For many Christians the idea of dating is easily confused with the notion of courting, or courtship. There are differences between the two, sometimes, and while one might and should lead to marriage if undertaken with a Christian heart and love of each other and God, the other might be a practical way to carry on an easy friendship and casual fellowship in a Christian manner.

Both dating and courting are ways of beginning a relationship with members of the opposite sex. To start, we should all understand that carrying on dating solely with the intention of having an intimate physical relationship with someone is not acceptable for a person who believes himself or herself to be a good Christian. A good way of looking at dating – when a person is a Christian – is that it can be a method for carrying on a slightly deeper friendship with another person. A casual, fun night at the movies or attendance at sporting event and the like are all ways in which people date, but as nothing more than good friends. Courting, or courtship, is many times a serious step past that, when both people might be ready to commit to each other as potential partners in holy marriage.

Courting is a way of finding if the other person is a true believer in Jesus Christ. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 6:14-15, New International Version) reminds us that we should not marry those of us who aren’t of the Christian faith. Courtship can be a sound method for determining whether that special person is truly bound in the fellowship of Christ that all good Christians enjoy with one another. Courtship is also a time where extremely intimate physical contact should not take place, which goes without saying.

Courtship is a time of almost no real physical contact until marriage. In Biblical times and throughout much of our history, classical notions of courtship demanded that once a couple began to seriously court with one another, there was to be no touching, hand-holding, or kissing until the marriage ceremony had been performed, and when they were husband and wife.

In current times, courtship and dating have evolved somewhat. Today, of course, we know that honoring this sort of procedure might never allow the dating ritual to proceed past a certain point. Perhaps the best solution is to always keep in mind that Christ must always be honored whenever two people of the opposite sex are in courtship with one another. Besides, if courting were restricted to just public meetings and no outward expressions of love, we might never gain a glimpse of the true person within the dating or courting partner. This “true person” normally is evident on occasion when two people who think they care for and love each other might be alone with one another. This is the so-called “private face.”

Dating and courtship were never demanded in the Bible. When you scrape away all the procedure involved in dating or courtship, you find that what matters far more are the strength of the man and woman’s belief in the message of Christianity and their maturity of spirit when it comes to accepting that central message. Call it what you want: Serious dating, dating, courtship or something else, the desired result and its ending -– good Christian men and women marrying and raising families that will also love and worship our God -- will matter more than anything else.