(music) – Well I was always told an explicit "no" on that, based in particular on 2 Corinthians 6, and in verse 14 Paul says to not be "unequally yoked with an unbeliever, for what partnership "does righteousness have with lawlessness?" So I grew up thinking that the apostle Paul was talking about dating when he used this metaphor of the yoke, being joined to someone, so that the direction one goes, the direction the other one goes And so I only have since learned that Paul actually is not talking about dating and marriage relationships explicitly there; he is rather talking about who the Corinthian believers were going to yoke themselves to, were going to join themselves to, between the false apostles and Paul himself

And so these false apostles, they came with a message that had a lot of Gospel elements to it, but it wasn't the full Gospel, it was some other message that appealed to the believers in various ways, by flattering them, by the apostles themselves acting like they were superior because of their more evident gifting They tried to present that as evidence to these Corinthians that God was with them, and then they pointed at Paul and said look how weak he is, look how nothing he is Look at all the things he says that seem so impressive but actually when he shows up, he's not that impressive And so they used that as evidence that God was not with Paul Now, I think the answer to the question should a Christian date or marry an unbeliever, the answer's no

And I think I would actually use this same verse A verse that's not explicitly about dating actually gives us a very important principle that we then apply to all of our relationships including dating And that is, this principle that we all have this tendency to join ourselves to what appears to be the most impressive according to standards that may or may not line up with God's And so really, Paul's instruction here is an appeal to the believers to be impressed with what God's impressed with, to value what God values, and then to make your decisions relationally based upon those So that has everything to do with dating

What we love, what we join ourselves to, we will be like And so when we apply that to dating and eventual marriage, what that person you're dating loves will shape what you love And if that person does not love God, it will absolutely shape and influence your ability to love God as well So what they do positively love you will be more compelled to love and so it's a stewardship of your heart to assess the people around you that are options for marriage, to assess them according to God's values, what God says is most important, what God says is most true, what God says is most life-giving, and not to listen to what the world says is most valuable or most life-giving And Paul knew this

And so Paul was trying to say to them their "love" for you is a self-serving version of love, where they're using you in order to create a greater platform of influence for themselves, whereas, and this is what the entire book of 2 Corinthians is about, whereas I have suffered for you, I have taken on loss in order for me to be able to build you up in Christ; that is the definition of love So real love has at its purpose the building of that in someone And so what exists in a dating and moving towards marriage relationship between a believer and an unbeliever is that one of the core purposes of love just simply can't be And so, this is why I think Paul, we can construct a very compelling argument from a lot of what Paul says, and a lot of what the rest of Scripture says, why a believer should not be dating an unbeliever We haven't made a distinction yet between dating and marriage, because I'm seeing dating as the purpose of moving towards marriage

The reason I do that, and I don't just have dating as its own separate fun thing to do that doesn't involve marriage, is I don't think the Bible gives us a category for romantic connection, increasing self-disclosure and intimacy merely for the purpose of enjoyment or pleasure It's always for the establishment of this permanent relationship when it's between a man and a woman So let's get practical for a moment What do you do if you're currently in a dating relationship with an unbeliever? Well, I have heard many people justify that reality by calling it "missionary dating," where they want to have a strong influence on them And honestly, I think people are sincere when they say this, so I'm not doubting the sincerity of that; you want their good in them coming to Jesus Christ

But I would simply challenge you with what I said earlier, actually is your stewardship for your life and what you love and the direction of your soul And you need to take seriously what God says about yoking yourself to someone else; they will in some sense be very influential in steering, that's what the yoke is, in steering where you go And so if you really want them to come to faith, and you're really willing to trust the Lord Jesus for their salvation, then I would challenge you to think long and hard about who you might suggest being placed in their life, who might invest in them with the Gospel that wouldn't be in a dating relationship and have alternate elements of the relationship going on Because what you think might put that person in a better place to come to faith might actually be a hindrance to them coming to faith And again, I know the stories of missionary dating "working" in the sense of people really coming to faith

So I am not doubting that the Lord can do that, but your responsibility is not to think about what the Lord can do but what He tells you to do And then also thinking practically maybe for a different set of people who might be watching this video, some people might already be married to an unbeliever, and they maybe have suffered in various ways because of it, and it causes them angst, I just want to say a word of comfort to you, that there's a reason that 1 Corinthians 7 and 1 Peter 3 is in your Bible And both of those passages talk about the powerful effect that a believing spouse, particularly a wife actually, in those passages, but the powerful effect a believing spouse living out their faith can have on an unbelieving spouse And God doesn't make any explicit promises for your particular situation; I realize that and I know you feel the pain of that fact, but don't let the power of those words in any way be undermined God is pleased as you serve your spouse and as you are faithful to your spouse, by faith in Jesus according to the strength that He provides, God is pleased with that

And both Paul and Peter are acknowledging that there's real power behind that There's a mysterious power behind that So be encouraged that your labor is not in vain, and whatever tears you've shed about it, or whatever hardships you've endured because of it, they're not in vain So let me just end by broadening our perspective to put this thing in its proper place We need to remember that marriage is a picture of a greater reality

And it is not meant for ultimate life fulfillment And so that takes the stakes down a bit, because marriage is a gift from the Lord; it's meant to establish a covenant union between two people that displays Jesus's love for His church, that's what it's meant for And so when we keep that purpose in mind, it helps us put this whole thing in perspective, where we don't get to use dating and marriage for our own purposes alone So the general instruction that a Christian should not date and marry an unbeliever, it's not prejudiced, it's not tribalism It's a statement of the purpose of marriage being for something larger than our own earthly satisfaction

It's a larger picture; it's helping each other learn to love God and to do what He says through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ And so we use it for His purposes and not for our own (music) – [Narrator] Thanks for watching Honest Answers Don't forget to subscribe