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Her.meneuticsHer.meneutics

Her.meneutics, January, 2014

Christian Intermingle: Can We Date Outside the Faith?

Sometimes, it feels like God doesn’t have a match for you.
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Ray K / Flickr

Type the word "dating" into your Bible search tool, and what comes up? Nothing.

I remember wishing there was an entire book of the Bible dedicated to the topic when I was single, or at least a chapter. Now, I get emails from singles across the country looking for guidance on who and how to date.

While many start off with intentions of finding a godly partner, with each passing year the waiting feels longer and the hoping gets harder. Slowly, we can find ourselves starting to second-guess our original standards, wondering if we've been too extreme or unrealistic. Within that struggle, inevitably the question comes up: Can a Christian date a non-Christian?

The Bible addresses the hardships that come with marrying a nonbeliever, so that's rather clear. But single Christians may be tempted to say, "Well, it doesn't talk about dating. Can't we just date?"

To answer, it's important to take a step back and look at some principles found in Scripture. In Corinthians, Paul writes to a new group of Christians, who've asked him what's okay and not okay for them to partake in as believers in Christ. Paul then challenges the church not to simply ask, "Is it okay?" but instead to ask, "Is it beneficial?" (1 Cor. 10:23).

When a topic isn't directly addressed in the Bible, this can be a helpful guide for us. Because yes, it's okay for us to date someone who doesn't profess Christ. But to ask Paul's question, does it benefit our walk? Does it push us closer to Jesus? God doesn't call us to simply go after the acceptable in life, but the best, most enriching, most God-glorifying. Dating a nonbeliever may not be a sin, but we can do ourselves an injustice when okay gets in the way of what is best for us.

Again, God's Word doesn't talk about dating in particular, though many of its principles can guide our relationships. 2 Corinthians 6:14 reminds us of the importance of being bound together with believers. Genesis 2:24 tells us there is no greater binding experience than the commingling of two people into one, in this thing we call marriage. God knows the difficulty that comes with making two into one, and he encourages his children to be yoked together with someone with whom they can become fully one—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We are holistic beings, and in order to truly connect, we must find someone with whom we can connect on every level.

Many Christian singles, even those considering pursuing relationships with people outside of the church, know this deep down. But waiting for love can be trying. It's easy to grow weary in waiting and attempt to jump into a relationship with someone that you may connect with physically and emotionally, but not spiritually—believing that this is as good as it gets and settling for less than best. For people who find themselves in this situation, it's important to remember the reason for the waiting.

Dating is the obvious precursor for marriage, because we ultimately marry one of the people we date. Marriage ushers us in the most vulnerable state of our lives. Being married and opening ourselves up to this kind of binding love gives the person standing before us the ability to hurt you in a far deeper way than anyone in this world could, and there are times that hurt happens. Being married myself, I can attest to it. The beauty of our relationship with Jesus Christ shines through more than ever before during such times.

Within that deep vulnerability, our relationship with Jesus anchors us. He motivates us to love, to forgive, and to put aside ourselves in order to glorify God through our relationships. Our relationships aren't rooted in ourselves, but in God at work within us. He binds us together spiritually and enables us to love unconditionally- something we could never do on our own.

When it comes to dating someone outside the faith, remember, we aren't required to engage in a relationship with someone with whom we can connect with on every level. This is something we're invited to. We're encouraged to pursue the gift of a healthy marriage, and in doing so, experience the privilege of having a partner who can identify with the deepest parts of who we are. But as always, the choice is ours to make. The choices we make will determine the kind of life we will live.

No matter where you may be on your path to finding love, always remember that there is a God who knows your every need. When you're tempted to settle for less than best, be reminded of his faithfulness and his ferocious love for you. May God grant us more faith, and the courage to choose well as we seek to live out his best for our lives.

Debra K. Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She, her husband and two children live in Hershey, Pennsylvania. She is the author of the new book True Love Dates (Zondervan, 2013), challenging young men and women to do dating in a way that is psychologically sound, emotionally healthy and spiritually grounded. Visit www.truelovedates.com and follow her on Twitter to get your dating questions answered and to learn more.