Dating non-Christians

I am a Christian and my boyfriend is Jewish. My parents are very religious, and I would consider myself religious as well. They do not support my decision at all and it breaks my heart. I have researched this topic over and over and understand the hardships that could come with becoming serious with him (specifically raising children). He is not opposed to attending church with me, and I am not opposed to attending temple with him. We respect eachother’s views, and in the course of asking these serious questions I would say that I have grown in my faith with Christ. I do not see what is wrong with this situation, but I was wondering what specific scriptures said (I probably missed a few) and if this would be considered sinful. I know that it would not be difficult as a whole but I don’t understand why my parents can’t just be happy for me? They emphasize that they will love me no matter what, but knowing that they always are judging him in the back of their minds drives me crazy. Help please.

Hey Erin. Thanks for writing. I have been praying about your email and for you and your boyfriend and family, and hope that is reflected in my response.

I totally get how being in a relationship, romantic or otherwise, with a non-Christ-believer sharpens you in your faith. That’s part of how faith works when we live our faith out in the world with people who do not believe. When Christians insulate themselves and never have any real contact with non-Christians, they become weaker not stronger in the faith because they rarely have to exercise their faith. When everyone agrees with us and never pushes back against our beliefs, we can be comfortable and feel safe, but that’s not faith. So I’m glad you’re growing in your understanding of your Christian faith as a result of your relationship. That’s awesome.

Here’s the thing. The Bible is pretty clear that it is unwise to create intimate partnerships with non-Christians:

Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives. God himself put it this way:

“I’ll live in them, move into them;
I’ll be their God and they’ll be my people.
So leave the corruption and compromise;
leave it for good,” says God.
“Don’t link up with those who will pollute you.
I want you all for myself.
I’ll be a Father to you;
you’ll be sons and daughters to me.”
The Word of the Master, God.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (The Message)

It isn’t about restrictions; it’s about freedom. Check out what Paul writes just before this passage:

Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively! (11-13)

As you can see, this passage isn’t talking only about dating and marriage partnerships, it’s talking about all kinds of partnerships, of which dating and marriage are certainly included. And what’s the point? What’s the big deal? Keep reading:

With promises like this [that God will live in us, knit his Spirit into ours],  dear friends, let’s make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let’s make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.

Trust us. We’ve [Paul and his ministry team] never hurt a soul, never exploited or taken advantage of anyone. Don’t think I’m finding fault with you. I told you earlier that I’m with you all the way, no matter what. I have, in fact, the greatest confidence in you. If only you knew how proud I am of you! I am overwhelmed with joy despite all our troubles. (7:1-4)

When your parents emphasize that they will love you no matter what, chances are what they’re saying is exactly what Paul is saying to the Corinthians: If only you knew how proud I am of you! I am overwhelmed with joy despite all our troubles (over your relationship with your boyfriend). Chances are, when your parents say they love you no matter what they mean it. They love you more than they’re disappointed in your decision to date someone who rejects Christ. Their disappointment doesn’t mean they are judging you/not loving you. They’re disappointed because they love you.

Now, I admit. I don’t know your parents. So, it’s possible that isn’t true. It’s possible that they’re only saying they love you when really they’re judging you. But it’s unlikely. Most people are good-willed people. It’s important to give your folks the benefit of the doubt. They’re human, so they’re not perfect; they need your understanding; they need your grace.

Lest you think there’s only one passage in the Bible which addresses this issue, I want to add briefly that the Old Testament is chalked full of warnings against marrying outside of the faith. Some people use these OT passages to suggest the Bible is against interracial relationships. But that misses the point entirely. They’re passages that speak about the importance of Hebrews marrying Hebrews and not pagans who worship false gods and idols, which has everything to do with a person’s relationship with God and nothing to do with his or her nationality. We know this to be the case when we consider heroes of the faith such as Rahab and Ruth, neither of whom were Hebrews, both of whom came to fear (know) the Lord better than many natural Hebrews and were used by God in significant ways, most significantly as women in the lineage of Christ! This is the same vein which runs through the New Testament command not to be “unequally yoked” in 2 Corinthians 6 (ESV). Biblical warnings against marrying certain types of people have everything to do with their relationship with the Holy One (and ours) and nothing to do with nationality, ethnicity or race.

So, now I have a question for you. I appreciate that you and your boyfriend respect each other’s religious beliefs. It’s important to always start with respect. But if Christianity is true and Christ is the only One who can give us the life God intended for us to have all along in the first place, can you really be content merely respecting your boyfriend’s belief and him merely respecting yours as if it were an opinion about who should win American Idol? Are the words of Christ about life and life everlasting just an opinion? Or are they true?

That is the question you have to answer for yourself. And it is much more important than whether or not dating a non-Christian is a sin. And if Christ is the Truth and not just an opinion, then how much do you really care about your boyfriend? Enough to respectfully implore him to accept the full, abundant life found in Christ alone?

I hope you will thoughtfully and prayerfully consider these things.

I hope too that this is helpful to you. If I can clarify something or help with any other questions, please write again. My prayers have been for you and your boyfriend and your family since I first received your email, and they are with you now.

Yours,
Renea

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7 Responses to Dating non-Christians

  1. Brian says:

    Renea,

    You are so good at this, so wise. Thanks for all your thoughtful and biblically-informed advice.

    Brian

  2. Well said my friend. Logically loving and full of grace. I love reading things that are said with humility and boldness and allow people to think for themselves. You point people back to belief and I am confident she will feel loved in reading this…I’m gonna link it to the video I did on dating non-christians. Thanks!

    • reneamac says:

      To hear my work described that way puts me in awe of the Holy Spirit’s power to work in, through, despite this fallen, grace-saved wretch. Many kind thanks, dear Joy, for your faith-filled support.

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