Marriage Missions International

Reasons Why NOT to Marry an Unbeliever

Imagine two oxen joined together at the neck by a wooden crosspiece so they can pull a plow. They are two animals of the same species, joined together to accomplish a certain job. They’ve been trained to respond to the farmer’s voice, and they’re considered a team once they are joined together by the yoke. A wise farmer will pick two animals that work well together, that have about equal strength, and make a good team.

If one animal is stronger, more stubborn, or lazier than the other, one of them could get hurt, and they’re likely to end up walking in circles. A “team” like that is more like a pair in bondage. Paul uses this illustration to instruct us to be careful about who we “yoke” ourselves to in any kind of relationship that will shape our identity or the way we do things. The application to romantic relationships is obvious since they’re relationships that impact us the most.

If we try to live life yoked together with an unbeliever, it’s nearly impossible to enjoy harmony and agreement. As a team of two, both must be unified in their destination. When the two oxen are pulling in different directions, they’re fighting against each other and the struggle weakens both of them. To stay tied together is foolish. Their ultimate goal will be accomplished.

When God comes into our lives we start to see life through His eyes. Our purposes, passions, and priorities change. Even if we don’t yet know exactly what those priorities are, life itself has greater value simply because God is in it. We have greater confidence in what we can accomplish, because we know that it isn’t done by our strength, but by God’s. We know that anything is possible if God is in it.

As a result, you may suddenly find that things you used to care about —goals, perhaps, that you and your boyfriend had together —now don’t matter. You start reevaluating what you love, and you’re drawn to care about what God cares about. You’re motivated by your love for God, and your desire to please Him comes from your love for Him. Things that neither you nor your boyfriend ever cared much about now mean everything to you. God may call you to move, start a ministry, feed a homeless person, and your boyfriend now sees you as crazy. But in reality, your eyes have opened to life in terms of eternity.

We discover things about life, too, through knowing Christ, things that God “reveals” to us through His Spirit. Suddenly we start saying things like “I’ve been created for a purpose and I’m accountable for living it out” or “I need to forgive, and I don’t have a choice about it” or “All people are measured by God; why should I care what a person thinks about me?”

We want to talk about these things, share these thoughts with others, or even shout about them. But how are you going to feel when you express these things to the most important person in your life, and he stares at you with a blank look on his face? The tension created by this disconnect is likely to make you talk less about God —and worse, to notice Him less in your life.

If you sense this is happening in your relationship, it’s not just a feeling. It’s a warning. Perhaps it’s time to unhitch yourself from the yoke before you do great harm to yourself and the person you love.

At first I couldn’t pinpoint what was so frustrating about trying to persuade Jason to see things my way. I wanted him to understand this new path I’d found and agree to walk down it with me. But like the oxen, we were pulling in different directions, and with every attempt at persuading him to change direction, I was weakened, and I miserably failed.

I now see the difficult situation I put myself in. I was not only pulling against my boyfriend, I was struggling to hold up my relationship with God, a relationship with my boyfriend and my boyfriend’s relationship with God. The burden became too great, and sooner or later, one of them had to go.

I had a real awakening one Sunday. After church, I went home and sat on my porch. The birds were chirping, and it was a beautiful afternoon. I asked God why it was so hard to convince [my boyfriend] Jason that knowing Him was a wonderful thing. I started to journal, and I sensed God’s response to me:

“Listen to the birds … Can you understand them?”

“No.”

“If you wanted to tell them about Me, could you?”

“No.”

“I send birds to minister to the birds. If you tried to tell them about Me and My love, what would happen?”

“I’d get frustrated and give up.”

“Yes, because I haven’t given them the understanding and knowledge of your language. I’d have to open their ears, prepare their hearts. I must be at the foundation of all you do and say, or you might as well be trying to communicate with birds. It’s noise not comprehended; it’s nonsense to their ears. I must be at the foundation of all your life and ministry. The house will collapse without a strong foundation.”

I realized that I was frustrated because Jason and I were speaking different languages. As much as I tried to get him to agree with me, nothing I said worked. I realized it didn’t matter how much I preached and prodded —unless the Holy Spirit was the one who persuaded Jason, nothing would be accomplished. It was by the Holy Spirit prodding me that I came to know God, so how could I expect it to be any different with Jason?

If you and the person you’re dating do not have a foundation rooted in loving Christ first, the relationship you build won’t be stable. This instability will soon turn into a deep dissatisfaction. Any material discontent you’ve ever struggled with does not compare to the vacancy you’ll feel when God’s purpose in your life is being wasted.

Jesus says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. The only way that the burden can be light is if you give this burden to the Lord. The weight of trying to hold up both your own and your boyfriend’s relationship with God is too heavy, and soon enough, one relationship will come crashing down.

At one time I thought that Jason and I had so much in common, and that the way we looked at faith was the only thing we didn’t have in common. So why couldn’t we keep our relationship and work around this one difference?

But what did we have in common that really mattered? When it comes down it it, someone who’s serious about following Jesus doesn’t have that much in common with someone who isn’t. “Oh,” but you say, “there are so many things we have in common: we like the same food, sports, entertainment, and intellectual activities.”

Of course, this can be true. You can be in harmony with almost all of life’s goals. But life goals are much different than life purpose. Goals are something you do; purpose is who you are. If knowing God is the main purpose of your life, it’s devastating when you can’t share this with the person closest to you.

Yes, you can fall in love with an unbeliever. But when it comes down to what really matters, the two of you are speaking different languages. You two are like the oxen going in circles: you think you’re getting somewhere but you keep ending up in the place you started. You love your boyfriend, but you also love God, and the pull of them both will get you nowhere.

After the initial excitement of being in love wears off, you’ll find yourself longing for intimacy that you can find only with someone whose life is firmly rooted in a foundation in Christ. When your life is rooted in Christ you have a whole different purpose for living, and suddenly you find yourself feeling alone in that purpose.

Because your views and desires have changed, neither of you feels free to share the deepest longings of your heart, and neither of you feels understood by the other. There’s no solid common bond to keep the two of you together. Your fulfillment now lies in your relationship with God. This presents a problem because your boyfriend’s satisfaction lies in you. You’re looking to God for fulfillment and your boyfriend is looking to you for fulfillment. Trying to make your lives fit together is like trying to put a square block into a round hole. God created us so that only when we look to Him will we truly be satisfied.


The article above can be found in the book, Breaking Up, written by Stina Wilson, published by Kregel Publications. This book challenges your thoughts on what God would want from you when and if you enter into marriage. A few of the questions addressed are: “How do you know if a relationship is godly? What does a ‘godly relationship’ even mean? Does it mean abstinence? What do you do if your relationship isn’t godly?” Building on her personal experience and years of working with students in Young Life, Stina Wilson has written this book to help you answer these complicated questions.

—ALSO—

Clicking onto the following link will take you to an additional article posted on the Internet on this subject that you can read.

•  LOOKING FOR LOVE: Marrying a Non-Christian

•  UNEQUALLY YOKED: Is It a Sin to Marry a Non-Christian?

CHRISTIAN MEN & CHRISTIAN WOMEN MAKE CHRISTIAN HOMES

If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.

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Comments

16 Responses to “Reasons Why NOT to Marry an Unbeliever”
  1. Dattata says:

    (USA)  Eh… good one.

  2. Debbie says:

    (USA) This does sound like a good book to read. I’m in a relationship and the boyfriend is insecure and I feel that he wants me to make all the choices so he doesn’t have to deal with it. I just may get the book.

  3. Ngunan says:

    (NIGERIA) Why should we not marry an unbeliever?

  4. Jem says:

    (SOUTH AFRICA) What if the one you love is prepared to renounce previous beliefs and learn Christian principles?

  5. SJ says:

    (HOLLAND)  Dearest Stina, First of all, you courage is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I cannot begin to tell you, how much our stories are alike. I have been looking for answers from God for a while now, and He has been faithfully, but gradually showing me untill my sister told me, to read about you and your book, and to watch your interview. When i saw you, i saw me being in the same situation.

    Now I finally understand WHY, WHY, WHY I was getting so frustrated after I was done telling him a story or something personal. He didnt, get it. He just treated me like a mother would do if her son would tell her ”mama, mama I saw an angel in my room!” How would she respond? She would probably say ” of course honey” and her son goes ”I swear mama I saw one!!” Mother: ”I believe you baby”…but she really doesn’t. She just agrees with him because he is her beloved. And you could imagine his face being disappointed! And after a while he just distance himself from his mother or will stop telling her about the angel.

    That’s the illustration my sister gave me. I believe that God speaks to her at times. And right now I am just broken hearted. It feels like a HUGE dissapointment. Because I really loved this person with all my heart and I was READY to marry him. But we kept ending up at the same spot. And now I know why!!! We were two oxen joined together, but not equally. It hurts so much but I know that it would have hurt me so much more if I’d never find out.

    So I HAVE to thank God instead for saving me!!! Just in time!! He will never understand, and the worst part is, he doesn’t even want too. He is in another religion. I really have leveled myself to his level, which was wayyyy lower than mine. Sometimes I feel scared of what the future will hold, but I know that God is ALWAYS right. And I PRAISE Him for it. My beloved sweet Father in Heaven. And thank you Stina, God spoke to me while I was reading this. I am hearing the birds right now too.. God bless you!! Your Sister in Christ, SGN.

    • Dee says:

      (INDIA)  Dear SGN, I could say the same words about as to what I am going through right at this moment! But I am encouraged by Stina’s words and yours. Hope you are walking in God’S strength everyday. I wish you His peace! Blessings, Dee.

  6. Nietzsche says:

    (AUSTRALIA)  You disgust me, you bigot.

  7. Rose says:

    (S. AFRICA)  God loves ALL his children no matter what religion. Yes, marriage to an unbeliever could be challenging and maybe best avoided, but who knows what God has planned for you? You could be the loving example and turning point in your partners life. Your comment “He is in another religion. I would have leveled myself to his level, which was way lower than mine” is boastful and hurtful.

    • Kubu from Lesotho says:

      It is likelier that an unbeliever would influence a believer than the other way round… guard your faith in Jesus like the treasure it is. Is it really worth the risk to hook up with an unbeliever?

  8. Tim says:

    (U.S.A.)  They Are Only His Chilren If They Trust Jesus Christ As Lord Of Their Lives And Believe He And He Alone Is The Only Way To Come To God
    Act 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
    John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
    John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
    John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
    John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

  9. Marcia says:

    (PHILIPPINES)  I am a Apostolic Christian, church music director. I would like to ask your opinion about this. I met a guy when I had my vacation at U.S back year 2006. We became friends after 6 months went back in my country here in Philippines. After 4 years I had my vacation again in U.S, we see each other again and fall in love, as a way of culture I grow up, he has to ask my parent’s permission of courting me as a sign of respect to my family. He did all these things, sacrificed his time to meet my parents and to see me again.

    The thing is, the majority of the people around us includes my family. They don’t like him for me, with the reason being that we are not of the same belief. He believes that there’s a creator and for him it’s enough. For him, the Bible is just a man made stuff.

    I love him and now he’s my boyfriend, a love that I want him to know my God and love my God. He goes to church with me and I have shared with him how God is great everyday in our lives and makes him attend Bible studies with me. My boyfriend does anything for me. He knew that he’d have to be converted to my belief before marriage comes, be baptized and believe that Jesus Christ is our personal Savior, is where I stand.

    He loves me but the thing is, he’s not convinced about what I believe in my faith, and does not believe in Bible. Now he wants to be baptized just for me not to leave him and he promises me he will open his heart on his understanding, regarding God. I see that my boyfriend, in spite of the trials caused from encountering the people around us, where he still does what is good for our relationship to be stronger.

    Now, I’m asking your opinion about this matter, coz I really do love him so much. Should I still pursue this relationship to go on? God Bless to everyone.

    • Ranjith says:

      (INDIA)  I’m a 22 year old boy in love with a 21 year old girl. I was a non-christian till 2 years back and now a believer but my parents are still non-Christians and they don’t know that I have become a believer. I have now fallen in love with a girl who is a non-believer. I had consented to her my interest for her and said I’ll wait for her. I have also expressed to maximum and gave her an assurance that I’ll be there forever come what may. She is interested too but scared about her parents acceptance. She asked me how long I’ll wait and I said I’ll wait forever and she confirmed whether I’ll come and talk to her parents when she asks me to, for which also I gave an assurance too. She later told me to wait for 5 years.

      Her sister’s love was separated by her parents and then got her forcibly married to some other guy and their marriage broke in 2 months. They have separated (both are unbelievers), also the guy who loved her sister was a cheat. Now looking at such circumstances she is scared to get into a relationship but she also likes me very much, which she has told me. I also came to know through her sister. I counseled her sister when her marriage broke and from then she considers me as her own brother. It was her confidence that made me to boldly get into a relationship and she tells me “that is how she’ll react or any girl for that matter, cause things have happened that way, but she likes you and it is very obvious too”. She also said she’ll support us in making their parents accept and won’t let her get married to some other guy.

      From my family there would be no problem as they gave me free will to decide upon my life but would not accept that easily to marry a Christian or a girl from another religion that easily. I don’t want to hurt them by marrying too. I am sure they’ll accept this girl whom I love though her mother tongue etc. is different.

      Now the problem is my best friend (from whom I became a believer) is totally against it, also my other 2 believer close friends. She says that I should not marry her because it’s a sin etc.. but I love her wholeheartedly and if I ditch her, it would be like me cheating her and her sister and the assurance I gave her will become false. God never asked us to hurt people. Though she is an unbeliever she was also created by God almighty. When I talk about the Bible, she listens. I have told her that am a believer now and she is a type of girl to whom if you explain things will understand and accept and she has no problem in that.

      I am totally confused about what I should do now. My heart is not ready to leave her, but my best friend asks me to do it for God. The girl whom I love used to tell that she would even spare her life for the loved one’s and she is too dependent on her loved ones. She is kind of innocent too and can be easily cheated on by people. I don’t want to leave her either and I know she’ll definitely become a believer. But my best friend says that I am sinning quoting the Corinthian Verse. When I countered her with another verse from the same, she says that is applicable only for married people.

      Marriage is a worldly thing but once each person loves one another in one’s heart it’s like we get married to them. But please sir/Ma’am, I am in a total chaotic state. Please, tell me what I should do??? There are still a lot more to this, but this is just the outline of the problem. Anxiously awaiting your reply… Thanking You

      • Adron says:

        (USA) I don’t know if you are still single. I guess that my response is actually relevant for you now that I read your situation. You will really be missing out if this woman only tolerates your faith. If she comes to salvation in Christ whether or not you are in the room or if anyone is watching her, then you can trust her in marriage. If she tries to become a Christian for the one reason that she wants to get close to you… with no passion/fire for God, then she cannot be trusted in marriage.

        Depending on how things are, maybe loosen your heart strings… so that you can share Christ with her. If she wants to rationally understand Christianity, then I HIGHLY, GREATLY, recommend that she read some of William Lane Craig’s books and the articles and debates on… http://www.reasonablefaith.org/. You can also find debates with William Lane Craig vs. ________ on youtube.

      • Adron says:

        (USA) Ranjith, Use the Book of John to introduce Jesus Christ to her. Explain sin and how we are undeserving of Heaven… yet, still Christ came to save us with “Romans.” Make sure that she knows that she has sinned against God. Since sin (which is a violation of God’s laws and will) separates her from God, she does not deserve Heaven. No matter how good she may think she is she is not good enough for heaven because God determines what is good.

        Christ paid her ransom. She and I and you deserved hell. But, Jesus made a way and He is THE WAY for us to be saved. Christ’s blood atones for our sins and blots out our sins. Jesus Christ conquered the grave and hell. Then, He ascended into Heaven. He has the keys to heaven and hell. There is only one Kingdom of Heaven and one King of that Heaven and His name is Jesus the Christ.

        When she accepts Christ as her LORD and SAVIOR, instruct her to tell at least one of her friends of her decision to become a Christian because Jesus says, “And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8,9 NASB)

    • Adron says:

      (USA) Marcia, It is not beneficial to marry an unbeliever. If you want to raise godly kids, then you will find yourself in a jam or a pickle if this boyfriend of yours becomes your husband and your children’s father. You will always be compromising genuine love as Jehovah God intends for you to have if you marry an unbeliever because an unbeliever cannot offer the love of God unto you. An unbeliever just can’t do it. It’s not possible.

      However, if he does repent and ask God for forgiveness of his sins and come to salvation in Christ, then I’ll still suggest you may be marrying a baby Christian who has a lot to learn about God. If he’s excited about hearing about the nature of God the Father and of Jesus and the Holy Spirit (all that are the members of the trinity), then I see no objection as long as he is hungry and thirsty to know about God from any Christian, NOT JUST YOU. If he will only tolerate speech about God from you exclusively, then I suggest that he is only trying to win you over and doesn’t really care about God.

      If he will not renounce his ways and life for the Jesus that died for Him, then he is not a suitable match for you no matter how good he looks or how eloquently he speaks, or how much money he makes. If he doesn’t become a true Christian, then he will make it very difficult for you to serve God and this will ruin or damage your God given calling. If God’s not first in his life, then cut those heart-strings though, it hurts. It’s not impossible. Jesus Christ went through EXCRUCIATING pain so that we could be saved.

      IF HE IS NOT PLAYING GAMES WITH YOU, and really does become a baby Christian, then don’t worry because some Christians grow very quickly. Spiritual growth/maturation varies based on how passionate a new believer is to know God. However, if he remains an unbeliever, then his darkness will be in perpetual conflict against your light, which is Christ shining through you.

  10. Rayna says:

    (U.S.A)  Thank you so much for this article. Even though the scriptures are very clear, when your heart gets involved it’s so entangling because you want it to work so bad. It’s like your head understands why but your heart is crying like a little kid that doesn’t get his or her way. I’m gonna have to read this a few times. Thanks again.

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