Marrying a non-Christian?

I am very much in love with a man I met at work. We are both in our thirties and are compatible in every area except religion. Even though he’s not a Christian, he goes to church with me, and I believe in my heart that he will convert someday. There’s no one at church for me to date. Besides, this man’s moral standards are higher than are those of all the other men from church whom I’ve dated. What do you think my chances are for converting him? I’m willing to take my chances.

I understand the difficulty. Looking for someone with whom you can share spiritual oneness drastically reduces the field of eligible candidates. There is a chance that your friend may convert. But the biblical admonition against the union between a believer and a non-believer still exists. Never marry in hopes of someone changing. If you fail to match in your spiritual values as well as mentally, emotionally, and physically, you are compromising your beliefs and standards. This puts you on dangerous ground.

Don’t try to ignore the problem, justify the relationship, or disobey God. Instead, take a hard look at what this means for you and the one you love. Unless you do it now, in all the years to come you’ll deal with the consequences of being unequally yoked.

Imagine the frustration two builders would experience trying to work on a house from two different sets of building plans. Differing designs and materials would produce such confusion and conflict that the project would fail. Even the casual observer would say, “You can’t build a house from two differing blueprints.”

The same advice applies to naive lovers who enter marriage with differing sets of spiritual blueprints. When one is a Christian and the other is not, they enter an arena where they can never achieve spiritual oneness. What a difference it makes in marriage when both partners can turn to God in the midst of turmoil and together find a refuge and strength!

It’s amazing how much disobedience flourishes under the rationalization that I found in your letter. You need courage to end this relationship. The pain will be severe, but the peace afterwards will be even more incredible. Surround yourself with Christian friends who can support you in prayer. If you make the hard choice now, you will soon have peace.

I am 28 years old and studying in a public university. I really like some of the ideas about courtship in your books, but I’m not sure non-Christian girls are a bad influence on me. What do you think about dating outside one’s faith?

Some single young adults become really uncomfortable when people quote Paul’s warning: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14, NIV). They begin the rationalizations: “I know she’s not a Christian, but she goes to church with me, and I just know she’ll convert.” “But there’s no one at church to date!” “I know she’s not a Christian, but she has higher morals than any of the other girls I’ve dated.”

I understand the rationalization as well as the difficulty. Yes, she may convert someday. But the admonition against a relationship between a believer and an unbeliever still exists. There are scores of Christlike men and women in our churches married to unbelievers. Some become Christians after they married. Others married without heeding the scriptural advice. But they all carry the pain of spiritual loneliness.

Spiritual compatibility is important. During a time of stress, two who worship together can tap into a source of strength to carry them through the tough times. No couple goes through life without being touched by adversity or tragedy. This imperfect world carries much evil—heartache, pain, disappointment, illness, emotional upheavals, financial setbacks, and death. When a couple needs to seek God in prayer, they find great strength and courage as they seek Him together, rather than singly!

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” is godly wisdom. Unmarried Christians must heed it or reap the consequence of living in a home where the shadows are never lifted. God didn’t give this advice to keep you from finding a mate, but to protect you from pain. Don’t get yourself so wrapped up romantically with someone who doesn’t share your faith that you can’t bear the thought of a future without that person. The safest way to protect yourself from such pain is to maintain a policy of dating only those of like faith.

Nancy Van Pelt is a certified family life educator and a family and consumer science professional. She has authored 27 books, which have been translated into more than 30 languages. These two questions and answers have been selected from her new book with Madlyn Lewis Hamblin, Dear Nancy: A Trusted Advisor Gives Straight Answers to Questions about Marriage, Sex, and Parenting (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2005).