhaps we can make things better while we live but in the end we still die. We still face our own mortality and our own reality as we live each day in the presence of the Lord.
This article deals with the theme of dating and the collateral issue of chastity. Since God created man and woman and said (Genesis 2:24), “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh,” a chemistry exists that arouses interest between men and women. Dating ensues, and, if the order is kept correctly, then comes engagement, marriage, and the intimacy reserved for this holy estate.
As Solomon said, this process is nothing new. What does change, however, is the setting for dating. Within the last 30-40 years dating has changed dramatically in our culture. While dating continues as it has since the beginning of time, the influences on it have dramatically elevated some of the inherent challenges of dating.
Peer pressure often has us looking at external issues and forgetting that precious internal quality of a dating partner (see Proverbs 31:30 and Mark 7:20-23). Dating seems to have evolved away from a testing grounds for personality compatibility to a testing ground for personality and physical compatibility. Both of these tests are often graded not just by the man and woman but by peers who want to know the details and who are quick to share advice.
Where do you go when you date today? The days of the soda fountain are things of Norman Rockwell paintings but are not today’s reality. Going to a movie at one time meant a fairly good chance of seeing a Biblical epic performed through the magic of Hollywood. Today, most movies leave Christians blushing.
And sitting at home watching the “tube” is rarely a relief from those uncomfortable on-screen moments.
Is it any wonder that people are confused about dating? How many movies have you seen where dating did not include cursing, swearing, pre-marital sex, coarse joking, deceit or cheating? Yet, what options do we provide our young people for dating? While going to the movies is always an option, it is hardly as safe an option as it was in days gone by.
Maybe there is the roller-skating, rink! But, alas, in my community the weekly all-night skate has been canceled because some groups and gangs have terrorized it in the late hours.
There is always a concert to go to. Again, it seems like a no win situation. If you go to hear anything from country to rock or pop it is played too loud to allow any visiting to take place. If you go to a “soft” concert you aren’t supposed to be talking anyway.
So what do you do? A distinguishing characteristic of dating that seems to have worked is that which emphasizes learning about the inner person of the one you are dating. Physical attraction aside, it will be the inner beauty that will create the elements of a lasting relationship. My best advice to a dating couple is to take a hike. Literally! Take walks and talk.
I can’t tell you how many Christian men and women I have talked to who have dated someone without ever knowing that person’s religious background. They never really thought of inviting them to church or discussing religious convictions. Going together to a Bible class is hardly heard of, and doing a private devotion between the two of them seems out of the question.
Even we who know better — who know the value of the Christian faith are often times remiss in communicating our faith as the highest treasure of our lives. Those months and years of dating afford all sorts of opportunities to find out each other’s taste in music, movies and hobbies. But if left to that alone, have we truly communicated what is our richest treasure?
I am not a purest or a prude. Yet, I cannot deny feeling uncomfortable when I see a dating couple getting almost intimate in public. I must also admit that I cringe when I see some of the clothing worn by young men and women on dates. But I am willing to concede that fashions change and sensitivity to certain fashions changes as well.
I am not one of those who believes in burning all those recordings with suggestive lyrics. I do not buy into the idea that avoiding the theater is the solution to bad movies. What I do advocate, however, is discussion between a dating couple when jointly liked music has off-color lyrics. When they attend a movie that compromises values it becomes something to talk about. These things provide forums for us to learn and study the values of the other person and to witness to our own values.
During his ministry Jesus did not avoid the questionable people and things of His time. Rather, He used them as opportunities to share His own values, to reflect His own faith and to point others to heaven.
Dating is more than just a proving grounds for compatibility. It is an arena for witnessing, and growing.It is a quest to find more than just a spouse. It is a facet of the Christian mission and journey to make disciples of all people.
That doesn’t mean dating is one long and endless recitation of Bible passages. Instead, it is a growing friendship that never stops reflecting the value that no matter how much our love may row, God owns my heart. He is first in my life.
There will always be dating and temptations. There will always be missed opportunities. But in dating there will always be opportunities to glorify and witness to God. There will always be chances to do the right things, say the right words and display the right values. You can do it, even amidst the increasing challenges of our generation. Simply stay focused. In your quest to learn who your date is never deny who you are — a child of God.
Q&A on Teens and Chastity
January 8, 2005