Should a Christian date someone who is less spiritually mature? Is dating someone on a different spiritual level a recipe for disaster? If you’ve been a Christian for a long-time, is it a bad idea to date a new believer?
While dating a non-Christian is a more obvious danger to avoid, dating a new believer will need a lot more discernment. It’s rather idealistic to think that every Christian will marry someone on the exact same spiritual maturity level. This isn’t going to happen.
So here are 4 pointers when it comes to dating someone less spiritually mature than you.
Spiritual Maturity Is Different Than Your Spiritual Age
I don’t think we can make a blanket statement regarding if it is right or wrong to date a new believer. I think it depends on what you mean when you say you are more spiritually mature than the person you are dating. In general, I think there are three ways most people define “spiritual maturity.”
The first way some people define spiritual maturity is by how long someone has been a Christian. This is a false definition in my opinion. While age and maturity should be related, they are not always connected. Your spiritual birthday is not always the best indicator of your Christian maturity. So the age at which two people became Christians should not be a major factor when gauging their compatibility and what spiritual level they are on.
Dating Someone Who Knows Less Is Not a Fatal Flaw
The second way people often define “spiritual levels” is by biblical knowledge, doctrinal knowledge, and having a strong intellectual grasp regarding Christianity. This type of spiritual maturity is very important to possess as a Christian. We should all know why we believe what we believe. Christians should know how to pray, how to study the Bible, and we should be well versed in the fundamental doctrines of our faith. While it is ideal for two Christians dating to be close in this area, I do believe it is very possible to have a successful relationship even if they are on difference spiritual levels when it comes to knowledge.
Most questions I get about the above type of spiritual maturity are from concerned Christian women regarding Christian guys they are dating. She is worried that since he is a new believer or less spiritual mature than her that he will not be able to lead her as she would want in the marriage. This thinking is faulty, however, because it implies that God has called a husband to lead his wife because he is smarter or knows more about the Bible.
God did not assign the roles of husbands and wives based upon ability. The husband does not need to know more than the wife to lead her and the children. He just needs to be willing to lead, initiate, protect, and shepherd his family. A good husband will encourage his wife to share what she knows and to continue her growth and not be threatened by this. His leadership is not based in what he knows but in the God ordained leadership role given to him as a husband.
If You Date Someone Less Spiritual Mature, It Can Be a Problem When Sinful Behavior Is Present
The third way “spiritual maturity” is defined is by measuring the spiritual fruit in someone’s life (Galatians 5:22-23). You can be intellectually mature and well versed in what the Bible says, but you can lack the maturity to apply what you know. In some ways, people can have a greater spiritual maturity when they have a greater level of obedience to God than those who know a lot but obey God little.
This is the type of spiritual maturity that I believe should cause the most hesitation in dating. If there is a mismatch between two people’s spiritual levels that is resulting in vastly different lifestyles or behaviors, this is a sign dating is probably not best. While it is great when old sinful habits and addictions instantly vanish when someone becomes a Christian, often times this is not the case with a new believer. Sanctification is a process that occurs at difference speeds for Christians. If you are drastically more spiritual mature in this way than the new believer you are dating, it will be difficult to have a successful relationship.
You may be dragged down or the less spiritually mature person may get frustrated that he or she cannot keep up. You don’t need someone to know everything you know to date them, but if your lifestyles are drastically different this is a problem and dating should probably not occur. No one is going to be sinless. You don’t have to breakup because the person watches movies you wouldn’t watch or maybe uses some language you wouldn’t use. But there is a line somewhere. I don’t know what it is for you. This is why you must pray for spiritual discernment and wisdom if you are planning to date a new believer or a Christian on a different spiritual level than you.
Show Your Spiritual Maturity By Respecting Where They Are at in Their Spiritual Journey
If you do feel led to date a new believer or someone who is less spiritually mature than you, you will need to show your spiritual maturity by respecting where they are currently at in their faith journey.
None of us arrived where we are in in our Christian maturity in a moment. We all have taken a journey to learn what we know. We are all still on a journey. Ideally who you are today will be different than you who are in a few years because we will continue to grow with Christ.
We must respect the process God takes each of us through. This will be difficult if you want the person you are dating to be more spiritually mature than they are, but it is a sign of your maturity to love them for who they are rather than be mad at them for who they are not. If you are so unhappy with them because they are on a different level, then don’t date them. There’s nothing wrong with not dating someone because you feel they are not spiritually mature enough for you.
However, there is a problem if you start dating someone less spiritually mature than you but then you shame them or get frustrated with them because of this. If they see something differently than you or you think they are wrong about something, don’t throw the “I’m more mature than you” card in their face. This will not work and will actually be a sign of your immaturity.
If you really are more mature, it will show up in your ability to love and respect that person even when you see that they are spiritually immature in certain areas still.
Summary: Dating Someone Less Spiritually Mature Who Is on a Different Spiritual Level
You will need to be humble and patient rather than prideful and pushy. You will want to inspire them more than you instruct them. A dating relationship is not a counseling relationship, a mentoring relationship, or a discipleship relationship. Things will get weird and will not last long if one of you acts like the teacher and the other the student.
A dating relationship should be leading you towards a marriage relationship, and within the marriage the husband and wife are partners in the new life God has given them (1 Peter 3:7 NLT) even if there is some differences in their spiritual maturity.