Q. I am interested in dating a girl I recently met, but am concerned she is not as mature or stable spiritually. Would it be wrong to date her? I'm thinking my walk with the Lord would probably be a positive influence on her. —S.E., Madison, Wis.

A. When I was younger, we referred to this as "missionary dating." It was the seemingly noble, but naive, thinking that our relative spiritual maturity would help the person we would be dating to either come to Christ or grow in his or her Christ-likeness. Apart from the self-serving aspect of this approach, it is fundamentally flawed in that it reduces relational connections to that which is utilitarian rather than redemptive. People are not being connected to because of their inherent personal value but as a means to affirming our spiritual superiority.

Does that sound a bit harsh? Well, if you think so, then just disclose your intentions to the one you want to date and see how receptive she is to your overture. Trust me, she will feel more used than served and, unfortunately, when done in the name of Christ, it could have an unfortunate backlash with eternal consequences.

I'm not suggesting for a moment that we shouldn't anticipate our ability to have a positive impact on the spiritual development of others. To do so would be to invalidate Scripture's call to "encourage one another" (e.g., see 1 Thess. 5:11). But because you have placed this issue within a dating environment, let me offer an alternative approach for you.

First and foremost, view the person as an object of God's love, and make it your objective to care for that apart from any personal gain or advantage. In this way, her relationship with Christ takes priority, and you avoid the risk of being manipulative. By the way, whenever an individual functions with this kind of servant's heart and care for another, he or she is always far more attractive than before.

Answered by:
Dennis W. Easter is senior pastor of Portland Foursquare Church in Oregon. If you have a question for "Your Questions," contact us. Mention that it is for "Your Questions" consideration.