When it comes to dating a non-Christian, the Bible does not say anything directly about this because dating as we know it was not a custom in biblical times. However, the Bible does have many guiding principles that give us all the answers we need when asking, “Is it okay to date a non-believer?”
While the Bible does not say anything about dating, the Bible does give Christians direct commands about not marrying non-Christians. Since the most biblical purpose for dating is to determine if two people want to marry, I believe all that the Bible says about not marrying an unbeliever applies to the topic of whether or not it is okay for Christians to date non-Christians.
What Does the Bible Say About Dating/Marrying a Non-Christian?
1 Corinthians 7:39 states, “A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” Here Paul makes a clear statement that teaches Christians it is never okay to marry a non-believer, “he must belong to the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 also states:
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? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”
The reason God tells Christians not to date or marry non-Christians is because the direction of an unbeliever and a believer’s life should be totally different. Before you come to Christ, you do not live to please God. But pleasing God should be the main purpose of a Christian’s life.
Therefore if a Christian and a non-Christian do start to date or get married, the results will never be good. The Christian might compromise and begin to love God less so he or she can live a life that better suits the unbeliever. This is what happened to King Solomon:
Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin.” (Nehemiah 13:26)
Or the Christian will continue to pursue God but this will frustrate the non-Christian and there will be strife within the dating or marriage relationship. Will a non-Christian want to tithe to the church? Will a non-Christian want to participate in the life of a local church? Will a non-Christian be comfortable as his or her spouse evangelizes? Will the non-Christian be secure enough not to feel judged by the Christian’s lifestyle?
Many people think they can live with these divided beliefs, but the problems are endless if neither compromise. And when a Christian compromises on his or her beliefs and way of life, this is a major problem.
What About Missionary Dating a Non-Believer?
If dating a non-Christian is a sin and will lead to all kinds of problems, what about missionary dating? I’ve written a lot more about this topic in the article, “What Does the Bible Say About Missionary Dating?” Here is a brief excerpt:
As tempting as it to missionary date, the best dating advice is simple: Do it God’s way! The Bible is very clear on this matter. Christians are to be a light to the world, they are to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they are supposed to love unbelievers in word and deed. But they are also never to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
Jesus spent time with unsaved sinners, loved them, and even served them; but he never called them his friends. He was friendly towards them, but that is different than opening your heart to someone and forming a “friendship with the world.” While God calls us to love the world, he also commands us to guard our own hearts (Proverbs 4:23), to be aware of the damage people can cause us when they are not lovers of God (James 4:4), and to “not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). As much as we might be attracted to someone not saved, we must remember how impossible it is for an unbeliever to please God:
“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:6-8)
If we hope to please God, we must not be yoked with those still in the flesh (unbelievers) because it is impossible for someone without the Holy Spirit to please God. Dating someone definitely yokes you.
How to Avoid Dating/Marry a Non-Christian
While the Bible is clear that it is not ever okay to date or marry a non-Christian, that does not mean many Christians will not still do this. It’s easy to play mind games and make exceptions of why dating a non-believer is usually wrong for most people but not wrong for you.
So to avoid marrying a non-Christian, it starts with refusing to date a non-Christian. And if you really want to avoid dating an unbeliever, you will need to be careful about who you become friends with as well. There’s a lot the Bible says about becoming friends with the world, but in short Christians are to love people who are unsaved while still not becoming yoked with them.
We must always have healthy boundaries between our hearts and theirs. I believe this comes down to serving more than receiving. You can be “friends” with non-Christians in the sense that you spend time with them, serve them, and listen to their problems. But once you start taking in their counsel and allowing yourself to pattern your way of life after them, then you are crossing a biblical boundary.
So if you are serious about guarding your heart, accept what the Bible clearly says about not dating non-Christians and don’t get too close to the line if you don’t want to go over it one day.
What Should You Do If You Already Are Dating or Married to a Non-Christian?
So what should you do if you have already started dating an unbeliever or if you have married a non-Christian? While much of the advice so far should apply to both dating and marriage, this is where the approaches should be different.
If you have married a non-Christian or perhaps you have become a Christian while your spouse has not, you should not divorce him or her for this reason. You should remain faithful even if your marriage is now more difficult. Divorce is only allowed when adultery has taken place. Having an unbelieving spouse is not a biblical reason for divorce.
But if your unbelieving spouse wants to leave you because you are a Christian, you are not at fault and should let him or her go. 1 Corinthians 7:15 explain, “But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.”
If you are dating a non-Christian, you should breakup. I know that is a bit blunt and easier said than done. If you were in the counseling room I wouldn’t say it to you just like that. But regardless of how hard or unfair it seems, the Bible is clear that we must obey God and not man, and not just when it is easy.
In dating you have not been joined as a husband and wife, therefore you should end the dating relationship so you are no longer unequally yoked. I encourage you to pray about this, consult the word, try to do what is most honoring to God, and be tactful in how you approach the breakup. You don’t want to shame the person for not being a Christian. But you staying with him or her is actually more damaging in the long-run because what they need is Jesus, and you disobeying Jesus is not the best way for you to be a loving witness.
So Is It Okay to Date (or Marry) a Non-Christian?
In summary, it is never okay to date or marry a non-Christian. You must be careful because it will be easy to get sucked into an unbiblical relationship if you drop your guard. Put up boundaries so you don’t get tempted to date an unbeliever.
God will bless you when you obey him. You never know what you are missing when you are living outside of the will of God.