A while ago, I wrote a blog post on dating non Christians. Lately I’ve been hearing a few questions about “missionary dating”, however, so I figured I’d take the opportunity to expand on that a bit.
One of the most common reasons for dating someone who isn’t a Christian is the idea that through your relationship, you can bring them to Christ. However, there are a few reasons I don’t think this will ever really work.
The main reason is that, by default, when you decide to take a relationship further from “just friends” to “boyfriend/girlfriend”, the focus shifts. You’re concentrating on each other, and in order to bring someone to Christ, it’s essential that they’re focusing on Him. This is just impossible when you’re a couple. My dad, when he was a young man with and had just become a Christian, fell for this chick. She seemed pretty sweet and agreed to start going to church with him, so they could hang out more. The problem lies therein- she was going to make him happy, hang out with him, and meet his friends- she wasn’t convinced to go to check out Christ. If someone wants to make someone else happy, they’ll endure anything, rather than experience it. This probably would have been clearer if he’d grown up in the technology age and looked over to see her on her phone during the sermon. When you’re dating someone, you’re focus is on them- you either are evaluating them for the long run (in which case, refer to my other blog post on why that will always be a struggle with someone who doesn’t share the most important aspect of your life), or you’re dating for fun, and non Christians really don’t seem to find going to church on a regular basis fun. The question will always be raised, why don’t we just go out on a Friday night like everyone else?
When I first started dating a non Christian, I did the smartest thing I’ve ever done (super proud of it) and ignored the advice of every role model in my life. I ignored their warnings, concerns and general misgivings and completely trusted my own naive, and undeveloped understanding. Yea, “proud”. But I do remember what they said, and one of the questions stuck, although I kept trying to confine it to the “later” drawer of my mind to ponder. If I, or you, were standing on a chair, and holding hands with this person you’re dating, would it be easier for them to pull you down or you to pull them up? The second problem with missionary dating is that you’re trying to create stronger bonds with someone when what you’ve chosen to be the most important thing in the world to you disrupts the beautiful harmony. You’re disagreeing on Jesus- it’s like a vegan marrying Ron Swanson. A family friend of ours got married to a strongly atheist man. For forty years, he refused to go to church, they got into passionate arguments and when he got cancer, she couldn’t bring him to church and he didn’t want church in his house, so she lost a lot of connection with her church community. Her heart broke as she watched the love of her life deteriorate, not knowing if she’s meet him in heaven. Church builds us up, and so a partner is meant to. The bible says you become one with whomever you marry- you should challenge and support each other in and towards Christ. What if this person that you allow yourself to grow the deepest type of love for doesn’t end up in heaven with you? What if they hold you back from all God has for you? Don’t just be thinking about another person- you can’t do anything for anyone if you’re not looking after your own needs first. You need to receive in order to give, and your husband or wife is meant to be a great source for that.
So what is the solution to missionary dating? No missionary or no dating. You either have to completely accept that you are confining yourself to this life- that you can’t force a person to change and just sort of live with the awful life of loving someone who should ultimately come second to the one who loved you first and point you to Him, or you can just not date them. Being a friend, and not growing these lovey dovey feelings for a while helps keep objectivity, perspective. You should always have non Christian friends, bring them to church, tell them about Christ, but once you date and especially if you can’t take it and you break up, that opportunity for you to minister is lost.
This final story is my own. I think the hardest part about dating a non Christian is that you should always be focused on God, and when you allow yourself to really fall for someone who wants to pull you away from that, it’s so much easier to fall than keep going, like having a small child wrapped around your leg while you’re trying to walk. I remember this one night we had just had a huge fight, and as we were sort of making up about it, he said he’d come to church just to make me happy. My youth was having a formal night the next night, so I invited him to that, and when I met him at the train station, I had my dress with me and make up on, and he was in at shirt and jeans. I thought, well it maybe he didn’t have time to get dolled up. I had so much hope that months of hard work, constant diligence, patience, love and direction towards Jesus was coming to term. Another thing a role model said to me is not to mistake our will for Gods plan. He literally looked at me and told me that he’d meant it at the time, but now we were fine, so…
He never did end up coming to church, possibly because I soon broke up with him. When I was late, and alone, I knew I couldn’t keep doing that. I couldn’t keep turning up to church alone.
Don’t keep turning up to church alone.
Food for thought.