Is it wrong for a Christian to date a non-Christian?
This is a question many of us who have grown up within the church have constantly asked our Elders, Youth Leaders and parents. But when the world is full of gorgeous hipster boys with beards, how can one not be tempted?
In 2 Corinthians 6:14 the Bible clearly states that you (a Christian) shouldn’t be “unequally yoked” to an unbeliever. When we break down those words, “unequally yoked” is defined as:
Do not try to work together (be mismatched to, unite yourselves)
Having incompatible loyalties (darkness and light, good and evil)
We are the temple of the living God and therefore we should not pollute ourselves with anything impure – darkness and light, good and evil. In other words, you would never see the two on a coffee date because they are in constant battle with each other.
But… what happens when you do what you shouldn’t and fall in love with the ‘enemy’? Deuteronomy 11:16 tells us “Do not open wide your heart and turn away to serve and worship other gods”. Relationships take up a large amount of thought and heart space; they are emotional battlefields, some even take you away from what you once held to be true and can lead you to start doubting the wholeness you used to feel as you begin to wonder if perhaps you were always looking for something more after all.
I’m not here to tell you what is right and what is wrong. I know what The Bible says, however when you find a love not like any other, that’s pure and honest and un-distracting yet overwhelming at the same time; a love that brings out the best in you and actually brings you closer to God instead of making you obsessed with your own flesh; how can it be wrong?
Many claim that falling for an unbeliever shows that you have succumb to the desires of the flesh (sexual desires, materialistic securities and other such unholy things).
When Christians hear about my relationship and if you google the phrase “Christians and Non-Christians dating”, they will automatically say that it’s not going to work and that you are going to wake up at the end of it and be heartbroken as you realise that you’ve wasted a number of months or years on a relationship that was doomed to fail before it even launched itself off of the starting block.
Very recently, I was with a group of girls I had only known for a few weeks. It was in the early stages of friendship where you are still unsure of your place within the circle and so are dipping your toe in the lake to ensure your safety. In hindsight, I now call this discernment.
Towards the end of the night one of the girls posed a question about relationships and whether or not it was acceptable for her as a Christian to date a non-Christian. She had opened up her heart as she confided that she had feelings for a colleague and was unsure of what to do. Immediately everybody in the group unanimously agreed that going down that path would only lead to sin and backtracking from God and that the best thing she could do would be to flee. This then led to the topic of sexual immorality which they argued was also a sure consequence of this type of relationship. The girl who had asked the question already looked uncomfortable and at this point acknowledged that she was not the only one. Everybody then turned to me to which I revealed that my own partner is not a Christian. I was then subjected to a ten minute lecture on how my relationship was doomed to fail; that statistics clearly state that the majority of these kinds of relationships end in divorce and therefore broken homes, that they always lead to sexual immorality and that we were utterly incompatible because we can NEVER be on the same level.
At no point whatsoever did anyone ask me about my relationship – how long we had been together, how we met, if I was even READY for marriage!!! I felt judged and belittled, ganged up against and also made to feel that perhaps falling in love with my partner would be the biggest mistake I will ever make in my life. It was also assumed that I had entered into sexual immorality. Each time I tried to speak I was spoken over by an authoritarian who assumed that they knew more about my own relationship than I did. I left in floods of tears feeling completely destroyed and humiliated. It was made worse when one of the girls messaged me the next day in an attempt to reconcile with me however in my opinion only made it worse because although she did apologise, she still felt that she had acted within reason. She also misquoted Proverbs 3:11-12 when she claimed that it tells us that we should rebuke each other in love when in actual fact it says that GOD rebukes us in love and she continued to insist that I was obeying flesh over God and henceforth a sinner. She told me this in love obviously and insisted that my reaction was only a misunderstanding of the love she was trying to show towards me.
I soon began to question my love for my partner; I doubted our future and wondered if I had been selfish in following my heart at the expense of the salvation of my soul and his too. Would I be to blame for his doomed soul because I had distracted him from his future purpose and vice versa? And what about our children: I myself have come from a broken home and to say that it damaged me as an individual would be an understatement. I had always vowed that I would never allow my own children to grow up in this kind of environment. As I continually battled these inner conflicts, these became some of the most heart-breaking weeks of my life.
When I tell a Christians that you have fasted and prayed over this relationship and truly believe that God has called it to be – that He is in it and that the decision is out of my hands (I feel a strong conviction that God brought my partner to me), why am I then automatically doubted??? And yet if I had said that I had done the same over a job or financial situation, my actions would be celebrated. Why is a non-believer automatically the “wrong person”? You could spend years with a Christian and realise that you’ve married the wrong person for all of the wrong reasons. Should religion be the biggest characteristic that we should be looking for in a partner? I have Christian friends who when young, rushed into marriage before even getting to know each other because they were petrified that they would fall into sin and their souls would then perish. They soon realised that they were incompatible with each other and had very little in common, pathing the way for a very unhappy marriage and imminent separation.
I will not deny that both being of the same faith and ideals helps; as much as my partner is fascinated by my faith and my growing relationship with Jesus, he is yet to understand and identify with it. However, I feel a strong conviction that I am with my perfect match.
Going back to our original text in 2 Corinthians, Paul’s command is literally the verb heterozygew. This is an agricultural term that refers to the practice of yoking to a plow to unequal kinds of animals such as an ox and a donkey. This would suggest that unequal associations between Christians and non-Christians are what Paul specifically has in mind. Five synonyms are employed to describe the kinds of associations that are forbidden. Metoche (“have in common”), found nowhere else in the Greek Bible, andkoinonia (“fellowship”) meaning to partner or share. Symphonesis (“harmony”) signifies to be in agreement with or of one accord. Meris (“in common”) denotes a shared lot or portion. Synkatathesis (“agreement”) is commonly used of a decision arrived at by a group. Paul is clearly thinking of associations that involve a partnership rather than a casual or occasional working relationship. Therefore, these apply to us when we are in a serious relationship, which I am in.
From what, though, are the Corinthians to cleanse themselves? According to Paul, it is from everything that contaminates body and spirit. Contaminates is actually a noun denoting that which stains, defiles or soils (molysmos). The noun is found only here in the New Testament, although the verb is used twice in Revelation (3:4; 14:4) and once in 1 Corinthians (8:7) of defiling the conscience through the indiscriminate eating of meat sacrificed to idols. This brings us back full circle to Paul’s opening injunction to stop entering into unequal partnerships with unbelievers (6:14). The close association of molysmos with idolatry suggests that Paul is thinking especially of defilement that comes from dining in the local temples, membership in the pagan cults, ritual prostitution, active engagement in pagan worship and the like. If a Christian knowingly involves themselves in this kind of defilement then they are at fault.
Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
My relationship (to my knowledge) does not fall into any of Paul’s categories of contamination. However people look down upon me because they believe that I have made a bad choice and instead of keeping quiet, or being there regardless of the outcome, we have become obsessed with pretending to be high and mighty in the “name of Jesus”. Jesus never placed himself on a pedestal while he was on Earth but now we as only mere humans in comparison to Christ are suddenly better than Jesus was on Earth? For some Christians, putting religious dogma ahead of being a friend has become a common misinterpretation of scripture.
When did we become Pharisees and Sadducees?
“But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
I am only 29 years old (for some this appears to be overly old to be unmarried particularly within Christian circles). Of course I think ahead, but I’m nowhere near ready for marriage. I am only 14 months into this relationship with my partner, however, this is not casual – to me it is the real thing. Christian friends who have known me before and after meeting my partner celebrate because they have watched me grow in Christ before meeting him and they are now watching me grow in my first serious relationship with someone. Furthermore, these friends have met my partner and not only support my relationship but celebrate. What other man would stand by a woman suffering from epilepsy with family issues and is still slightly damaged by her childhood? Not many would, however mine has and loves me for it amongst other things. I have grown all the more closer to God as He will always come first as my first love and nothing will ever compromise that. And I will not be judged or condemned by people who are unprepared to get to know me in order to know this about me.
I don’t see my partner as a “non-believer” I see him as a person, just like Jesus did when he sat and ate with “sinners”.