In the last few days different friends of mine have encountered the question/problem of a believer + non-believer relationship. It’s always been a sticky question that Christians have to deal with. What do you if, as a believer, you fall in love with a non-believer and you’re advised by others not to pursue a relationship? Is there reason to be concerned? Or is the ‘do not yoke with unbelievers’ sentiment prejudiced and ultimately un-Christlike in spirit?
My say? It all depends. Who can say that he or she knows what God has willed for another? In the selection of a spouse, as with anything else, it will ultimately be the individual who has to account to God. We who are on the side should counsel someone in this situation to be faithful to God, and to remind him that his first love should always be Christ. The rest, ultimately, is between him and God.
Here are some of my views on the question as excerpted from an email to a friend who had asked for my opinion.
…Can couples with different religious/ideological/cultural backgrounds remain together happily? It really depends. There are examples in both directions. There will surely be conflict… and these conflicts are not easily resolved. Sometimes, during the dating stage, people try to downplay the differences, only to have those conflicts rear up again when they’re married. That is very difficult to handle. Your friend shows wisdom in knowing that her conflicting views with her boyfriend will become a source of more problems if they stayed together. This is like having conflicting values… and it is very unlikely that two people with different value systems can have a successful or happy long term relationship.
Does it mean then, that people with different religious views should not be together? I think it’s a hard question to answer. There is no one answer for all.
For me, when growing up, I never thought it would be a criteria in my future spouse that he had to believe in God. As long as he was a good man and loved me, I thought whether or not he was a Christian or Catholic wasn’t that vital. But then, as my own faith journey matured and God became more and more a part of my life and I fell more deeply in love with God, I could not imagine being in a deep and meaningful relationship with a man that cannot share this amazing love of God. I knew I would never feel complete in a relationship with a guy that could not share the joy and sorrows of my faith… that could not encourage me to grow in my faith and spur me to be a better Christian.
Furthermore, after realizing how fallible and broken human beings are, and how insecure all human relationships ultimately are, I decided that the one criteria i had for my future spouse was simply this: He must love God above everything else. Even me. Because THAT is the best and deepest love I could ever hope to get from another human being.
I find it hard to answer the question whether or not a believer should enter a relationship with a non-believer. Often you hear of Christians who argue and counsel against ‘yoking with a non-believer’. I actually don’t endorse such a direction because I think it doesn’t address the real ‘root’ of the problem and because I can’t help but feel it is discriminatory.
The root of the issue lies within each individual’s responsibility to his or her faith. If the believer really loves God and honours God above all else, including the spouse, then he is more likely to serve God well whether or not his spouse is a believer. But I do think that someone who really loves God will choose to marry a spouse who will not be a stumbling block to his faith (that may or may not be someone who is a fellow believer). And if he chooses to marry a non believer, it must be because he sincerely believes it is according to God’s will in his life. It would be his obligation to evangelize to his spouse all the days of his life (something he should do regardless of whether the spouse is Christian or not).
Only the individual can discern for himself or herself what God’s prompting is in his or her life. Personally, I think it’s always possible that God wills for a believer to be united with a non-believer as His ways are above and beyond our reasoning. But that should not be an excuse for someone to do according to what he or she wishes. Ultimately, it is only when we offer God our hearts first that we are able to choose what is truly best for us.