One thing that almost every Christian organization agrees on when it comes to singles (other than Don’t Have Sex of course) is that a Christian should not marry a non-Christian. Now when you tell young singles this they all nod their head, make big commitments to the Lord and dream of the perfect Christian Courtship. This is all so simple, right up until that doesn’t happen or you meet someone who you really like, who isn’t a Christian.
Then it’s rationalization time. “I haven’t met any Christians I’m attracted to.” “Well we aren’t really dating – they are just a friend” which is usually followed with, “well if they were a Christian I would date them but they aren’t so. . .I’ll just hang out with them like we’re dating but not call it that until we are dating and then whoops.” Or, “Well I won’t marry them unless they come to follow Jesus but I’m hoping that will happen.” “I’m just sharing Jesus with them. I mean if they got it then yeah maybe but. . . ” Here’s the problem – we will always want to date who we are attracted to and guess what, we marry who we date.
This is such a hard deal on a lot of levels. First we really can’t help who we are attracted to. Attraction isn’t really a choice. Now what you do with attraction is and we need to get a hold of that. But still it’s hard. Also there are a lot of really cool non-christians. Ha! It’s true right? And there are a lot of Christians that aren’t cool (funny, exciting, adventurous, hot etc). Not only that, but guess what, everyone is created in God’s image and everyone can love. That’s right even non-Christians can show love. Crazy I know.
What makes this even trickier is that the Bible is not as clear here as we might like it to be. The problem is the Bible doesn’t talk about dating at all and when it comes to who to marry, really we’ve got one passage that says it straight up and another that kind of leads to the idea.
Paul in 2nd Corinthians 6 talks about not being unequally yoked. While this is not about marriage I think it’s obvious that if we aren’t to be partners with unbelievers then it’s not a very big leap to assume that would include the biggest partnership of your life. And in 1st Corinthians 7 Paul says that widows are free to remarry but they must marry a believer. That’s about as straight up as you can get. But that’s it. And before you try to go old Testament Israel marry within the tribe on me, remember Hosea.
But we have to live in reality and reality is this: If you are following Jesus then your life is heading in a direction. And that direction, regardless of how much you like them or how much you have in common etc, is not the same as that of someone who is not.
There are all sorts of other problems. It is easy for this other person to become your mission. In other words you are somehow going to win this person to Jesus. Here’s the thing, it could happen, but it could not happen and then you spend the rest of your life in different places. Not to mention that they might end up pulling you in their direction – away from God. This is a cheesy analogy but one person is standing on a chair and the other is on the ground. Is it easier for the person on the floor to pulled up or the person on the chair to be pulled off? As a bonus you are WAY more likely to fall into sexual sin.
Also, how can you have a covenant marriage with you, this other person and God, if this other person doesn’t believe in God. Biblical marriage is a covenant, not a contract or an agreement.
But most of all, it is harder to follow Jesus and almost impossible to do ministry. I have been in full time ministry for nearly 17 years. I have worked with literally hundreds of people serving in our work. Like anything missional, it’s hard and people leave for all sorts of reasons. But the number one reason people get taken out – sexual sin. The number two reason that usually leads to the first – dating someone who is not following Jesus. This happens directly and indirectly. The person who is not a Christian is going to have a hard time supporting you giving your life away for the Kingdom, which if you are following Jesus is exactly what you are called to do.
This raises other questions like, What is Christian enough? and How do I know who to marry?, and I plan to address some of that soon. I also concede that this might not be “law” so to speak. So tell me what you think? Is what I’m saying right? Are you rationalizing a relationship you’re in right now? If you’re dating a nonbeliever how has that affected your walk with God?