I Kissed Dating Goodbye – Joshua Harris
Before I continue, I guess I firstly need to address that cover. Yes, that man is wearing a trilby and his jacket is most certainly tweed. And yes, if it were not for that hat cast at a jaunty angle hiding much of his boyish face, I am sure he would be sneaking an ever-so-cheeky wink.
Yes, he is young enough to know better and, yes, he disturbs me a little too.
This cover needs addressing, not because I think it will put you off reading this book (because only a fool would judge a book by its cover, right?), but because I think that this ’80s soft-focus geekery might change the way that you read this book. You see, and I should make this clear from the outset, Joshua Harris’s position regarding dating and courtship is so far out of kilter with popular conceptions of how romantic attachments should operate, that you might be forgiven for thinking this book was written in the 1880s.
Harris’ position regarding male/female relationships is provocative, ‘We cannot love as God loves and date as the world dates. God’s grand view of love pushes out the pettiness and selfishness which defines so much of what takes place in dating.’ (page 70). His conclusion, therefore, is that, as Christians, we should and must radically revise the way in which we think about romance, relationships and, most especially, dating.
At this point, I want to be clear: Joshua Harris does not condemn all dating as sinful. Rather, his concern is with the present culture’s low view of relationship and the way in which this subsequently works itself out in our generation’s pursuit of serial romantic attachments with all the trappings of physical intimacy (be this kissing, ‘making out’ or full-on sex) and emotional intimacy without any sense of commitment. It is this kind of dating that Harris has in mind.
Instead, Harris encourages Christians to view relationship (and each other) through the lens of Scripture and through God’s eyes. Harris’ encouragement is threefold, he urges believers to firstly recognise that the boy/girl in question is first and foremost a child of God and a brother or sister in the Lord (Harris assumes that Christians understand Scripture forbids believers to pursue relationship with unbelievers). As such, expectations are high. Suddenly our primary concern is to love and serve the other person in a Christ-like way and to encourage them in their walk with the Lord that they might become more Christ-like. When viewed biblically, relationship (be it romantic or otherwise) should no longer be about fulfilling my wants and my needs, but rather our priority should be to seek our brother or sister’s good.
Secondly, Harris urges believers to view relationship rightly and recognise that intimacy (both emotional and physical) properly belongs within the context of marriage. Harris understands that emotional and physical intimacy without the commitment that only comes with marriage is both harmful and potentially sinful.
The encouragement, therefore, is to view relationship rightly: as a prelude to marriage. Harris does not suggesting that all romantic relationships must result in marriage (he, in fact, encourages careful self-examination and wisdom at each stage of the relationship). Harris quite rightly challenges the wisdom in engaging in romantic relationships where there is no possibility and/or no intention of the relationship leading anywhere.
Thirdly, Harris urges patience, ‘I adjure you… that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases (Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5 and 8:4). Within this new biblical framework of relationship, there are clearly times and seasons when romantic relationship should not be pursued. We may find ourselves at an age or in a season of life where we are unable to consider commitment and marriage. In such circumstances, Harris urges believers to actively avoid romantic attachment.
Harris understands that there is a beauty in God’s timing and that singleness can be a great blessing in and of itself and in preparation for marriage. Believers are urged, therefore, to use their singleness well in their service of Christ Jesus and in their love of one another.
I would disagree with Joshua Harris on a couple of very minor issues (so minor, they are not worth mentioning here) and a couple of his illustrations feel a little dated (which is inevitable in a book aimed at teenagers and twentysomethings and written over a decade ago), but these are but mere minor quibbles.
This is an important and hugely helpful book in an age where sex is viewed as simply another commodity, relationship as a means to an end and where marriage has been almost entirely devalued.
In this respect, Joshua Harris’ message is both biblical and timely. Furthermore, he writes with great honesty and from a position of integrity in that, at the time of writing, he was nineteen, single and living out the message of this book (he has since married and is now Senior Pastor at Covenant Life Church, Maryland).
I would encourage those who are single and those who are pursuing relationship to read and pray through this book. I would encourage parents and youth leaders to take this and work through the issues with their children and young people. I pray, as you do so, that God would open your eyes to the glorious truth of all that he made relationship and marriage to be.
To purchase a copy of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, click here.
To read Joshua Harris’ blog, click here.