2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally bound together with unbelievers [do not make mismatched alliances with them, inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership can righteousness have with lawlessness? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (AMP)
I had a bit of fun over the weekend answering this question on a Quora thread. There were many interesting responses but I really wanted to word-vomit what I was thinking and feeling about this topic on my own.
Mind you, you will find a very different approach to this question in my response to it. My answer won’t reflect conservative theology at all but I hope you address it with an open mind and non-judgement attitude or heart. Much of what I’m about to say is very controversial to some, but I’m okay with that.
I’m also writing from a very Christian (religious) standpoint. So, if you’re a non-Christian reading this and have questions or opinions of your own – do share them. I’m open 🙂 Excuse the typos in advance pretty please.
MY RESPONSE TO ALL THIS
Here’s what I had to say with a few minor edits and add-ons…
I honestly believe it can work but it depends on the character of the two individuals, their openness and level of respect towards each other’s beliefs and their love for one another. We harp on this “unequally yolked” type of thing but forget Solomon who had a ton of wives and Samson who married in what conservative Christians would say was an “unequally yoked” marriage.
Then there are startling stories, like Samson’s below, that prove to me that God can put two very different people together to accomplish his purposes. I also hate when we generalize all mixed-faith marriages as if ALL mixed-faith marriages are doomed to failure.
Like seriously? What a fear based and pessimistic approach! I don’t think God would smack us over the head for having some open-mindedness to this verse now will he??
“Samson went down to Timnah and at Timnah he saw a woman, one of the daughters of the Philistines. So he went back and told his father and his mother, “I saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines; now get her for me as a wife.” But his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised (pagan) Philistines?”
*Pagan = people who don’t acknowledge God in thought and lifestyle. Served other gods – a lot of them.
And Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, because she looks pleasing to me.” His father and mother did not know that it was of the LORD, and that He was seeking an occasion [to take action] against the Philistines. Now at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel.”
JUDGES 14:1-4 AMP (More of Samson’s story here in Judges 13-18)
Now if God was so anti-mixed marriages would He have really have allowed Samson to sin?! If we can call it that since God orchestrated it. Out of the many things He orchestrates – sin isn’t one of them. A God who HATES sin. Are you telling me that when He told Hosea to marry Gomer that God made him sin? No, He wouldn’t. I believe we’ve got it a little wrong when it comes to inter-faith marriages and what God allows and doesn’t allow to a certain extent. Especially in regards to what we call sin in the church and what he is orchestrating behind the scenes.
Let’s just say there’s a lot we misunderstand when it comes to the idea of mixed-faith marriages. Why do we label them all as sin too? We are too sin-labelling at times that it often has me resentful to what the church often teaches and has often led me to misunderstand the heart of God for such matters leading me to resent Him very often. We have to handle the word with great precision and care. Let your opinions be YOUR OWN until they can be confirmed that they are absolute truth. And please,,, study the word as a WHOLE. Don’t pick verses selectively without looking at the Bible as a whole or recklessly add our own opinions to it and make it the absolute truth just because your favourite pastor said it. Study scripture for yourself. How many of us have actually sat down to questions our own beliefs and decide if they are worth holding on to?
This same God also allowed two bears to attack and KILL children. Now I bet we don’t tell this story often. “He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.” 2 Kings 2:24
See? The word isn’t always so peachy keen. It’s very mysterious at times and I often find myself going, “Woah…God actually did/allowed that.” Simply because I don’t know everything there is to know about Him and I’m often fed a picture of a strict King who still wouldn’t hurt a fly. But then I read verses like the above! This doesn’t (at least not all the time) cause me to resent God but it does make me wonder about Him more out of curiosity. You know?
I am not saying that I am anti-God. I am a broken Christian still deciding on what I do and do not believe when it comes to my faith. And I have seen where we simply use verses that agree with our own agendas and ways of thinking. It’s almost as if to do anything different is muddled with so much fear and blind ignorant use of scripture, to me.
And it’s a shock a lot of non-Christians (and Christians) have a hard time relating to what we teach at times. Sometimes we make what should be grey very black and white. This robs us of the opportunity to justly handle each situation fairly and accordingly or to take the entirety of Scripture into consideration when handling sticky topics such as these. Not all mixed marriages will end in shambles and not all Christian marriages will end great. Just saying.
My stance on mixed relationships is no longer one of prohibition but a yes – on the right terms. That is, he/she should at least have good character, values, morals, and beliefs similar to our own – in my opinion. ‘Christian’ doesn’t always equate to jackpot either. I’ve had instances of being loved way better by non-Christians than Christians. How bizarre aye? Choose wisely. That’s all I really want to say when choosing a spouse. What are your values and beliefs and theirs? Do they complement more than they conflict with each other? And when they do…is it wise then to stay together?
I LOVE THE CHURCH, BUT…
I love that I’ve found community along the way and great confidants. But I’m noticing a culture of ‘following the leader’ without examining the Bible for ourselves. We must learn to evaluate our beliefs against scripture while studying the context each verse was written in. Ancient Bible times are very different from the 21st-century western world. I do believe that there are certain things that God said that He intended to withstand the test of time like same-sex marriage, cheating, lying…all those things cannot be adapted in however which way we please. Things such as these were written with a clear-cut answer with no end in sight because they are deeper and more destructive than we believe. In this aspect, the Bible is a take it or leave it kind of book and so is it with God. You’ll either agree or disagree with God’s way of doing things.
I just wish we weren’t so religious or black and white. That’s all. Or shut people down who questioned our beliefs…even those we know in the church. This hurts me. We must remember that at the end of the day, people are fragile. The human heart is strong but it is also weak.
THE CHURCH’S USUAL STANCE…
…is one of pessimism and fear to mixed relationships.
“It’ll never work out.” “It’s a horrible thing to do to your future children that you hope to have together!” “This is RECKLESS!!!” “You”re doomed to failure at the very start.”
Yet we “forget” to mention the marriages and relationships that do. We leave out the mixed-marriages that are actually doing great despite the fact that one partner doesn’t believe in Jesus. This is called a gross misrepresentation when we leave out ALL aspects of the bigger picture, my friend. This is often why I find myself doubting the authority and credibility behind certain things the church teaches on.
Because sometimes? I see bias and unexplored ideologies being succumbed to a very narrow-minded view of looking at the world and the Bible. Often I see traditionalism at its finest. I believe that rather than a book of laws, the Bible is a book containing laws and many, many teachins that need to be examined for careful application to today’s world. Going back to that ‘bigger picture’ I was talking about, it also includes mixed-faith marriages that are actually thriving and where the Christian spouse is encouraged in their faith towards God rather than away from Him. Again, just saying.
I know the divorce rate is 50% in the church as well but how many of those are due to mixed-faith marriages and how many are not? Where the facts at tho? -_-
Unless you have carefully examined where each marriage has gone wrong…can we really create black and white conclusions based on a body of ocean filled with too many grey areas to count? And can we really toss away of inter-faith marriages while excluding those that are going better than we ever thought? Then why do we speak about all mixed-faith relationships as though they’re all black and white and uncomplicated to assess? Are we now taking complex situations and, in error, simplifying them down to uphold some incorrect view of scripture that we have?
Let’s examine a page out of the book of those marriages that are thriving instead of highlighting the negative things we’ve seen from a select group of marriages that have gone horribly wrong. Just as two children aren’t alike and must be handled separately, so this must be when deciding whether a mixed-faith relationship will survive or not. Each case is different. They must be doing something right. Relationships exist where the two are fine with each other’s beliefs for the most part and actually get along pretty well. Sure the children won’t grow in a united household faith-wise but they will encounter another very real world outside the home where not everyone believes in Jesus and they must make their decision on their own regardless.
We quote the unequally yolked verse in 2 Corinthians 6 a lot. Yet, we forget what this verse was really saying. I believe that this verse is saying to never put yourself in situations where your values will be compromised rather than held fast. Not all mixed-faith relationships require you to abandon your faith. Not every friendship with a non-Christian has to go south. Contrary to popular belief in the church, you may find yourself learning more about Jesus through the life of a non-Christian than you would with your own group of friends.
I have a friend that I work with who has blown me away with kindness and generosity that I often don’t receive in the church. I’m learning more about kindness from her than any individual I’ve known in a while. This isn’t to say that you cannot find these values in the church…I just don’t think we give non-Christians enough credit. They are in fact made by the same Creator as us and have an impressive strand of DNA within them built on kindness. Sure, they’re broken. Guess what? So are we.
What if a non-Christian spouse is so open to their spouse’s belief in God and is fine with taking the kids to church? We must explore this topic some more as a church and as a group of intellectual thinkers who must learn the art of critical thinking for one’s self.
GOD IS GREY (more than we think)
I firmly believe that God is still in the business of attracting opposites to accomplish His purposes and this doesn’t stop at Samson or Hosea. The Bible never prohibited mixed marriages. Then why do we? If mixed marriages were so prohibited, why did God allow Jacob to marry Leah knowing that Leah served idols? (Genesis 31:34) Did he lead Samson into sin by orchestrating his marriage with a non-believer? Then we cannot put a shut-down on ALL mixed-marriages if God Himself doesn’t – this is my belief. I believe the 2 Corinthians 6 has been grossly taken out of context and used to support the misinterpretations people have about this verse. *major eye-roll*
The ideal marriage for you? That’s between you and God. If you don’t believe in God, that’s based on the healthy values and practices that enhance your way of living and lifestyle. Jeremiah 29:11 also went for God putting Samson and his wife together. If God’s plans are not to harm, then that also means that God’s unconservative approach to Samson’s marriage shows me that God is more grey than we make Him black and white – including His ways. I don’t fully understand them all but I do know that openness counts and it’s powerful. I also know that there are black and white areas in His heart and plans for us but I do not believe that marriages between a Christian and non-Christian are one of them. I also do not believe his heart is for harm. Which is why I say to handle marriage IN GENERAL with wisdom in how you approach it.
Each relationship is unique to its own and not all are doomed to failure. And that there are cases where a marriage with a non-believer is better due to an abusive “Christian” spouse. Quality matters than we make it out to be.
We can’t leave a major decision up to the faith factor. Relationships must be built on so much more than whether or not we believe in God or not. Do we show it? Does the other person respect and abide by most of those values even if they don’t believe in Jesus? Do we even get along? Does he respect me? Do I respect him? How do we argue? Is it fair? I firmly believe that there are non-Christian friendships that exhibiting more of Christ’s love than Christian ones and that there are non-Christians out here doing a way better job at loving others (especially the poor and the lost) better than those who claim to follow Jesus. Get what I’m saying?
To my non-Christian friends reading this, I’m so sorry for the ways the church has failed to affirm you where you’re at. I’m sorry when, not if, we made you feel inadequate for your beliefs and for every patronizing convo you’ve had with us. Trust me…I know what those conversations are like. This is not okay. In your wanderings and ponderings, I hope you find Jesus’ deep love for you on your own. A love we have often failed to show you. Often. Very often. You should always know and feel that you are loved when in our company. Sadly, this is not the case. ‘Love’ and the church have now become a fading combination in your vocabulary by now. Polar opposites you struggle to reconcile in your heart because of aching memories you’ve experienced with us. But with hope and lots of faith, I believe God is sending you His people your way. People that will show you the love the church should have been showing you a long, long time ago. A love that broken Christians will never accurately depict in and of themselves. Not in this life or the next.
WHAT I WOULD TELL MY DAUGHTER
Put it this way, if my daughter tells me she wants to get married one day then she’s gotta give me more than “I want a Christian.” I want her to know exactly what that means. I want her to know that Christian doesn’t equate to hitting the jackpot and that there will be Christian men out there who will let her down. I want her to have a healthy approach to marriage. I don’t want sex to be something she is afraid or ashamed of.
I want to be honest with her in saying that there will be non-Christian men out there who exhibit better values than those in her own Christian community. While encouraging her to seek what’s best by her own relationship with God if she decides to put her faith in Him. I want her decision to be made out of knowing how loved she is by God and how taken cared of she is by God and that she doesn’t have to follow conservative Christian views out of fear either but only if they line up with her convictions out of her own relationship with Jesus.
While I do fully acknowledge and accept that marriages won’t work for everybody, I do believe that we must handle this topic on a situational basis. No two couples are doomed to failure based on the beliefs of others but their own beliefs and how they’ve chosen to fight for their marriage and relationships. The successes for mixed marriages is the same for a Christian marriage – it’s entirely up to the two individuals to make it work and to prepare themselves for success beforehand.
I also want to teach her that dating a non-Christian is nothing to be feared but only an option if it’s okay with her heavenly Father without conforming to commonly-held Christian beliefs unless they’re Biblical and are in line with the peace God gives her about them. I’ve been in situations myself where God has told me to reject the teaching of well-known individuals in the church only to find out that what they were teaching wasn’t exactly true. Learn for yourself. Think for yourself. Be led by His voice and His voice alone.
Many things are prohibited in the Bible but many are not. When something is not openly prohibited in the Bible, rather than jumping to add a fence around it, we must ask God what HIS parameters were for this thing in TODAY’S context for EACH individual. Alcohol isn’t prohibited in the Bible, but there are guidelines. Masturbation isn’t prohibited in the Bible, but there are guidelines to doing it in a healthy manner – I believe.
In an article titled “Working with Nonbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14–18)”, TheologyofWork.org did a great job at explaining the 2 Corinthians 6 verse often quoted.
“To be unequally yoked with unbelievers, then, is to be in a situation or relationship that binds you to the decisions and actions of people who have values and purposes incompatible with Jesus’ values and purposes.” My question is this. What if I find a non-Christian, for example, who shares much of my core values? What if his lifestyle doesn’t prohibit God’s work in my life? What if he actually genuinely values what I value? What if he actually is open to God but doesn’t believe in him?
This verse says “unequal yoking” and the above paragraph from Theology of Work describes it in perfect detail. What if this person’s “values and purposes” are in fact compatible with mine? We must be open-minded to an extent in order to avoid rigidity in our beliefs. This same website goes on to say in the same paragraph, “We probably would—and should—do all we can to avoid working with those who would force us to act against our beliefs.” What if this non-Christian actually encourages me to work according to my beliefs? I’m not making these scenarios up either. Marriages and relationships like this do exist.
What I recommend in the scenario of mixed-faith relationships is solid Christian community to keep you accountable and strong in your faith if you have a partner that doesn’t believe in God. For those reading this who don’t believe in God necessarily, surround yourself with people who share similar and healthy values. Friends who aren’t ‘yes’ people but will encourage you in the right path and ask you the hard stuff. It’s needed for the growth and spiritual maturity of any human being.
Theology of Work points out a great example of this practice in this paragraph: “Esther is an interesting example of this kind of situation. God called her into the harem of King Ahasuerus so that she would be able to serve as protector of her Jewish people (Esther 4:12-16). The temptations of that “work” were to protect her status and privilege as the king’s chosen queen (Esther 4:11-12). She might have succumbed to the temptations of that luxurious life if her uncle, Mordecai, hadn’t checked in with her daily (Esther 2:11) to guide her and eventually summon her to risk her life to save her people (Esther 4:8).” All in all, I firmly believe it can work but there are many factors to think about in the case of a mixed relationship to ensure the success of that relationship. Your best bet is prayer and much wisdom from God and to follow His peace regardless. Being open should not exclude wisdom. Make them synonymous with each other in your journey.
What I would say to anyone choosing to date a non-Christian is more so a question. What are your expectations in dating and in marriage with someone who doesn’t share your faith, core beliefs, and values to the ‘T’? Are they realistic? Do you want to raise your children with a healthy view of God? A healthy view of God doesn’t mean you go to church every Sunday – you have to live it out. Not by saying His name either but valuing what He values and living a lifestyle according to those values. A lifestyle where loving everyone matters most – even the broken, the lost, and the lonely. Does he or she show genuine openness and good reception what your values or not? Are they okay with your faith or do they fight you on it? Disagreements are healthy but there comes a but when it becomes tiring. So choose wisely. Don’t be led by your emotions. Be led by out of intimacy with God and your convictions about what you know to be right.
Is your faith in God strong or wobbly? Have you been placed in situations where you were questioned in your faith? How did you react? If you’re dating a non-Christian, this will be your new norm. If you can’t handle people disagreeing with you now, how will you in a committed marriage? If your faith in God isn’t strong now, don’t expect it to withstand being in a relationship with a non-Christian. That isn’t fair to you or what you believe. Think it through while surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who can encourage you in your journey. That’s always a plus! 🙂
Here’s what a Jewish friend after recognizing that at a very deep heart level, interfaith relationships are different but ARE doable when both feel valued, cherished and, most importantly, respected.
“What’s Hard: And still sometimes we struggle. Although I’ve gone with Sarah to church and she’s attended Shabbat dinner, there’s a sort of disconnect that is sometimes more evident than others. And while we can be supportive of one another, it’s impossible for us to experience these events the same way. Not only due to religion. She is from southern Pennsylvania and I’m from Long Island, which gives us two very different perspectives on the world. Sometimes the other’s reaction to a story takes a great deal of patience and understanding. What I’ve come to learn is that is the exact reason our friendship is so strong. It’s the fact that we are able to have these difficult conversations and be aware that our opinions, even when different, will be respected. That insures that our friendship will remain strong and true. – Interfaith website“
Expect to value one another and to disagree. Expect them not to get your beliefs and be with you on them at a heart level and the pain that can sometimes come from that. Expect to stay true to who you are while feeling free to adapt your beliefs to new truths you have learned from this individual. But expect there to be fruit from your openness and choosing to love this person regardless of what they do my love.
Here’s some great tools for follow up and what I sense God saying to me through them:
ThatChristianVlogger – “While we say that this is definitely a possibility, we wouldn’t say that this is something for everyone.” What’s the condition of their heart? What general direction are they going in life? Do you want to follow along? Do I sense God at work in them? Are they actively rejecting God or really open to Him? Are they GENUINELY open to Christianity? Are you strong in your own beliefs or are you a people pleaser and easily swayed to follow other opinions as your weakness?
LizzieAnswers – Just like any other relationship (and even more so with this one) marriage must be pursued with wisdom. “God is present in every person because He created everyone in His image.” Even though we aren’t all Christians on planet earth, our DNA was built on the foundation of love. Nonetheless, God sets guidelines for each person. Do what works for you and your relationship with God. While dating a Christian has it’s perks, to do otherwise doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a sin. But be prepared…it’s an entirely different route being taken and must be pursued with great wisdom from God. Choose someone who shares your convictions. “It’s a lot easier.”
Single Friendly Church [article] – There are many different viewpoints here, but I loved that they showed how unbiased they were in the variety of opinions shown.
Focus On The Family [article] – The questions they provided are amazing and critical in your approach to this style of unconservative approach to dating.
Tessa Crane [article] – Being in a mixed relationship has its fair share of difficulties that are more unique to its own dynamic. Tessa herself is in one and shares what her struggles were and her input on this topic in a great way. Her post reminded me to be strong (in general) about what you believe no matter who you’re with. However, you can see the pain in her story that relationships bring when you break-up and aren’t with someone who gets your faith entirely. Which brings me to my next point…
I also wrote a blog post before I clarified my beliefs here about mixed relationships featuring 102 questions to ask if he (or she) is the right one for you. It’s based on the assumption that you both love God but I believe that, with a little modification in how the questions are asked, any couple can use them.
I look forward to your comments and feedback below!
Mims – Your fellow essay writer, because that was a LONG read. Wasn’t it? 🙂 Hehe