Last night I was speaking to a Christian Union meeting at our local university about dating and marriage. One of the perennial problems that many young people fall into is getting into relationships with non-Christians. I was exhorting these students to realise that going out with a non-Christian is not an option for the believer. Because dating is a stepping stone to marriage, what the Bible says about whom we may marry applies to whom we may date as well. 1 Corinthians 7.39: A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. But even if someone refuses to accept that this command applies to pre-marriage relationships, at best it is incredibly foolish and unloving for a Christian to date a non-Christian. Here are a few points to reinforce this…
1. Dating a non-Christian is incredibly short-sighted. What happens if he doesn’t become a Christian? Even if you can persuade yourself that it is somehow OK to date an unbeliever, you can’t kid yourself that’s it’s OK to marry him/her unless you rip 1 Corinthians 7.39 out of the Bible. So at what point will you pull the plug on the relationship if the boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t become a Christian? After a month? After a year? When he proposes but still hasn’t become a Christian? You’re only storing up hurt for both of you. It’s an incredibly unloving, unkind thing to. What if he says, ‘OK then, I’ll become a Christian.’ How do you know he means it? How does he know he means it? It’s really tantamount to emotional blackmail, because what you’re saying at the end of the day is, ‘If you don’t become a Christian, this relationship will have to end.’
2. Many young people fool themselves into thinking they will be a good witness to the one they’re dating, but if you are truly serious about seeing that person come to Christ, then going out with them is probably about the worst thing you can possibly do. For one thing, you’re teaching them that obeying God’s word carefully and comprehensively isn’t all that important if it gets in the way of something you want to do. But inevitably it is going to confuse their motives—it’s going to be hard for them to separate their interest in the gospel from their interest in you. In most cases this is just a pious-sounding excuse Christians use to ease their conscience as they do what they want to do. God may graciously bring that unbeliever to himself, but it will be in spite of your presumption rather than because of it.
3. Almost invariably what happens in practice is that the Christian is led astray by the relationship. Their zeal and enthusiasm evaporate. It’s hard enough for our young people to keep themselves sexually pure while going out with another Christian who is committed to honouring God with their body before marriage; with a non-Christian this is going to be much more difficult.
4. Beginning a relationship with a non-Christian betrays a failure to realise how utterly different a Christian is from a non-Christian. When two people decide to start a relationship, it’s normally because they share the same values and worldview. But you can’t get two more profoundly different people than a believer and an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6.14-7.1). All the things you have in common are purely superficial and can’t possibly compensate for the huge gulf between you spiritually. Think about it like this. Could you go out with someone who really doesn’t like your family? (This illustration assumes that you like your family!). They might be very polite about it—it’s not that they go around cursing your family up and down, they just don’t want anything to do with them. They don’t ever want to meet them or spend time with them. They don’t really like you seeing them. They don’t want you to talk about them (‘Look, if you want to like your family that’s OK for you, but don’t try to shove them down my throat!’). Could you ever realistically consider marrying someone who thought like that? Why would you even start a relationship with someone who thought like that—who despises these people who are so precious and important to you? Would all the other things you have in common with this person outweigh the fact that they hate your family? Well, if you wouldn’t consider dating someone who didn’t like your earthly family, how much less should you think of dating someone who despises your heavenly Father who matters far more to you even than your family here?