Tuesday 22 February 2011

Is it OK to date a non-Christian?

Question: How would you reply to someone if a Christian tells you that they think it’s alright to date a non-Christian and their reason being - there are plenty of good guys who aren't Christians and you could bring them to God?

I think I would want to answer lovingly from the bible.

I can understand the situation your friend is in. And I am just going to begin by assuming the very best of her – that she loves Jesus; that she is in a community of believers walking in faithfulness to Jesus; and that she is in a growing relationship with God as her heavenly Father, through prayer and regular reflection upon his Word.

I would also want to affirm the challenging situation she is facing. It is hard to get guys interested in church. It gets harder and harder as they start work and progress through their careers.

And then finally I would want to look at Ephesians 5 and hear what the bible has to say. Firstly, from verses 22 onwards, directed towards wives:

1. Submission

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Ephesians 5:22-24

Submission is hard. Yet not once, but twice, Paul says to wives: submit to your husbands. That’s hard. And here Paul is assuming the husband is a believer. That’s why he says: look at the church. As you see Christians submit to Christ, in the same way, learn to submit to your husbands.

I would ask your friend: Can you see yourself submitting to this man as your husband? “In everything” say Paul at the end of verse 24 – this is serious. Would you trust him with your life? With the lives of your children? With your faith in God?

This is not to say that Christian guys are perfect models of trustworthiness. Then again, all Christians – guys and girls – grow in their submission to Jesus as they walk with Jesus. Which is why Paul first addresses the church as a whole before speaking to the wives in particular, saying:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Ephesians 5:21

Meaning: submission is not a personality trait. It is a response of worship to Jesus.

2. Love

Then, I would move on to the instructions Paul gives to the husbands, in verses 25 onwards.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Ephesians 5:25-27

Let’s imagine that this non-Christian prospective boyfriend is in the same room, and that we are all reading these words together. I would ask him this question: Do you believe this?

Now, don’t mishear me. I am not asking: Will you do this? I am not asking him: will you love this girl, treat her well, care for her, respect her. (To which any guy would respond: Of course!)

No, my question is: Do you believe these wordsThe reasons why you should love her. Paul is saying to husbands – love your wives the way Jesus loved the church - sacrificially. Furthermore, the way you are to love her is by making her holy – through the cleansing of water through the word. It’s talking about the bible. It is saying to husbands: Men, you must remind your wives about Jesus by speaking and living out the bible every day of your marriage.

On top of all this: Verse 27 says one day, Jesus will return. So, your job then, Men, is to present your wives holy and blameless before the Lord of the universe.

Do you believe this?

I think, if the non-Christian boy were honest, he would say No. And I would commend him for his honesty.

And to be fair to him: if your future husband does not know the Word – how can you expect him to love you through the cleansing of the word of God. If he does not believe in the death, burial, resurrection and second coming of Jesus Christ – what motivation does he have to do any of this? It is unfair to him as a non-believer and it is unrealistic of you as a Christian to have these expectations from the bible meant for both a believing wife and husband.

3. Faithfulness

Finally, in responding to the notion that these non-Christian guys could be brought to Christ...

It is commendable that your friend is thinking about their salvation in Jesus. But it should not be at the expense of her own obedience to Jesus.

The bible is clear. Single Christians are free to marry anyone as long as they are (1) single, (2) of the opposite sex; and (3) belong to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:39 – the same expression is used in 7:22 to clearly refer to a Christian).

It is worth meditating on 1 Corinthians 7:25-38. Paul speaks directly to singles and the main thrust there is faithfulness in your present situation. He recognises the eagerness and pressure to be in a relationship and to get married. But don’t wait for that change in circumstance. Learn faithfulness now. Serve God now. For you, this means in your singleness.

Starting a relationship with a non-Christian and using evangelism as an excuse is – at best – unwise. You send the wrong signal that the relationship with one another is more important than with Jesus. Rather than helping him, you are standing in the way of him coming to know God.

If you haven’t yet begun a relationship, please don’t start one. If you are already seeing him you will need to break it off. I know I have no right to say this to you and this really needs to come from your pastor, or a Christian friend you know and trust. It isn’t easy, it is definitely hard (again please read 1 Corinthians 7), but one thing the bible is, on this matter, is clear.

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

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