I’ve been single for years, but I recently met a guy I hit it off with right away. I’m interested in getting to know him more—the only problem is he’s not a Christian. He seems open to the idea of faith, but he’s never been involved in church or anything. Is it really that big of a deal to date a non-Christian?

– Tired of Being Single

Dear Tired,

First of all, I get where you’re coming from. When you meet someone you really like, it’s easy to start making compromises on some of the things you were originally looking for.

Especially if you grew up in the church, you’ve probably heard people say that Christians should not marry non-Christians. And since dating is the first step toward marriage, it follows that Christians should not date non-Christians either.

But many people think this is the ideal rather than the norm. I have met so many believers who—when times got tough or lonely—ditched that rule and started a relationship with an unbeliever. “What could be the harm,” they wonder. “My boyfriend acts more like a Christian than my Christian friends do,” they say.

And sadly, that may be true, but being a Christian is about so much more than just being a moral person. Being a believer means that your relationship with God has absolutely, entirely and clearly changed your life.

If you are a believer and profess to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, there is no getting around the fact that this is by far the most influential relationship you will ever have. It’s a relationship that will shape your identity, form your beliefs, influence your choices and guide the entire purpose of your life. It’s a relationship that, according to Scripture, will not just change you, it will re-create you. When you enter a relationship with Jesus, you’re not simply a “better version” of yourself, you are made absolutely new.

Again, I realize you’re just asking about dating, not about marriage yet, but I’m going to jump ahead to marriage because even if you’re not sure that is where the relationship will end up, that possibility should be a consideration when you’re deciding who to date.

Spiritual Connection

Through marriage, you are choosing to become one body with another human being (2 Corinthians 6:14-17). You are joining your hearts, your minds and your very bodies in an intimate and sacred connection. For those who are Christians, this union cannot fully take place with someone outside of relationship with Jesus Christ, because true “oneness” is something that cannot be forced or synthesized: it’s supernatural.

At the end of the day, there is no replacing the deep intimacy that comes when you are physically, emotionally and spiritually connected to another human being. Don’t sell yourself short out of fear and desperation, but instead, move toward God’s promises in faith.

The Reason for Christian Marriage

For Christians, marriage is about more than just companionship. It’s about the display of the glory of God at work through our relationship (Ephesians 5:31-33). Marriage is a glorious display of Christ and the Church—of sacrifice, and the laying down of our lives for one another. If we’re not looking at marriage with this purpose in mind, we’re actually missing what marriage is all about.

As John Piper so eloquently says, “Marriage exists ultimately to display the covenant-keeping love between Christ and His church. If you are married, that is why you’re married. If you hope to be, that should be your dream!”

When we choose to redefine marriage on our own terms, we miss out on experiencing marriage in the sacred, intimate, God-honoring way it’s meant to be experienced.

Compatibility

I tell my counseling clients all the time that modern psychology points to the benefits of being married to someone with whom you are “spiritually in-sync.”

Faith and spirituality are such important factors in our lives that those who have them in common tend to have a lower divorce rate. This statistic rings true for all belief systems, because having this integral part of our identity in common is like strings that hold two people together.

But above and beyond the strings of “commonality,” believers in Christ are held together by something even greater: the Spirit of God who lives, breathes and works in us and through us.

Those who are united in Spirit cannot be separated (Mark 10:9). According to Scripture, when God joins something together, something powerful happens that can’t be separated by mere man. The Spirit of God is the only guarantee that we will have what it takes to love, to confess, to sacrifice, to give and to forgive one another.

I am not saying that marriages between people of different faiths never work at all, or that simply being a “Christian” guarantees that we will make good choices in our marriage or that we will be exempt from divorce. But when both partners in a marriage are allowing God’s spirit to work in their lives, they then have the power to say no to their sin and flesh rather than being ruled by it.

Don’t let fear drive you into the arms of someone with whom you can’t share every single part of your life. God calls us to make relationship choices in our lives not based out of fear, but out of faith—faith that God is faithful, that He is good and that His great plan for your life is worth the wait. Don’t settle for anything less.

Have a question? Good! Send an email to AskRELEVANT@relevantlab.kinsta.com. All identifying information will be kept anonymous.

An earlier version of this article appeared at truelovedates.com.

5 comments
  1. Daniel, thank you for the comment.

    I have been struggling with this issue for a while now since I have been in this situation (single) for some time.

    It’s not an easy subject to discuss, and most churches, even non conservatives, would be fast to condemn “mixed” marriage right away.

    This whole “you have to marry a christian” as a strict rule, just doesn’t sound right.

    Thanks you for the thoughts, because you expressed things I couldn’t put in words.

    I hope this article and comments can help us better understand things.

    1. Daniel, thank you for the comment.

      I have been struggling with this issue for a while now since I have been in this situation (single) for some time.

      It’s not an easy subject to discuss, and most churches, even non conservatives, would be fast to condemn “mixed” marriage right away.

      This whole “you have to marry a christian” as a strict rule, just doesn’t sound right.

      Thanks you for the thoughts, because you expressed things I couldn’t put in words.

  2. Last night, I opened this article with an open mind, asked the Lord above: please change my heart about this issue. I’d be all the more at peace with myself if I could simply buy into the dogmatic ambiguity Debra is spewing out, but the time I got to the comments I was instead fuming with frustration. The only redeeming element of this article is Daniel’s comment; reading it, I finally feeling I had some answers which were grounded in the truth about Jesus, and not the religiosity that’s been built up around him.

    So, I log in this morning to attempt to share my thousand thoughts on this issue, only to find that Relevant has censored his comment! –something to the tune of ‘We have hidden this comment due to too many user down votes. Click to show comment’. Relevant, are you kidding me?! If anything you oughta rip a page out of Daniel’s book!

    We must consider what we do does, how ripples out to those listening.
    Relevant –censoring Daniels comment is sordid. He is offering genuine questions you ought to use as future material. Dearest Debra, are your words ushering in the kingdom, or driving people away from it? As a young woman (25) who has essentially abstained from dating altogether, I have never had a boyfriend. This is because of the conditioning of the church, I struggle with simply even entertaining the idea of going on a date with someone because I automatically think to marriage as the end goal. If there’s any one thing I could shake off from my young years in the church, its this giant leap I make upon first encountering an suitable man, ‘Christian’ or otherwise. The very same giant leap you make in your article. Its as if I’m at the base of a mountain, asking you for the route to the top and you just point to the summit and say that’s the only thing you need to think about. This conditioning has certainly impeded my ability to be present with suitors of any stripe, I’m automatically sized them up for marriage. It’s robbed me of potential friendships. And I struggle to believe it’s a healthy mentality to host, expecting ‘marriage material’ to surface within the first few encounters with someone? Impractical. Your words of advice drive me further away from understanding, and moreover further away from wanting anything to do with the church. Thankfully, I’m trusting in the Lord and not the troubling counsel being offered here. And Daniel, thanks, For your boldness to actually write grounded truth and offer countercultural questions.

  3. The answer given was correct for a Christian based on scripture. There is no debate. If she would prefer to go off on her own, outside of clear guidance of scripture, then she should acknowledge that and not request guidance. I’ve known people that have said things like “I feel God is saying it’s ok to do fill in the blank” on things that are clearly spelled out.

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