You’ve just met a guy. He’s cute, kind, treats you well—but he’s not a Christian. You know what the Bible says about dating unbelievers, but you’re pretty sure you can make it work. After all, the guy is willing to go to church with you, and is even okay with your faith. He just doesn’t share it. What’s the big deal?
The “big deal” is your heart and future. If you’re wondering if it really matters if you date an unbeliever, I’m so glad you’re reading this post!
God’s Command Is for Our Protection
In the Old Testament, God’s people (Israel, and those who followed God through Israel’s example) were told not to intermarry with “people of the land.” This was not a racist statement. It was because the people of the land, in that day, worshipped pagan gods. God’s warning not to intermarry with the Canaanites wasn’t meant to be limiting. It was meant as protection.
In the New Testament, Paul reissues the same command in the verse we’re so familiar with: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14) This applied to ALL intimate relationships with unbelievers—best friendships, but more importantly, marriages.
God doesn’t tell us not to marry unbelievers because He’s unfair. He does so because He is all wise. He knows the end from the beginning, and unequal yoking almost always ends in pain:
- Solomon: “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” (1 Kings 11:4) Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, allowed the desires of his heart to lead him into sin. His marriages to women who did not know or worship the one true God led him away from the Lord.
- Samson: “I saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.” Then his father and his mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” (Judges 14:2-3) Samson, the strongest man on earth—set apart for the Lord’s purposes—desired a relationship with an unbeliever more than he desired to obey the Lord. The result was pain to his first wife, to himself and to Israel. Others were affected by his decision to disobey God.
- The Israelites: “The sons of Israel lived among the Canaanites… [and] took their daughters for themselves as wives, and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods. The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.” (Judges 3:6)
Spiritual Intimacy Is the Foundation of Marital Intimacy
The examples of these people from the Old Testament should motivate us to listen to God’s wisdom. But some of us need further proof. One of the primary reasons unequal yoking is so dangerous is that marital intimacy—personal, emotional and sexual—is founded on spiritual intimacy. When two people do not both submit their hearts to Christ, they cannot share the same definition of love, sacrifice and commitment. The person who does not submit to Christ can never understand what unconditional love looks like. Not only will he be unable to share in your eternal inheritance, but he will also be unable to share in the joys of a unified marriage that glorifies God. When believers try to make unequal yoking work, they’re not just cheating themselves—they’re cheating the person they are with. That person is being told it’s okay to live without Christ; that they can be in a relationship with a Christian without having to follow the Lord.
You Are Not the Only One at Stake
That last sentence reveals the saddest part of unequal relationships: We are not the only ones at stake. The unbelieving partner needs to come to the Lord apart from the Christian. While a Christian person can have a good influence on an unbeliever, they should not be the “bait” to persuade someone to Christ. Following Jesus must be a personal decision.
Think longer term, too. If you marry an unbeliever, your children will very likely be born into a home in which one parent does not follow God. When two parents do not share spiritual priorities, it not only tears at their marriage; it hurts their children as well.
It matters greatly if you date an unbeliever. Honor God, protect yourself and help your unbelieving friends by refraining from a relationship with them—at least until they come to the Lord of their own volition.