“It feels so right, so right. How can it be wrong?” This is what Christians say when they want to marry a non-Christian.
These words were written by Ben Weisman to be sung by Elvis Presley, but I’ve often heard a variation of them by unmarried Christians beginning to get romantically involved with a non-Christian.
This is then often backed up by a flurry of other comments:
I used to think the Bible said that I shouldn’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, but I went and looked at 2 Corinthians 6 in context and it doesn’t seem to be talking about marriage at all, but rather about how Christians are to be separate from non-Christians within the church. I then tried to find one verse that says that a Christian shouldn’t marry a non-Christian and I couldn’t find one. I spoke to Christians I trust and they couldn’t find one either—not one verse! So, I guess I was wrong, and I’m free to pursue this relationship.
Anyway, he/she is really interested in the gospel and told me that my faith is something he/she finds really attractive and wouldn’t want to change at all. In fact, I think he/she will be more encouraging of my faith than lots of Christians would be.
What Is the Real Problem for a Christian to Marry a Non-Christian?
Some temptations common to many singles—like struggling with porn—are shaped in such a way that the Christian knows they’re wrong, and so the problem will often be that, in their guilt, they’ll stay hidden. Once confessed, the problem isn’t recognition that they’ve sinned; the problem is the slow, painful process of repentance.
But the temptation to get romantically involved with a non-Christian tends to be framed differently. People tend not to hide it, but instead attempt to justify it—first to themselves and then to other Christians who are trying to warn them of the path they’re taking. If it feels right, then they go back to look at the Bible to try to prove that it’s right.
In this article, I shall not be trying to give a method for counseling people who are facing the temptation to marry a non-Christian. Such an article would include a clearer picture of what marriage looks like: making decisions about career, where to live, how to spend money, how to raise children, etc. All of this is compounded when you and your spouse are living for different things. To explore some of those things better, consider this article. Above all, such counsel will involve a careful examination of motivation and a re-examination of the trustworthiness and goodness of God who doesn’t call us to compromise in our devotion to him, but to trust him.
Rather, I shall offer a brief biblical theology of dating unbelievers. I want to make the point that it is a matter of obedience to God not to pursue a relationship with a nonbeliever. I’m going to try and make it as clear as I can that however it feels, those feelings are temptations to call right that which God calls wrong; those feelings are not accompanied by any affirmation from God.
If someone’s rationale for not getting romantically involved with a nonbeliever hangs on a couple of proof-texts taken out of context, then I’m pretty sure it can be removed by a couple of moments staring into a pair of eyes, some attention and the excitement of a potentially fulfilling lifelong relationship.
It’s also my painful experience that when the weak foundation of such a conviction is removed at the beginning of a potential relationship, it will not be a time when someone is in a good position to examine more carefully the Bible’s teaching and build a stronger biblical foundation.
A BRIEF BIBLICAL THEOLOGY
My hope is that this article will be of some use to people in such a situation, but of more use to the Christian who, long before the temptation arises, needs to make a stronger resolve not to get romantically involved with a non-Christian.
And just to be clear: Getting romantically involved is likely to happen if you spend a great deal of time with someone of the opposite sex one-on-one. I recently had a painful conversation with a dear friend who said he’d never planned to get romantically involved with someone. But he’d spent hours and hours with her one-on-one after midnight over several weeks.
If you don’t want to get romantically involved with someone, don’t spend hours one-on-one. If you’re having good gospel opportunities with someone of the opposite sex, introduce them to some godly Christians of their sex. If they’re really interested in the gospel, they’ll be just as delighted to hear about it from them as from you. If the Lord wants you to be married, he’ll make it clear that it would be possible for you to pursue such a relationship by them coming to faith!
Furthermore, a proof-text for not dating a non-Christian is a strange thing to expect for a few reasons.
First, dating as we understand it didn’t really happen in biblical times. Secondly, “whom should I marry?” is something that would flow out of a whole biblical theology of what marriage is, rather than merely a verse or two of rules.