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The Top 5 Excuses for Dating a Non-Christian
Let's face it. No-one likes to be told what they are doing is wrong. That is why I ignored my Christian piano teacher when she gave me this useful advice: “It is easier to pull someone off a chair, than to pull someone up with you”.
This saying suggests that, as Christians, we are the ones standing on the chair. With a relationship comes a natural degree of compromise as each partner chips away those rough edges on the other as they learn to accept and adjust to the differences in their partner. For two people each standing on the chair, the natural tugging and chipping away that occurs in a relationship should not shake the foundation that both people stand on – that is, their faith. However, when one person is standing on the chair and one person is standing on the ground, it is easier for the person on the chair to give in to the downward pull and join the person on the ground when pressures come upon their relationship.
This has been my experience, and I wish I listed to my teacher all those years back and spared myself much heartbreak. In the process, however, I have learned some valuable lessons from God, which I feel he has burdened me to share with others.
This article draws on biblical principles, plus my own experiences, to explain the dangers of dating those who do not have a solid faith in Christ Jesus. I will do this by addressing the top five excuses I have heard from people about why they would consider dating a non-Christian.
To warn you in advance, some of you may not like what you hear. I know, because I've been there. I only hope you will read on with an open heart and mind and commit your relationships to God.
Standing on the chair and why we should want to stay there
If we are to be serious about living our dating lives in line with God's will, we must have the right motives. The first step in getting our dating right with God is to recognise who we are as humans in relation to our God.
Let me draw you back to a time when the world was in harmony. This story can be found in Genesis 1 and 2 in the Bible. God, for his own delightful purpose, created a world. In this world he placed plants and animals, and for the finishing touch on his perfect world, he created humans – male and female – to look after his paradise. The first humans were Adam and Eve. I'm sure many of you are familiar with their story. Even though God had provided everything they needed, they still desired more. They desired to be like God, to be in control of their own lives. It was this desire, plus the prompting of a crafty snake, which led them to eat fruit from a tree that God had forbidden them to eat from. The immediate consequences of their disobedience were changed relationships with God and with each other. Because he is a holy God, and their sin could not be left unpunished, God banished Adam and Eve from his presence. In all this, however, God showed his mercy and love for them. He did not have them killed, death would come later. Instead, he gave them a promise that one day harmony would be restored through Eve's son who would crush the head of the serpent, who is Satan (Genesis 3:15).
The disobedience of Adam and Eve has been echoed in the life of every human who lived ever since (except for Jesus). Romans 3:10-11 says 'As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one'.
We need to recognise that if we compare our lives to God's standards, there is no comparison because God's standard is perfection! Take a moment to think now about some of the things you have done that have made you less than perfect in God's eyes. Have you ever hidden the truth, said or thought unkind things about others, swore, or made anything in your life more important than God? You see, none of us can measure up.
It is good to reflect on our low position before God. We need to understand this before we can get to the next part of God's amazing plan. God loves each of us so much that while we were sinners, he sent his Son Jesus to our world. Jesus was born as a baby and became a man and lived in complete obedience to God. He was so obedient that when his Father sent him to die in our world, to be killed, to be hung on a cross in the most painful and humiliating death ever, he said “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Even though he could have saved himself at any time, because he was in very nature, God (Philippians 2), he stuck with it because he knew it was the only way humans could be made right with God. The punishment for sin is death, but because Jesus was sinless, he was able to take the punishment of the world upon himself. God put his big stamp of approval on Jesus by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand – a very prestigious place in heaven. Jesus now sites as a ruler over all things in heaven and earth (Romans 8:34 and Acts 7:55). This now means that whoever confesses his or her sins to God and believes in the death and resurrection of Jesus is now clean before God AND has a place in heaven. And if this was not enough, God sends his Holy Spirit to live in us and help us to grow in Christ-likeness. We are part of God's work on earth and God gives us all the tools we need to serve him (Ephesians 2:10 and 2 Peter 1:3).
We are certainly in a very privileged position if we have decided to hand over our lives to him and live the way he intended us to. This means handing him the steering wheel of our lives. After all, God is a much better driver than we are – he made the car and wrote the map, why should we try and still hold onto the controls.
If you have never considered this before, or haven't yet trusted God with your life, it is important that you address this now. You see, without a firm establishment in what Christ has done for us, we will not have the motivation to submit all our aspects of our lives to his control, including our dating relationships.
Before we move on, let's pray
Dear Father, there are no words to thank you for the painful sacrifice you made in sending your Son to die to take the punishment I deserve. I pray that you would help me to continually remember that you loved me that much and want to be a part of my life. I am truly sorry for the times I have tried to run my own life. Please forgive me and help me to trust you. Amen
Excuse 1 – But it's not like we're going to get married
This is an excuse that is particularly used by teenagers to justify dating relationships with non-Christians. It shows that they believe it is wrong to be married to someone who doesn't share the same faith (see 1 Corinthians 7:39 and 2 Corinthians 6:14 for some verses on this), but the point made is that having a relationship with them is allowable if it doesn't lead to marriage.
To address this issue, we need to look at the purpose of dating relationships from a Christian perspective. Back in the days of the prophets and the early church, the practice of 'dating' or 'going out' was not around and is not commented on in the Bible. Therefore, there are many different opinions in Christian circles about how dating relationships should be carried out. Rather than provide my views on what I think the purpose of relationships should be, I'll suggest some thing that I think they should not be (some of these based on my own experiences):
Dating relationships should not be based on self-centredness. This may include dating someone because YOU feel lonely, unattractive, bored or want to make someone else jealous
Dating should never be a game. We need to remember the words of Jesus when he said “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). I doubt any of us would want to have someone play with our heart for their own gain, so why should we treat others this way?
Relationships should not be like shopping. You try on one size and then take it back because you want a different colour, then you go back to the first shop and get the pair of pants you originally tried on. We need to be prayerful and exhibit wisdom when we consider relationships, so we don't end up breaking hearts until we get the right fit
Finally, a relationship should not be the be all and end all in life. Relationships for their own sakes are futile and it is only God who can make us feel complete. Don't listen to the lies portrayed in the movies. True love comes from God, not relationships
Let's put it in perspective. Ask yourself “Do I want God to provide a girlfriend/boyfriend for me to help me serve God better?”. We should only be seeking relationships if we are willing to carry them out in a way that will glorify God. This is not to take away the romance or wild excitement that God may use to draw our attention to our future partner, but we need to make sure our motives are centred on God.
If we are putting our relationship in perspective, we need to think about how a relationship with a non-Christian will influence our ability to glorify God, even if we are not thinking about marrying them.
Another thing worth pointing out is the two inevitable conclusions that will come out of a relationship with a non-Christian, or anyone for that matter. You will either end up breaking up, or you will get married. If you are not thinking about the option of marrying someone, then you must be planning on breaking up with them at some point before things get too serious. Is this really fair to the person with whom you are involved? Is this type of dating God-glorifying? It reminds me of a toy you play with and then discard when it is time to grow up.
It is not wise to enter a relationship if you are not at least thinking of the possibility that it will result in marriage. We may not be positive at the start that someone should be our spouse, but we can do the right thing and conduct ourselves in a God-glorifying way when we refuse to play games with the hearts of other people.
Excuse 2 – But how else will they be exposed to Christianity?
Another common excuse for dating a non-Christian is thinking that by going out with someone who isn't a Christian, we are in fact providing them with an opportunity to be exposed to Christianity. It has often been labelled 'missionary dating' or 'flirt to convert'. I think that many times when people use this excuse, their motives are not genuine. They are merely pulling a Christian cover on something to make it seem right to others, themselves and God. Is a heartfelt desire to see someone turn to Christ the main motivating factor for us to be in a relationship with them, and how will this help them? Are you just going out with them and trying to convert them so it is acceptable for you to marry them, or do you genuinely care about their faith – with or without you?
Firstly, let me say that I don't think that a boyfriend or girlfriend can share Jesus with someone in a more effective way than a friend can. Christianity is not contagious and transmitted by kissing people, or drinking out of the same cup. Instead, I think that going out with a non-Christian can put up more barriers between the person and God. I look back on some of the relationships I have been in and wish so much I had stayed a good friend in order to win them to Christ. I'm sure there are people out there who were able to convert a boyfriend or girlfriend by going out with them, but this isn't the norm. It is like saying you won't get sick from cigarettes because your grandma is 96 and has been smoking since she was 8 and is still in perfect health. These examples don't give us a realistic grounding on which to base our actions.
Remember the chair illustration I used earlier – very often I have found that the opposite to what we set out to do will actually happen. The Christian in the relationship will end up being exposed to worldly things and this can cause us to fall into temptation and drift away from Christ. The Bible tells us to flee from evil and keep our eyes focused on Jesus (Philippians 3:13 & 14), so do just that!
Another point I want to raise is to think about the types of people that God wants us to share Christ with. Did Jesus tell us to share the gospel with only those we find attractive? No! All people need to know the truth, not just those with gorgeous eyes or rugged good looks. We should not discriminate just because we want to go out with someone.
We need to realise that having a dating relationship with someone most probably won't be the best way to be a witness of God's love. Instead, be a true friend to them and let them know you care for them as a person and show them you are willing to sacrifice your feelings because of a God that you care about who sacrificed much, much more for us.
Excuse 3 – But they say things are cool with them and God...
This is an excuse I used when I went out with a non-Christian guy for a year in high-school. I had asked him if he was a Christian, and he said he was cool with God. They would have beers in heaven. I think deep down I knew he had no real relationship with God, but I held onto that excuse and nearly got dragged away from God because of it.
While only God really knows where a person's heart stands with him, the Bible tells us that true Christians bear spiritual fruit 'But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control' Galatians 5:22-23.
If the person shows no signs of spiritual fruit, and you can associate them more with the acts of the flesh 'sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like' (Galatians 5:19-20), you should re-think going out with them.
God's followers should be a light in the darkness, a beacon in the night. The Bible says, for what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14b).
Wait for God's best, wait for someone who will inspire you to serve God, not someone who will tempt you to live a life apart from God.
Excuse 4 – But they have higher morals than most of the Christians I know...
I think this is a contradictory excuse because, by using it, a Christian is lowering their moral standards to date someone who doesn't profess to be a Christian. I can see how this excuse could come about quite easily. There are many people in our world who are beautiful people, friendly, kind and morally upright, but do not belong to Christ. The Bible teaches us that no matter what outward appearances look like, God looks at the heart. The only way someone can be right before God is by trusting in Jesus. That means that these people are still living in darkness, in need of a saviour. The good works they do only count in this world, and not the world to come.
This excuse pin-points another issue though. Unfortunately, due to sin, Christians are not perfect and in some cases seem no different to anyone else in terms of their moral behaviour. Have you ever been in a classroom where someone is rocking their chair and then all of a sudden...oops!! The chair topples backwards (and the teacher inevitably gets angry). Fortunately, God's grace is available to us so that when we fall, God doesn't let go of us.
When Christian's try and blend in too much with this world, it is like we are rocking the chair we are standing on. We need to keep our focus on Christ who is our strong foundation and be very careful who we share our chair with.
Excuse 5 – But there are no decent or attractive Christian guys or girls around... (and I'm not getting any younger)
I think many single Christians have a fear about leaving their relationships in God's hands. It's as if ever since the 'cross' incident 2000 years ago, God has been waiting to get his revenge by bringing someone into their life who is completely unattractive to them, or worse yet, not bringing anyone into their life at all. I know I certainly felt this way in my early 20's. I wanted to take the controls into my own hands. The problem was, I was swimming in a very small pond. The prospects seemed dismal, daunting and depressing. I can see why people would be tempted to check out the other non-Christian fish in the pool. BUT...
We have a God who loves us and satisfies all our needs. He desires to give us good things. We have no reason to believe he is out for revenge by withholding good things from us. God created the vast ocean of people and knows everything about every person. It would be silly to think we can pick out a marriage partner without his help.
It is true that some people will remain single for their lifetime, but this is not intended as a burden for someone to carry, but a unique opportunity for someone to serve God wholeheartedly without the distractions that come with a family.
I grew up with unrealistic expectations of what marriage would entail. Many girls grow up with the fairytale ending tagline 'and they lived happily ever after'. But the fairytales don't tell us about the argument that Snow White and the Handsome Prince had when Snow White accidentally reversed the car into the letterbox. And they certainly don't tell us about how Cinderella is constantly frustrated by the way Prince Charming won't ever help out with the housework. Marriage in itself will not bring happiness. Marriage is not a fairytale; it can be hard work, and it will only be truly successful if Christ is at the centre.
I mentioned earlier that true love comes from God, not relationships. It is important to know that God can satisfy our longings completely, whether we are single or married or anywhere in between.
There may be many questions or challenges as a result of this article. I encourage you to read God's word and look to God to help you in this area of life:
He can give you the conviction and strength to change any attitudes that may be hindering your ability to serve him by submitting your relationships under his authority.
He can give you the strength and wisdom to remove yourself from different dating situations you may be in with someone who does not share the same faith.
He can give you the ability to live out your dating relationships in a way that brings glory to him.
He can fill the lonely void in your heart and bring purpose and hope to your life.
Remember the privileged position we have as Christians, remember God's love for you, and seek to submit your whole life to Him.
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