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The "Encouragement" Date

So here it is; the one that every brother has been called out for at least 7 times a month until he finally either acquiesces, or hardens to the point of wanting to become a Pauline monk, devoid of any relational interaction or speech. The "Encouragement" Date! But in all seriousness, before we harden ourselves or find some hole to crawl in for us to love Jesus until he comes back, let's think about what this really is and is not. Date: usually a term referring to two humans of the opposite sex (though that is not exclusively the case in modern times, though from a Christian perspective we will only consider this one here - see here for more on the topic of homosexuality) meet in a social setting to seek companionship, typically with "the aim of assessing the others suitability as a partner in an intimate relationship or marriage. This period of courtship is sometimes seen as a precursor to engagement or marriage." (Wiki) However, I would argue that the purpose for "dating" (meeting in a social setting) could have a broader purpose and meaning that incorporates the desire to lift up, encourage (literally to embolden) in one's faith, to protect one's sibling in the faith, etc. Now it is true that the "encouragement date" can be confusing (for all parties involved) because it has with it attached the word "date" and can have both or either of these very different meanings and implications, and thus be ambiguous. Feelings can develop when someone doesn't intend for them to, simply because the terminology from the outset was not clear. Now, let me add the caveat that this is not the same as ambiguity because of one's behavior being unclear in this social meeting, such as flirting, etc. That is a different story all together, and simply needs to be guarded against. For we are siblings in Christ first, before we are ever husband and wife (and even after we are husband and wife). So, good-hearted brother that only likes to go on "dates" and not "encouragement dates", call it whatever you want. We can have a linguistic revolution if you like ... I have always liked the term "brotherly encouragement and social gathering with a possibility of budding romance" personally, but that's just me. The more important issue is our hearts (Lk 6:45). Do you have a heart to take care of your sibling in the Lord? Do you wish to protect, to lead, to help make radiant ... the very things you are called to do as a future husband anyway? Or do you simply want to spend your times on dates that are romantic because they are really to suit your selfish fancies anyway? Let's be honest, we have all seen the brother that only takes out the attractive sisters, showing his true character and heart to be shallow, only interested in himself (c.f. Phil 2:3-4). And we have all seen the sister that rejects, or begrudgingly accepts, the invitation from the brother that is not very "sharp" (i.e. not very attractive, not debonair, financially unstable, or is socially awkward).

Call it whatever you will, our hearts as Christians should be to look out for one another, and we should be willing to do all that we can to help aid in each other's spiritual growth and edification. This can most certainly happen in more ways than a date or social gathering ... but let's examine our own hearts to see where the real hang up is, and not simply use excuses for us to remain in our sin.


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