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My Sweet Woman,

If we are to date as Pharisees, I think we should write down a bunch of rules and regulations and punishments for when our self-control causes us to not keep them.  Then, we can self flaggellate, get on our faces and bemoan our fallen nature, blame God for not helping us keep our boundaries, and live with guilt and shame for the rest of our days.

Actually, that sounds miserable.  Let’s not do that, ever.  I am not saying we shouldn’t be smart, or we shouldn’t take common-sense steps to protect our relationship, because we should.  I am not sure if you have noticed, but I enjoy being around you, and would like to continue being around you for a while longer, and want to take precautions to ensure this train doesn’t derail.  However, the surest way to stop enjoying each other’s company is to be legalistic and set rules.  When the Pharisees had over six hundred rules, they managed to miss the whole “love God and your neighbor” bit because they were so focused on the rules and not messing up, “tithing the dill and mint” that they forgot the whole part about being in relationship with God and enjoying him as their father.  I don’t want that to happen in our relationship. Let’s not have overly-strict boundaries, they only encourage (me at least) finding loopholes.  Besides, if we cross a boundary, let’s say we have sex (it was what we were both thinking anyhow), what would we do?  Set stricter rules? Rules didn’t work in the first place, the problem is that we both kinda want to have sex.

Instead, let’s have grace.  How about this: when I mess up, we have grace, and when you mess up, we have grace, and when we both mess up, we have grace?  We need grace in our relationships with housemates and family members, we will need grace to overflow if we get married, and a plethora of it should God grant us progeny, so why does dating have to be burdened with so many rules?

Again, I don’t want to use this to say we should gleefully make mistakes, but I think it is rather inconsistent for Christians to simultaneously proclaim the gospel (“You need grace to overflow in every area of your life”) and legalism (“here are six hundred things NOT to do while dating or else SHAME ON YOU, SINNER!”).  Instead, the “rules” need to be subservient to the grace.  I want the guidelines because I want to protect what we have and are building, but the boundaries are a means to an end, not an end of itself.

So, let’s give up the contemporary Christian idolatry of perfect relationships and rules for dating, and decide now to expect this relationship to be messed up and difficult, like all other relationships in life.  Let’s decide that this relationships is meant for a help, comfort, and challenge, but not as a savior or fulfillment.  Let’s decide on grace.

Graciously yours,

A Christian Guy.