Marrying a Non-Believer: The Ox and Mule Syndrome
To seriously date or to consider marrying a non-Christian is outside the will of God. In 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, Paul says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers, for what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?”
The verb “bound together” literally means “unequally yoked.” Paul is recalling the Old Testament command in Deuteronomy 22:10, “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.”
God forbade yoking together beasts of such diverse sizes and strengths because the excessive chafing of the yoke would injure both animals. In the same way, Paul says that a binding relationship between a Christian and a non-Christian will be mutually injurous because they are so essentially different.
Of course, some marriages eventually become centered around God when the non-believing spouse later comes to Christ. However, for every instance where an unequally yoked marriage recovers in this way, there are a dozen tragedies. When a true Christian marries a non-Christian, there is almost certainly great suffering ahead. Christians who violate God’s will in this way have based their marriage relationships around something or someone other than Christ. They have compromised their relationship with God.
We can be thankful that God will not reject us for such lapses in judgment. But He has never promised to preserve us from pain when we defy His will. Besides the pain we will likely bear from such a decision, compromising our faith suggests that Jesus Christ is not the most important Person in our life. This will hardly increase respect for our faith.
More importantly, there is no reason to believe that a non-Christian (or a “Christian” who is uninterested in the things of God) will change after marriage. The record shows that this rarely happens, and the Bible pointedly reminds us that God gives us no such assurance. Paul asks of mixed partners in 1 Corinthians 7:16, ” …how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” Remember, we are free to choose whom we marry, but we are also responsible for the possible lifelong consequences.
How easily we can say, “I’m ready to accept that responsibility,” until we experience the painful results of ignoring God’s will! Often an unequally yoked person returns to follow God closely years later and faces stiff opposition from a non-Christian spouse. Even worse, unequally yoked believers may permanently compromise their commitment to Christ in order to keep peace in the home. Children also invariably suffer in such marriages.
Considering the clear biblical teaching against marrying non-Christians, Christians need to be honest with themselves when they consider entering, or continuing, a romantic relationship of this sort. Embarking on such a relationship, they are really denying that God knows best how to bring fulfillment into their lives, and that he is committed to their good. (See Matthew 7:11 and Deuteronomy 10:13.) Such a denial constitutes a betrayal of what we say we believe about God: that he is our wise and loving heavenly Father who always seeks our good.
Before going ahead, ask yourself: What evidence can you find that God has ever been wrong or unloving in His dealings with you? When have you ever regretted, in any lasting way, following God’s will? Why would this issue be any different?
No matter how “right” a relationship feels, God’s will concerning seriously dating or marrying a non-Christian will not change. If you find yourself drawn toward such a situation, resolve now to obey God despite the cost. Any delay only makes the decision harder. Even though you may feel terrible pain for a while, you will look back later and realize this decision was one of the best you ever made.
We have never met a Christian who wishes he or she had gone ahead into marriage with their non-Christian dating partner. But we have met scores of miserable Christians who would do anything if they could go back and change their decision to marry a non-Christian or a disinterested Christian. Seek out an older Christian for advice and support as you trust God. You’ll be thankful sooner than you think!
The above article comes from the book, “The Myth of Romance” written by Dennis McCallum and Gary DeLashmutt, published by Bethany House Publishers. Unfortunately, this book is no longer in print so you may have a difficult time locating it. What is especially unfortunate about this is that they have even more information in this book that could help those who are contemplating marriages as well as those who are married. So, if you’re able to find a copy of this book somewhere we recommend that you get it.
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