In Ephesians, Paul calls upon husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. One of the implications of this is that marriage is always a picture of the gospel. It is either a good picture or a bad picture, but marriage always pictures the gospel. This means that the steps leading up to marriage are part of this picture. The story of the Scriptures can be told as a great love story, a romance, a courtship, the story of a faithful, courageous and noble man who woos, courts, and marries his bride. And because we live in a culture that despises the gospel, it should come as no surprise that marriage is under a full scale assault. It is attacked on a number of different levels, but one of the most insidious attacks is at the level of preparing for marriage. The prevailing winds of dating, hooking up, going out, getting together, whatever you call it, is a lie and slander about the gospel we proclaim. Does God just play with his bride? Is the Lord Jesus just dating around? Does the God of the universe single out his bride and say, hey, this isn’t really serious, we’re just casually dating? Of course there have to be ways for a man and a woman to meet and determine if God would have them marry. But we cannot watch our young people casually date and hook up with numerous people over a number of years and then we wonder why over half of marriages in our nation end in divorce. We train our young people that marriage is basically a game of musical beds, and then we wonder when they don’t understand commitment. We train them to think casually, and then we’re shocked when they act like it. But if marriage is a picture of the gospel, if the love between a man and a woman is meant to be a glorious picture of salvation and grace, it cannot come as a surprise that so many covenant children grow up and connect the dots. Being a Christian is just a casual relationship, Jesus is just a sometime boyfriend, off again, on again. No big deal. This approach to love and marriage is essentially Arminian and Pelagian, and we ought not be surprised when it grows up into a sub-orthodox theology and ultimately produces the fruits of apostasy, heresy, and divorce.