Is it okay to be romantically involved with a guy who doesn't share my Christian faith? He asked me out on a date six months ago, and though at the time I didn't think it was a good idea, I went ahead and accepted. Now he's captured my heart and I don't know what to do. I'm in pretty deep, but unless he makes a commitment to follow Jesus I don't think I can marry him. At the same time, if there's a chance that he may accept Christ, I don't want to break things off and throw away the most wonderful relationship I've ever experienced. What should I do?
We want to begin by commending you on your diligence and zeal for doing what is right in the sight of God. It's obvious that you're genuinely concerned about the potential for spiritual oneness in this relationship, and that's a good thing. For a sincere and dedicated believer, the Lord's will is always the bottom line.
As we see it, your biggest cause for concern has to do with the depth of your emotional attachment to this young man. You say that he has "captured your heart," indicating that, at least as far as your feelings are concerned, things are headed in the direction of marriage. It's not easy to stop that train once it gets rolling.
Naturally, it's not our place to tell you whom you can or cannot marry. The choice of a lifelong mate is a matter of profound importance. It's second only to that of a person's relationship with God. Accordingly, it's a decision that you alone must make for yourself. But for that very reason we would urge you to proceed with caution. Be humble and listen carefully to the advice of those who know and love you best, and in particular fellow followers of Christ. You won't regret it.
You're probably familiar with 2 Corinthians 6:15, where Paul exhorts us not to become "unequally yoked with unbelievers." The apostle may not have been thinking exclusively of marriage when he penned these words, but that doesn't mean that the principle they express doesn't apply to your situation. It most certainly does. It's always important to ask ourselves, in every area of life, what part a believer can have with an unbeliever. This is particularly true where marriage is concerned. To be "yoked together" is to work together while moving in the same direction at the same rate of speed. Remember the call of Christ: "Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me" (Mark 8:34). How can you expect to follow a Master who demands absolute allegiance if you choose to become "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24) with a person who disregards His claims? If you're walking with Jesus and your boyfriend isn't, then the two of you are heading in two different directions.
We understand and admire your interest in seeing this young man come to faith, but at the same time we think you should understand that "missionary dating" is rarely a good idea. If you were standing on a step and your boyfriend on the ground, which of you would find it easier to draw the other to his or her level? The answer is obvious: he would have a much greater chance of pulling you down . It can work the same way in an "unequally yoked" dating relationship.
All things considered, we'd recommend that you put on the brakes – at least for the time being. If this young man is ever to have a relationship with Christ, it's going to have to come about apart from his relationship with you. Otherwise, you are likely to wrestle with doubts as to whether he has chosen to follow Christ out of a conviction of his need, or from a desire to please and be with you. You can encourage him to start moving in that direction, perhaps by putting him in touch with a strong Christian male friend who can act as his spiritual mentor, but you can't make it happen yourself. The romantic element will only cloud the situation and make it harder for you to guard your own heart (Proverbs 4:23). As things stand, the choice you're facing is fairly clear: either you move away from your boyfriend or you move away from the Lord. Whichever way you go, it's going to hurt. The question is, which will be worse?
If you think it might be helpful to discuss your concerns at greater length, we'd like to invite you to call Focus on the Family's Counseling department.
Red Flags in a Relationship