Dating Non-Christians: Forbidden Fruit's Appeal - Part 1
- 2006 1 Feb
In "The UnGuide to Dating," a he said/she said look at adult dating relationships, authors Camerin Courtney and Todd Hertz discuss why the temptations – and dangers – of dating non-Christians are very real. ...
Todd: My friend Steve isn’t a Christian, so I was surprised when he introduced me to his new girlfriend: a committed member of my church. Wait a minute, I thought. She’s with Steve?
As their relationship progressed, I felt twinges of jealousy over Amber. It wasn’t that I was especially attracted to her. Nor was I singing the eighties pop hit “Jessie’s Girl.” But I did think it was unfair: Here I am, a devoted Christian guy, searching for a committed Christian woman . . . and Steve gets one. Here’s a woman of God in Steve’s arms, and he could care less.
I was also confused. How could Amber consider marriage with someone who doesn’t share her beliefs? Was she considering marriage? Could he respect her beliefs on sex and purity? Or, I wondered, is she not keeping to those?
Amber’s relationship with Steve isn’t a rarity. The temptation to date non-Christians is very real. And, in a way, it may even be logical with all the confusion and droughts we’ve talked about. Plus, in daily life, most Christians will come across far more non-Christian dating potentials than devoted Christian ones. And because the non-Christian dating scene tends to be much more open and aggressive, those nonbeliever singles are standing by with invitations to dinner ready. But as logical and tempting as it seems, Camerin learned the dangers of dating a non-Christian.
Jake, the Non-Christian
Camerin: Some of my first real conversations about the dangers of dating a non-Christian took place in college over Chocolate Chipper Sundaes at Perkins. There, with members of my Bible study, a friend and I quizzed our fellow member Emily about the guy she was spending more and more time with. This guy didn’t share her faith. Emily assured us he was a “really great guy” and that we needn’t worry since they were “just friends.”
Well, three months later these “just friends” were dating. A couple months after that, Emily stopped going to church. And not long after that, her attendance at our study became irregular. If I didn’t know the dangers of dating a non-Christian already, Emily’s story only underscored how tricky it can be. What was most difficult to understand was how Emily, a strong Christian, could fall for such an obvious, easy-to-avoid temptation.
Eight years later, during a year-and-a-half dating drought, the situation didn’t seem quite so simple anymore – especially with Mr. Tall, Cute, and Blue-Eyed asking for my number. It was ironic that I met this guy, Jake, at a church. At a friend’s wedding, I spied him in his dark suit and preppy glasses and was internally gleeful when I noticed later that he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. I quickly put together that he was a friend of some friends of mine and was pleased when he sat down next to me at the reception.
Sitting there in the church basement with friends and family, I enjoyed chatting with this funny, talkative, well-dressed man. So when Jake asked if he could call me sometime, I gave him my telephone number and did a mental dance of joy. The next time I saw Jake was when we met for dinner with mutual friends. Over the meal, the guys swapped fraternity stories about stupid things they’d done while drunk. For some inexplicable reason, Jake still intrigued me. Several days later, Jake asked me to meet him for coffee. As I spent time one-on-one with Jake, I discovered he was easy to talk to, intelligent, devoted to his family – and, as I suspected, a non-Christian.
That realization should have ended my attraction. But I was drawn to this cute charmer who was showing interest in goody-two-shoes me!
In the weeks that followed, Jake and I exchanged flirty emails and occasionally hung out with his friends. When their conversation turned to drinking or their love of going to Hooters, I’d grow silent or roll my eyes and offer a speech about women not being objects – failing to mention, unfortunately, that our value comes from being made in God’s image. Jake and his friends were more amused than convinced by my occasional ranting, so the conversations usually gave way to teasing arguments and laughter.
I told myself spending time with Jake and his buddies was harmless fun, maybe even God’s answer to my prayer for more non-Christian friends with whom to share my faith. That is, until Jake asked me to join his family and friends for a weekend at a rented beach house. I was caught off guard. Suddenly my relationship with Jake didn’t seem casual anymore.
Faced with the decision of whether or not to go, I finally asked a few Christian friends for advice. Maggie, a hopeless romantic, suggested that spending a weekend together would give me the chance to discuss matters of faith. Yet somehow I had the gut feeling the weekend would be more keg party than Kum Ba Yah. Max, my best guy friend, told me to run as fast as I could in the other direction – not just from the invite, but from Jake in general.
I figured I needed more info to make the right decision, and sent a breezy email to Jake asking about the weekend sleeping arrangements and whether or not there would be lots of drinking. He replied that while there might be some drinking, I wouldn’t have to be involved. “You’ll have a bed to yourself all weekend, and I appreciate your conservative views; it’s part of what makes you YOU,” he wrote, adding a smiley face next to it. After reading Jake’s email, I felt giddy with the excitement of having someone interested in me – and guilty that Jake still didn’t know the biggest part of what makes me me: Jesus Christ.
Friends to the Rescue
Camerin: I finally made my decision about the weekend – and Jake – after I had dinner with Kate, a friend from church. As we wolfed down chips and salsa, I filled her in on Jake’s invitation to the beach house. Usually one of my biggest cheerleaders, Kate listened quietly to my whole spiel, then paused thoughtfully for a moment. “You know, I’m glad you finally brought up this whole Jake thing,” she said. “I’ve been worried about you for some time.” Really? Now it was my turn to listen intently.
“What are you doing with this Jake guy? You know he’s not a Christian, right? You can say it’s casual, but I see your face light up when you talk about him,” Kate said, as my face now grew red with the embarrassment of hearing the truth – which I’d previously denied to others and myself. “He’s not worth it. He’s not worth you.”
In the silent moments that followed, I finally faced the fact that I’d only been fooling myself. I’d fallen for Jake with each interaction, flirtation, and teasing email. I also realized most of my attraction had been to his attention. I was one of the many affected by the dating drought in Christian circles, and it had been a while since anyone had shown interest in me. Jake’s emails, in which he’d openly expressed his attraction to me, had been refreshing. As a woman, I longed to catch someone’s eye, to be pursued romantically. And with no Christian guys stepping up to the plate, I, like many other single Christian women, was faced with a dilemma: a non-Christian or nothing.
In fact, I’ve heard many single Christian women use this as an excuse to date people who don’t share their faith. And I’ve heard others say the church is going to have to address this dilemma for countless single Christian women – that based on the numbers, many women will either remain single for life or will marry non-Christians. “This challenge,” a recently married thirty-something friend of mine said to me once when we were chatting about ratios and limited choices and such, “needs to be acknowledged by churches and Christian leaders, and dissected to determine the lesser of these two undesired outcomes. These are new realities we need to address.”
Regardless, I’d known all along what the Bible says about being involved with someone who doesn’t follow Jesus. I’d read 2 Corinthians 6:14 – “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” – many times during Bible studies and sermons over the years. And I’d seen a few Christian friends, like my college friend Emily, date non-Christians then suddenly disappear from church. I should have known better than to fall for Jake. And that was the most difficult truth to swallow.
I thanked Kate for her honesty, then asked her to check up on me in the weeks ahead. After dinner I had a long talk with God; I apologized for boosting my self-esteem from the wrong source – a guy instead of him.
I knew Jake needed God more than he needed me. Part of his attraction to me undoubtedly had been an unconscious attraction to Jesus in me, and I didn’t want to squelch that. I needed to finesse our relationship to keep it “just friends,” but I didn’t want my first flat-out talk about God to make God seem like some cosmic killjoy.
Thankfully, before calling Jake to tell him I couldn’t make the trip, I discovered I had to attend an out-of-state conference the weekend after the beach getaway. I could tell him in all honesty that being out of town two weekends in a row would be too much. When I told him, I could hear the disappointment in his voice. I think he knew I’d consciously chosen friendship over romance at this crossroad in our relationship.
After that phone call, I gently turned down other weekend outings in favor of more casual weeknight coffee breaks. And while I missed the rush of potential romance, I finally felt comfortable telling Jake about all aspects of my life – including the new ministry I was helping to launch at my church and decisions driven by my faith. When Jake’s mother grew ill, I let Jake know I was praying for her.
I also asked Kate to keep me accountable to our mutual faith in God, to ask those difficult yet necessary questions about my motives and my heart. I sought to strengthen my security and self-worth by spending more quality time in prayer and Bible study, hopefully making me less susceptible to future temptation.
In a surprise turn of events, Jake moved out of state a few months after I declined his weekend invite. I prayed fervently Jake would meet some strong Christian men in his new location. I hoped he’d be open to other more positive influences away from his drinking buddies. With this distance, our emails grew less frequent, and I’ve now lost contact with Jake. But every now and then when he comes to mind or I run into our mutual friends, I breathe another prayer that if he hasn’t yet, he’ll get to know Jesus.
In the end, what Jake and I both needed – and still need – most is God. That’s the most important common ground we share – a truth I hope to keep prominent the next time I happen to meet a tall, friendly, non-Christian guy who asks for my number. No matter how cool he seems or how long of a dry spell I’m in.
Used by permission of Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, copyright © 2006. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.
Camerin Courtney is managing editor of Today's Christian Woman magazine, author of "Table for One," and a columnist for ChristianSinglesToday.com.
Todd Hertz is an associate editor for Ignite Your Faith Magazine, formerly Campus Life. He's a frequent contributor to ChristianSinglesToday.com and ChristianityTodayMovies.com.