For those of you who grew up in the conservative church, you’ll likely remember hearing warnings against dating or marrying outside your faith. You might have even been given a Bible verse and were told that Scripture itself forbids dating/marrying outside the fold.
You might have even been convinced this was true. I was. For the longest time. Until I met an atheist that I wound up falling for. And I took a second look at those verses.
And I was astounded that they did not say what I’d been taught they did.
The Bible says do not be unequally yoked. Can we look at that verse?
14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[?Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
What is Paul discussing here? Is it dating? Is it marriage? No. The truth is, there’s contention amongst commentaries over what exactly is being said here: some suggest he was warning against ties with pagan religion. Others say it was an addition by a scribe.
But one thing is clear from context: he was not concerned about dating.
If we try to stretch this verse to cover marriage, half of the newly founded Church is now living in sinful unions and must separate, as that bubble we live(d) in so comfortably to choose a spouse from today did not exist back then. This interpretation also nullifies 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 which leaves room for the existence of the unbelieving spouse.
The other conclusion we must draw, if we want to generalize this verse to include spouses – no relationships (work, friend, family, etc…) could exist between a Christian and a nonChristian. We must forsake all for the comfortable Christian bubble. But that bubble works actively against the Great Commission thing. So we know that’s also not what Paul was getting at.
The rest of the “stay in the fold!” argument remains fear-based. I know. I was quite adamant back in the day of ensuring those who wandered outside the fold in search of companionship were aware of the risks (and if any of those people I spoke with on this matter happen to read this: from the bottom of my heart, I apologize. I was wrong).
The unbelieving spouse will raise unbelieving children.
This argument is ludicrous when we stop to realize that a faith is not a predetermined choice, outside of a theocracy. My fiancé, and others like him, were raised by Christian parents. But they did not continue in the faith. And the reverse is also true: people not raised by Christians, often find themselves identifying as one. Whether or not a child chooses the Christian faith is entirely between that person and God.
And no one else.
The unbeliever will drag the believer down spiritually.
This has not been my experience. In fact it’s been the opposite. My unbelieving significant other has been the accountability my faith has needed.
Long before he and I started dating, I stopped attending church. My last church was rife with spiritual abuse and legalism. And I was discovering that my life had been filled with legalism and spiritual abuse for as long as I could remember. I needed to not attend for a time in order to process and heal.
That period lasted for about 2 years up until after my fiancé and I had been dating for awhile. And one day he mentioned that he noticed I never attended church and asked me if I wanted him to go with me. That Easter was the first time I stepped foot in a church in two years. And it’s because my unbelieving boyfriend wanted me to have church again.
In fact, with the exception of one service, every time I’ve gone to Church since we’ve been together has been with him because he wants to actively encourage me to find a church and a church community to connect with.
My unbelieving partner is the reason I see, more clearly than I otherwise would, through the manmade traditions within evangelicalism that have been dressed up as literal gospel truth. Lies that separated me from my God. As I dig deeper into my faith, he is the one challenging me to go even deeper.
My unbelieving fiancé wants me to believe. He wants me to pursue my faith – even if one day I decide that pursuit leads me into some formal ministry (at this point I doubt it. But I’d also doubted I’d ever write anything like this post, so hey…).
He wants me to believe because he loves me. He knows that my God and my faith are important in my life.
That’s not what I’d call unequally yoked, as seen in Paul’s letter.
I’m far more equally yoked with this man than any of the Christian men who have pursued me. Those were the men who, though they appreciated I had the intellect for intelligent discussion, never wanted a wife who would call BS on legalistic doctrine. Or who would actively disagree with their thoughts on Bible, faith, or God.
Had I settled for one of them, that would have been an unequally yoked situation because I could never be the woman God intended me to be or minister in however way I’m meant to. Those men would have actively held me back with accusations and suspicions of heresy and backsliding. Even rebelliousness. That would not have honoured God in any way.
I’ll keep my unbelieving man. Because he makes me a better person and a better Christian.