Is it wise to counsel a dating couple in fellowship not to sit together in the assembly meetings?

Is it wise to counsel a dating couple in fellowship not to sit together in the assembly meetings?

Some valuable wisdom may underlie this advice, but it does sound like the kind of rule that some religious groups have handed down for generations. Such traditions can create a religious hypocrisy (Mark 7:6-8). Rather than making rules, why not apply Biblical principles?

Being in love is a wonderful blessing, part of the Lord’s gracious provision for the human family (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31-33). It is part of the normal development of the spiritually-significant relationship of marriage (5:25, 28). It is therefore not a foreign intruder into a spiritual life. A couple’s behavior, however, should reflect their concern for their testimony before the world. Paul says, "Give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all" (Romans 12:17, ESV). Another principle comes from Paul’s pen, "Flee youthful passions" (2 Timothy 2:22 ESV). Considering these principles, a couple is well-advised to limit public displays of affection to fit comfortably within acceptable standards among believers. The world’s standards in courting are not relevant (Romans 12:2).

A principle that relates to all our assembly gatherings comes from the Lord’s words, "For where two or three are gathered together unto My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mat 18:20 JND). In all our meetings, we are in the Lord’s presence. Although the assembly is on earth, our place of worship and prayer is in heaven, in the immediate sanctuary of God’s holy presence (Hebrews 10:19, 20). We enjoy an intimate relationship with our Father, but the standards of holiness in the presence of God have not changed. The same holy creatures Isaiah saw crying "Holy, holy, holy" in God’s presence (Isaiah 6:3) have not changed their occupation at the conclusion of this present age (Rev 4:8). When God’s presence among men was introduced (Exodus 25:8; 40:34, 35), God maintained the standard of behavior in His presence. Nadab and Abihu offered "strange fire" before the Lord (Leviticuis 10:1), apparently acting with a lack of self-control (v 9). God maintained a distinction between "common" behavior and behavior in His holy presence (v 10). In our irreverent age, we need the reminder of the Scriptures on this matter. Being preoccupied with others while in the holiest of all is not suitable. Whether or not a couple sits together, they can easily become more aware of each other’s presence than of the presence of God.

Biblical principles do not establish a rule about couples sitting together. They do, however, instruct courting couples and all of us that we must seek the Lord’s help so that God has His proper place of undistracted honor and occupation when we meet together. Lacking the self-control needed so that God is first in our thoughts and desires dishonors Him. We all need a greater awareness of God’s presence and of the holiness that is fitting there.

D. Oliver