The Christian View of Courtship
Helpful facts that young people want to know
MARRIAGE is a worldwide practice. Though it may surprise many persons, courtship is not. And even in the many lands where it is practiced, courtship customs vary greatly.
To people where courtship is accepted as normal, its absence in certain lands may seem hard to understand. But people living in lands where courtship is not practiced might be equally puzzled at some of the customs in lands where it is carried on. They might even find some of these customs somewhat offensive.
So, rather than take a narrow-minded viewpoint and think that the only way to do things is the way people in our own locality do them, it is much better to broaden out our thinking. After all, in the final analysis, is it not the way things work out, the results, that determine how good or how bad certain customs are? In the Bible at Ecclesiastes 7:8 we read: “Better is the end afterward of a matter than its beginning.” And we must admit that in many countries where courtship is the custom, a large percentage of marriages are not working out well but are ending in divorce.
Really, the question that concerns you is: What is the prevailing custom where you live? In some countries or regions the prospective bride and groom do not meet until their wedding day. Arrangements for their marriage have all been carried out by others—by their respective parents or perhaps by a “matchmaker” or “go-between” that the parents (or, in some cases, the prospective husband himself) may employ. Now, this arrangement of marriage without preliminary courtship may not be what many prefer; but it is the custom with others. And, we should note, it is a custom that we cannot condemn as out of harmony with God’s Word, the Bible.
We find it illustrated in the marriage of Abraham’s son Isaac to Rebekah, which you can read about in Genesis chapter 24. And we read of Isaac’s son Jacob that when he wanted to marry Laban’s daughter Rachel, he made his marriage proposal, not to her, but to her father, asking Laban for his approval of the marriage. (Gen. 29:15-20) Furthermore, these marriages of true worshipers worked out well.
There could really be only one Scriptural basis for a Christian’s objecting to marriage under such an arrangement. What is that? That would be where the arrangement called upon one to marry a person who was not a fellow believer in the true God, Jehovah, nor a disciple of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.—Compare Deuteronomy 7:3, 4; 1 Corinthians 7:39; 2 Corinthians 6:14.
So, what is said in the article that follows is not to promote the courtship arrangement nor to disregard existing customs in many lands nor to minimize their worth. It is, rather, to give sound counsel from God’s Word, particularly for young persons in lands where such courtship practice does exist.
And, although primarily directed to young people, the purpose of this succeeding article is not to encourage early marriage. The hard facts show that teen-age marriages simply do not have the same likelihood of success as marriages where one or both persons have attained a more mature age. As one sociologist commented: “Research studies show that, in general, teen-age marriages are characterized by a high divorce or unhappiness rate compared with marriages at later age.”
On the other hand, there is no Scriptural basis for rigidly ruling out all marriage among such younger persons. Generally, the laws of the land grant the parents the right to exercise their mature judgment to decide what they believe will be in the best interests of their children and lead to the greatest happiness and benefit for them. They may decide either to allow or not to allow marriage of their sons or daughters who are under their jurisdiction. Certainly, the many problems of our times and the large percentage of marriage failures should cause them to exercise caution. And it should cause thinking young persons likewise to exercise caution—rather than to ‘marry in haste and repent at leisure.’ It is foolish to rush through a door just because it is open, when you do not have any good idea of what is on the other side.
Above all, the wise person, young or old, will seek God’s direction. Yes, “roll your works upon Jehovah himself and your plans will be firmly established,” for “the heart of earthling man may think out his way, but Jehovah himself does the directing of his steps.”—Prov. 16:3, 9.