The Virtues of Dating Non-Christians

By August 20, 20088 Comments

So yesterday I had another one of those “you really shouldn’t date him” conversations with one of my friends. You know the kind–your friend likes a guy who isn’t a Christian, and even though she knows she can’t marry him, she still sees potential for change so she wants to date him.

Whenever we see our friends do this, the reaction is always the same. We always act mildly scandalized by the idea, pondering the seeming absurdity with an ever so subtle self-righteousness: “I just don’t understand why she would even consider dating someone who isn’t a Christian! I mean, a non-Christian wouldn’t be able to understand the very core of me if he doesn’t know Christ!”

And thus our friend is swiftly cast off into the “back-sliding Christian” pile.

Now I have to be honest, I have definitely said those words myself. I have acted shocked and appalled when one of my friends dated a non-Christian because to me, it seems so simple. Scripture is clear!

But if that’s the case, then why does it happen so often?

One of the reasons Christians fall into missionary dating so easily is because of the very attitude displayed above. Our inability to comprehend a deep emotional connection with a non-Christian reveals our shallow perception of human relationships, as well as a dangerous naiveté.

Let me explain what I mean. Whenever I think about the idea of dating a non-Christian, I think something along the lines of, “No way! He would probably cuss all the time and want to have sex with me and he wouldn’t understand my heart or my drive at all.”

Well newsflash: not all non-Christians are like that! You can be non-Christian and still have high moral principles, a desire to seek truth and knowledge, and an ability to challenge others intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

That said, when we deny the possibility that we could have any sort of emotional, intellectual or spiritual connection with a non-Christian, then we let our guard down and set ourselves up to fall. We allow our hearts to become intimate in ways that are not wise because we have created a false sense of security. And slowly but surely, without even realizing it, we find ourselves connected with a non-Christian in a way we never expected…or even knew was possible.

And because of our past stereotypes about non-Christians, stereotypes in which we believed that most non-Christians are shallow or unable to be spiritually engaged, we think that our case is an exception: “I know he’s not a Christian, but this is different. He shows so much potential!” Plus, you might have a better relationship with him than you’ve even had with other Christians, which encourages you to rationalize it all the more.

For that reason, we should be wary of thinking about Christians and non-Christians in categories of deep and shallow, moral and immoral, or spiritual and non-spiritual. The only difference between us is that Christians have been saved by the grace of God, which means that many non-Christians can be more intellectual, philosophical, emotionally attentive, or spiritually challenging than Christians.

And with that in mind, we should never be so complacent or arrogant as to think that we are immune to the temptation of dating a non-Christian. The reason Scripture warns us against it is not because non-Christians are jerks, or because the relationship will be totally unhealthy. On the contrary, there are a lot of great non-Christians out there!

The reason Scripture warns against it is because you are ultimately centering yourself on something other than Christ. Being a Christian means that Christ is at the center of every part of your life, and this will be difficult if not impossible if you actively choose to marry someone who is opposed to Christ. You will instead be settling for a false idol.

So be humble, and be guarded. Being friends with non-Christians is a wonderful thing, but when it comes to members of the opposite sex, use caution. You may not be quite as strong as you think.

And keep that in mind the next time your friend dates a non-Christians. Perhaps shock and horror is not the best help for them, or your own ego.


  • lara says:

    Powerful insight. . . thank you for your honesty and the clarity with which you discuss “real” issues that women wrestle with on a daily basis. God is using you in more ways than you are aware of. . . seriously!!

  • Sarah says:

    Thank you for posting this. As someone who has been recently thrust into the state school scene after four years of private Christian undergrad, this is a new consideration for me, one I never thought I would be contemplating.

    Your point about idolization is a good one and cuts to the heart of the issue. God wants my ultimate good which CAN include an intimate, loving dating/marriage relationship. But God also wants me–totally and completely. Which, incidentally, is what I long for. What girl wouldn’t want to be pursued that way? If I’ve already committed my heart to such a deep Love, wouldn’t it be a great and cutting infidelity to cast it aside?

    Curiously, what WOULD you say to *someone* who has developed a friendship/mutual interest with a person who doesn’t believe? How do you think the friendship should be handled when your lines in the sand have been drawn? Should distance be created at the risk of jeopardizing a friendship and an opportunity for witness (considering the fact that since he’s a friend you care what happens to him).

  • Sharon says:

    That is a really great question. When it comes to sharing your faith with someone of the opposite sex who you are at all attracted to, I would proceed with caution. Even if you’ve made it clear that you can’t date, that can lead you into a false sense of security which leaves your guard down. Also, it becomes very easy for BOTH of you to mix up your motives. He may only express interest because he wants to date you, which could in turn cause you to think he’s growing spiritually, and then consider dating him when you shouldn’t. It’s a very slippery slope.

    If you really do want him to continue growing spiritually, and you want to do it in a way that guards both your motives, I would find a Christian guy who could reach out to him. That’s probably the best way to stay above reproach.

  • Suzanne says:

    So please tell me what to say to my daughter who is getting involoved with a non believer. He is a good guy, make her laugh, treats her well but knows nothing about scripture. she was raised in a christian home. Her father is a wonderful christian man and so is her brother. Her father and I are crushed, scared and dont’ know what to do. They have been dating for about 7 months and I know my daughter well enough to know that if it doesn’t end soon, it will be an engagement soon.

  • Sharon says:

    That is a really tough situation! People tend to become very irrational about who they’ve chosen to date, so it will be hard to voice your concerns without causing her to feel defensive, or even a bit estranged.

    To some extent, your children are going to do what they’re going to do, and you have to trust that God will be faithful if you were faithful in how you raised them. But obviously that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t say anything. At some point you might consider asking her questions that she may not have considered or is unable to see right now in the blindness of infatuation, such as what she envisions her future looking like with a guy who isn’t Christian. Ask her how she would feel about being the spiritual leader the rest of her life.

    If things turn more serious, it might be a good idea for you to be more blunt with her about your feelings, clearly articulating that you don’t feel she is being wise, but also convey to her that you will still love her and support her regardless of the decision she makes so that you don’t risk alienating yourselves from her the rest of your lives. It would be awful if she decided to marry this guy, all the while thinking that you hated him.

    I’m sorry you have to go through this–I’ve been in a similar situation myself and I know how hard it can be. Just keep praying, and even if she doesn’t make the decision you would like her to make right now, remember that her decisions are NEVER beyond the redemption of her loving Father. Take peace in that knowledge!

  • Trisha says:

    It’s funny to me how God is faithful even when we’re faithless. I am currently in this situation. A year ago I was completely sold out for Christ, almost finished with college, and dedicated to pouring my life out for Him. Then some life events occurred and I became emotionally and spiritually tired. I bought into the concept you talked about, and I let my guard down and suddenly found myself much more attached to a guy than I should have been. Now we are on the verge of making things official, and I am head over heels for him. However my relationship with God is faltering, and most of my christian friends are shunning me because of it. I want to pursue God, but I’m terrified that I won’t have the strength to do what I need to. How do you simply walk away from someone you care so much about?

    • BTRP says:

      Trisha, I stumbled upon this blog while looking for something else. I sincerely hope you’re still searching for a response!

      First things first: I deeply emphasize with you. I’ll explain more later, but I want to help you first.

      “How do you simply walk away from someone you care so much about?” This is a perfect summary of what God is thinking when we let our guards down. We walk away from Him a lot. It’s hard for me to process why He takes us back again and again, but He loves us and that’s what a perfect parent (only God is a perfect parent) does for their children.

      Breaking it off with your guy will be an extremely difficult thing to do. We are emotional beings along with being physical and spiritual. However, there’s something we need and should desire as wives more than anything else: A man after God’s own heart. Why? Because there’s a specific purpose for marriage: to glorify God, and be an earth an earthly representation of His relationship with us, His church. I don’t want to get all intellectual with you, but as unmarried Christian women we need a man who acknowledges God’s authority, loves talking to Him each day, has the sense to pray over us, and has the sense to pray over our children.

      I’m very, very sorry your Christian friends are shunning you at this critical time. As people in general we tend to have a black and white view of things when we’re not in the thick of a situation. I highly encourage you to get back your sensitivity to God by taking 10 minutes each day (preferably the morning) to journal prayers. Start by acknowledging and praising God for Who He is, then ask Him to help guide you and order your steps in His will for your life. Tell Him you feel lost, and you want and need the strength to continue. Finally, ask God to send you someone to help you in this journey of getting out of this relationship.

      Now the part about me, and why I 99 percent understand (we can never fully understand what someone else is feeling). I just cut off all ties with someone I was beginning to feel deeply for, but he was not a Christian. I compare my experience to a Jenga tower. Remember that game? 🙂 When we enter into relationships like these, we remove bricks from the base which represents our foundation, Who is God. We then add these bricks to less important things we find in a person like how well we get along. We’re having fun along the way, but the column *will* topple–it’s inevitable because we’re ignoring our foundation. In my relationship with that guy, he fulfilled a lot of things in me as a woman and I appreciated him for it, but He didn’t love God. What would we do when things began to crumble? People we love have the capacity to let us down, but keeping God as our source also means holding on to our joy. Simply put, our relationship was bound to implode eventually no matter how much we cared for one another. Again, this isn’t to say a relationship with Christians wouldn’t implode either, but with God as authority we’d have a head start on how to fix everything.

      Sorry for the lengthy reply. I hope I helped in some way.

  • dan says:

    Interesting post. I am a victim of missionary dating and I can say that my spiritual walk has suffered from it, even though I am thankful that I became a Christian. I wouldn’t advise a Christian to date a non-Christian as a matter of authority: a Christian submits to the authority of God and desires to follow Him wherever He leads. The non-Christian is not so and they play by a different book of rules. One could easily see where things could become contentious.

    On another note, missionary dating seems to be a, “how can I change him,” as opposed to a, “how can God change him?” Remember that none comes to faith without God playing the ONLY part that we never could and that is atoning for our sins by the blood of Jesus Christ. That’s what a Christian should be focused on, as you said.

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