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Why Is Dating a Non-Christian Such a Big Deal?

The importance of being "spiritually in-sync."

I’ve been single for years, but I recently met a guy I hit it off with right away. I’m interested in getting to know him more—the only problem is he’s not a Christian. He seems open to the idea of faith, but he’s never been involved in church or anything. Is it really that big of a deal to date a non-Christian?

- Tired of Being Single

Dear Tired,

First of all, I get where you’re coming from. When you meet someone you really like, it’s easy to start making compromises on some of the things you were originally looking for.

Especially if you grew up in the church, you’ve probably heard people say that Christians should not marry non-Christians. And since dating is the first step toward marriage, it follows that Christians should not date non-Christians either.

But many people think this is the ideal rather than the norm. I have met so many believers who—when times got tough or lonely—ditched that rule and started a relationship with an unbeliever. “What could be the harm,” they wonder. “My boyfriend acts more like a Christian than my Christian friends do,” they say.

And sadly, that may be true, but being a Christian is about so much more than just being a moral person. Being a believer means that your relationship with God has absolutely, entirely and clearly changed your life.

If you are a believer and profess to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, there is no getting around the fact that this is by far the most influential relationship you will ever have. It’s a relationship that will shape your identity, form your beliefs, influence your choices and guide the entire purpose of your life. It’s a relationship that, according to Scripture, will not just change you, it will re-create you. When you enter a relationship with Jesus, you’re not simply a “better version” of yourself, you are made absolutely new.

Being a Christian is about so much more than just being a moral person. Being a believer means that your relationship with God has absolutely, entirely and clearly changed your life.

Again, I realize you’re just asking about dating, not about marriage yet, but I’m going to jump ahead to marriage because even if you’re not sure that is where the relationship will end up, that possibility should be a consideration when you’re deciding who to date.

Spiritual Connection

Through marriage, you are choosing to become one body with another human being (2 Corinthians 6:14-17). You are joining your hearts, your minds and your very bodies in an intimate and sacred connection. For those who are Christians, this union cannot fully take place with someone outside of relationship with Jesus Christ, because true “oneness” is something that cannot be forced or synthesized: it’s supernatural.

At the end of the day, there is no replacing the deep intimacy that comes when you are physically, emotionally and spiritually connected to another human being. Don’t sell yourself short out of fear and desperation, but instead, move toward God’s promises in faith.

The Reason for Christian Marriage

For Christians, marriage is about more than just companionship. It’s about the display of the glory of God at work through our relationship (Ephesians 5:31-33). Marriage is a glorious display of Christ and the Church—of sacrifice, and the laying down of our lives for one another. If we’re not looking at marriage with this purpose in mind, we’re actually missing what marriage is all about.

As John Piper so eloquently says, “Marriage exists ultimately to display the covenant-keeping love between Christ and His church. If you are married, that is why you’re married. If you hope to be, that should be your dream!”

When we choose to redefine marriage on our own terms, we miss out on experiencing marriage in the sacred, intimate, God-honoring way it’s meant to be experienced.


I tell my counseling clients all the time that modern psychology points to the benefits of being married to someone with whom you are “spiritually in-sync.”

Faith and spirituality are such important factors in our lives that those who have them in common tend to have a lower divorce rate.

Faith and spirituality are such important factors in our lives that those who have them in common tend to have a lower divorce rate. This statistic rings true for all belief systems, because having this integral part of our identity in common is like strings that hold two people together.

But above and beyond the strings of “commonality,” believers in Christ are held together by something even greater: the Spirit of God who lives, breathes and works in us and through us.

Those who are united in Spirit cannot be separated (Mark 10:9). According to Scripture, when God joins something together, something powerful happens that can’t be separated by mere man. The Spirit of God is the only guarantee that we will have what it takes to love, to confess, to sacrifice, to give and to forgive one another.

I am not saying that marriages between people of different faiths never work at all, or that simply being a “Christian” guarantees that we will make good choices in our marriage or that we will be exempt from divorce. But when both partners in a marriage are allowing God’s spirit to work in their lives, they then have the power to say no to their sin and flesh rather than being ruled by it.

Don’t let fear drive you into the arms of someone with whom you can’t share every single part of your life. God calls us to make relationship choices in our lives not based out of fear, but out of faith—faith that God is faithful, that He is good and that His great plan for your life is worth the wait. Don’t settle for anything less.

Have a question? Good! Send an email to All identifying information will be kept anonymous.

An earlier version of this article appeared at

Top Comments

Taylor Allen


Taylor Allen commented…

Dear Debra,

I think that the answer to this woman's question is between her and God and should not be given such a clear-cut answer as is provided here in your article. Every couple’s relationship and situation is unique. You have basically told this woman, in ignorance of the details of the relationship, “the person you are interested in is “LESS” than you deserve or what God requires of you. They are not worth your time or your love and you are not meant to be with this person because they do not profess Christ as their savior yet.”

(I say this gracefully, so do not read this with an angry tone): Who are you to direct this woman away from a person that God may be bringing to her-a soul that God cherishes-especially as she has told you that he is open to and searching for Truth?

I am 24 years old. I have been in a serious relationship with my boyfriend for over a year, and we are working towards marriage together. He is not a professed Christian. When we first met he was agnostic, but bore all the fruits of the Spirit and treated me better than any professed Christian I had ever met. I was not “lonely” and my times were not “tough” when I met and begin to pursue my relationship with him. You have made the claim that “Being a believer means that your relationship with God has absolutely, entirely and clearly changed your life.” I cannot count the number of ‘Christian’ relationships and marriages I have known that are so clearly unhealthy, abusive and incompatible, and yet the people who are in them have been conditioned to think that their only option and requirement in this life is to marry a Bible-believing, faithful church attending, super-spiritual believer. Their relationships and marriages do not reflect a relationship with God that has “absolutely, entirely and clearly changed” their lives. Or maybe it has. But in a way that twists and perverts what a life changed by God actually means.

I have seen too many Christian men (my own previous relationship included) that have used their “changed lives” to control, domineer and abuse the woman they are with. They are not the “better version” of themselves, they are their worst.

In the time that I have known him, my boyfriend’s life has been “absolutely, entirely and clearly” changed by God. His soul has been enriched by the spiritual writings of Christians throughout the centuries, by my college pastor’s podcast sermons, by my own faith, by being a part of my Anglican church community, and by spending lots of time with my family. His already naturally sweet nature and humility in the face of life’s big and hard questions is daily being informed by a Christian understanding of the universe and he is being blessed and led and encouraged. I see his potential and his loving, gentle and kind soul that, prior to meeting me, was not able to grow or be nurtured towards a deeper understanding of his Maker or of the profundity of the Gospel.

Our relationship is full of grace, humility, unconditional love, forgiveness, light-heartedness, laughter, and discovery. As I work through my faith and through the questions I continue to ask, he works through them with me, with an attentive and curious ear. Sometimes it is a great blessing to be in a position like my boyfriend’s—so humble and willing to learn Truth, as opposed to potentially having grown up in a home that pre-conditioned him with Truth that was warped, misinterpreted, narrow-minded, and shrouded by misguided religiosity.

If I were to have followed the advice you gave in this article, as this young woman might, I would not be with this beautiful person who has done nothing but deepen my understanding of our God, has loved me more purely and beautifully than anyone else I have ever known, and has tempered me and complimented my personality in such an incredible way that I am daily in a quiet awe of the person he is and in his treatment of me.

My stronger and more mature relationship with God at this point is “shaping our identity, forming our beliefs, influencing our choices, and guiding the entire purpose of our lives together.” We are humans, and therefore broken and make mistakes, but we strive for a life that is pleasing to God. We are being re-created as we journey together toward and in the Truth.

Your advice in regards to not being able to spiritually commune with your partner (becoming one body) if they are outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ is valid. This aspect of your relationship will indeed be much more blessed and enriched if both of you have in total faith committed to Christ. But this aspect of marriage, while deeply profound, should not keep a person from staying committed to someone who hasn’t fully converted. Even people who have converted still struggle with doubts, fears, and unbelief. You do not know how God is working in certain people’s lives. Each relationship is unique. While this type of spiritual union is the ideal to strive for and what God ultimately wants, He could be in the process of bringing two people to this point after their marriage vows have already been said. Or before. It doesn’t matter. But God is working. And he may be working to bring this woman and the man she is talking about together. And maybe not. But I have learned that this topic of being with a non-Christian is not as black and white as so many of us have been taught or are teaching people to believe.

This woman may not be “selling herself short” at all. I would hardly call being with my boyfriend “selling myself short”. His love for me and his attitude in life has done nothing but move me “towards God’s promises in faith”.
I would not accuse her of “redefining marriage on her own terms” because maybe our mysterious God is redefining it uniquely just for her and her situation as he has for mine. A judgment has been placed on this girl that her care for this person is not “God-honoring”. But how do we know what God thinks of this potential relationship?
These ‘risky’ relationships should be evaluated and it is wise to proceed with caution. I definitely did. But one should proceed with equal caution when entering relationships with other Christians, too.
I just found your words to be a little harsh in regards to this person being “less” worthy and not worth her time, given the example of relationships like mine.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I have appreciated other articles you have posted on Relevant and you have a lot of valuable things to say.




Susanna commented…

Great answer, one of the best I've ever read. And as someone who's been there, done that, I cannot encourage you enough to run away from this as fast as you can. Marriage and relationships are tough enough without trying to be yoked with someone who has completely different ideas about life, God, reality, and morals, and is not even spiritually alive. I fell for a non-Christian man when I was 29, reasoning that "God hadn't brought me anyone" and he was nicer than any Christians I knew. Fast-forward over 2 years of heartbreak and agony later, and I knew from experience why God says don't even try this. It's simply not worth it. You may feel infatuated with the person, but once the infatuation phase is over, relationships in the long haul depend on common values and goals. Also, something people don't often think about: when a person isn't submitted to God and God's will, his or her will is what wins out. That means if they want to cheat on you, lie to you, or leave you, there's nothing stopping them. You may think that will never happen, but it does. Even if it doesn't, the ongoing heartbreak of being with someone you're just not connected to spiritually is awful. It undermines the whole purpose of marriage, which as Debra says so well, is oneness. It truly is better being single, but God can bring you someone on the same spiritual plane. Over 3 years after that relationship broke up, I am now dating someone who is a Christian. The difference is immense, but even if this relationship ends, I will never go back to dating a non-Christian, even if I'm single for life.


Doug Barr


Doug Barr commented…

A person of one faith dating a person of another faith is a big deal because they will discover their particular set of beliefs is unnecessary to live. If those two spread the message to two more who spread the message to two more and so on, eventually the beliefs that divide us would disappear and we'd eliminate a source of conflict. Now wouldn't that be a disaster!



N commented…

If this question was about dating, why so many comments about marriage. The problem with most people is that that don't take the time to know each other, esp when someone is dating. Why not provide guidance on what can be helpful at the moment.....l think you wasted an opportunity to educate

Clara Bastidas


Clara Bastidas commented…

This is the deal: Whereas I do agree on most of the statements made in this article, I feel it failed to tackle two important issues posed in the question.
1. This person obviously feels tired of her status and is starting to wonder if she should opt for available options for dating (not marriage yet) since a Christian guy isn't one right now. I think it is a very valid question that should get an answer other than "just don't do it". That gal is probably thinking..ok, but what about my loneliness or my 5, 10 years of waiting for someone who doesnt come?. Just something to consider when answering these type of questions.

2. The Bible talks about how we should be equally joked, no questions on that.
I think this articles tries to sell Christian dating as the guarantee to a happy marriage, which is so not true. Happy and solid marriages do not depend on beliefs, but on shared values and principles whatever they are. However, having said that I think it is impossible to live God's purpose for your life if you are unequally joked, because you become ONE with someone who does not respond to the same calling/purpose because, simply, he/she is not connected to Jesus like you are. So maybe the deal is not talking about happy marriages (because they do exist in the world, and marrying a Christian is NO guarantee of things working out) but about purposeful marriages, meant to draw each other closer to Jesus.

Andrew Dunlap


Andrew Dunlap commented…

The purpose of the Christian life is to glorify Christ in everything we do, work, family, everything. It is no longer about us. It is difficult to glorify Christ when you are not in union with him in your marriage.

Samantha Racer


Samantha Racer commented…

What about a Christian marrying a Catholic? Couldn't that be alright sometimes with certain people?

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