One of the questions I’m asked more frequently than any other is this: “As a Christian, is it okay to date a non-Christian?”
My friend Hanna and I talked all about this in a podcast episode just a few months ago. Aside from being an amazing friend, Hanna is also the author of the new book, The College Girl’s Survival Guide. Hanna and I talked through so many questions I get from women each and every week about Christian relationships. Things like “Is it OK for Christians to online date?” and “Are you really supposed to wait until you get married to have sex?” And of course, “What does it mean to be equally yoked? And why does it matter?”
The thing is, we don’t hear a lot of practical dating advice about this in the church. If you’re like me, you hear the same Bible verses repeated without a good idea of what to do with them today. For instance, “unequally yoked.”
What does that even mean? What does it look like to be unequally yoked? Why is it bad? And if it is so bad, how can I avoid it?
The verse that started it all…
The verse we’re talking about, the verse I get so many questions about, is 2 Corinthians 6:14. The NIV translation says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”
On the podcast, Hanna talked about it so perfectly, so I want to share with you her exact words.
She said, “Because I’m a total word nerd, I read the verse in other translations of the Bible. Some say, ‘Don’t be yoked together with unbelievers,’ while others say, ‘Don’t be teamed up with non-believers.’ 1 and 2 Corinthians are letters Paul wrote to correct behavior. So that means there were believers who maybe didn’t grow up in Christian culture, and they were marrying non-believers. Paul is saying, ‘Don’t do it!’ Does this person pursue God in the same manner you are? You need to find someone on the same page as you.”
Friend, isn’t that background information so helpful? I know I would have appreciated this simple explanation SO MUCH when I was dating. But I probably also would have thought, “Okay, so Paul told Christians we need to be on the same page about our faith. That sounds good … but why? Is that really necessary?”
Why does it matter?
The longer I’ve been married, the more I understand why it’s important to be with someone who loves Jesus like I do. I truly believe that when Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthians, it was less like laying down the law and more like showing concern for a dear friend. He knew that when two people make a giant promise to stay together forever, they should have the same picture in their heads of what they want their life together to look like.
Friend, I believe deep down that our shared love for Jesus has made such a difference in my marriage with Carl! Whether you call it “compatible” or “equally yoked,” I believe we get to be our best selves when we walk together toward the same faith and dreams.
I can remember the feeling of dating someone who just wasn’t quite right for me. It felt like one of us was always compromising, like we weren’t in step with each other’s lives. Then one day I realized what was wrong: We weren’t headed in the same direction.
“I WANTED TO BE PURSUING JESUS. I WANTED TO HAVE HIS FINGERPRINTS ALL OVER MY LIFE. I HAD A CLEAR DIRECTION — KIND OF LIKE I WAS ON A ROAD HEADED STRAIGHT NORTH.”
And maybe the guy I was dating was a Christian too, but he believed pretty casually. He didn’t want Jesus to be a big deal in his everyday life. It’s like he was heading east.
How would my story have ended with him? At best, we would have gone northeast, in a direction neither of us wanted to go.
Friend, close your eyes and imagine for a moment that you’re headed exactly where you want to go. For me, this meant I was spending time with Jesus, getting to know God better, living my best life with my girlfriends — and diving into writing and speaking and talking with all of you whenever I got a chance!
Now imagine you’re headed toward your own best life, including the relationship with Jesus that you want to have. And then you look to the side and see someone is keeping pace with you, doing the same things. When you’re walking in the same direction, you get to say, “Hey, maybe we could do this together!”
That is being equally yoked.
Of course, I don’t believe we need to find someone who is exactly like us in every single way. We don’t need to love the same roadside diner or have the same favorite city along the way. But when I looked at Carl’s life while we were dating, I could see that when it came to the important things, we were on the same page. We wanted the same things out of life. We were headed in the same direction. I knew that if I hopped in the car with him, I’d end up pretty close to where I wanted to go (and I wouldn’t have to fight with him along the way to get there).
Friend, if you are anything like me, you’re thinking, “Great! It’s nice to know what to look for in the guy I marry, but how do I find him? Where do I meet guys who are headed in the same direction as me? Where are all the guys traveling north?”
You are so not alone if you’re asking those questions!