A Christian Teen’s Guide to Dating and Sex
Take an in-depth look at how Christian teenagers should approach sex, romance, dating and marriage.
Dating and sex are some of the most common issues that Christian teenagers want to discuss with their youth leaders.
If you’re a Christian teen, odds are you’ve wondered how dating and sex fit into God’s plan for your life - which is great! It's so important that we wrestle with topics like this, and make sure that we're honouring God with our whole lives.
In this Christian Teen’s Guide to Dating and Sex, we’re going to take a look at what the Bible says about dating and sex, and answer a few of the most common questions about this topic that we've received here on Fervr.
What does the Bible say about dating and sex?
As Christians, we turn the Bible as our primary source of wisdom for how we live, so let’s begin by taking a look at what the Bible says about this dating and sex.
What the Bible says about dating
I’ve got some bad news, unfortunately… the Bible says nothing about dating!
In Biblical times, both the Old and New Testament, the vast majority of marriages were arranged by the families of the couple. They didn’t get much of a say in who they married, and there was certainly no dating period in which couples “tried out” the relationship.
That doesn’t mean all Christians should have arranged marriages today. Instead, when we want to think about dating in our modern context, we have to look at what is timeless in the Bible – most importantly, we have to look at what the Bible says about marriage.
What the Bible says about marriage
In the Bible, marriage is the first human relationship that God creates. After he makes Adam and Eve, they become the first married couple – committed to one another before God.
Even after the fall, marriage remains a key part of God’s plans for humanity. It is still his intention that men and women come together in exclusive relationships, for the purposes of loving each other and growing together in godliness – and to make more people!
Plus, since Jesus, marriage has had another special purpose: representing the relationship between Jesus and the church. Ephesians 5:25-27 explains:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Married couples have a special responsibility: to represent this sacrificial relationship to the world. It’s a great joy but also means we need to take marriage very seriously!
What the Bible says about sex
The Bible is very clear about sex: it is for husbands and wives in the security and privacy of marriage.
Inside marriage, sex is a beautiful, bonding activity that connects a couple deeply and can lead to the conception of children. Sex inside marriage is meant to be enjoyable and loving.
Sexual activity outside of this God-ordained marriage is sinful, and the Bible warns strongly about sexual immorality throughout the Old and New Testament. Check out 1 Corinthians 6:13, 1 Corinthians 6:18 Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:3, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 for just a few references.
Because marriage, according to God, is between a man and a woman, that means that sexual activity between same-sex partners is also not ok in God’s eyes, even if they are married in the eyes of the law of a state or country.
Let’s get practical
Now that we’ve taken a look at what the Bible has to say about dating, marriage and sex, let’s address some of the questions that you might be wondering about, as you seek to follow God in this area.
What is the purpose of dating?
Since there’s no dating in the Bible, there are no guidelines that tell us exactly what dating is for. But wise Christians have figured out over the past few centuries that dating (or courting or going out or whatever you call it!) should be used for one main thing: to find someone to marry!
Now that we don’t have arranged marriages, dating is what we do instead to find a suitable person to marry. Keeping this end goal in mind is important, because if you’re dating someone you can’t see yourself marrying, you need to ask why you're in that relationship.
Christians don’t just date for fun, or to have someone to hang out with on a Saturday night. We date for a purpose.
Who should I date?
Since dating for Christians should look towards finding someone to marry, it makes sense that you shouldn’t date a non-Christian.
2 Corinthians 6:14 says it clearly: "Do not be yoked [joined] together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?"
There are obviously other important things to consider when picking someone to date, including how old they are, your common interests, and of course whether they are nice to you! But if you want to marry a Christian, date a Christian.
If you date a non-Christian, consider what will happen:
- You won’t share core values, like prioritising spending time with other Christians
- Fighting sexual temptation might be harder because they’ll probably want to go further than you know you should
- You could end up in a really hard marriage, where you fight about how to spend your time and raise your children
Even if you’re young, dating is still preparing for marriage. It's just not wise to date a non-Christian! You can read more about this in this article.
When should I start dating?
Since dating is preparing for marriage, some people think it makes some sense to save dating until you’re old enough to get married.
His four main reasons to save dating for after high school are:
- To avoid extra temptation – if you’re not dating anyone, you’re less likely to be tempted to sin sexually
- Because break ups are messy – breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend could damage your friendships at school or church
- People change – some people are very different a few years after high school and there’s a good chance your teenage date won’t be as appealing when you’re 20
- It’s fun being young and single – singleness is a gift from God and we should enjoy it, and not rush into marrying just for the sake of it
All that being said… there is definitely no rule around this area. Your church might teach something different, and that’s ok! Since dating isn’t in the Bible, different Christians are going to have different ideas around issues like this one.
If you do choose to start dating a long time before you get married, be aware of the challenges you may face.
The younger you are, the more casual you should keep your relationship. Save serious talks about the future for when you’re older, hang out with friends and family more than alone, and think seriously about your physical boundaries.
How far can I go?
Speaking of physical boundaries… this is the biggest question Christian teens seem to have around dating!
But it’s actually the wrong question to be asking. 1 Corinthians 6:18 tells us to “flee from sexual immorality”.
Asking how far you can go with your boyfriend or girlfriend is like playing a game of soccer, and trying to see how close to your own goal you can get the ball. It’s just not what you’re supposed to do – you should try to keep the ball as far away as possible. In the same way, you should try to stay as far away from doing something wrong sexually when you are dating.
That will mean setting some boundaries with your boyfriend or girlfriend. You might consider boundaries like the following:
- Never being in your bedrooms, or at least never shutting the door
- Not being home alone together
- Applying the “Disney movie” rule – if a couple wouldn’t do it in a G-rated Disney movie, you shouldn’t do it!
- Depending on you as a couple, you might even choose to save kissing at all until you’re married or at least engaged
If you’re serious about your sexual purity, you might like to ask a trusted adult to keep you accountable. If your parents are Christians, you could even ask them. Nothing helps avoid a sexual mistake like a parent who insists on keeping your bedroom door open.
Don’t forget – while physical boundaries are important, emotional boundaries are also significant. Guard your heart as well as your body, taking things slowly. Make sure you maintain your friendships, so you have another person to talk to other than just your boyfriend or girlfriend! You can find out more about this idea in this article.
Questions to think about
If you’re considering dating, or just want to think more deeply about this topic, here are some questions to help you:
- What sort of a person does God want you to marry? What are your own personal preferences for a spouse?
- If you want to start dating, why? Is there a certain person you think would be a good match for you, or do you just want to do what your friends are doing?
- What sort of physical relationship do you think would be appropriate with your boyfriend or girlfriend? Can you back this up from the Bible? How will you stay strong on this?
- How long do you think you’d be able date before you’d want to get married? Depending on your age right now, do you think it’s a good idea to start dating now?