A reader of the site recently asked me this question: “What is your opinion about using eHarmony or some other online dating site to find a spouse?” He also asked that if I am in favor of such sites, I provide a recommendation of a good service. While this is a distinctly twenty-first century question, the Bible remains a steady guide.
Let me offer one small but important clarification before I proceed. It is a safe assumption that almost all couples today will communicate via the Internet as one component of their relationship and in many cases, a major component of their relationship. Also, many couples will first encounter one another through the Internet (and, in fact, there is one married couple out there that met through the comment section on my blog). It will be helpful to distinguish between inadvertently meeting someone through the Internet–through a common Facebook friend, through a forum, etc–and using a service like eHarmony that is designed for the specific purpose of matching people who would like to find a spouse. I am discussing the latter.
While the Bible praises marriage and demands that we hold it in honor, it gives very little guidance on how we get from single to married. The Old Testament provides many and varied examples, but the New Testament describes and prescribes nothing. Nothing in the Bible prohibits the use of a dating service or the use of any kind of media as a means of communication between unmarried men and women. Though the New Testament could have decreed certain patterns of courtship or certain means of communication, the Lord, in his wisdom, chose not to address the subject. This tells us that we have freedom before the Lord to rely on wisdom and discernment in the pursuit of a spouse.
So here’s the rub: Any question about eHarmony or online dating is not a question of truth or error, but a matter of wisdom. The question that demands an answer is whether it wise to use a dating service in an attempt to find a spouse. That answer will vary from person-to-person and it will depend on many factors unique to the individual and his context.
Let me offer just a couple of considerations.
Pursue the heart. Before you create that eHarmony profile, be sure to patiently and prayerfully pursue your heart motives. Is it possible that you have not found anyone in your local context because you are waiting for the absolutely perfect person and no one has been able to satisfy your long list of demands? Could it be that you are spending far too much time online so that going to eHarmony is a means to avoid connecting with people in your local church? There will be hundreds of questions you could ask yourself and those questions will have to be customized to fit you. Spend some time examining your heart before you go online.
Move offline as quickly as possible. One of my concerns with meeting online is that it may set a pattern that will encourage the couple to do the majority of their courtship online. In an ultra-mediated world like this one, we need to continue to remind ourselves of the importance of pursuing less-mediated ahead of more-mediated communication. If you do meet a potential spouse online, be sure to try to take that relationship offline and into the real world as quickly as you can.
Be wise. When communicating online it is important to always remember that we are all very careful with the information we make public. Many of us construct identities that bear only a vague resemblance to who we are in the real world. When you create your profile and when you interact with others, be honest and forthright about yourself and maintain a healthy skepticism about others until you are able to get to know them offline.
Seek counsel. eHarmony employs all kinds of interesting algorithms to match one person to another, but it has neither wisdom nor the Holy Spirit to guide it. It would be foolish to trust eHarmony over the counsel of Christian brothers and sisters who are prayerfully seeking to love and help you.
As for recommendations, I’m afraid that I cannot make any as I have never researched such services enough to distinguish one from another.