Last week, Patty Guthrie had a great article published about using dating apps as a Christian. This isn’t a response to that article—in fact it was written and submitted independently. Rather, this piece adds some additional encouragement for those who have tried these apps but then felt lost in a sea of emotions—whether hope, nervousness, disappointment, guilt, or loneliness. How can we apply the teachings of the Bible to technology that the apostles and prophets would never have imagined?
I am currently in a relationship with someone I met through a dating app. Yet I am not writing this as someone who believes they have “won the dating app game’: that would be proud, reductive, and just wrong. Rather, I have a passion to speak openly about the struggles many experience in silence. We Christians often struggle to talk about this in our conversations with one another. So, I truly hope that this article will provide some helpful Christian tips on how to navigate these muddy waters.
So, the swiping begins.
But first, pause and remember this: be kind. We should be “imitators of God” and “walk in love”, mirroring how Christ “loved us and gave himself for us” (Ephesians 5:1-2). God calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves (Mark 12:31). Kindness should extend to all— not just friends, workmates, neighbours and church members; but strangers too.
When it comes to competitiveness, the job market pales in comparison to the world of dating apps. Dating apps are platforms that set you up to judge someone’s curated profile and invite others to judge yours.
So, how do you show kindness? Being kind doesn’t mean liking each person that puts ‘Christian’ on their profile, much less saying yes to every single person. Rather, it means being considerate with your thoughts about the person behind that profile, with your words as you speak about them or interact with them.
Dating apps can feed selfishness. They easily become like online shopping: how do I get the perfect person for the best price? We pitch people against each other, asking them to perform for us. Pay attention to your heart, to catch yourself when you’re being judgemental or when you need to be honest about your disinterest because you’ve been keeping them ‘in the wings’ for fear of a lack of ‘better’ options.
If we are shaped by the kindness God has graciously shown us in the gospel, then this kindness ought to extend even to strangers on an app.
There are risks to dating apps, but they aren’t often the dodgy people. Yes, be discerning and prayerful with your interactions, much like in any interaction with strangers. But there are other, more internal dangers, too.
Unfortunately, dating apps are often stigmatised in Christian circles, leading those of us who use them to hide it. These apps then stay in the privacy of our homes, taking up space in our time, our hearts, and our minds. Distrust and doubt in our God can breed in the shadows.
Waking up to ‘no likes’ will be deflating—and the app’s suggestion to ‘change your filters’, to include those who aren’t Christian, for example, will be tempting. You’ll scrutinise your profile, wondering why no one ‘liked’ you yesterday. Tweak your response, change a prompt, delete a now-seemingly-unflattering photo, and hypothesise endlessly: ‘Why?’ The evil one will plant seeds of doubt, insecurities, and anxieties, to draw us further and further away from our God. He will tempt us to build filters and façades, changing ourselves to please man rather than God.
When these temptations are rife, just take a break. Deactivate. The apps are your tool to work for you, not against you. You’re not committed to the app and it’s okay to take a break. Just as your identity is not determined by the success of your career or the number of Instagram/TikTok likes or views you get, your identity is not determined by how many likes/chats you garner from dating apps. Remember: you were knitted together in your mother’s womb, you have been “remarkably and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14 HCSB).
Even while you are swiping and the app is ‘algorithming’, our good and loving God remains sovereign. God may bring you a partner in a week, a year, or as it pains me to say, he may not in the end. Though it might be hard to believe, he is still good, and he is still in control. Although it is difficult to comprehend, especially in trying circumstances, God works all things for the far more wonderful good of those who love him: that we “be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:28–29).
If you are someone desiring a relationship but it has not worked out, it is right to grieve. But be assured that God has not changed—he still loves you. He is still working for your ultimate good.
And because the journey can be lonely, talk to your friends about it. There is nothing embarrassing about this!
Cry together when a hopeful potential falls through, laugh together when it becomes ridiculous, celebrate together when things are going well, and turn to God together when the temptation to ungodliness is strong.
Temptation quickly becomes sin in the darkness. So whether it be lust, envy or slander, it is good to speak openly and frankly with a fellow Christian. Ask God to use your family in Christ to guard your godliness and faithfulness to his word through accountability and prayer:
Watch out, brothers and sisters, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. (Hebrews 3:12–13)
Perhaps even on days when you’re feeling brave, speak more openly. After a year of being on and off dating apps, I shared nervously with my church small group that I was going on a first date. I asked my friends to simply pray that he would be a nice person. Then later on, when an acquaintance at church asked how my weekend was, I shared that I went out for coffee with someone.
I remember these moments as me being brave because I feared the judgement to come from others. Some gave sceptical glances, others a string of questions asking whether it is safe, legitimate, or even godly. Some conversations were pleasant, others hurtful. Even writing this article is taking great courage.
My tip #1 (Be Kind) applies here, too. These more painful conversations often come from a lack of experience or knowledge. When you’re feeling generous, patiently educate others and share your experience. Invite them to pray for you and for the people you will meet.
And to those talking with brothers and sisters who share with you their dating app experiences: please listen. Ask questions with sincerity. Offer suggestions on what questions they could ask. Be kind.
There is something so incomplete about an advice-driven article. Still, I hope that this piece serves as a catalyst for more open discussions about a godly, Christian approach to dating apps. Why not mention this article to someone and have a conversation?
Perhaps most importantly, to those have read this and feel seen: I pray that you feel less lost and alone than before. Be assured that there is definitely at least one other person who has a bit of a clue about what you’re going through. More importantly, your good and loving God sees you, knows you and is working for your good, in Christ.