What should you do if you are a Christian who is starting to have romantic feelings for an unbeliever? Can Christians and non-Christians date? Is missionary dating a biblical option? Is it okay to be friends, witness to this person, and then date this person if they become a Christian one day?
Many Christian singles will need to navigate questions like these regarding their romantic feelings for an unbeliever. So here are 8 steps you can take if you are a Christian and you have romantic feelings for an unbeliever.
- Resolve in Your Heart to Put God First and Obey His Word
The first step if you are a believer who likes an unbeliever is to resolve it in your heart that you will obey God no matter what. You must make the internal decision in your heart to never betray God for a relationship.
The second thing you must do is to truly come to terms with what you believe the Bible says about Christians dating or marrying a non-believer. I believe the Bible is very clear about Christians not marrying non-Christians (1 Corinthians 7:39, 2 Corinthians 6:14). While I don’t believe the Bible specifically says a Christian should not date a non-Christian like it specifically says not to marry one, I believe what the Bible says specifically would lead one to conclude that dating a non-Christian is unbiblical or at minimum unwise.
For more on whether or not Christians and non-Christians can date or get married, you care refer to these other resources where I talk about these topics in greater detail:
- Do Not Missionary Date
One objection that many Christians have to the idea that they should not date unbelievers is that dating a non-Christian can lead to their salvation. This practice is often referred to as “missionary dating.”
I’ve written about this before, so you can refer to my article/video Is It Wrong for Christians to Missionary Date a Unbeliever? for more on this topic. In short, I believe missionary dating is not a good practice because it does cause you to be unequally yoked and trying to change someone through a relationship is not how healthy relationships work.
If your goal in dating is to change the person you are dating into someone better, that is not a good foundation to build on. While you and the person you date should keep growing in Christ, this cannot be forced or a requirement in the relationship.
- Assume This Relationship Will Not Work So You Are Not Getting Your Hopes Up and So You Do Not Have Hidden Motives
Before I transition away from what you shouldn’t do when you like someone who is not a Christian and start offering some practical steps on what you can do, let’s first talk about the internal mindset that you should seek to have.
If you are going to try to be witness to a non-believer who you also like romantically, you must be very careful that you do not allow yourself to be pulled down as you seek to lift this person up. To do this, I think it is wise to assume that this relationship will not work and this person and you are not meant to be. The reason I believe that is where you should start in your heart towards this person is because statistically that is more accurate than everything going right so you two can be married one day.
For this relationship to work out, a lot of factors need to happen just right. This person needs to actually repent of sin, put their faith in Jesus, and develop into a mature Christian. While that should be our hope for all non-believers, we should not arrange our lives around this happening. Secondly, even if this person does become a Christian one day, it is also unlikely that the two of you will become boyfriend and girlfriend and then get married.
I’m not saying it is impossible. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be open to the possibility of this happening. I am saying that the odds are against you. Why? Because you will only marry one person but you will meet thousands of people. Literally the odds of this person being “the one” are not in your favor.
By assuming this relationship will not work out, you will avoid being trapped by a hope and missing out on living your life in the real world. You don’t want to wait for something that might never happen. It could happen, but you should not wait for it to happen or expect it to happen. Also, by assuming it won’t happen you will be better prepared to be a witness to this person while also guarding your heart.
Just because the two of you might never date and get married, this does not mean you shouldn’t try to be a light to this person. It is far more important that this person’s soul is saved by Jesus than if you start dating one another. So even though you are assuming it won’t work out so you can guard your heart, still be a light if you feel led to do this for this person.
And if this person does become a mature Christian and you two do get married even though you were assuming this would not happen, you can be pleasantly surprised!
- Be a Light to This Person By Not Dating Them
One of the best ways you can be a light to a non-Christian who you like is to not date this person. If the Bible says to not be yoked with an unbeliever and you want this person you like to obey what God has said in the Bible, how does it help this person if you date him or her and show this person that you do not actually obey what God has said in the Bible?
A better witness than missionary dating is to witness to unbelievers while not disobeying God’s word. It sends a very odd message when you try to tell someone they should obey the Bible, but your relationship with them is in direct disobedience to what the Bible says.
Make it clear to this person that you will always put God above everything else, including this person.
- Be a Light to This Person By Bringing Them Into Your Christian Community Rather Than Joining Them in Their Non-Christian Community
So let’s say you feel you can guard your heart and still witness to this non-Christian that you like romantically. How can you do this?
One of the best things you can do is to seek to bring this person into your Christian community rather than joining this person in their non-Christian community. The danger for Christians as they interact with the world and try to be a witness for Christ is that you can also be easily dragged down by those you are trying to help.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.”” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
This is why Christians should seek to bring non-believers into their communities rather than individual Christians venturing off by themselves into the world trying to be a witness. If you are going solo to the bar, to a worldly party, or to some event that is all non-believers, this is not wise.
We are called to be a light to the lost, but we must also guard our own hearts too.
- Choose to Serve Them in Friendship in Group Settings
If you want to avoid going further with someone that you like, you must avoid spending one on one time with them. If you like a non-believer and then you start spending lots of one-on-one time with this person, I can almost guarantee you two will start dating or at least act like you are dating even though you don’t have the title.
God made men and women to be attracted to one another. One way to avoid getting overly attached to someone you know is not good for you to date right now is to interact with them in group settings. If you truly want to be a witness to a non-Christian of the opposite sex, this person will need more people in their lives than just you. They will need other guy-friends or girl-friends who also love God.
If you want to be a light to someone of the opposite sex, you will benefit yourself and them by serving this person in group settings. Be a good friend to them but do it safely with the support of other people who are also being a light to this person.
- Be Honest About Your Ability to Guard Your Heart. If This Person Is Bringing You Down or You Are Getting Too Close, Put Up Bigger Boundaries
While all the things I’ve talked about so far are good and can be a way to show Christ’s love to someone who needs it, you also need to be honest with yourself if this friendship is causing too much temptation in your life.
If you find yourself liking this person more and more, it’s probably time to put up new boundaries so you do not fall to temptation and start dating a non-Christian. The things we are talking about will require a lot of relationship and spiritual maturity. It will be very easy to pretend you are being a light for Christ when in reality you are just getting attached to someone you know God does not want you to be with right now.
For more on this topic, you can refer to my article/video, How to Guard Your Heart When You Like Someone You Know Is Not Good for You.
- If the Person Genuinely Puts Their Faith in Jesus and Displays the Fruits of the Spirit, Be Open to Dating This Person If God Wills It
Lastly, if this person that you like does become a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, you should be open to dating them. They do not need to be at the exact spiritual maturity level as you, but they do need to have a certain standard of Christian maturity if you hope to have a godly relationship. Here are some other resources that should be able to assist you in weighing through if you two should date:
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