I want to share some overarching thoughts about romantic relationships between Christians and non-Christians. This is my broader, more theological post on the subject. You can click here for a summary of my personal experiences on the matter. Or click here for the beginning post of a longer testimony of how I came to Christ.
Theologically speaking, here’s how I see the matter:
I’m not sure that there are any good reasons to view a romantic relationship as any different than any other kind of interaction we have with folks who aren’t Christians. A romantic relationship might be more intense than many other relationships. We might spend more time with our special friend, and this should certainly figure into the equation. To be really blunt, hormones ought to figure into the equation as well.
Bult ultimately, it doesn’t seem to me that this situation is any different than any time we, as emissaries of Christ, venture out into the world into places that could have temptations for us.
I believe that we should be venturing into Hells on Earth to rescue people and set them free. We shouldn’t just go on missions and then go home. We should be missional, we should be the mission.
But we should be wise about it.
We all have our temptations. We shouldn’t make our missions fields in the same places our temptations lie. I think that this would be a bit like Jesus throwing himself off the temple knowing that the angels would catch him.
There are some situations we shouldn’t get ourselves into. Most of these depend on the person. Some people most definitely should not engage in some types of close personal relationships with people who are not Christians. I don’t think this is a sign of a weak or immature faith, even, just a wise recognition that we all have places we should not go. But should we make a blanket statement about all Christians?
If there’s any reason why I haven’t see it yet.
The most frequent attempt at explaining why is in 2 Corinthians. I’ve had one good reason for quite some time for thinking it’s ridiculous to use this as an argument against “Mixed” marriages. I’ll run through that first. Then I’ll explore a second reason that this doesn’t work. This second argument was brought to my attention in the last couple weeks. (Thanks to that person.)
2 Corinthians 6: 14-16 says : Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[b]? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?
Reason #1 why this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t get involved with non-Christians: The word “yoke” had a very specific meaning in Jesus’ time. It referred to the specific rules that a Rabbi lived by. Rabbi X might think that walking a certain number of miles was acceptable on the Sabbath, for example. Rabbi Y might think that this was too many. A yoke was the specific, nit-picky, down-and-dirty rules that a follower submit himself to.
Therefore, it’s exactly right to say that we shouldn’t yoke ourselves to nonbelievers. But it’s exactly wrong to think that this means we should shun, ignore, or ostracize them. If a person were to get romantically involved with a non-believer, there is probably no truth more important than this: have a relationship with them, but do not submit yourself to the nit-picky, bottom line rules that they live by.
Reason #2: It seems that Paul is talking to a church community about the wider community. He’s not talking about individual relationships, based on the context. If we read the surrounding verses, it seems like a modern understanding might be something like “Just because the rest of the world watches UFC fights, or buys blood diamons, or takes God’s name in vain, that’s no reason for you as a church to do the same things.”
I don’t want to say that it’s easy to get involved with someone who lives by a different understanding of the universe. It’s brutal and hard and there are no easy answers. But sometimes, the reasons we stay clear of these relationships don’t seem very Christ-like. We appear fearful of the non-believer and his (or her) impact on our faith… Or perhaps even worse, we appear unwilling to sacrifice and suffer. Fear for our faith or cowardice before suffering are certainly not traits that Jesus modeled.