5. The Cultivation Principle

Dating relationships need cultivating.  But how do you automatically do that?  First, you can cultivate your dating relationship best when you see each other first as spiritual siblings.  If you apply the Common Ground Principle, you should be interested only in a brother or sister in the Lord.  As such, this person is your spiritual sibling before they are a romantic option.

Also, there is safety in numbers.  Getting to know a person of the opposite sex is done best in groups at first.  Parents, church leaders, and spiritually mature friends should be in the mix (see the Confirmation Principle).  This allows a good view into a person's character and personality.  But there are limits to what you can discover and evaluate in this context.  There is value in time alone, too.

First, let me define "alone."  This does not mean that no one else is around.  You can eat out together, talk at a coffee shop, go to church, and so forth - these situations provide great opportunities to be alone.  In other words, you're interacting only with each other, but you're in a public place.  Spending time together with no one else around is asking for trouble.  The biggest danger in being alone is the temptation to express inappropriate physical affection (see the Chastity Principle) and inappropriate emotional affection.  The place where many get into trouble is in what I call the all-or-nothing category.  What I mean by this is that a romance is started with both knowing little about the other person.  They go from nothing to a lot very fast.  And then if they break up, they go from a lot right back to nothing.  This kind of "all or nothingness" can lay the foundation for future problems and even divorce.  How?  A pattern begins to emerge that if the relationship is not working, the solution is to bail out.

Nothing could be farther from the ideal when it comes to Christians who are pursuing each other.  I am not suggesting that you necessarily have to marry the first person you date.  We need to be reminded that Christians share a relationship that transcends the arena of romance - that of being spiritual siblings to one another.  If you want to cultivate the right relationship you have to understand this. 

Christians are spiritually related to every other believer in the world; they are brothers and sisters.  Just as parents set rules and standards for their children's interaction, God has set rules and standards for His children to follow.  This weighed heavily on the mind of Christ in the final days of His earthly ministry (see John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17).  He wanted us to honor each other as spiritual siblings. 

The phrase "one another" is a favorite in the Bible to describe the familial relationship that believers share in Christ.  There are almost forty commands in the New Testament about believers relating to one another.  Romans 12:10 is the fountainhead for all "one anothers":  "Love one another with brotherly affection."  This is the commitment to do what is best for the other.  If Christian couples apply this kind of selflessness, physical and emotional temptations will be held in check.

6. The Complementarian Principle

John Piper observes,

The tendency today is to stress the equality of men and women by minimizing the unique significance of our maleness and femaleness.  But this depreciation of male and female personhood is a great loss.  It is taking a tremendous toil on generations of young men and women who do not know what it means to be a man or a woman."47

Contemporary evangelicalism is in the throes of a debate about masculinity and femininity.  This is especially evident in the context of preparing for marriage.  God has designed men and women to enjoy different roles in marriage.  People who disagree with that are called egalitarians.  They believe that men's and women's roles in marriage are equal.  I disagree, and here's why: