A MODEL FOR
COURTSHIP & BETROTHAL
AND WHY

What We Desire for Our Daughters[1]

Errol Hale 


I know I am biased, but I don’t see how any love or marriage can rival what the Lord has given my wife, Frances, and me.  Our love and commitment is so deep that we know of few couples who have what we have.  We look at others and wonder if some even know that what we have exists.

We have three daughters.  When they were young, we were concerned about their education, their health, their friendships, and many other issues that presented themselves along the path of growing up.  As important as those issues were while the girls were younger, their importance pales when compared to the issues of relationships with young men, and of marriage.  We want our girls to have the kind of marriages that we have enjoyed for these many years.  We realize that statistically, at least one of our daughters will have a troubled marriage and drink from the bitter cup of divorce.[2]  Because we know how wonderful and fulfilling marriage can be, we want the same for our daughters.

The way men and women get together for marriage in our day and in our culture does not seem to be in line with biblical principles, at least as we understand them.  As parents who have sought to be involved in our daughters’ lives, we would be devastated if any one of our daughters introduced us to her “boyfriend,” or worse, her fiancé.  We would want to know any potential husbands before either of those kinds of relationships were established with one of our daughters.  Ideally, we would want to know of a young man’s intentions, and would want to have established a relationship with him, before any relationship other than a “friend of the family” was established with any of our daughters.


The Reasoning Behind Our Convictions

Deuteronomy 22 establishes parental responsibility to protect a daughter’s virginity.  We understand this principle as going beyond mere physical virginity.  We believe that hearts that are knit together without a commitment to marriage are damaged when a break-up occurs.  We believe that the result of a series of break-ups is hard-heartedness.  This hard-heartedness makes future break-ups easier—including the break-up of a marriage.  This is why we believe that dating, as our culture practices it, does far more to prepare a person for divorce than for marriage.

The Bible does not speak of dating as our culture practices it.  The Bible speaks of betrothal.  I prefer not to quibble over whether the terms betrothal and engagement are interchangable.  I realize that the term betrothal is rather foreign.  If we use the term engagement, we must be sure that we are talking about a commitment that far exceeds the common notion of engagement.  The Bible does not give hard and fast rules regarding the betrothal process.  There is no biblical checklist one can follow.  Instead, there are five principles set forth throughout scripture.[3] 

First, parents have the responsibility to train their children in the ways of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

Second, parents have a responsibility to protect their daughter’s virginity (including in an emotional sense). (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

Third, parents should be involved in their children’s choices of marriage partners. (John 6:44; In John 17 and 18 Jesus makes several references to the ones the Father “gave Him” to be His bride.) [4]

Fourth, the relationship between a man and woman should be supervised, and in some ways minimal, until after a commitment to marriage [betrothal] is made, thus limiting the possibility either of sin or of either person sustaining a broken heart.  (1 Thessalonians 4:6, Romans 13:14)

Fifth, from the time that a betrothal is established and the marriage takes place, the couple must limit their contact and be together only in the presence of others.  The two are morally bound to each other.  Ideally, breaking a betrothal should be viewed as seriously as divorce.


 

Ideal Guidelines

Based on these principles we understand the following scenario as ideal.  I say ideal, because things seldom work out exactly according to a checklist.  This ideal scenario does provide important safeguards.  What follows is not intended to be the right or only way to handle these matters.  As the title of this booklet states, it is “A” model, not “THE” model.  Each person and family must prayerfully establish guidelines for themselves based on their convictions before God’s Word.

1. The Encounter.  Chances are, the two will meet each other before the parents meet him.  She should inform her parents about him immediately for the sake of accountability.  This lowers the risk of allowing her heart to fall for him when he might not be a wise choice.  If her parents have taught her well, she will know ahead of time what to look for in a potential husband.

2. The Interest.  If he develops an interest in her, he will more than likely communicate it to her in some way (hinting around or asking her out, etc.).  If she is discerning, she should be able to tell if he is looking for more than just a common friendship with her.  Regardless of the level of his interest, she should let him know that he needs to speak to her parents.  If he is sincerely interested in her beyond a common friendship, he should want to meet with her parents to inquire about her.  If he declines, he has revealed his degree of interest and both should go their separate ways.

3. The Initial Meeting.  The man then makes arrangements to meet her parents.  He must take the initiative to do this.  If she must do it, he is not much of a leader.  When I say “meet the parents,” I am referring especially to meeting the father, since he is the spiritual leader in his daughter’s life.  In the case of a young lady who either has no father, or whose father is not involved in her life, this may fall on the mother’s shoulders.

When he meets her parents, they need to ask him what his intentions are.  His intentions may be marriage, or he may just want to pursue a relationship with the young woman to explore the possibility of marriage.

If the parents are at peace concerning the young man, they can communicate the protocol for further relationship, which in our case also includes the parents receiving answers to questions they have about the young man.  (See examples in “Appendix C”.)

If the parents are not at peace concerning the young man, they need to graciously let him know.  If the young man truly wants the girl, he will respect the parents’ wishes.  At this point he will either move on, or seek to prove himself to the parents and pray that they will change their mind—while not doing anything to lead the girl on.

The parents should share their observations with their daughter, give her counsel, and pray with her. 

4. The Agreement.  If he works within the guidelines established by the parents, satisfactorily answers their questions (“Appendix C”), and if the parents are at peace, the young man enters into what we might call “friend of the family” status.  Constant communication between daughter and parents, much prayer, and seeking God’s wisdom over this is most important.

5. The Friend of the Family.  During this time, the young man is welcome to visit her home as often as the parents permit and at times they approve.  During this time, no communication of affection should be exchanged between the two, and no exclusive “alone time” shared.  This is a time for the family to get to know him and he the family.   Learning about each other’s upbringing and family background is important.  There must be constant communication between parents and daughter during this phase, which will last as long as it is necessary for all to become acquainted.  It could take days, weeks, or months.  It is also imperative for all parties to be seeking the Lord in their daily quiet times.  Seeking the advise of other godly counselors can be helpful as well (Proverbs 15:22), as they can be honest and objective in their observations and counsel.

During this time if any one of the parties (the parents, the young man, or the young woman) is uncomfortable with the relationship or wants to end it for any reason, clear, charitable communication should be made to that affect.  If either the young man or the young woman wants to call the relationship off, he or she should speak to the girl’s father (parents) first.  He (they) can then decide the best way to break the news to the other party to minimize any hurt.

6. The Second Meeting.  After however long the “friend of the family” phase lasts, if he is interested in proceeding further in a relationship with her, and would like to court her, he should speak to her parents first about this.  If the parents do not feel he or she is ready for this, they can ask him to give it more time.  If he loves her, he will wait.  However, if they are at peace about him and his desire to proceed, they will check with their daughter before giving him the ‘go-ahead’.  If she says, “yes,” the parents can report back to the man.  Courtship can now begin.

7. The Courtship.  The young man is now welcome to visit her at her home more often, but still at the parents’ discretion.  The two may now “pair off” during this phase, meaning they may spend more time conversing with each other in order to become more personally acquainted, but are never left alone.  They must guard against communicating feelings of affection for each other (spoken or otherwise) because it is still not known whether the two will be compatible for marriage.  During the courtship, the two may be together, but only with her parents, in a church group setting, or when accompanied by a chaperone approved of by the parents.  I will not approve of any chaperone whom I do not know shares my convictions about this entire subject.

This phase can last as long as it takes for daughter and parents to observe his spiritual walk.  This would include his daily walk with the Lord, his involvement in the church, his handling of God’s Word, and his application of the scriptures to his life.  They would want to learn more about his background, and to observe his leadership capabilities, his skills, talents, emotional stability, and financial wisdom.  He needs to learn and observe these things in her life as well.  While some of these qualities may come up during the “friend of the family” phase, the courtship phase is a time to see if each other’s ‘talk’ matches their ‘walk’.  The parents need to be in constant communication and prayer with their daughter about the relationship.  If she is daily asking the Lord to give her parents His wisdom, she should willingly receive their counsel.

Both should be willing to take at least a year to “season” each other, or to observe each other in every season of the year.  Accompanied by her parents or responsible siblings, this would also be the time for her to meet his parents.  She should be careful not to respond in excited agreement if his parents welcome her in as if she were already engaged to their son.  She should be discreet and cautious so as not to lead them on.

If during this time, one becomes disinterested with the other, both can go their separate ways.  The circle of communication of that decision should include her father.

Two things the young man should not do at any point before a commitment of betrothal is made.  (1) He should not broadcast his feelings; either to the young lady or to his friends until a betrothal covenant is made.  This lessens the possibility of leading her on[5] and the potential of embarrassment in the eyes of others if the relationship does not materialize.  (2) He should not be in a hurry.  Love is patient. (Genesis 29:20, 1 Corinthians 13:4)

8. The Betrothal.  At some point, if the man is still interested in her, he will seek her hand in marriage by going first to her parents.  He may have to do this a few times before they give the ‘okay’ but if he is determined, he will wait patiently for her.

Since a formal engagement, or betrothal, marks the starting point of wedding plans, this step should not be rushed into.  If all parties (the man, the daughter, and her parents) are “on the same page” and believe the Lord has confirmed His blessing on the relationship, the parents can give him the go-ahead for betrothal.  Since the couple will never be left alone, even during the betrothal phase, he should not plan on proposing to her alone.  Since a betrothal is the first step in marriage—wherein witnesses are present—the parents and the daughter’s siblings, as well as the man’s parents and family, may choose to witness the proposal, even if from a distance.

This phase can last as long as it takes to plan a wedding.  Bride and groom should be in sync with their church and family calendars, being careful to plan around these.  They should seek parental advice regarding the service, and other important aspects of the wedding day.  This would be the right time for both sets of parents to become acquainted.

9. The Wedding.  This calls for another booklet!  For now, let’s assume that they will live happily ever after.


 

Common Objections

Some may wonder, “Can’t we just be friends?”  Usually not.  One-on-one friendships between a man and a woman nearly always spell trouble for one, if not both parties.  Time spent alone (including the privacy of lengthy personal telephone conversations, correspondence and especially the flippancy of e-mail) tends to stir up interests that are unhealthy.  Why?  Because one can fall in love and be hurt when the other doesn’t, or both can fall in love and their judgment will be clouded.  Worse yet, they may end up falling into compromise.  In the same way that a married person cannot have a close personal friend of the opposite sex (for obvious reasons) neither can single people.  “Friends of the family” are different from close personal friends that pair off and seek alone time together.

Another common objection is that while these guidelines may be fine for youngsters, they are not practical for adults. Of course, there are changes when people are out of their parent’s home and on their own, but which of us does not need counsel regarding life-impacting decisions of this nature?  Single adults are no less in danger of unwise decisions regarding marriage or sexual compromise than are their teenage counterparts.  They may even be more vulnerable because of their over-active self-confidence.

Just because a person is no longer a teenager, there is no reason to abandon the basic principles of betrothal.  Our married daughter went through this process leading to her marriage at age twenty-six.  Her maturity may have made her even more willing to submit to parental authority in her life.


 

A few things to consider if this sounds strange

1. Families have their traditions and customs.  I was not raised to do things the way Frances’ family did things.  But if I wanted her (and I most certainly did), I had to honor her parents and do things their way.

2. Far more stands to be lost by being too casual than by being too careful.

3. We are so used to the world’s ways, that new or different customs, especially if they are an attempt to honor God and obey His Word, will always sound strange.  While our ways may not be the way in which the Lord would direct every family, there are biblical principles behind our convictions.  What biblical principles are there that support the worldly dating system that most people, including Christians, practice?

4. Do you remember the first two paragraphs of this paper?  We are not trying to prevent our daughters from experiencing God’s blessing in marriage.  We want nothing more for them than that they be happily married to godly men who will provide spiritual leadership for them, care for them and give us many grandchildren!

5. Young men should not feel awkward or be offended if the father of a young woman in whom he is interested asks pointed questions about the young man’s life.  We fill out applications for jobs and for bank accounts and neither of these commitments are as important or binding as the commitment of marriage.  (A sample of the kinds of things I want to know about a young man interested in one of my daughters is found in Appendix C.)



One Last Issue

The one variable not yet mentioned is the willingness of a daughter to cooperate.  While a minor daughter may have little choice in the matter, once a daughter is an adult, she cannot be forced to adhere to her parents wishes in these matters.  In such cases parents can only do what they can do in light of their daughter’s rejection of their convictions.

 


 

Appendix A

 

Scripture regarding betrothal and the parents
role in their daughter’s marriage.

 

Deuteronomy 22:13-17.  The father and mother are to protect and be able to vouch for their daughter’s virginity.

Deuteronomy 22:20-21.  If the parents could not vouch for their daughter’s virginity, the daughter was to be executed.  This underscores the seriousness of the issue.  It was a capital offense under Old Covenant law, yet sexual intimacy before marriage is taken quite lightly today, even among many Christians. 

The young woman may have done what she did without her parents’ knowledge or approval (thus relieving them of the death penalty) but they suffered since their negligence and/or non-involvement resulted their daughter’s sin.  This certainly provides ample incentive for parents to keep a watchful eye on their daughters.

Further, had they known the potential husband more intimately, they would have known whether he was the sort of man who would make accusation of their daughter’s unchastity.

Deuteronomy 22:23-24.  Betrothal is mentioned in this passage.  Here sexual relations involving a betrothed woman and a man other than her betrothed is handled as adultery, as though she were already married.  The sin was to be punishable by death of both the man and the woman if the act took place in a location and in a situation wherein she could have fought the man off or called for help.  The point seems to be that since she did not fight him off or call for help when she could have, she was as guilty of adultery as the man was.

Note that a betrothed man is referred to as “a husband.”  Also, the sexual offender was guilty of humbling “his neighbor’s wife.”  By this we see that the betrothed woman was considered another man’s wife even though she was not yet married.

Deuteronomy 22:25-27.  Here again sexual relations take place between a betrothed woman and a man other than her betrothed.  In this instance the sexual offense took place in a location and in a situation wherein the woman could not fight the man off and could not call out for help.  In this case only the man was to be executed, the woman was not considered guilty. 

This scenario might be understood as being a case of “date rape.”  Although it most certainly is wrong for a man to “date-rape” a woman, far too many young women behave foolishly by being alone with a man and by engaging in some degree of physical intimacy.  When a woman engaging in this kind of irresponsible behavior says, “No!” although the man is wrong not to stop, frequently his passions have been aroused to a degree that stopping is unlikely.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29.  Sexual relations with an unbetrothed woman is considered fornication and is punishable by forced marriage from which the man can never be released through divorce.  Note also that the mandatory marriage was not because the young woman became pregnant.  This serious consequence of mandatory marriage was not based merely on results, but on the sinful action itself.  This places a high price tag on sexual activity outside of marriage.

Luke 1:34.  Though Joseph and Mary were betrothed, they were not sexually intimate.

Matthew 1:18-20.  When Mary was found to be pregnant, Joseph, her betrothed, could think nothing other than that Mary had been with another man.  Joseph had the right to have her executed or to divorce her on the grounds of adultery.  When the angel told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary, he referred to Mary as Joseph’s wife.

2 Corinthians 11:2.  Paul was a spiritual father to the believers in Corinth.  He expressed his desire to be a godly father by presenting his spiritual daughter as a chaste virgin to her Husband, Jesus.  Although Paul is referring to the spiritual marriage between Christ and His Bride the Church, where did he get the picture if it were not the common understanding of the law found in Deuteronomy?

 


 

Appendix B

Some thoughts regarding,
“How do I know if God is giving the green light?”


Christians are concerned about doing God’s will, and well we should be.  Jesus taught us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”  At least one application of this line in the Lord’s Prayer is that we long for God’s will to be done in our lives here on earth as it is in Heaven.  Sometimes there is, however, an unhealthy anxiety and preoccupation with knowing and doing God’s will. 

One reason is that we tend to neglect doing what we know to be God’s will moment by moment, day in and day out.  Then, when we face a particularly important decision, or worse, a crisis, we run to the Lord and seek His will.  The reality is that if we cultivate an ongoing walk with the Lord in which we are seeking His will in the small things, we will be so accustomed to the sound of His voice that discerning His will in the big things will be easier.

Another reason people tend to fret regarding God’s will is that we mistakenly think that God is either hiding His will from us, or that He longs to play twenty questions with us before revealing His will.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  God wants His children to know His will so that we may do His will.  Romans 8:32 asks the rhetorical question: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”  God gave us Himself.  The Father gave us the Son.  Since He has given Himself, we can rest assured that He is not going to withhold anything else from us—including His will for our lives.

A third problem some have in discerning God’s will, especially as it relates to choosing a mate, is that some tend to think that God’s will is like a narrow tightrope that we must walk.  One slip and we are out of God’s will.  Regarding marriage, this wrong idea causes some to believe that there is one person in the whole world who is right for them to marry.  The fear is that if a person somehow misses meeting and marrying that one person, he or she will be out of God’s will for life.  There are certainly some marriage choices that are not God’s will; a believer marrying a non-believer, for instance.  Be comforted.  Knowing and living according to God’s will is less like walking a tightrope and more like traveling through a wide corridor.  We are free to walk in the corridor of God’s will.  We make poor choices from time to time and find ourselves caroming back and forth off the walls of the corridor, but as long as we remain in the corridor, we are free to make a variety of choices that are each within God’s will.

So, once again, how do I know if God is giving me the green light regarding a particular person for marriage?  Let’s assume that the obvious is known: The potential mate is a Christian.  He or she is not married.  If he or she was married, the divorce was biblical.  That said, there are three questions one needs to ask—three intersections through which one needs to pass:

1. Am I willing and able to commit myself to marriage to this person?  Marriage is a commitment more than it is a feeling.  If a married person ever becomes disillusioned and asks, “Why did I marry this person?” the commitment must be  strong enough for the person to remain faithful, resisting all temptation to find an escape from the marriage.  Those who are not willing to make this kind of life-long commitment to marriage have a red light.  There are those who may be willing, but are not ready.  If a man cannot support himself and a wife, he may be willing but he is not able.  Those who are not able to assume the responsibility that goes with marriage have a red light.  If there are no red lights at this intersection the person may proceed to the next one.

2. Do the spiritual leaders in my life see red lights?  These spiritual leaders, whether they be parents or pastors, do not need to be matchmakers.  They are not responsible to tell you exactly who you should marry.  But they are able to be more objective than the one they are counseling.  If they see red lights, there is a likelihood that you do not have a green light.  If there is a green light at this intersection the person may proceed to the next one.

3. Am I attracted to this person?  Although romance is not the primary basis for biblical marriage, it is important, if not necessary, that the two people be attracted to each other.  Romance will grow if the first two are in place, but there ought to at least be a spark.  It is important that this intersection be the third one to cross because if attraction and romance is considered first, people are likely to run the red lights in the other two intersections.  Once two people are in love, their discernment often becomes clouded regarding their ability to make a commitment to marriage and they are less likely to heed the warnings of spiritual leaders in their lives.

If you are willing and able to make a commitment; if you have no red lights from spiritual leaders in your life; if you are attracted to the person: You have a green light.  It is not a mandate, but it is a green light to proceed with the next step.

 


 

Appendix C

 

A list of things parents and their daughters should want to know
 about a young man who is interested in betrothal:

 SPIRITUAL:

When was he saved?  What were the circumstances?  Has he been baptized? When?

Are his theology and life-style both thoroughly biblical?

What does he do to maintain his spiritual walk?

What are his views on church membership?  Is he serving in his church?  What church will they attend when married, who will decide and how? 

MARRIAGE:

What are his views on the roles of men and women in marriage?

How would he propose to be a spiritual leader to his wife and children?  (Family devotions, church, spiritual disciplines, etc.) 

FAMILY:

What was his family like?  Are they Christian?  Does he have any siblings?  What is his relationship with his parents?  What is his parent’s relationship with each other?

Is he committed to being a provider for his family so his wife can be a stay-at-home mother and homemaker?

What are his views on children?  How many does he imagine having?

What are his views on educating his children?  Whose responsibility is it?  What about public school, private school, or homeschooling?

What are his views on the responsibility to care for aging parents if the need arises? 

EDUCATION/FINANCES:

What education does he have?  What educational aspirations does he have?

What does he think about debt and has he demonstrated that his convictions are real in practice?

Does he tithe? 

RELATIONSHIPS:

How many girlfriends has he had?  How serious were any previous relationships both emotionally and physically?

Has he ever been married?  Does he have any children?

Are their any long-term consequences from any past experiences that might come back to haunt him? 

PERSONAL:

What are his interests?

What things does he really dislike?  (Or make him angry?)

What are his greatest struggles?

What does he consider his strengths?

What are his experiences and convictions regarding drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography and other addictive and/or potentially destructive behaviors? 

MISCELLANEOUS:

Does he plan to remain relatively local?

How far would he be willing to commute to work?

How many hours per week would he say is the maximum amount he would work under normal circumstances?

 


 

Appendix D

Parental Responsibilities and WHY

 

PARENTS OF DAUGHTERS:

Protect her until you are ready to give her in marriage.  There is more than tradition behind the question, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?”  The tradition came from the biblical mandate that parents of daughters give their daughters in marriage.  There are two areas in which parents are responsible before God to protect their daughters until the time of marriage.

First, protect her physically.  Deuteronomy 22:13-21 issues a command that it is the parents’ responsibility to be able to prove that their daughter is a virgin on her wedding night. [6]

Second, protect her emotionally.  Used and damaged hearts are not much better than used bodies.  Parents, it is your responsibility to steer her away from the common practice of having a string of boyfriends—to whom she has given her heart, and had it broken—thus preparing her for divorce rather than for marriage.

The responsibility of parents to protect their daughters physically and emotionally is great.  While parents must take care not to give her away thoughtlessly, we must also be careful that we are not unreasonable.  Loving parents may understandably feel that no one will ever be good enough.  This is why parents must discern the difference between, “Is he fit for my daughter?” and “He’s not my type.”  If he is fit, he doesn’t have to be your type.  You are not marrying him!


PARENTS OF SONS:

Train him to be man enough to go get a wife.  This principle is taught first in Genesis 2:24, when marriage was first instituted.  Men are to “leave father and mother and cleave to a wife.”  When Jesus was questioned about marriage in Matthew 19, He answered in verses 4–5 by referring back to this passage in Genesis 2.  The Apostle Paul writing about marriage in Ephesians 5, also quoted this passage from Genesis 2 (Ephesians 5:31).  Moses, Jesus, and Paul all agree that a man is to go get a wife.

Scripture does not teach that the groom’s parents are in the driver’s seat in these affairs.  If they have done their job, they have raised a man who can go get a wife.  If he is not ready to go get a wife, including dealing with her parents, he is not ready to have one.

The only instance in scripture that some might allege teaches otherwise is Abraham sending his servant, Eliezer, to get Rebekah for Isaac (Genesis 24).  We must not miss the fact that Abraham sent Eliezer with a proposition—one that Rebekah and her family were not obligated to accept.  The servant even asked Abraham, “What if the woman does not want to come here?” (v.5).  Abraham acknowledged the bride’s family as having the last word in verse 8 by releasing Eliezer from his duty to bring a wife for Isaac if she did not want to come.  So, while the groom’s family made a proposition, the final word belonged to the bride’s family.  Rebekah’s family said, “Yes,” but they did not have to.  They then asked Rebekah, giving her the final word.  Neither Abraham nor Isaac was in a position to dictate to Rebekah or her family what choice she had to make.

There is a difference between preparing a daughter for marriage and preparing a son for marriage.  We are wise to understand the roles and remain within them.

IS ALL THIS NECESSARY? 

It may not be necessary, but it is highly advisable.  Why?  Because scripture clearly provides principles regarding these things.  The admonitions to a man to leave and get a wife are clear enough, coming from Moses, Jesus, and Paul.  The admonitions for the parents of daughters to protect them are even clearer—they are commands found in God’s Law.

There is room for variance regarding the specific methods employed to accomplish these biblical principles.  It is not necessary, for instance, for the bride’s parents to monitor the sheets in the bridal suite.  That is arguably part of the ceremonial law that was put away by Christ.  The moral principles of the Law, however, are timeless and must still be followed.  No family should feel compelled to do things exactly as the Hales do.  However, every Christian family is responsible to God to be sure that whatever methods they employ, they actually do aim at meeting the principles and commands found in scripture.

While being careful to understand and aim at God’s ideals, we must exercise caution that we are not following the world’s methods since they are based on entirely different principles.  When we consider the wisdom of the world, especially since the sexual revolution and the women’s liberation movement that were unleashed upon us in the 1960s, can we rightly say that marriage and fidelity have been elevated to new heights? Or is it not rather true that the world’s principles and methods have been disastrous?  The world that hates Jesus Christ is hardly worthy to be considered to be the expert on love and marriage. 

So while you must ultimately decide what level of involvement you will have in your children’s betrothal and marriage, the goal is to glorify God by doing things in a way that most closely adheres to the principles found in His Word.

 


 

Appendix E 

What we learned from our experience with
Sarah and Jeff’s betrothal and marriage 

No one is the expert on these things except God.  As stated earlier, we do not claim to have all the answers, nor do we claim that it is God’s will for others to do things exactly the way we have.  We merely advocate searching God’s Word for principles, and then by God’s grace, seeking to do things in a manner that is consistent with those principles.  Our convictions, based on principles, remain unchanged.  Experience has taught us some valuable lessons about how to put our convictions into practice.  Here are five key lessons we learned:

1. There were times when it would have been easier to cave in, allowing things that are not consistent with our convictions.  By God’s grace, we did resist giving into laziness.  There were times when it was downright inconvenient to ensure that Sarah and Jeff were not alone.  While neither Sarah nor Jeff ever gave any evidence of resistance, there were times when they asked to be able to do things to which we had to say, “No.”  Though it was sometimes rough, we refused to cave into convenience, everyone went along, and in the end, we not only survived, we are all thankful for the way things went.

2. We all learned a lot about each other and our ability to remain committed to our game plan.  It was in the laboratory of actually doing this, when it was difficult and/or when frustrations began to arise, that characters were tested and truth about each of us was revealed.  Jeff proved himself to be a worthy man who can lead a home because he was willing to follow our lead throughout the process.

3. We learned that siblings are helpful.  Sarah’s sisters were pressed into service as chaperones on numerous occasions.  They were helpful.  It will be interesting to see what happens when our last daughter is at home with no sisters to assist.  By God’s grace we will not lower the bar for the sake of convenience.

4. Sarah learned that while waiting on the Lord is not always easy, it is always best.  She also learned that her parents, though not always right, always have her best interests in mind.

5. “The proof of the pudding,” as they say, “is in the eating.”  As a pastor who has officiated numerous weddings throughout the years, I have received many compliments on wedding ceremonies I performed.  I have never experienced such an outpouring as we received at Sarah and Jeff’s wedding.  The ceremony was beautiful, but what people commented most on was how uniquely spiritual and holy the whole affair was.  I believe the reason for this is that people were aware of how differently the entire relationship was managed.  Any frustrations experienced during the process were totally eclipsed by the beauty and holiness of the wedding.  While some have questioned our sanity regarding the process, they cannot deny the results.

 


 

Appendix F

A word about internet sites through which
single Christians can meet one another
 

We serve in a relatively small church.  My daughters are “the pastor’s kids.”  Put those two facts together, and it can be pretty slim pickings to find a suitable husband.  After all, the young people in a smaller church are more like siblings—yuck!  Is it appropriate for Christians to use Christian singles’ internet sites to meet potential mates?  In a word, yes.

Before computers and the internet, we advocated Christian singles dating and matchmaking services as a way to meet people.  These services were not much more high tech than a photo and file box of 3 x 5 cards.  The internet boosts that simple system substantially.  On the positive side, the internet allows a person to cast a bigger net, finding potential matches in a much larger pool.  Casting a bigger net can hardly be faulted, but the internet also presents some potential problems.  Here are two. 

First, there are many unscrupulous people out there who claim to be Christians, but who certainly do not share (or even respect) other people’s convictions.  There are guys out there who are willing to drop a little God talk as a means of scamming on women.  Besides using discernment, here are two simple safeguards.

1. Do not post glamour photos.  Post photos that are attractive, but honest.  No woman needs a man who is simply looking for a woman to adorn himself.  Post photos in which the female is with others, like family, and/or in which she is doing something meaningful, like serving on a mission trip or teaching a Sunday School class.  Any guy who is turned off to such things isn’t a good candidate.

2. Be upfront about your convictions regarding dating, courtship, and betrothal.  If a man does not respect your convictions on these things, he is not a good candidate.

Second, the internet and email relationships allow for a great deal of secrecy and for fraud.  The number one essential to safeguard against this is to insist that interested parties direct inquiries to the girl’s father or another male spiritual leader (who also has access to her profile).  Require any and all correspondence either to be through, or at least “cc’d” to the father or spiritual leader.  This is an essential fire wall to protect oneself from potential harm.  Again, this will lessen the number of inquiries, but it will also lessen the number of less-than-worthy leads.

The internet is not bad.  It can be used in inappropriate ways and we may never know how many people have been hurt (and families broken up) by internet relationships.  That does not mean that properly used, it cannot be a very powerful tool through which two people, who would otherwise never have met, can find each other.


Notes

[1]   At the date of this revised edition (1/2007), our daughter, Sarah, is already married.  We made it through a process of betrothal.  We believe both the process and the wedding gave much glory to God. 

[2]    We do not believe that this is inevitable.  By God’s grace, and as we exercise due diligence before the Lord to avoid such heartbreak, we pray that none of our daughters will suffer in that way.

[3]   This booklet is intentionally written in a personal manner.  While we have strong convictions regarding the biblical principles presented here, we do not present our methods in a “Thus saith the Lord” manner.  Each family must wrestle with the Lord and His Word to discern for themselves what methods are right for them and for their families.

[4]   We do not believe that parents should “arrange” marriages.  We believe that a couple should be attracted to each other and in love.  We do not believe that two people should marry unless they truly want each other as life-long marriage partners.  We believe that parents should get to know a potential spouse and that they have the responsibility before God to discourage a relationship if, based on their experience and having sought the Lord with all diligence, they discern that the relationship is not God’s will.

[5]   Females are often more romantically minded than males.  When a man tells a girl that he loves her, though he might not be trying to communicate anything terribly serious, she is likely to understand it to be serious.  Then if he backs out, she is likely to have her feelings hurt.

[6]  Today, people may think they are still unused because they haven’t engaged in actual intercourse; meanwhile, they’ve done everything else.  Even a former U.S. president insisted under oath that his sexual escapades were not adultery, because they didn’t go all the way!  Let us not deceive ourselves.