I N T R O D U C T I O N
Are you single? Are you in the market for a mate? Do you date, or have questions about dating? Do you know any single Christians who are dating? Do you have children who probably will marry someday?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you might want to read this booklet.
Since one of Satan’s prime targets for destruction is the Christian family, and marriages in particular, we do well to find out . . .
What God Has To Say
About Who His Children
There are many things that are weakening the church of Jesus Christ. There are attacks from without, and attacks from within. One of our enemy’s prime targets is the Christian family. Divorce, for no other grounds than selfishness, is as rampant in the church as it is in the world. And the devil smiles. Child neglect and abuse are not as uncommon among church members as we would like to believe. And the devil chuckles. Christians date and marry non-Christians, though it is forbidden in scripture. And the devil roars with laughter.
When a believer marries a non-believer, the family is divided. And as Jesus said, “A house divided against itself. . . cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25)
Forbidden to Marry Non-Believers
Throughout the scriptures, believers were forbidden to marry those who did not believe. In Genesis 24:3, Abraham made his servant swear an oath that his son, Isaac would not marry one of the daughters of the Canaanites. This was not a racial issue. It was a spiritual matter.
In Exodus 23:32-33, God warned the people through Moses, You shall make no covenant with them [the people of Canaan], nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me.” There is no more important contract (covenant) between human beings than marriage. God not only forbids entering into this all-important contract with non-believers, He explains why: The non-believer will cause the believer to fall into sin.
Later, the Lord warned them saying, “you shall destroy their altars . . . lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land . . . and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods.” (Exodus 34:13-16)
Again in Deuteronomy 7:1-5, God warned the people that when they entered the land, they were to “utterly destroy,” and “make no covenants with them nor show mercy to them. Nor shall you make marriages with them. Nor shall you give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods “ (v 2-4).
An Important Principle
You can’t throw a cup of Sparkletts water into a mud puddle and expect the mud puddle to become clean. The mud puddle will instead swallow up the Sparkletts. Scripture teaches this in principle concerning spiritual things. That which is unholy makes that which is holy, unholy. However, apart from God, that which is holy cannot make that which is unholy, holy.
This principle is at the root of God forbidding His people to covenant with those who are not His people. Since Christians have such a hard time being holy as it is, how well are we going to do if we attach ourselves to those who are not Christians?
The believer, who has a new nature, can be holy. But, because he also has to deal with his flesh, he can, and does still sin. The non-believer, on the other hand, has no new nature. He has only the sinful nature. He is a slave to sin, according to Jesus (John 8) and Paul (Romans 6), and can only choose to what degree he will sin. Therefore, the believer can be influenced by the non-believer to sin, since he is able to sin, but the non-believer cannot be influenced by the believer not to sin, since he is bound to sin.
A Royal Example. . .
Despite the repeated warnings, God’s people did exactly what they were forbidden to do. The greatest example has got to be King Solomon. We read of him, “But King Solomon loved many foreign women . . . from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you, for surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods’. Solomon clung to these in love . . . and his wives turned away his heart . . . His wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God.” (1 Kings 11:14)
This is the story of the wisest man who ever lived. If anyone could have resisted the temptations to give into the ways of the ungodly, it should have been Solomon. But the principle prevailed.
Refusing to Learn From Solomon
Several hundred years later, after Israel had been destroyed as judgment for their sins as a nation, they were carried away to Babylon. After they were then restored to their land by God, they did it again! Chapter nine of the book that bears his name tells us that when Ezra learned that his fellow countrymen were intermarrying with the heathen, he went into a holy rage. He tore his clothing, plucked out his hair and his beard, and sat down astonished. He cried out to God confessing this business as great national sin. He sought mercy instead of the judgment the people deserved for intermarrying with the heathen.
The people were touched by God and joined Ezra in confession. They were directed by God to put away the pagan wives. (This is not to be taken as the solution in every case. God does not call believers to divorce non-believers in order to “undo” sin.)
Around the same time Nehemiah heard that believers were intermarrying with non-believers. He wasn’t as gentle as Ezra. Instead of pulling out his own hair, he “contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear saying, ‘You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters as wives for your sons or for yourselves.’” (Nehemiah 13:25)
What was his rationale for such violent and reactionary behavior? He was amazed that they hadn’t learned from Solomon’s example. He asked the people, “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these [very same] things? . . . there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God . . . Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin.” (Nehemiah 13:26)
Nehemiah argued that if Solomon, as great as he was, was not exempt from the trouble that goes with marrying non-believers, what made them think they would be? He concluded saying, “Should we then hear of your doing all this great evil, transgressing against our God by marrying pagan women?” (v.27) Pretty serious language to describe something to which Christians today often fail to give a second thought.
What About the New Testament?
Apparently the believers at Corinth were having the same problems. Paul was not bashful about reminding them not to ally themselves with non-believers. “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?....Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)
There are not two Gods. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament. His principles for His people span all of time as well. Christians are no less guilty of disobedience and willful sin when they marry non-believers than were the Jews of the Old Testament.
I say willful sin because unlike slipping into sin as we do on a daily basis, marriage is not something one does by accident. It is planned, and therefore if it is a marriage between a believer and a non-believer, it is premeditated, willful sin.
A Sad Example
One sister, who I’ll call Patty, was desperately lonely, having been married and divorced before. She got involved with a non-believer. He was a very nice guy, who had absolutely no antagonism toward the gospel. But neither did he have any interest in the Lord. The two decided to marry.
Because they genuinely loved each other, things went well for a while. But in time, strain replaced the joy. He wanted to do things on Sundays and couldn’t understand why she wanted to go to church every week. She had friends in the church—friendships in which he had no interested at all. Friction began to develop.
Patty was becoming increasingly concerned that the man she loved was not a Christian and therefore headed for Hell. She was at a loss for words when the children asked whether or not daddy loved Jesus, and was he going to Heaven. It wasn’t easy telling the kids that Daddy was lost and that as much as they loved him, they shouldn’t be like him.
All this happened in spite of the fact that Patty’s Christian friends warned her that what she was doing wasn’t right. “I know what I am doing is wrong,” she would reply, “But I’m lonely. I love him. And I’m going to marry him anyway.”
Patty has stuck it out, and is still married. She has learned the principle the hard way. Her husband is still a nice guy and a good father. Over the years, however, she has become more like him, than he like her.
Not all cases are as dramatic as Patty’s, but you would be surprised how many Christians knowingly make the same mistake, and suffer because of it.
A Divided House
As mentioned earlier, a house divided against itself cannot stand. A marriage between a Christian and a non-Christian produces a divided house. While one desires to live for the Lord, the other person’s priorities are on the affairs of this life. Since they are headed in different directions, they cannot grow together (unless the Christian compromises at every juncture). They can only grow apart. The divided house cannot stand.
Falling in Love
Patty had fallen in love. It was real and it was strong. In case you haven’t noticed, falling in love is an easy thing to do. It can happen many times in one’s life, and can even happen with more than one person at the same time. For this reason one must exercise extreme caution, whether you are attracted to a Christian or a non-believe; for once you are in love, your ability to see things clearly will begin to fade.
No one is likely to fall in love with a person they do not hang around with. So who you spend time with is an important issue.
Relationships That Lead to Marriage
It has only been in the last couple hundred years, and then only in certain cultures, that marriages were not arranged by parents. The fact that we are free to choose our own mates is a privilege, but we must remember that privilege carries great responsibility.
When marriages were arranged, dating as we know it was unheard of. Because we are free to choose whom we will marry, there needs to be a means to find potential mates, but the typical dating process is not the best way to go about it. Because we are human beings with passions that are aroused by persons of the opposite sex, spending time alone with a person of the opposite sex is flirtation with moral failure.
If you are looking for a suitable spouse, you should look for godliness and character. These things can be as easily observed in group settings as alone in dimly lit rooms where temptations to do things one might regret are increased. Of course, two people want to talk in order to get to know each other, but public places or in the company of Christian friends are by far the safest.
If a potential spouse presses you against your wishes to go to places where you will be alone and tempted to compromise, you have just learned all about his or her character you may need to know. The relationship might best be ended at that point.
Although this world exalts sensualism and has no regard for purity, let us be reminded: “What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15)
While society scoffs at morality as prudish, we are commanded to “flee sexual immorality,” (1 Corinthians 6:18) and “keep yourselves pure” (1 Timothy 5:22).
Marry a Non-Believer?
There is absolutely no point at all in pursuing a relationship with a non-believer of the opposite sex, since you are forbidden to marry such a person.
The common rationalization for the foolishness of such relationships with non-believers is that the believer will lead the non-believer to the Lord. The first problem with this is that while you may really desire the person to come to Christ, usually that is the furthest thing from his or her mind. Chances are, you will be led into compromise before he or she is led to Christ. If they really are interested in the things of the Lord, ask a Christian of their gender to talk with them.
Many unhappy marriages began when a Christian gave the ultimatum, “I can’t marry you because you are not a Christian.” The response is usually either, “Gee, honey, I am a Christian,” or, “OK, I’ll do anything for you. What do I have to do?” It is almost unbelievable how many foolish Christians fall for this.
What About the Nominal Believer?
Nearly as bad as getting tangled up with a non-believer is involvement with a nominal believer. Nominal means “in name only.” One poor undiscerning Christian was falling for a cute little non-believing gal, and was desperate to believe that she was saved. After visiting her parents’ home, he returned to his Christian friends and proudly reported that he saw a Bible in their home. On that basis he went ahead with the relationship. They were married years ago. That was the last time either of them has been to church.
As important as it is to only consider a relationship with a Christian in order to avoid falling in love with, and marrying a non-believer, the same must be said for nominal Christians. Don’t let yourself fall in love with anyone who doesn’t love Jesus Christ more than he or she loves you. A mere profession of faith in not enough. If he or she loves Christ first, and you second, you will do better than if you are loved first, and the Lord is somewhere down the list.
Don’t Settle for Second Best
It may seem like you would be limiting your choices a great deal if you follow this counsel. That is definitely true. But those you are eliminating are the ones who need to be eliminated. If you don’t find a spouse according to God’s guidelines, you are likely to end up settling for second best . . . or third best . . . or fourth . . .
If you will trust in the Lord with all your heart, refusing to lean on your own understanding of things, and commit your ways to the Lord — He will direct your paths! (Proverbs 3:5-7)