As a Christian, is dating or marrying a non-Christian sinful?
This is a question I hear fairly frequently, and most of the time young people avoid thinking about it until they or their friends become romantically involved with a non-Christian. Personally, I am wary of the “hybrid” romantic relationship, but I do not declare it to be overtly sinful (unless done sinfully). I think it can be a very bad idea, and I caution you against it. Let’s go through what the Bible says about “unequally yolked” relationships.
Note: I call romantic relationships between Christians and non-Christians a hybrid relationship because Christians are referred to as aliens (1 Peter 2:11)! Christians are very unusual humans, and our actions often cause non-Christians to think we don’t live or want to live in this world. I think the term is more understandable than “unequally yolked”, and I watch a lot of sci-fi. 🙂
Reasons why it is not a grand idea:
1) Marriage is a spiritual representation of Christ and the church. Read Ephesians 5:22-33. The man is considered the spiritual leader and head of the relationship. He is to present her to Christ holy and blameless, having led her down the path of righteousness. This is a HUGE burden for the man to carry, especially if his wife is not a Christian to begin with! (Disclaimer: it is not the husband who cleanses the wife, but Christ — the husband is to encourage her in it and protect her purity, as he is her primary caretaker and partner in life.) He will doubtless feel lonely and possibly disrespected if his wife does not take his role seriously. If he is not a Christian, then his wife will find it difficult to trust what he has to say, and value what advice he has to give. It is possible he will advise her in a manner she finds sinful, putting her at odds against him.
2) The laws of relationship physics: A relationship that is not based on the same foundation is sure to either break apart or cause one of the members of the relationship to change in a significant manner. I can tell you this, because I’ve been the non-Christian in the relationship with a Christian. Originally Caleb and I were both non-Christians, and then he turned to the Lord and I didn’t follow suit. I didn’t have the same mindset as him, and I would rather have things go my way than the right way. It was easy for me to want to see him falter, because then he would be brought down to my level. Thankfully, he stayed strong in the Lord and I got saved. Yes, I know, I did the exact thing I am now preaching against — but that is why! I know why it’s dangerous to date a non-Christian because I used to be one. If both of us were unwilling to change in the relationship, I would have resented the fact that he was a Christian and would eventually ask him to choose between me and God in one way or another. (Guess who would have won? God!! Then I’d be out a husband and some other lucky girl might be marrying him.) I am overjoyed that he and I are fellow heirs in the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7), as it is the strong foundation of our relationship.
3) The Bible warns Christians against marrying non-Christians. A Christian is someone redeemed by Christ, who is made holy by God. An unbeliever is still a sinner, one who disobeys the authority of God, and cannot encourage their partner to follow the path of light, because they themselves do not know what righteousness is. 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.” (For a very in-depth look at this passage, please consider reading this blog by Al Maxey. He explains it better than I could! http://www.gracecentered.com/unequally_yoked.htm)
Important note: If a Christian is already married to a non-Christian, they must remain married! It might be more difficult for them, but they have already made their vows and they should act as a witness toward their spouse. 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 addresses this: “But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away.14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 15Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. 16For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” Clearly “hybrid” marriages happened even back in the disciples’ time. 1 Peter 3:1-2 “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” But one could argue that these women were married to unbelievers before they knew Christ.
Okay, but what about _______?
- How can you help falling in love with a non-Christian?
Love is a choice, not a feeling. You decide when you commit your heart and life to somebody. This is why we are to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23 NIV “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”) until we know for certain this is God’s intended plan. Even when Christians are dating Christians they should still guard their hearts! If you are currently romantically attached to a non-Christian, then I suggest you go to a trusted spiritual leader. They can give you a good perspective and check to make sure your relationship with God is not suffering. I do not discount the possibility that God might desire a Christian to be involved with a non-Christian.
- I’m only dating, it’s not like I plan on marrying this guy/gal.
The word “dating” has as many variations as Crayola has colors. For the purposes of this discussion, I will define dating as a situation with romantic intentions. You can get to know somebody platonically to decide if they are right for you or not. If you are prematurely sharing your heart with someone you have absolutely no intention of marrying, then you are just giving away pieces of your heart that your future husband/wife cannot reclaim. If you are involved with this person in a physically intimate way (sex or no sex), you are giving yourself away to someone who has no long-term vested interest in you. And that’s that. It’s emotionally damaging to you, your partner, and your future spouse. Many learn this the hard way. Casual dating often lends itself to issues of impatience, envy, or insecurity. Once you get into the mindset of “I deserve, I want, I must”, you are no longer thinking along the lines of Jesus.
- But I feel like God is telling me it’s okay! I am witnessing to him/her after all.
I get wary of this statement and the idea of missionary dating. I cannot confirm or deny what God is telling you. All I can tell you is what the Bible says (refer back to point # 3). Are there success stories of Christians dating non-Christians and the non-Christians converting in the end? Of course, praise God for that! Just remember that many relationship break apart, and those ‘success stories’ were likely filled with a lot of heartache. I do have one encouraging story for you. A non-Christian man was dating a Christian woman, and she broke off their romantic relationship on the basis that he was not a Christian and she felt like it was not right. After many years he became a Christian on his own, they reconnected and started dating again. They got married and now they are missionaries and their daughter is a wonderful friend of mine.
- I’m not desperate, we just clicked!
I believe you. I really do. As a dear friend of mine did rather diligently, she prayed for the young man she was interested in. She prayed that he would find Jesus, and that the door to their potential relationship would open or close on God’s terms. She kept her heart pure and kept it in check to make sure it would not attach itself to a man not yet hers, and God rewarded her. Not in the way you think. He rewarded her by keeping her from heartache and by protecting her for her future husband. The door is closed for now, but she is still praying for the young man. Perhaps in the future he will also come back to her and say “I’m a Christian now, how about that date?” Or maybe not, but for now, she is content to just wait. She is the best example of Philippians 4:6-7 I’ve seen: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Please do not think I consider you or your parents sinful or horrid for being in a “hybrid” relationship. I caution you against it (assuming you are not already married) because I have seen the emotional and spiritual damage that has been done in the lives of many I hold dear. I have also seen the struggle of many Christian friends who were interested in non-Christians, and they pursued God through it all. It was not easy for them, but God is faithful. I cannot tell you the plan of God. I cannot tell you what the will of God is for your life. If you are convinced that you are to marry or be in the life of a non-Christian, then do so blamelessly. Far be it from me to condemn you. Your life will be difficult, your trials many, and your prayers desperate. (This is true for Christian relationships as well.) But God is faithful to the last, and He will never abandon you. Pray over everything, and seek first after the Lord in everything you do. I hope that God will bless you with one who can delight in the Lord with you.