It’s been a while since I’ve done a book review on the blog. This will be fun!
For the rationale as to why I’m even attempting this, please feel free to click here.
Now to the good part. I intend to do this book review in sections. Just as Joshua Harris has divided it up into chapters. I figure it’s the best way to keep things organized. So without further to do, lets get to the meat of this, shall we?
No need to be afraid. Join in on the adventure!
It becomes quickly apparent that the author has had trouble dating in a way that makes God, or even his parents happy. Keep in mind, this was 1997 at the time, so he probably got better at it by now.
A little later on, Joshua explains the four reasons why someone would read this book.
1. You just got out of a bad relationship, and you don’t want to be hurt again. Not dating sounds like a great idea.
2. You just haven’t felt comfortable with dating, and you’re looking for alternatives.
3. You’re in a dating relationship that is headed in the wrong direction. You’re looking for a way to keep the relationship within God’s boundaries.
4. You’re in a great dating relationship, and you’re curious why anyone would choose not to date.
(Harris, Joshua I Kissed Dating Goodbye, 1997. Multnomah p. 10-11)
I’m not entirely sure what group I fit in here. Maybe as I keep reading, I might possibly find out.
Chapter 1: Smart Love
This chapter begins with a wedding scene where a woman walks down the aisle to her futre husband. As they are saying their vows to each other, all of the man’s previous lovers and fling girls stand up and form a chain holding hands. Then the guy obviously has to explain himself. (Harris, p. 14) I ask you this, Who in their right mind invites their former lovers to a wedding? That’s not appropriate at all. And if he had been holding both her hands, as is proper at every wedding I’ve ever seen, this awkward, sad situation would have no reason to present itself. Think ahead, people!
As I quickly discovered, the scenario before me was a mere dream. However, my imploring exclamation at the end of the last paragraph still stands.
Here is the first quote that causes people to squirm when they read it.
I’ve come to realize that I have no business asking for a girl’s heart and affections if I’m not ready to back up my request with a lifelong commitment. Until I can do that, I’d only be using that woman to meet my short term needs, not seeking to bless her for the long term. Would I enjoy having a girlfriend right now? You bet! But with what I’ve learned as I’ve sought God’s will for my life, I know that a relationship right now wouldn’t be best for me or for the one I’d date. Instead, by avoiding romance before God tells me I’m
ready for it, I can better serve girls as a friend, and I can remain free to keep my focus on the Lord.
(Harris, p. 21-22)
I get the gist of this one. Nobody should rush things in and go all Horace Wimp in their relationships.
Here’s what I mean by the Horace Wimp reference. Just in case you’ve never heard that song.
Now I’m done with my rabbit trail. Back to the review. Harris mentions that it’s good to get to know women as friends first. That doesn’t mean that every interaction you have with a female is giving your heart away. So we don’t need to be as afraid as people have been after reading that paragraph in the past. It’s always good to get to know people in actual useful ways besides just “hugging” them all the time. He probably has a chapter talking about hugs coming up. We’ll have to wait and see.
Here’s the kicker at the end of the chapter.
I believe the time has come for Christians, male and female, to own up to the mess we’ve left behind in our selfish pursuit of short-term romance. Dating may seem an innocent game, but as I see it, we are sinning against each other. What excuse will we have when God asks us to account for our actions and attitudes in relationships? If God sees a sparrow fall (Matthew 10:29), do you think
He could possibly overlook the broken hearts and scarred emotions we cause in relationships based on selfishness?
(Harris, p. 25-26)
Reading this as a stand alone paragraph could lead us to believe that the entirety of dating is selfish. I wonder if he’ll explain alternative methods in later chapters?
Chapter 2: The Seven Habits of Highly Defective Dating
Looks like we’re starting off with the bad news first. On the first pitfall, Harris gives the following desciption.
Deepening intimacy without defining a level of commitment is plainly dangerous. It’s like going mountain climbing with a partner who isn’t sure that she wants the responsibility of holding your rope.
(Harris, p. 31)
He has a point, you’d probably want to be on the same page if you’re going to bother dating at all. And if you don’t give everything away at once, there is naturally less of a hurt if the relationship doesn’t lead to marriage after all. He goes on to effectively say that intimacy in relationships is not a bad thing, but you need enough cake of commitment to hold up the icing of intimacy (Harris, p. 32) while also keeping to God’s standard for purity obviously.
Don’t forget the friendship stage of getting to know someone you might want to date. Apparently this is not common sense to everyone. Thanks for backing up my idea that you can totally date your friends you already know, if you want to, and she’s a good match for what God wants to do in your life (Harris, p. 34). Just because she feels you up, doesn’t mean it’s love. I thought this one was obvious, but you can’t be too basic with people these days (Harris, p. 35). Don’t forget your friends and family either. They can be useful to stop you from making stupid decisions and help you focus on planning for whatever your future holds (Harris, p. 37).
Here’s another quote people may have trouble with, if it’s taken out of context.
A string of uncommitted dating relationships is not the gift! God gives us singleness–a season of our lives unmatched in its boundless opportunities for growth, learning, and service–and we view it as a chance to get bogged down in finding and keeping boyfriends and girlfriends. But we don’t find the real beauty of singleness in pursuing romance with as many different people as we want. We find the real beauty in using our freedom to serve God with abandon.
Dating causes dissatisfaction because it encourages a wrong use of this freedom.
(Harris, p. 41)
Harris is definitely on to something here. Especially when both Paul and Jesus (specifically Matthew 19:10-12) state that singleness offers fewer distractions and worry. God never promises that we won’t be lonely. He does promise that he will be with us (Matthew 28:19-20). If singleness is what it takes for us to know God better, than that is what He will give us. The same is true about marriage. Both of them are about knowing Him. He knows us better than we do. He will give us whatever gifts are right, for the period of time He determines, to help us know Him better. Feelings don’t really come into account. Feelings are a rather new thing anyway in determining whether to be single or married anyway. In biblical times, people didn’t worry about them nearly as much as they do these days.
One final quote from the chapter.
In the driveway of our house we have a basketball hoop that we can adjust to different heights. When I lower the hoop three feet from its normal setting, I can look like a pretty good basketball player. Dunking is no problem. I glide across the pavement and slam the ball down every time. But my “skill” exists only because I’ve lowered the standards–I’m not playing in a real environment. Put me on a court with a ten-foot hoop, and I’m back to being a white boy who can’t jump.
Harris, p. 42.
Another great point. When you date you can’t think straight and evaluate her character objectively, let alone yours. You won’t listen to her father either when he evaluates you.
Chapter 3: Avoiding Defective Dating
In this chapter Harris explains how we can approach relationships differently. The solution: Don’t even bother with them. Focus on what God has for you today as a single person. You can do much more for Him when you’re not distracted from dating relationships with no commitment that will essentially fizzle out and go nowhere anyway. What if this seems boring to you? You’re probably not putting 100% into what God has for you to do in your single years, however long that period of time may be. God is soverign over our lives. We need to let Him do what he wants with us. Trust Him as he shapes our lives into the people He wants us to be. No matter what kind of undesirable situations it takes for us to get there. The big question for any of us is, are we giving God the best we can offer after He gave everything for us?
“But what’s the alternative?” you ask. Loneliness? Lifelong singleness? Friday nights at home watching videos with your cat? No! No! No!
Choosing to quit the dating game doesn’t mean rejecting friendship with the opposite sex, companionship, romance, or marriage. We still can pursue these things; we just choose to pursue them on God’s terms and in His time.
Harris, p. 52
I appreciate his views on friendship here. It’s not good for us to be alone, but not being alone isn’t constricted to a dating or marriage sort of relationship.
Chapter 4: Looking Up Love In God’s Dictionary
Harris’ main jist here is that God’s version of love goes beyond exciting times of feeling each other up and having sex, which is all the rest of the world seems to want to do. Love is about protecting each other on all levels. Sex is a gift from God for married couples only. Since God designed it, we play by His rules.
It’s not about pursuing this…
It’s about becoming more like Christ as you walk with Him together. It’s about servanthood and selflessness (Harris, p. 62).
Committed, sincere, selfless, responsible–all these words describe God’s love. And each stands in stark contrast to the love practiced by the world.
Harris, p. 74
You don’t find this in dating as much as you do in regular friendship. Friendship is really the best place to start, from what I can gather so far in this chapter.
Chapter 5: The Right Thing At The Wrong Time Is The Wrong Thing
Harris works long and hard in this chapter to make sure those of us who are stil single see it as a gift. He reiterates that dating should never be done out of impatience. Delayed gratification is underrated in our society. (Harris, p 79)
Dating as we now know it is often fueled by impatience, and we can directly relate many problems with dating to wrong timing. We want what we want right now
Harris, p. 79
In dating, we’re really rushing into something we shouldn’t even bother with. If God has us single for a season or forever we should be totally focused on that season and not rush it. If God is truly driving the car in our lives then we shouldn’t be trying to mash the gas. Our lives are for His purposes, not ours.
The timing of many dating relationships is equivalent to going shopping for an outfit when you don’t have any money; even if you find the “perfect fit,” what can you do about it?
Harris, p. 80.
Patience is a must. Singleness is about service to God, not worrying about being lonely.
God has a perfect plan for your life. More than likely, that plan includes marriage, and if so, somewhere in this world God has the perfect person for you.
Harris, p. 82
Here is an interesting concept I did not expect from a guy like Harris. Since we are all sinners, born into sin, how can God have an actual perfect person for any of us?
When it comes down to it, whether we’re single forever or not, we need to trust that God is sovereign over everything and gives us better gifts than we can think of at the time. It’s not about what we want, it’s about what He wants. We need to trust God and His plan. Marriage is not the point of life.
Chapter 6: The Direction of Purity
Purity is something that should be guarded in a relationship and especially when you’re not in one. Some will try to set scales as to what is impure and what isn’t, but according to Harris, everything you do in a relationship is impure if you’re not already married to the woman. He’s not wrong there. It can happen so easily to absolutely anyone. It doesn’t happen over night and all at once, but slowly and surely, you get there (Harris, 92-94).
Michael Buble of all people, gives a good illustration of how this can happen in his cover of Put your head on my shoulder.
Purity goes far beyond #MeToo culture. Howver, if we follow God’s rules for purity, then we never have to even remotely worry about getting caught up in that sort of thing.
Many non-Christians view sex as a bodily function on the level of scratching another person’s back.
Harris, p. 99
God has a much higher reason for creating sex than just that. Sex is more than pleasure. So I’ve been told from reading scripture. It’s not a mere something to do when you’re bored.
“You’ve got to be joking. One little kiss won’t have me hurtling toward certain sin.”
Harris, p. 102
Yes it will, we’re not wired to have that much self control in that area. Better to avoid it all together.
Can’t go wrong with DC Talk.
Guys, it’s time we stood up to defend the honor and righteousness of our sisters. We need to stop acting like “hunters” trying to catch girls and begin seeing ourselves as warriors standing guard over them…
…Girls, you have an equally important role. Remember the wayward woman we discussed earlier? Your job is to keep your brothers from being led astray by her charms. Please be aware of how easily your actions and glances can stir up lust in a guy’s mind.
Harris, p. 105-106
I get where he’s going with this, but, gentlemen, we have necks, we can turn our eyes away.
Chapter 7: Redeeming The Past
We’ve all sinned in these areas, but all is not lost, because Jesus is willing to forgive everyone if they turn from their sin and follow him. We can move on. We are not stuck here.
Chapter 8: Starting with a Clean Slate
However, in order to move on in purity, in this chapter, Harris states that often times we might need to tear down things we’ve worked so hard to build that might even seem perfect. This is obviously very difficult. The biggest thing in this chapter is to not hide your romantic interests from your parents. Just for the record, in case mine ever read this, I don’t have any romantic interests at the time of this writing.
Chapter 9: Keeping Your Friendships out of the Romantic Zone
This is an effective chapter where Harris details out a plan to keep your friends friends. I figure I only have to follow the first step, then I don’t have to worry about the others. If I don’t let anyone catch my eye, there’s no way I can go down that slippery slope. He didn’t need pages and pages to explain this.
The late Curt Cobain captured the attitude of today’s culture with the line, “Here we are; now entertain us.” I believe that, unfortunately, many Christians have made Cobain’s line the refrain of their friendships.
Harris, p. 141
Spelling mistake! Kurt with a K! Harris obviously was never into Nirvana.
Chapter 10: Guard your Heart
Short term romantic relationships are pointless. Stay away! Then you can develop high standards. You don’t need to be attached even if you think you do. Attached and not being alone are two different things. Infatuation is dangerous as it takes our focus off God. Human relationships can not fulfill us and sometimes they stop us from helping with others’ needs (Harris, 144-161)
Chapter 11: You Don’t Date Are You Nuts?
The point Harris intends to drive home in this chapter is that, If you stay single for a “long” period of time. You will encounter questions from others who have found someone to be with, as if that’s the only point in life. It will be annoying, but we can be humble and truthful about things.
You don’t have to prove someone wrong to do what you know is right.
Harris, p. 169
We will survive. It is also important to keep up appearances.
Paul pictured the two of them alone at her house–Alisha’s mom was single and worked on weekends. Not good. The two of them would arrive together at the restaurant. The rest of the group would start viewing them as a couple. Then Alisha would drive him home that night. Alisha was fun and beautiful, but Paul knew he needed to stay focused for now. Going with her would send a mixed message. He couldn’t play games with her heart.
Harris, p. 171
People will judge things the way they see them even though they shouldn’t. We need to be above reproach.
The Bible tells us we’re to bear the pain of ridicule without flinching.
Harris, p. 175
It happens, even in the dating vs. single realm. May as well take it like a pro.
Chapter 12: Redeeming the Time
Harris exclaims in this chapter that as singles we apparrently have all this spare time that we need to use up in the proper ways.
“Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15). “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time…” (Ephesians 5:15, NKJV).
Whether we’re married or not, isn’t nearly as big of an issue as this.
Chapter 13: Ready For The Sack But Not The Sacrifice
Suddenly the book takes a shocking twist. Harris goes from championing singleness to giving us a look at what a realistic view of marriage looks like according to scripture. You don’t have to be married to find that out. I did not see this coming.
How should we view marriage? According to this sermon, reverently, discreetly, advisedly, and soberly.
Harris p. 196
Marriage is a picture of Jesus’ relationship with the Church. It is to be held in honour by singles and married’s alike.
Chapter 14: What Matters at Fifty
At one point in time or another, we all have stupid lists about what we want out of a spouse. The thing is, what matters most to us now in our young years isn’t what’s going to make it through our older ones.
According to Harris, these three things are the ones to look out for.
As we evaluate someone’s character (including our own), we need to carefully observe three areas–how the individual relates to God, the way he or she treats others, and the way this person disciplines his or her personal life.
Harris, p. 208
If we find beauty here, it will never fade.
Chapter 15: Principled Romance
Harris outlines steps to guide relationships from friendship to marriage. A stark contrast to avoiding dating at all costs. I’m not going to spill them all here or you won’t read the book.
Every time you feel attracted to someone, keep in mind that you’re involved in three kinds of relationships: your relationship with the person you’re interested in; your relationships with the people around you, including family and friends; and most important, your relationship with God. You have a responsibility toward each
Harris, p. 226
Chapter 16: Someday I’ll Have A Story To Tell
This is certainly true whether you’re single or married. Everybody can leave a legacy.
I don’t think Joshua Harris has anything to be sorry about. I know it’s a short conclusion, but htat was the whole aim of reading this book again. There is a way to get to know women that actually works and he does explain that very well, I think. I don’t see any need to take this book out of circulation and publication.
Hope you had fun on this adventure.