Recently a friend posed for me the question: “Is it right for a Christian to date a non-Christian?” and although I can’t give a yes or no answer to that question; it got me thinking about other similar questions and why they might be so hard to answer and decide.
But let’s look more in-depth about this question. Sure enough I am confident most church attendees/youth group members will have been faced with “teaching” to not date non-Christians. Why? What is supposedly dangerous about it? Is it that important? There must be a reason why church pastors are teaching kids not to go out with non-Christians. I mean, doesn’t this sort of limit who we can become friends with and all; seems a bit unfair, but let’s not make judgements until we’ve examined the details behind it.
First off let’s start with something more basic. And I’m taking this point from of my talks for Soul Purpose last year. As a child, did you parents make you obey certain rules? For example, what about “Don’t come within 5 metres near the stove or you’ll burn yourself”? Sounds like something that you would’ve been told as a child. First off, why is the reason behind this “rule”? So that you don’t get burnt from the stove. Will the rule keep you from burning yourself? Yes, 100% of the time. Is it the only way to keep yourself from being burnt by the stove? No. And here is where things get interesting.
Do you think this is a rule that you, as a teenager or young adult, would follow? Of course not, it’s a bit strange having to still stand like 5 metres away from the stove when you know that you won’t be irresponsible enough to burn yourself. That rule is a little bit too extreme to follow now isn’t it? But was it’s “purpose” at the time? This is the really important bit. The purpose was to teach you, as a child, to avoid danger. And sure enough by following such a rule, we learn to take care of ourselves and stay out of harm’s way, even if we’re right next to something dangerous.
It is the purpose of learning to stay away from danger that gives parents the reason to create these restrictive rules for children but then alleviate it when they can manage themselves better. So now we can come back to the first “rule”: Christians should not date non-Christians. This might be a bit of a jump for those who have not heard of this idea before, but essentially the Bible teaches us to stay away from unbelievers. Take this verse:
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”
– 1 Corinthians 6:14
Wow it’s even more extreme that I had first thought. This verse even goes to the lengths to say that Christians should stay completely away from non-Christians. But that’s stupid; it’s impossible because we live in a society full of, well, Christians and non-Christians, if we must use these two groups. How can we be expected to follow something like this verse? Or perhaps this is similar to my example from above, about the stove. We must ask ourselves the question: “What is the purpose of such a rule/teaching?”
Well long answer short, your parents probably tell you to stay away from “bad” people, to not make friends with “bad people” because they’ll influence you to become bad, and that’s bad; okay no more “bad”s. So similarly with Christians, we are taught to stay away from non-Christians in order not to be influenced away from God. That’s a fairly logical thing to teach; in order to keep your Christian as “pure” as possible, stay away from the things that dirty it. But another question on top of that is: “Does hanging around non-Christians influence a Christian’s faith?” It can happen yes, but not al the time. I personally have many non-Christian friends but I know that they can never influence me to weaken my faith in God.
The purpose is 1 Corinthians 6:14 is to teach us to resist things that may weaken our faith. And surely, following this verse will fulfil that purpose, no problem, but isn’t it a little extreme? You can still hang around non-Christians and keep your faith strong, right? It’s like being able to stand right next to the stove and also not burn yourself; you learn how to do both, and it is possible.
Additionally if you want more examples of these sort of things, read the book of Leviticus. It is full of rules and regulations for the nation of Israel to follow. But after reading a few of them you’ll see just how stupid they sound if they were done today. For example:
“Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.”
– Leviticus 19:19
Okay, now that is really stupid. I’m not sure about the purpose behind this verse but the bottom line is, it’s not something we need to do today. But this is just taking something that is blatantly obvious; the non-Christian case is more complex.
Now taking the investigation further to marriage, why would it be wrong for a Christian to marry a non-Christian? Well pretty much the same reason, for fear that the non-Christian partner will influence the Christian partner’s faith. And sure enough it may just be that the Christian is influenced to not attend church because his/her partner does not want to go and so the Christian will slowly slip in his/her faith; entirely understandable.
Is it possible to learn to marry a non-Christian and maintain your faith at the same time? I believe it can happen; it’s not like there’s a 100% chance that you won’t be a Christian as soon as you marry a non-Christian. And who’s to say that the non-Christian won’t become a Christian if they marry one? Please keep in mind that this is still a grey area and this is probably the extreme scenario; what can get more serious in a relationship than marriage?
But for now we only want to consider a lesser case, dating. Is it vital to not date non-Christians, for fear that a Christian will lose their faith. On a respectable level I guess it can happen. Most of us are young and just as we as children are told to stay away from the stove, so we as young adults are told to not date non-Christians. Perhaps we aren’t mature enough to maintain our faith when it is influenced by non-Christians, just perhaps. But if a child can grow to protect themself and make the stove rule redundant, then perhaps we too can learn to strengthen our faith so that it will not be influenced by any non-Christian, whether they be friends, or even a lover.
The Bible doesn’t specifically tell us not to date non-Christians, but I do suppose the 1 Corinthians verse up there does imply the extent of marriage. Dating doesn’t have to be entirely serious right? As long as you stay within the respected limit of not having s** before marriage then it should be okay. If one can keep in mind what the “purpose” of the Bible’s teaching is, then one can find their own way to fulfil that purpose without having to take the Bible literally; it is often a mistake to get bogged down in the precise wording of the Bible, when there is a bigger message behind it.
Just keep the bigger reason and purpose in mind and surely you won’t have to be burdened by rules and teachings that seem outrageous. But as a final note please keep in mind that this is my personal view which I am not all too strongly convicted of, it is merely some thoughts off the top of my head.