“I was single until my mid 30’s until I fell into temptation and now have a relationship with an unbelieving man. It was so difficult being single and seeing my friends happy and paired off all before me, but not a day passes that I don’t feel guilty and sad that I’ve for now lost my connection with the Lord. This is by far the most important thing in our lives – the Lord…all I can hope is that I can find my way back before it’s too late.”
Reading through some of the comments on my blog today, this one in particular caught my eye. It was written by a woman who was seriously regretting her choice in choosing a relationship with an unbeliever.
The truth is, I hear from men and women like this everyday. Some of them dating an unbeliever, others of them married to an unbeliever, yet all of them struggling with the same thing: a longing for peace with God and a longing for intimacy with their partner. Hearing their stories and listening to their struggle, it makes one thing more clear to me then ever before:
Marrying a believer is not optional (2 Corinthians 6:14).
As Christians, we preach that phrase often. But what it comes down to, is that so many people think this is the ideal rather than the norm. When times get tough, or lonely, or desperate, I have met so many believers who have ditched that belief and compromised for 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.
But hear me out on this: the word “Christian” doesn’t automatically make someone a believer. Being a believer means that your relationship with God has absolutely, entirely, and clearly changed your life. I read a quote yesterday that just puts it so well…
“A relationship with God that doesn’t really change your life, isn’t really a relationship with God.”
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 your the entire purpose of your life. It’s a relationship which, according to Scripture, will not just change you, it will RECREATE you. When you enter a relationship with Jesus, you’re not simply a “better version” of yourself, you are made absolutely new.
Marrying a believer is not optional, because 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 body into an intimate and sacred connection with another human being. 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. So many times I hear from men and women who try to “make it work” with someone who isn’t “in Christ”. But 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. Nothing could EVER replicate that experience. Don’t sell yourself short out of fear and desperation, but instead, move toward God’s promises in faith.
Marrying a believer is not optional, because through marriage we are exposed to its REAL meaning: the display of the glory of God at work through our relationship (Ephesians 5:31-33). That’s what marriage is meant for! It’s a glorious display of Christ and the Church, and sacrifice, and the laying down of our lives for one another. If we’re not living out marriage with this purpose in mind, then 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!” Whether or not we choose to define marriage this way, there’s no getting around that THIS is what marriage is all about. When we choose to redefine marriage on our own terms, we miss out on experiencing marriage in the sacred, intimate, God-honoring way that is was meant to be experienced.
Marrying a believer is not optional, because 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. Being married to a believer means that we live in a way that tunes out our flesh and tunes into God’s spirit at work within us. 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 simply being a “Christian” guarantees that we will make good choices in our marriage, or that we will be exempt from divorce, because that is NOT the case, because simply being a “Christian” does not mean we are ruled by God’s Spirit. Yet, what I am saying is that when we are ALLOWING God’s SPIRIT to work in our lives, we then have the power to say no to our sin and no to our flesh rather than being ruled by it. His spirit is the glue that holds us all things together- including marriage. When we marry an unbeliever, we choose to live outside of the safety of God’s Spirit. I don’t know about you, but outside of the safety of God’s spirit is one place that I would never choose to be.
Marrying a believer is not optional, because God knows it’s for our good (1 Corinthians 15:33). As a professional counselor, I tell my clients all the time that modern psychology points to the benefits of being married to someone with whom you are “spiritually in-sync”. The truth is, 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, and breathes, and works in us and through us.
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. Dear Christian Single, don’t settle for anything less.
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life. You may also recognize her voice from her 100+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!
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