The first time I heard of Joshua Harris was back in middle school. At the time, a lot of what he said, and what I remembered, was head knowledge; I was simply too young with not a lot of relationship experience to apply what I was learning. I simply thought that I was already following what God wanted me to do: avoid dating until “the time was right”, and not to do it like the rest of the world (which was pretty obvious to me).
But reading through “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” more recently (during the Resolved conference, actually) gave me a further glimpse into what Harris really examined in his book. It’s not about “dating correctly”, and it’s certainly not about “not dating at all”. Rather, it’s an examination of our own hearts when we pursue relationships with the opposite gender, and realizing that there is much more than just the “pursuit of happiness” in our relationships.
God created marriage ultimately as a reflection of the gospel, as Paul describes in Eph. 5:22-33. It’s a picture of service and sacrifice between the husband and the wife. If we could only picture dating relationships in that same manner: placing the other’s interests above our own.
Today’s view of the modern concept we call “dating” is so skewed towards pleasing oneself and fulfilling one’s own fleshly desires. From this selfishness spurs sexual sin and ultimate heartbreak as we carelessly give away our hearts to someone fallible, rather than entrusting it to the One who is constant, never changing, ever loving, and ultimate truth. He who gave His Son for our sake deserves everything in return, including our uppermost affections and desires, that He may be glorified in us in our pursuit of following and loving Him.
Although the biggest theme that Harris expounds in “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” is that “The joy of intimacy is the reward of commitment”, I honestly think its something even greater. The ultimate goal of the book, based a lot off of the concepts found in Elisabeth Elliot’s “Passion and Purity”, is looking at our hearts. Are we striving after Jesus first and foremost? Do we long to love Him more and to make much of Him in our daily lives? And are we allowing that servitude permeate even our relationships? It’s when we truly realize that dating is less self-gratifying and more sacrificial-loving that we understand God’s highest priority in our relationships with one another: to bring Him the most glory, honor, and praise because He is most worthy.
That being said, much of the book examines emotional purity in two aspects: setting Christ as our highest thoughts in our own lives, while working to defend the emotional purity of those of the opposite gender. Rather than using relationships to satisfy even the smallest lustful cravings, we need to look towards bringing Christ more glory through those same relationships. And that means keeping our eyes and hands off of one another and focusing on expanding Him and His Kingdom in our singleness. Because in a world where dating is so flawed and self-seeking, why not just skip it altogether, for His glory’s sake?
I’ve heard many mentors in my own life say to take “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”, the prequel to “Boy Meets Girl”, with a grain of salt. And although there are definitely some ideas in Harris’s book that are not most practical even in its proper context, the overall message of the book is clear, and one that I continue to seek prayer for and to hold dear: Making much of Christ first, and allowing everything to fall in place, including relationships, from that highest calling. Defending my own emotional purity, as well as those of the brothers and sisters around me, so that He may be made known and glorified in all that we say and that we do.