Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dating Someone With A Different Faith

In one of our previous blogs, Melissa talked about five signs that you are not ready to be married. For one of them, she said the following: "You're not ready to marry if you don't have the same religious beliefs." (To see that full blog, How Do You Know When You're Ready To Marry, click here.)

Because of that comment, the following question was sent along by a reader: "What are your opinions on dating someone who has no faith, or at least not yet."

This is a great question and one that I think has a couple of different things to think about.

When deciding to date someone of another faith we need to explore what the purpose of dating is. In my opinion the purpose of dating is to find a spouse. The whole process of dating is beginning to mesh two lives together with experiences and conversations that could one day lead to marriage. One problem that dating someone of an opposite faith is that a major aspect of your lives simply doesn't mesh. There can be equal respect for your differing opinions but faith is something that effects too many aspects of life for it to just be a casual "agree to disagree" issue within a committed relationship.

Think about some of the different issues different faiths would having on a dating relationship:
  • Should you have sex or not?
  • Should you live together?
  • Should you go to church together?
  • Should you pray together?
  • Do you seek God's discernment in your decision to get engaged?
  • Where should you get married and who should marry you?
Melissa and I have found a shared faith simply invaluable to our relationship - both while we dated and in marriage - and one of the main reasons we are still together. We just celebrated our five year anniversary and in September 26 will mark us being together as couple for nine years and we both know that God is the top reason for that. We have often commented how we don't know who those who don't know Christ do it. Prayer, Christ's call to humility, purity and serving, as well as seeking God's wisdom and discernment all play such an important role in the life of any Christian (or should anyways) and a committed relationship with someone who has different values will prove to be a difficult thing.

Now, there are some people who would disagree with my definition of dating and would argue that there is such thing as casual dating. The focus here isn't on anything long term or deeply committed but yet simply going on dates with different people. If this is where you are with dating, I would say there is nothing wrong with having dates with someone who has a different faith. It gives you the opportunity to learn about relationships and interactions as well as provides a context for witnessing and sharing Christ.

The other big issue our reader brought with their question concerns the topic of dating someone who has no faith as a way of sharing Jesus with them, aka missionary dating. Here are a few thoughts on that issue.

1) In my experience, missionary dating doesn't work very well. I've seen many people try and in almost every situation the Christian ends compromising their faith and standards more often than not.

2) When it comes to missionary dating, I have always asked people the question, "Why do you have to date the person in order to share your faith with them?" What's wrong with being friends, or even good friends, and sharing your faith in many of the same ways but yet without opening yourself up to some of the deeper questions that I mentioned above.

3) The last thing I will say is that in everything I have said, I am always very leery of establishing hard and fast rules about dating. That being said, I think prayer and wisdom should be huge factors to discerning whether to start a dating relationship to begin with. Regardless of who the person is or what their faith is, take some time to pray and ask God for direction and take some time to talk to trusted friends or mentors as well. As much as I would warn against missionary dating, I am not closed to the idea that God could possibly lead in that direction.

3 comments:

  1. On the topic of "missionary dating," I think you also have to consider the notion of how evangelism can be warped inside the church today. In my experience, I've seen people use evangelism as a means to change someone into somebody more like them, so that they're easier to love. That can be unpacked a bit more, but the gist of it is that we have the ability to use love as a tool of manipulation, rather than...well, love. Take that sentiment, convoluted as it may be, and hopefully I'll be able to clarify it further someday.

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  2. I think you're right. Too many people (lets face it it's mostly women and this is Melissa talking so I can say it) try to "fix" or change who they date or marry. Many times a woman gets to her 30's and really wants to settle down and she just can't seem to find a good Christian guy. So she compromises and finds a nice non-Christian guy and commences missionary dating him and pressuring him into church life or a salvation experience that he may not want or be ready for. It's not a good plan at all and only ends up creating tension and fake "conversions" which don't last after marriage.

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  3. Really a great post. I liked it and its good that you are sharing with others too.

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