Should Christians Date Non-Christians?

Few things in life can bring more joy—and, conversely, more pain—than a romantic relationship. Since it is such a central and important aspect of our lives, we ought to consider how God has designed for relationships to work best. They were, after all, his idea. Wouldn’t he know what is good for us?

If you are a Christian looking to date, you will inevitably need to answer the question: Can Christians date non-Christians? What does God think about it? The straightforward answer from Scripture is no, Christians should not date non-Christians. There are at least three reasons why.

1. Scripture says that Christians should only marry Christians

Technically the Bible doesn’t say Christians shouldn’t date non-Christians…because the Bible doesn’t say anything at all about dating. Dating is a modern custom that didn’t exist in biblical times. Yet that doesn’t mean the Bible can’t help us answer the question. Since the ultimate purpose of dating is marriage, we can look at what Scripture says about marriage to point us in the right direction.

The most common passage cited against a Christian marrying a non-Christian is 2 Corinthians 6:14, which says “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” A yoke is a harness that hitches two animals together so they can plow alongside one another as a team.

The verse is saying that in relationships where people are bound to one another, Christians should not be “yoked” to unbelievers. This is because the pairing would be “unequal”. Why is that? Because Christians and non-Christians are on two completely different playing fields from each other.

  • Christians love Jesus, unbelievers don’t
  • Christians follow Scripture, unbelievers don’t
  • Christians have God’s Spirit living in them, unbelievers don’t
  • Christians are right with God, unbelievers aren’t
  • Christians are going to heaven, unbelievers are going to hell

It will be hard for two people this different to be on the same page about things, especially the big issues of life.

Some people point out that 2 Corinthians 6:14, in context, isn’t talking about marriage at all. It is referring to Christians in the church and how they should associate with each other. While this is true, there certainly is a wider application. Any context where Christians are “hitched” with another person should be considered, especially the more intimate a relationship becomes. What could be more intimate than marriage? Even if you reject this passage as restricting marriage for Christians, the rest of Scripture teaches the same thing.

In 1 Corinthians 7:39, the Bible says that a Christian widow can remarry when her husband dies, but “only in the Lord”, meaning that she can marry a believing man. “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”

Later in 1 Corinthians 9:5, Paul argues that he has the right to marry if he so desires. However, it should be noted that he specifically mentions that the other apostles only marry “a believing wife”, implying that that is what is fitting for a Christian man. “Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?”

Proverbs 31 highlights what a godly woman is like. Verse 30 says “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Notice that the wife that is being praised in the passage is a believing woman.

Also, back in Deuteronomy 7:3-4, God forbade the Israelites from marrying foreign women. Despite what some say, this is not to prevent mixing races. Rather, it was to prevent the mixing of religions. God did not want his followers to marry those who worship other gods because it would cause their devotion to go astray. “You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, [4] for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.”

Lastly, perhaps the most pointed passage in the whole Bible on this subject is from Malachi 2:11-12 where God says “Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. [12] May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts!” God could not be more clear. He calls a believer marrying an unbeliever “faithless”, an “abomination”, and “profane”. Clearly God considers a Christian marrying a non-Christian a very serious sin.

2. Inter-faith dating lacks true intimacy

Christianity is (at least in part) a worldview. It is a set of beliefs and values that inform and guide a person’s life and decision making. If a Christian dates or marries someone who is not a Christian, they are linking up with someone who has a different worldview. This matters because our worldview guides everything we do in life. It will be impossible for two people to have true closeness and intimacy if they do not share common beliefs and values, especially on the most important matters.

Tim Keller points out how this works. As a Christian, the most important thing in your life is (or at least ought to be) Christ. Yet if you are with someone who is not a believer, they cannot understand or relate to the most important thing about you. The thing that most defines you (as a Christ-follower) won’t make any sense to them. As a result it is impossible to have true oneness.

One of two things happens as a result. Either the Christian will continue to keep Jesus at the centre of their life and force their partner to adjust, or the Christian will compromise their faith in order to get closer to their unbelieving partner. Either scenario is a lose-lose. If the Christian remains faithful to Christ, the unbelieving person will never feel close in the relationship. But if the Christian compromises, they may be able to get closer to their partner, but lose intimacy with Christ as a result. Neither situation is ideal in the least.

However, when a Christian dates a Christian, there can be incredible unity and intimacy. Since they both share a common worldview and a common love for Christ, they can pursue him together. They each are running after Jesus and can cheer each other on. There is no competition for devotion to the Lord, but rather that devotion to God actually brings them together. They can pray together, read Scripture together, serve together, attend church together. They both are living for the glory of God and loving others. They have a common view of sex, finances, friendships, family, and the like. And even when there is disagreement, there is a common understanding of how to deal with it. Scripture acts as the arbitrator. Repentance from the guilty party and forgiveness from the innocent party is a given. In other words, they have the tools they need to make a 50 or 60 year run at life together if God should allow them to live that long.

As someone who is married to a strong Christian woman, I cannot overstate how much I appreciate this. Life and marriage is hard enough even when two people are on the same page. I can’t imagine trying to make it work with a partner who fundamentally sees the world differently than I do. A truly great relationship in such a case is virtually impossible.

3. God desires for us to pass our faith on to our kids

Maybe as someone who is only dating, the thought of marriage and especially kids seems a long ways off. But the wise person thinks long-term. One day the person you are dating (now or future) will become your husband or wife, and not long after you are likely to start having children together.

As a Christian, I’m assuming that you will want your children to love Jesus too. You’ll want to pray for them, teach them the Bible, bring them to church, talk to them about life and love and God. You’ll want them to have their own relationship with Christ and know the joy and freedom that comes with it.

Doing this task of passing on the faith is a lot of work. It is not an easy job. How much harder it is when your partner is not on board with it! Bringing children up in a home with mixed faith can be awfully confusing for the kids and frustrating for the parents. This is exactly the kind of thing God has in mind when he commands believers to marry only believers. Returning to Malachi 2, the passage goes on to say in verse 15 “Did [God] not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.” Part of God’s purpose in marriage is to bring children into the world. And the reason God is so against Christians marrying non-Christians is because their children are far less likely to be Christians. He desires godly children, and that is hard to achieve when mom and dad are not pulling together in the same direction.

A family unit functions much better when there is agreement. In my home, it doesn’t matter who puts the kids to bed—they will be prayed with. It doesn’t matter if my wife or I can’t be there for supper—the other one will still lead family devotions. My kids never have to wonder why only one of us go to church, because we go together. They know that we both put Jesus first. There is a kind of unity that is wonderful beyond words, and God desires for all homes to experience this. But it only comes from obeying God’s will in these matters.

What do I do if I’m dating a non-Christian?

The truth is you already know what you need to do. The relationship needs to end. Of course this might be incredibly painful, especially if the relationship has continued for some time. But I can tell you that the pain now will be better than the pain you will experience down the road. I know many Christians who are married to non-Christians, and while they put in a lot of effort to make it work, their marriage is very hard and lonely. Often they experience more closeness with a Christian friend than their own partner since they can’t really talk about their faith at home. They can’t pray together or read Scripture together. They are pursuing Christ alone, while also knowing that their loved one will perish without faith. What a tragic and difficult place to be. It is far better to prevent winding up there if you can do so!

Conclusion: God has great plans for you

The real issue is faith. Do you trust that God knows what he is doing? Do you believe that he has a great plan for you? God loves you and wants good for you. He wants to direct you into the abundant life he has for you (John 10:10). My plea is that you would believe that God can provide for you a partner that you can have a great relationship with, one whom you can grow in faith with and have a kind of closeness that brings great joy. Trust him, walk in obedience, and he will direct your paths!

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