Dear Pastor Lawyer,
I’ve heard that you teach that teens should not date. I was wondering, if that is true, how you expect young people to learn about self-control, if they aren’t allowed to be in situations where they need it. Thanks,
Thank you for writing. Your understanding is correct about what I teach regarding dating and teens. This teaching is not only for teens, but for anyone who is not serious about marriage and commitment. Dating is fine if the two people involved are serious about one another and are committed to not hurting the other person. However, in general, it is not a safe or helpful practice.
Your question has to do with how we learn self-control. The Bible tells us that self-control is a result of having the Holy Spirit living within us. This is not to say that we don’t grow in the fruit of what the Spirit brings us; we do. As we apply what God has told us to do, the fruit of the Spirit grows in us. Non-Christians have what appears to be self-control, but the Bible says that they are ruled by their passions and desires and thus are incapable of displaying real self-control. So the first step in gaining self-control is to submit to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and turn away from sin. Without this, what I have to say below is simply “good advice”. It is inapplicable to the natural man.
God tells us, in the Bible, that we are to avoid sin like the plague. We are also to avoid temptation as if it were sin (it is the first step towards sin). Sometimes this means running away from the situation where we might fall into sin. Other times it may mean changing our entire lifestyle in order to avoid sinning. My point here is that nothing that we plan for in our lives should bring us to the place where we need God’s miraculous intervention. God does not normally intervene supernaturally. His normal means is to give us a command, fill us with his spirit (who gives us power and conviction), surround us with fellow Christians to give us support, and then he expects us to obey. Through obedience self-control grows.
Because of the serious nature of sin, it does not make any sense to place ourselves in situations where there will be constant and often overwhelming temptation to sin. Our goal is to walk with God and to enjoy his presence and pleasure. To purposely put ourselves into sinful situations with the hope of “growing” through them makes no sense at all. This kind of thinking shows that we don’t understand the joy that comes when we walk with God.
Let’s put what I’ve said above in the context of dating. By its nature, there is no more dangerously tempting situation for a person to be in. An alcoholic in a bar wouldn’t be in any more danger than a 16 year old boy out alone with a beautiful 16 year old . His hormones are going nuts, she is all dressed up and looking “fine”. We s have lost our minds if we think this is a good opportunity for children to learn self-control. If they haven’t learned self-control by this point, this is definitely not the place to be learning it.
One of my problems with dating is that we place our children in situations where it is virtually impossible to honor God and love one another as they love themselves. Recreational dating is by nature designed to break hearts and crush spirits. No one comes out of a dating relationship stronger (unless they get married). There is only hurt and pain. Relationships are destroyed, feelings are hurt, lives are changed forever. And then, when it is time to get married, we carry the scars of illicit relationships and broken hearts into our married lives.
Life gives us enough lessons and opportunities to learn self-control. We don’t need to go looking for them. We especially don’t need to set ourselves up for disaster by tearing out the hearts of our children by allowing them to participate in this unwise practice. I hope this helps,