Q: I know you’ve talked about the important of marrying “someone who loves God more than they love you”, but that’s marriage. So, is it okay for a Christian to date someone who’s not?
A: Type the word “dating” into your bible search tool, and what comes up? Nothing.
When I was single, I remember wishing there was an entire book of the bible dedicated to the topic, or at least even a chapter. I know I’m not alone in this frustration, because as a professional counselor and dating coach, I get get emails from hundreds of singles across the country, looking for some guidance when it comes to this crazy little thing called dating.
While many start off with intentions of finding a godly partner, with each passing year the waiting feels longer and the hoping gets harder. Slowly, we can find ourselves starting to second-guess our original standards, wondering if we’ve been too extreme or unrealistic. Within that struggle, inevitably the question comes up: Can a Christian date a non-Christian?
The Bible addresses the hardships that come with marrying a nonbeliever, so that’s rather clear. But single Christians may be tempted to say, “Well, it doesn’t talk about dating. Can’t we just date?”
To answer this question, it’s important to take a step back and look at some principles found in scripture. In a letter to a new group of believers, Paul is addressing their questions of what’s okay and not okay for them to partake in as believers in Christ. Paul answers them by challenging their thinking, and taking it to the next level. In addressing their list, he challenges the church not to simply ask “is it okay”, but instead to ask “is it beneficial”? (1 Corinthians 10:23).
As believers, we can learn a lot from this concept as we look at making choices in our life, particularly with regards to dating. Will the choices we make in dating benefit our lives and push us closer to Jesus, or will they cause us to remain the same? If we’re simply looking at the question of dating a non-believer for what it is, then the basic, non-legalistic answer is yes, it’s okay. But there’s so much more to this question than a simple yes or no.
Because the beautiful thing about God is that as his children, He doesn’t call us to simply go after what is acceptable in life, but what is BEST for our life.
Dating a nonbeliever may not be a “sin”, but you do yourself a grave injustice when what is okay gets in the way of what is best.
Though God’s word doesn’t talk much about dating, it is filled with principles that can lead and guide our approach to healthy relationships. 2 Corinthians 6:14 reminds us of the importance of being bound together with believers. There is no greater binding experience than the commingling of two people into one, in this thing we call marriage (Genesis 2:24). God knows the difficulty that comes with making two into one, and He encourages His children to be “yoked” together with someone with whom they can become fully one- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We are holistic beings, and in order to truly connect, we must find someone with which we can connect on every level.
But sometimes, waiting for love can be trying. With each passing day, the waiting gets harder. It’s easy to grow weary in waiting, and attempt to jump into love with someone that you may connect with physically and emotionally, but not spiritually–believing that this is as good as it gets, and settle for less than best. If that describes you, it’s important to remember the reason for the waiting.
Dating is a precursor for marriage, because you will ultimately marry one of the people you date- and marriage ushers you in the most vulnerable state of your life. Being married and opening yourself up to this kind of binding love gives the person standing before you the ability to hurt you in a far deeper way than anyone in this world could, and there are times that hurt happens. Being married myself, I can attest to this reality. But this is when the beauty of our relationship with Jesus Christ shines through more than ever before.
It is within that deep vulnerability, that our relationship with Jesus is the anchor that keeps us steady. It’s the voice that motivates us to love, to forgive, and to put aside ourselves in order to glorify God through the avenue of our relationship. And in that, we find a love that we can trust, because it is not rooted in ourselves, but in God at work within us. A God who gave His own life to teach us how to give of ours. Our relationship with God binds us together spiritually, but it also enables us to love unconditionally- something we could never do on our own.
If you’re struggling with the question of dating a non-Christian, remember that it’s not about being required to engage in a relationship with someone with whom you can connect with on every level- it’s about being invited to.
You are invited to find true love at it’s best, and experience the privilege of having a partner who can identify with the deepest parts of who you are. But as always, the choice is yours to make. The choices we make will determine the kind of life we will live.
My prayer, is that God gives you the courage to choose well.
*This article was originally written for Christianity Today.
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, 21 Days to Jump Start Your Love Life, and 21 Days to Pray For Your Love Life – where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!
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