Hi 3G readers!
I am a firm believer in only dating guys that I can see myself marry. This saves me and them from unenjoyable relationships of convenience, and from investing in something with no long-term future. Further, if you’ve read my Valentine’s day post you will know that I believe a true loving relationship is defined by God, so it begs the question: can we really have a romantic relationship with an unbeliever?
A long time ago I met a guy who I really liked. We were totally compatible: we liked similar things, we were both ambitious, we could agree to disagree without getting defensive or aggressive, I could talk to him about anything, our parents were friends, and we had fun when we hung out. He was perfect… except he was an atheist. The truth is, he is still one of my best friends. But I knew we could never be together romantically unless the Spirit of God moved him.
The Bible says:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)
A lot of people, believers and unbelievers alike, find this text difficult to swallow. I can even understand if one thinks this command sounds almost elitist. The truth is that God is saving us from a lot of pain by instructing us in this way. Relationships are commitments. Commitments ALWAYS involve compromises. Let’s say you and your unbelieving significant other decide to get married. Do you get married in a church or on a beach? Who will perform your ceremony? A priest or a justice of the peace? When you have kids, do you raise them in the Church or not? Do you pray openly before meals or out of respect for your lover, pray silently in your head? These are not trivial questions. As a believer you should strive for all of your life decisions to be in line with the Word. There will be compromises in relationships but are you willing to compromise the Word of God for your husband or wife?
What about people who have different beliefs? For example, I have always admired the devotion that my Muslim friends have shown to worship. Praying many times a day, fellowship with other Muslims, studying the Koran from very young and truly living their life in line with the tenets of their faith. And even though a lot of their moral beliefs are common to Christianity, the same compromises would be evident in a long-term relationship with them. Can you truly pray together? Which faith would you teach your children? How would you deal with contrasting beliefs? I grew up in a household where I attended two churches because my parents belonged to two different Christian sects. It was difficult as a young person deciphering which “side” to take. And this was a cause of dissension for me as a teenager. When I chose one church over the other, this resulted in a strained relationship with the parent whose religion I chose to forego. I’m definitely not saying I wish my parents never got married – I thank God that they did! I just want to illustrate the problems that can arise from simply disobeying God’s instructions for your life.
Now I must highlight that I DO NOT believe that this text means we cannot be friends with unbelievers. Paul says it best:
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. (1 Corinthians 9:19)
How else can we expect to spread the Gospel and win souls for Christ if we do not befriend unbelievers! Jesus himself was a friend of corrupt tax-colletors and sinners but Jesus was unwaveringly secure in his mission. God does not forbid friendship with unbelievers BUT he does not leave us without warning:
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
Beware of immoral and obscene friends and friends who encourage you in activities that are unholy, unBiblical and sinful.
Now the acute reader will ask “Why can’t we be in a relationship with someone and just convert them to Christianity before we get married?” Isn’t that a little backwards? The Bible didn’t say “Yoke with unbelievers and then convert them” nor can you yourself “convert” someone. Only the Spirit of God can make someone a Christian (1 Cor 3:6-7). Be honest with yourself. Are you using your “spreading of the Gospel” as justification for being with this person? Further, if your relationship is the only motivation for the conversion, this is not a true conversion. Beware of the person who professes to be Christian just to be in a relationship with you. It’s on you to observe their behaviour over the course of time to see if the words on their lips match the thoughts in their heart.
So to wrap up, God has given us basic advice on who makes an appropriate mate for our own good. Remember God sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) and knows the consequences of our every decision before we make them. He only wants the best for us and counsels us with this in mind.
Let me know in the comments your experiences with dating unbelievers, advice you can add, or any other thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you!