The World's Way or God's Way

So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. Ruth 3:6 

Ruth could see the differences between a relationship in her native, sexually-immoral Moabite culture and her adopted, Godly Israelite community. Today, two paths to marriage—courtship and dating (see chart below)—are available to us. 

Non-Christian Dating

Christian Courtship

Privately overseen by the couple

Publicly includes family, friends, church

The goal is undefined and often includes sexual contact of some kind

The goal is to determine if this is the person God intends for you to marry

The relationship is open as they often feel free to see other people

The relationship is exclusive, and they are not free to pursue other people simultaneously

Of course, dating need not be done in a sinful way in our culture. But, historically, it has brought some new troubles and temptations to relationships. In the early 1900s, calling (a man visiting a woman he was interested in at her family home) was the primary means of marrying for respectable people, and young women were discouraged from going out alone with unrelated males for fear of getting a bad reputation. In the 1920s, urbanization provided social outlets for meeting outside the home (e.g., restaurants, movie theaters, dance halls, etc.). And in the 1930s, the automobile provided a new freedom for younger people to gather away from their parents’ homes and have complete independence and privacy. In the 1930s also, dating overtook calling in prevalence, and money became the means by which a man could pursue a woman, as he could take her out on expensive dates. By the 1940s, some men began to expect sexual favors in return for spending money on a woman.

In the 1960s, the feminist and sexual “revolutions” recreated the cultural landscape in a massive way. Playboy was put behind the counter, and the birth control pill allowed women to have sex without fear of getting pregnant. In the 1970s, Playboy and Penthouse were out on the shelf, and in 1973, abortion was legalized, which further encouraged sex outside of marriage. In 1974, no-fault divorce was made legal, which eliminated some of its associated stigma and changed the cultural view of marriage.

Today, for the first time in U.S. history, single adults outnumber married adults. This trend is also becoming increasingly common in other Western nations. Part of this is due to the fact that people are waiting longer than ever to marry. Most men marry around age 30, and women, in their late 20s. This is considerably higher than at any other point in U.S. history. Relatedly, single people are sexually active and using birth control and abortion to prevent the birth of children, and cohabiting while dating. It is estimated that about a quarter of unmarried women between the ages of 25 and 39 are currently living with a partner and about half have lived at some time with an unmarried partner (the data are typically reported for women but not for men). Over half of all first marriages are now preceded by cohabitation, compared to virtually none earlier in the century. People aged 20 to 24 are most likely to cohabit.

Consequently, the 3,000-year-old story of Ruth is incredibly timely. Like Ruth, many Christian singles don’t come from godly families but aspire to marry a godly person and have a godly family. In Ruth, we see that she seeks wise counsel from an older woman and in faith takes an enormous risk and “pulls a Ruth” to put herself in front of Boaz for marriage. 

  • What cultural pitfalls do you want to avoid in your relationship or marriage? How do you plan to do that?
  • How can you support the marriages and Godly relationship of Christians around you?