Holiness in Dating (Part 1)
Note: This is adapted from a Friday night study on Holiness. This particular entry is on holiness regarding dating, particularly addressing the question: "Should Christians date non-Christians?"
First of all, dating, as practiced today, was not (in all likelihood) practiced during biblical times (Old or New Testament). The idea of somewhat awkwardly asking out another girl or guy, going out to a restaurant or other venue to get to know the other person, deciding whether or not to continue dating, fast-forward to proposing and preparing for the wedding... our western notion of dating is foreign to anything we see in the Bible. However, that does not mean that the Bible has nothing to say about how we should approach dating today. So what can we take from Scripture when it comes to pursuing a potential dating partner?
Over the course of the next few entries, I will write a few biblical principles on dating, but, due to its length, here is just the first thing I'd like to share: 1. Christians should only date other Christians. I know that this is such a pastor thing to say and you almost want to dismiss it as such, but I absolutely cannot stress this enough: Christian, ONLY DATE OTHER BELIEVERS. You may or may not be familiar with 2 Corinthians 6:14, which states: "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" Granted, this verse doesn't only pertain to dating relationships, but because a dating relationship is one of the closest relationships we will choose to have, this verse absolutely applies. And because of the nature of dating, where there is a large emotional investment involved in another person, often Christians dating non-Christians will eventually find themselves in a dilemma, whether they realize it or not, where they will ask themselves: How much of my relationship with God will go lacking (or has already gone lacking) as a result of dating this person?
At first glance, this doesn't seem like a completely fair question; after all, the health of a Christian's relationship with the Lord cannot (and should not) be entirely dependent on the spiritual state of another person. This would remove any sort of responsibility the Christian has when it comes to assessing their own affection for the Lord~ believing partner, non-believing partner, or no partner at all. HOWEVER, as mentioned before, because of the emotional investment that comes when you date another person, you will naturally want to please the person you're with... but when the other person has no desire to please the Lord the way that you do, your affections will inevitably be divided. When two Christians date, because they (theoretically) love God more than they love each other, it helps their affection between each other to flourish and maintain a healthy balance between the extremes of relational dependence and relational detachment. However, when a Christian dates a non-Christian, because only one partner desires to honor the Lord, the lack of desire on the part of the other will cause the Christian to, intended or not, choose between pleasing God or pleasing their significant other. And usually (not always, but USUALLY) the Christian's relationship with God is the one that goes undernourished.
In writing about unequally yoked soon-to-be-married couples, Kathy Keller says that when such couples get married, either the Christian's relationship with God or their relationship with their unbelieving spouse gets marginalized. All in all, unequally yoked marriages tend to result in a lose-lose situation for the believer~ their relationship with God is not as robust or fruitful as it could be, OR their relationship with their spouse is not as joyful or harmonious as they would like. Though the article pertains more toward engaged and married couples, I think the undergirding idea behind her article works for unequally yoked dating relationships: Christian, in dating a non-Christian, who will you ultimately seek to please? The fortunate thing for you is that you can choose to break off the relationship while you still have the chance; when married, that's another issue. (Perhaps that is something for a future post.)
So believer, even though the non-Christian you're interested in may very well be a nice person, I cannot condone a Christian dating someone who does not love the One who first loved them.