Should a Christian marry or date a non-Christian?


(This was written in response to a question about whether a Christian should marry or date a non-Christian)

I briefly referred to the topic of Christians and non-Christians marrying in the following sermon:

https://jamespaulgaard.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/questions-how-do-you-know-if-you-are-following-gods-will-for-your-life/#more-390

The bible verse that I mention is 2 Corinthians 6:14 which reads,  Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

The context (see vv. 15-18) refer to religious syncretism, the mixing of Christian and pagan beliefs, and so, this verse is first and foremost a prohibition against such mixing. This is in-line with the first commandment (You shall have no other gods before me.)

In a secondary sense, this passage is also sometimes used as support for saying that Christians should not marry non-Christians (which is the sense that I refer to it in the sermon) or that a Christian should not have a non-Christian as a business partner.  This is good advice and also common sense.  Marriage partners have enough challenges these days without being divided on spiritual matters.  A spiritual tug-of-war can develop between husband and wife, decisions about the spiritual upbringing of children can be divisive and the children receive conflicting messages about faith and life.  But the context of the passage does not support an absolute prohibition against “mixed” marriages, and none of the Ten Commandments prohibit such unions.

So, in freedom, a believer could marry a non-believer.  I have seen examples of such marriages where God has worked through the believing spouse to bring the non-believer to faith.  I have also seen situations where that has not happened.  And there are also marriages where the believer has wandered away from what was once a devout faith after a marriage to a non-believer.  And even when two sincere Christians marry, there is no guarantee that one of them will not walk away from their faith at some point in the future.

In summary, I think that it is a good idea for a person to try to make sure that the one they are considering for a potential marriage partner is on the same page as they are on spiritual matters (and other major issues as well).

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6 comments

  1. Nunuv Yerbiznezz · · Reply

    It seems to me that all that exclusionary stuff was set down by Paul and does not appear in the gospels. So as far as I can see, the answer is, “If you’re a Christian, it doesn’t matter; if you’re a Paulist, no.”

    It also seems to me that there are more Paulists than Christians in the churches.

    1. Do you think that the differences between Paul and Christ are so great that they are both distinct and opposed?

  2. CuriousLutheran · · Reply

    Sir,

    You seem to backpedal from your position in the sermon you link to above. In that sermon, you state, “And so, even when we are operating in the realm of Christian freedom, we can ask ourselves, ‘Is there something in God’s Word that gives me direction on this matter?’ For example, you may be considering a romantic relationship with someone who does not have the same beliefs as you do. In freedom, you could do that. But does the Bible offer some wise advice on this matter? Yes, it does. 2 Corinthians 6:14 says, ‘Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.’” This would say to me that you do not believe that one should date or marry a non-Christian.

    In this post, however, you first admit that the primary warning of the passage is one against syncretism. Then you go on to list the possible outcomes of marriage with a non-Christian. They are: conversion of the non-Christian to Christianity; or not (I assume that, based on what is stated next, this second option would mean that neither partner’s faith stance changed); the Christian’s faith wanes. You also state that marrying a Christian holds no guarantees for either partner’s faith. Finally, you sum up with a statement that it is good for the prospective couple to be on the same page concerning spiritual matters (as well as others). What that says to me is that it is on the same level as, say, financial matters and family planning. And I quite agree that those things are important and should be discussed in depth by prospective marriage partners. However, between your previous sermon’s comment and the fact that you devote a post to this matter seems to take this facet of a relationship and blow it out of proportion. Do not forget that Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth, some of Jesus’ foremothers who were important enough to be listed in his genealogy, were “foreigners” that came from different faith backgrounds.

    As to the question of “Paul versus Jesus”, I am wondering if you consider Paul to be Christ’s equal. Paul has amazing and profound things to say. But he also strikes me as an overzealous convert at times. Paul was human, just as the rest of the disciples were. Peter, the rock, was “messing up” even after the descent of the Holy Spirit. He fell prey to the hypocrisy of not being concerned about dietary restrictions *until* the other Jews showed up, at which point he followed Jewish dietary law. It was Paul who rightly called Peter out on this. Do you feel that Paul was less prone to the frailties and foibles of being human than Peter was? Yet I definitely get the sense that, in many churches, Paul is accorded at least equal respect as Christ, in terms of his proclamations. I think this is problematic.

    I look forward to your reply, sir, and I thank you for your time.

    1. Hello Curious Lutheran,
      Regarding a Christian dating or marrying a non-Christian, I believe that this issue lies within the realm of our Christian freedom. I do not believe that there is a biblical mandate that says that a Christian has to exclusively date or marry a Christian. Having said that, within the realm of our Christian freedom, not all choices are equal. Some choices are better than others. Based on the biblical statement of 2 Corinthians 6:14 which says that believers should not be yoked together with unbelievers (which primarily refers to syncretism but can be applied in an advisory manner to marriage), on the potential negative consequences of an interfaith marriage (lack of spiritual unity, waning of spiritual fervour in the Christian spouse, diminished capacity or failure to pass on the Christian faith to the children), and on the maxim that a couple should be in agreement on something that is very important, like spirituality, I say that the best choice a Christian could make would be to date a fellow Christian who shares the same faith and similar values.

      Regarding Paul and Jesus, I do not consider Paul, or anyone else, to be Jesus’ equal. However, I believe that all of the Bible is God’s Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit, who worked through human writers to give us the words that we have in the Bible. I also believe that the Holy Spirit continues to work through God’s Word to create and grow faith in hearts, to guide and direct us as we journey through life, and to help us to grow to be more like the new person Jesus has redeemed us and called us to be. Therefore I believe that what Paul wrote is equal to what Matthew, Mark, Luke or John wrote about what Jesus did or said. I believe that Jesus is at the centre of both sets of writings and that the Holy Spirit works equally in and through both sets of writings. I think that any tendencies to favour the Pauline writings and overlook the Gospel accounts should be corrected. But I do not see what Paul wrote and what the Gospel writers wrote as being in conflict with one another.
      God’s peace and joy,
      James

  3. I have poured over Scripture on this topic as I am a devout believer in Jesus and have fallen in love with my best friend who happens to be considering Jesus but not there yet. First, Scripture is Scripture and whether Paul wrote it or Jesus said it, I think we need to be careful not to discount Paul’s writings or his teachings but rather put them in context as all Scripture should be. Who was he talking to, what was the circumstances of living in that day and age.
    After careful study I too have rested in the belief that it is a Christian freedom but also that it is warned against. As someone who wants to do God’s will my greatest struggle was knowingly doing something I had been warned against in Scripture. Why would I do that? Doesn’t God know what’s best for me? But then I considered other things the Bible warns us against but does not prohibit altogether. Most things we tend to take rather casually (over eating, over drinking, having an angry tongue to the point of sin – when is that point?)
    And so my next step is why is there a warning in the first place. And what impact will it have on my Spiritual life? With regard to loving someone who is outside the faith – letting that person into your most intimate heart and then accepting them as a spouse which is legally binding and has so many Spiritual implications, that this warning should be taken very strongly. Regardless there are exceptions.
    There are people who can make it work. In my case I’ve had more Spiritual discussions with this man than my first husband who professed to be a Christian but who had an affair and left me and my two children. And we were not nominal Christians. We were serving, very involved, very practicing. Later I had a serious boyfriend who professed to be a believer. Went to church, prayed with me, read his Bible with me and after two years I found out – as I was planning my wedding – that he was in fact still married.
    So the person I am with now has been completely honest with me as to his doubts. We’ve discussed them. He respects my faith. He attends church with me. He has said if we conceive a child (which is unlikely at our age) that he would honor my faith in raising them. He does not have animosity toward me for my beliefs in anyway and has told me that I am the first person who has introduced him to God ever in his whole life…he’s studied every religion in the world…but with me he feels like he’s getting to know God. I just can’t walk away from this. And believe me I have tried to take an intellectual stance.
    But he is my dearest friend who I love. And so it is a struggle for me. Would I be overjoyed if one day he decided to believe? Yes. But I would never make that a condition for marrying me because I know he loves me so much but would never compromise himself. Which makes me respect him immensely and also makes me trust him more.
    Other men have lied to me…he is respecting me enough to be honest. If it happens I know it will be real for him. And I have to be ok with that. However, I work in Christian ministry and am worried that the people I work for will not feel the same way and that I might lose my job. That is a very real concern and I don’t know what to do about it. Thanks for listening….sorry for the long rant.

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