© April 20, 2018 | Schulter Etyang
This question keeps being posed, is it okay to date and eventually get married to a non-Christian? And the default response has always been, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV)
And then one makes the case that they have seen couples where one wasn’t a Christian before they got married and now have a good marriage. Therefore, in their opinion, it is okay to date and marry a non-Christian. The answer to this line of reasoning is usually; “That is the exception and not the rule.” The blowback is always, “I want to be the exception.”This particular question on dating non-Christians most times emanates from single Christian ladies. Overwhelmingly, Christian single ladies toy with this idea more often than not. And most of them take this view because of previous unpleasant experiences with Christian single men. They then resort to seeking non-Christian single men who they hope will not be as bad as the Christian single men, usually with catastrophic results. I am yet to meet a Christian single man who wants to marry a non-Christian single lady. I know they are out there but I haven’t met any, yet.
So the debate rages on and on…
I think for the most part within Christian circles we haven’t done a good job at answering this life-altering question. We have been dogmatic in our response. We only repeat what the Bible says just like a parrot mimics the words and sounds of its owner.
I would like to offer a gospel affirming opinion as to what you need to consider before you date and get married to a non-Christian or a non-gospel affirming Christian.
First, what do I mean by dating a non-Christian or a non-gospel affirming Christian? Sounds like a mouthful. It simply means dating someone whose main belief system is not Jesus and his work on the cross for us. This means anyone that does not believe and apply the gospel to their lives. Hindus, Muslims, Judaists, Atheists, Buddhists, fundamental Christians, liberal Christians, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, New ager’s, and the unsaved all are non-Christians or non-gospel affirming Christians.
Now, instead of using the popular 2 Corinthians 6:14 as a reference point. I’d like to use 1 Kings 11:1-13 NLT as a reference point
King Solomon, the wise, loved many foreign women. By foreign, the Bible means people who were not Jewish and most importantly they were not people of the covenant. They were not people of God. They were not included in the promises given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Jewish patriarchs. Paul explains that non-Jewish people aka gentiles were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. They lived in this world without God and without hope. (Ephesians 2:12 NLT)
Intermarriage between Jewish people and other nations was prohibited for this reason. These people would cause them to turn away from the true Yahweh and go after their gods. (Exodus 34:12-17 NLT) Specifically, their gods were Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and Molech — gods that required human sacrifice.
I can hear your protest…
Hey wait a minute, but my date doesn’t worship other gods. He doesn’t offer human sacrifices. He is a decent man. A good man. He is just not into religion. They may not be bowing down before a god as they did back then. But they still find their acceptance, meaning, and significance from a god. Our gods look like this in the modern world — business, acumen, titles, careers, money, wealth, power, image, esteem, vacation, education, ministry, connections, family name, credentials, talents, gifts, sex etc. These are gods that non-Christians and non-gospel affirming Christians derive from their acceptance, meaning, and significance.
The implication of worshipping other gods was this — the nation of Israel stopped relying on the work of another for their acceptance, meaning, and significance before God. When they used to sacrifice to Yahweh, these sacrifices meant this — God please accept us based on the innocence of the animal (a type of Jesus and his work) and not our good works. Please accept us because the animal is innocent. The animal takes my place of cursing, as I take its place of blessing. Right there you see the gospel. The gospel is the good news of what Jesus did for us in his work on the cross for us. Therefore, when they stopped offering those sacrifices, they essentially said to God, “We will depend on other gods for our own acceptance, meaning, and significance.
Let’s translate this to dating
A Christian depends only on the finished work of Jesus. We depend on the work of Jesus for our acceptance, meaning, and significance before God and the world. Everything we do is hinged on this premise. Without it, we can do nothing. A non-Christian or non-gospel affirming Christian depends on other things for their acceptance, meaning, and significance. They seek this out in two ways — inwardly and outwardly.
- Inwardly, they look to their inner beliefs for acceptance, meaning, and significance. I am a good person. I am hard-working. I am wise. I am educated. I am a moral person, I have self-esteem, I am talented, I am gifted. I am powerful. I am wise. I am beautiful. I am sexy. I am a man. I am a woman.
- Outwardly they look to external sources such as titles, image, wealth, good name, credibility, business, acumen, titles, careers, money, wealth, power, vacation, education, ministry, connections, family name, credentials, sex etc
And these beliefs color how they look at life. They will live life through the prism of their belief systems. They will parent, handle finances, deal with life issues, make friends, etc using the belief systems they derive from these inward and outward sources.
When a Christian and a non-Christian or non-gospel affirming Christian date, a conflict will inevitably arise. Let’s talk finances. The Christian honours the Lord with the tithe, gives to the poor and is a good steward of their finances. The non-Christian and non-gospel affirming Christian may want to be good stewards but to the point where they don’t give to the Lord or help the poor. The different beliefs will collide, colossally.
What about sex? To the Christian, sex is to be enjoyed within the confines of marriage. To the non-Christian or non-gospel affirming Christian, sex is a way to relieve pressure or even dominate your partner.
What about communication? The Christian is encouraged to speak words that are seasoned with grace. The non-Christian or non-gospel affirming Christian blurts out his opinions and may even use curse words.
These are just but a few examples. Do you notice the different belief systems?
Eventually, the Christian as was the case with Solomon will turn away their heart from God and follow after their gods. They will stop depending on Jesus and his work for them for their acceptance, meaning, and significance.
Solomon left behind a divided legacy. He started well but ended badly. His legacy is thus — the king of Israel was divided. I wonder sometimes whether this happens to Christians. I think so. I think we eventually live divided lives because we have mixed belief systems. We live double minded lives ensuring that we are not stable in our ways. (James 1:8 NLT)
From scriptural precedence, I would not advise a Christian to date a non-Christian or a non-gospel affirming Christian. I would even venture to say that non-Christians or non-gospel affirming Christians should not date gospel affirming Christians.
Are their non-gospel affirming Christians? Yes, they are. These are Christians that do not understand, believe and apply the gospel to their lives. They only listened to the gospel once — when they got saved but after that, they have been depending on their own works righteousness for acceptance, meaning, and significance. Really, Schulter? Oh yeah. They fast, pray, go to Church, sing in the choir, tithe, usher, teach the children Church, give to the poor, speak in tongues, attend morning-glory and Friday night vigils, attend prophetic conferences, sign up for Bible school and do spiritual things. But they do all these things so that they can feel good about themselves. They derive their acceptance, meaning, and significance from doing spiritual things but not from Jesus and his work for them. Their gods are works righteousness.
Seek out a gospel affirming individual and date them. They are very rare, I admit. You will have to be patient, very patient. You will have to pray, pray and pray some more for your future mate. You will have to plug yourself into a gospel affirming community in order to find a mate. Jenny and I have family members and friends that the gospel has broken through to them. We see the struggle they have in getting partners who are gospel affirming as they are.
When Jenny and I got married, we weren’t gospel affirming at all. Our first few years of marriage were not so nice — at least for me. I did not like her. I didn’t think she was spiritual enough. I didn’t think she was suited for my purpose and destiny. I was always harsh and angry towards her. She also had her own inhibitions towards me. Ask her. But the gospel broke through to us. We started to view life through the lenses of the gospel.
So far, we have done all we can to put the gospel at the centre of our lives. We still argue and fight. We still get mad at each other. We still process things differently as a man and woman should. But the blows of our differences and arguments have mellowed. We have acknowledged that we are both sinful and at the same time accepted, favoured and deeply loved. Our sinfulness allows us to view each other as humans in need of the lavish grace of God. And so each day we desperately cling to the gospel — our only hope.
That’s what grace looks like