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I so want the answer to be yes.
Don’t get me wrong. The man who courted and later married me isn’t just a Christ follower. John also exemplifies the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, on a daily basis. Get to know my husband, and you’ll see how the above description fits him like a tailored suit. There’s no way I would’ve nodded yes if John weren’t a Christian, to begin with.
Yet here I am, toiling to see if there could be any loophole that might sanction dating a nonbeliever. This is partly because I abhor adding yet more bad rep about Christians or Christianity. But the main reason is that I don’t want anyone to mistake God for a grouchy killjoy.
At the same time, I won’t be doing you any good by lying to you. So, can we talk about this? One tip to help you make it through this article is to keep an open heart. (Especially if you’re already dating an unbeliever.) Let’s review possible reasons why you might consider relaxing your standards by dating just anyone.
As the people of God, we are set apart for His use (1 Peter 2:9). Because of this, God draws a boundary around who we are allowed to marry: “Stop becoming unevenly yoked with unbelievers. What partnership can righteousness have with lawlessness? What fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14, ISV).
Dating is meant to serve as a precursor to marriage. As such, dating an unbeliever means you’re endorsing the possibility of sharing the rest of your life with someone who doesn’t share your faith.
Which is a risky business.
As Jesus said, “even if you were to gain all the wealth and power of this world—at the cost of your own life—what good would that be? And what could be more valuable to you than your own soul?” (Matthew 16:26, TPT).
Compromise poses significant risks. Before compromising your convictions by dating outside biblical boundaries, weigh things carefully.
2. Nothing Serious
But perhaps you’re just having fun. Maybe you’re not ready to settle down and are only in the market for free food. Flirting. What’s the harm in dating a nonbeliever if this is your mindset?
Plenty. Even if you set out to date with a pure heart because we all influence each other, dating a nonbeliever might sway you to their way of thinking.
Here’s how the Living Bible puts it: “If you listen to them you will start acting like them” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
Besides, someone with little to no regard for God’s Word may thoroughly welcome unwholesome and destructive activities. After all, while Scripture serves as our compass for what’s edifying and what’s not (1 Corinthians 10:23), non-Christians don’t necessarily view it this way.
A nonbeliever may embrace everything as fair game, regardless of how it might impact you. For instance, what if your non-Christian date wants to cap off the evening sexually? Mix your drink with a dangerous substance? Force you to abandon your moral convictions?
Will you suppress your conscience and sin for the sake of your date?
Do you feel lonely? You’re not alone. Post pandemic, 58% of Americans share your sentiment.
But if loneliness drives you to date just anyone, think twice. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a date as “a usually romantic social arrangement to meet with someone.” But no romantic undertone is necessary if the goal is to cure loneliness. Adding romance to the mix—especially when the other party isn’t a believer—is begging for trouble. At best, you might get your heart broken, and at worst, you might walk away from your faith.
You can enjoy a meal or a movie with another. Even while keeping things strictly platonic.
4. Evangelistic Dating
Perhaps the person you’ve been dating isn’t just a knockout but also caring. So what if they don’t confess Christ? You can evangelize them while dating. Right?
I have a cousin whose love story took this trajectory, so yes, this route may pay off. However, for every successful evangelistic dating story, there are even more stories of Christians who lost their convictions after dating nonbelievers. In one case, a devout atheist married a Christian woman, and while both retain their respective worldviews, their kids and grandkids are agnostic.
Ultimately, the next generation is why dating an unbeliever is inadvisable. Malachi 2:15 explains it this way, “Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring.”
We don’t just get married for our sakes. We marry fellow believers so that together, we can reproduce and raise the next generations for God.
5. Sexual Health
Can we be brutally honest? Some single adults date for the companionship. Others, for sex.
I heard about one such man. When his friends asked how this guy, who professed to be a Christian, could justify sleeping around, he explained it’s for the benefit of his “sexual health.” This kind of logic finds no backing in Scripture. In fact, God commands the exact opposite: “But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:13, NLT).
God designed sex to be practiced only within marriage (1 Corinthians 7:2). Anything that violates His perfect standard will yield future heartaches because His Word carries a protective function for us (Psalm 81:14).
If remaining single and celibate is tough, remember how Jesus roamed the earth in a male body while maintaining sexual purity. Ask Him for the secret. Plus, reread the end of 1 Corinthians 6:13, the verse we passed by a couple of paragraphs ago. The Lord cares about your body; as such, pray for help so you can “control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable” (1 Thessalonians 4:4).
6. God Takes Too Long
Maybe you’ve been holding out for that compatible Christian to date, but that person is still absent. Perhaps it’s the arid—not to mention long—waiting that drives you to date a nonbeliever.
I get it if your patience wears thin because time seems powerless to shift your single status.
Nobody who waits on God will be ashamed (Psalm 25:3). He hears your petition for a mate. Not only that, our compassionate Father has flawless memory. God remembers your need and will come through no matter how long it has been.
Habakkuk 2:3 says, “This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed” (NLT). Use this verse to bolster your commitment to never settle for less—even if it may feel like your God-given spouse will never arrive.
The Only Yes
Found it! While I stand by everything we have just discussed, there’s indeed a yes to the question we started off with.
Is it okay to date a nonbeliever? The only yes is if God says so.
Whether or not you hear Him correctly, however, is something we can tackle another time.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/jacoblund
Audrey Davidheiser, PhD is a California licensed psychologist, certified Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapist and IFSI approved clinical consultant, as well as author of Surviving Difficult People: When Your Faith and Feelings Clash. After founding and directing a counseling center for the Los Angeles Dream Center, she now devotes her practice to survivors of trauma—including spiritual abuse. Visit her on www.aimforbreakthrough.com