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We leave the safety of the doctor’s office and choose the freedom and ease of the gas station convenience store.

Instead of getting the qualified perspective and direction we desperately need from people around us, we walk away eating a candy bar for dinner, again, and washing it down with Dr. Real friendship, with real life-on-life accountability, may not offer the same amount of information or advice, and you will not always like what it has to say, but it will bring one new critical dimension to your dating relationships: it knows — your strengths and weaknesses, your successes and failures, your unique needs.

I could go on, and if you’re a part of almost any kind of Christian community, you probably can too.

Even though we’re following Jesus, and reading the same Bible, and aiming for the covenant of marriage, our dating advice can be surprisingly wide and diverse.

Only people who love Christ more than they love you will have the courage to tell you that you’re wrong in dating — wrong about a person, wrong about timing, wrong about whatever.

Only they will be willing to say something hard, even when you’re so happily infatuated.

They stepped in when I was spending too much time with a girlfriend or started neglecting other important areas of my life.

They have relentlessly pointed me to Jesus, even when they knew it might upset me — reminding me not to put my hope in any relationship, to pursue patience and purity, and to communicate and lead well.

The people willing to actually hold me accountable in dating have been my best friends.

I’ve had lots of friends over the years, but the ones who have been willing to press in, ask harder questions, and offer unwanted (but wise) counsel are the friends I respect and prize the most.

If our heart is not there — if our soul is not already safe through faith, if our mind is distracted and focused on other, lesser things, if our best strength is being spent on the things of this world — jobs, sports, shopping, entertainment, relationships, and on God — we simply will not date well. Listen to Jesus, and “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Seek him first (Matthew ), and dating will be added according to his perfect plan and timing. It’s not the first rule, but I have found that it is a “golden rule” that most often makes the difference between healthy and unhealthy Christian dating relationships.

But after embracing and applying the first and greatest commandment, I have found that the . If you’re not a Christian — if you haven’t dealt with God before trying to date — you don’t have a chance of having a truly healthy Christian relationship with someone else.