Dating and courting are basically the same thing—just different terms. "Courtship" is generally viewed as pursuing a relationship with the full intention to marry the other person. "Dating" is viewed as more casual and usually wrapped up in a simple series of romantic encounters (both emotional and physical).
Before we get into this though, we've gotta throw out the reminder that if your parents have told you that they do not want you to date yet, then you must respect their rules. Colossians 3:20 says, "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord." That said, let's take a look at what the Bible says about romantic relationships.
The Bible does not actually mention the terms "dating" and "courtship", but we can definitely find some principles about relationships that will help us understand what's up with this touchy subject. First things first, let's separate how the world views dating from how God wants us to handle the period of time before a couple gets married. According to 2 Peter 2:18-20, God's way is totally contradictory to the way the world says unmarried couples should act.
The world is constantly sending a message of "try before you buy" when it comes to dating. The world says that dating as much as you want is totally fine. The world says that sleeping around is necessary to see if you're physically compatible. The world says that living together before you're married is completely normal because, well, how else would you find out if your boyfriend's/girlfriend's habits are too annoying to live with?
Sadly, this is a very self-centered way of entering into a relationship. This view is all about pleasing ourselves—not loving and serving another person. That kind of attitude and motivation will ultimately lead to a relationship ending in disaster. Even very well-meaning, God-loving Christian couples can fall into the trap of selfishness when it comes to relationships.
God's view of romance is quite different from the world's view. He wants us to first discover a person's innermost character, who they really are when no one is looking, before we decide to make a commitment of the heart. Does the person strengthen your relationship with Christ, or does he or she compromise your morals and standards? Has the person accepted Christ as his or her Savior (John 3:3-8; 2 Corinthians 6:14-15)? Is the person committed to becoming more like Jesus (Philippians 2:5) or do they lead a selfish life? Does the person show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, which are the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)?When you've committed to another person in a romantic relationship, remember to keep God as the most important Person in your life (Matthew 10:37). You should never place anything or anyone over God because that is considered the sin of idolatry (Galatians 5:20; Colossians 3:5)—even if you mean very well and love the person unconditionally. Strange as it sounds, having God as the focus of your life will help you to love that other person even better.
In dating or courting relationships, be aware of avoiding sexual temptation. It is not only a sin against God, but it is a sin against our own bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18). Respect yourself and the one you love by honoring them the way God intends us to honor others (Romans 12:9-10).
Dating or courting or whatever you want to call it can be a great way to solidify an already super strong friendship and begin to build a solid foundation for marriage. If your parents have given their blessing, God is at the center of your motivations, and you are both ready to step it up, then this could be a perfect time to move toward something more than "just friends". If you want to shoot for a lifelong, God-honoring union with your best friend, then that is when you know it's time to start a romance (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5).
Dating and courting are basically the same thing, but their perceived intent differs. "Courtship" is generally viewed as pursuing a relationship with the full intention to marry the other person. "Dating" is viewed as more casual and usually wrapped up in a series of emotional/physical romantic encounters. God's view of romance is different from the world's view. He wants us to first discover a person's innermost character before we decide to make a commitment of the heart. Dating/courtship can be a great way to solidify a strong friendship and begin to build a solid foundation for marriage. Through it all, remember to keep God as the most important person in your life (Galatians 5:20; Colossians 3:5), never a romantic interest.
Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, four socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.