I am 29, female and single. Over the years, I have always stood by the Bible’s command that I should never marry a non-believer, or even entertain the idea - by dating them. As an early teen this was something I didn't struggle with too much – on a surface level the advice made sense.
However the older I've gotten the messier this issue has become. I have watched friends choose non-Christian partners and been tempted to do the same. I’ve had to grapple deeply with the question: ‘Why has God set specific and restricting guidelines on who we can date and marry? I hope to share with you some of my insights into this tricky but important issue.
What the Bible says
In the Bible, God's message on this issue is unmistakably clear. God knew that in the relationship of marriage it would be easier for the Israelites to be tempted away from faith in God towards false gods than the other way around. God designed marriage for oneness in all spheres of the human person, including the spiritual. He knew that given the intimacy of this relationship, it would be tempting for His people to turn to false gods if they were married to pagans or idol worshippers.
In the New Testament, His people are called to be a "royal priesthood and a holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9) to be "holy as the Lord is holy'" (1 Peter 1:15). In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul warns the church not to be "unequally yoked with unbelievers'" (2 Corinthians 6:14). However, Paul and Peter both leave room for married non-Christians who become Christians, to stay married and work to convert their spouse by their godly living (1 Corinthians 7:12-13; 1 Peter 3:1).
The Bible is clear in its command that professing Christians are not to marry un-believers. But, what about dating?
As 'dating' is a twentieth century term, we can't quote the Bible directly on it’s 'dating advice'. However, it does state we should not marry non-believers, so we should not date them either. While dating may not lead to marriage, it could. God's advice is not purposed to limit our chances of marriage, or to legalistically apply rules for the sake of it, but ultimately for the good of the Christian.
For our good
God is not a hard taskmaster who keeps a rulebook, checking off the list of things we do right and wrong. In fact, it is incredible that the Lord of the Universe cares deeply about who we date and marry. If you are a Christian, you are His son or daughter whom He loves, and as someone who knows you intimately, He wants to be involved in every aspect of your life. Like a loving parent, your Heavenly Father wants the best for us, and out of that love, He has made a way for us to know how He wants us to live – through His Word.
God’s plan for our lives as Christians is to is to glorify Him in everything we do, say and think. God's plan for marriage, and therefore dating, is that we would be joined to someone who can help us in this mission to know Jesus and make Jesus known.
As Guy said in last week’s sermon, "the essence of intimacy in marriage is the beautiful realisation that finally you have someone who understands and accepts you for who you truly are. But if that person is are not a believer they cannot truly understand or accept you at your essence – your heart and your mind. This means you either have to keep them away from what is central in your life, or take what is central to your life (namely Jesus) and push it to the edge."
God wants the best for us in a life partner, so why would we settle for anything less?
Check your motivations
Is your main motive in dating or marrying someone to be rid of your loneliness, or to satisfy your desire for relationship and intimacy? These are not bad desires in and of themselves - God has made us for relationship. But we must not allow our desire for 'good things' to define us and rule our decisions. God wants us to look to Him for our identity as His Children, as we make these important decisions for our lives.
Our true identity and value does not come from our relationship status. Our value and worth comes from Jesus, knowing Him, trusting Him, and being made more and more into His image.
Do you trust him?
If we believe in a sovereign God, we can trust that He will bring the right person at the right time. Or He won't and we must accept that this is His sovereign will. The question that I have to continually ask myself is: do I trust Him, like really trust Him?
As Christians, we know that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and that we will continue to face trials and hardships (1 Peter 1:6) until He returns to restore our broken world. God never promised believers that this life would be easy (John 16:33). He promises us so much more: a relationship with Him through Jesus, which will lead us on the most radical, exciting and transforming journey we will ever experience.