Was breaking up with my non-Christian boyfriend a mistake?

advice header image

Was breaking up with my non-Christian boyfriend a mistake?

Sep 20, 2010 |Candice Watters
Question

I'm a recent college grad who fell in love with a guy who is Muslim but not really practicing. I told him I was a practicing Christian. He is a beautiful guy inside and out. We dated for about nine-and-a-half months, during which I met his entire family, all his friends and people close to him. He has always treated me with respect and been very honest.

I, however, felt shameful in coming into the presence of God knowing that I was giving myself in every way to a guy who did not know Christ. I got the strength one night and decided to break up with him. I've been struggling ever since.

I feel as though I made a mistake in letting him go. We had talked about marriage, and he would be a great father. While we dated, he went to church with me, and since we broke up he has told me he plans to keep going to church.

One night he called me out of the blue and told me he didn't know that the Christian faith said it was OK to “discriminate” against others. To that, I had nothing to say. A piece of me wants to call him and get back together. It's not his fault that he was brought up in a country with other customs and beliefs. Can't I, as a Christian woman, maintain a relationship with him showing him the love of Christ and what peace, joy and contentment means?

Is there any way around this?

Answer

Given how hard it can be in our culture to find a marriage-minded man who seems like he would be a good husband and father, I can understand why it's been so hard to let your boyfriend go. You're not the first woman to ask a question like this!

But Scripture is clear: as believers, we are to marry believers (2 Corinthians 6:14). In short, there is no way around this.

Even if he were to promise to never get in the way of you raising your children in the Christian faith, it would still not be enough. God designed Christian marriage to be a picture, a symbol, of Christ's relationship with the church. And if the husband in a union doesn't acknowledge Jesus as Lord, He can't possibly lead with the sacrificial love of Christ (Ephesians 5). Doing so requires supernatural grace that simply isn't available to those who don't receive it through Christ's death, resurrection and gift of salvation.

I've known people who ignored 2 Corinthians 6:14 only to find it unbearably painful and difficult to be married to a mate who doesn't serve and love their Lord. Things only get worse when babies arrive. One friend of mine is in an ongoing struggle with his wife to get her permission to take their children to church with him on Sundays. And certainly there are couples whose stories take an even darker, more dangerous turn.

Scripture also calls fathers to lead their children by training them in godliness and raising them in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Again, without Christ's Lordship, this is impossible. To think your boyfriend would be a “great father” is to limit your idea of greatness to what the world esteems.

This raises the issue of your thinking. I fear it's become cloudy. You say, “He's a beautiful guy inside and out.” But without Christ's redeeming blood covering him, this is impossible. Our best selves next to God are as filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:23)

You say “he's not really practicing his Muslim faith” and that you told him that you are “a practicing Christian.” Based on your actions though, I'd say you're not really practicing your faith either. James said “faith without works is dead,” and Jesus told His followers “if you love me, you will obey my commands.”

I say this not to condemn you, but to help you see that your “decision to follow God” and break up with your boyfriend wasn't really your decision, but God's mercy through His Holy Spirit, calling you to repentance. This is important. If it was all you deciding, then changing your mind is less serious. But if it was God's Spirit calling you back from a precipice, you're in grave danger if you go back on your decision, and in need of great humility and repentance before His throne of grace.

All the confusion you're feeling is not without cause. Sexual sin always muddles our ability to think clearly. And that makes our spiritual enemy very happy. He'd much rather you make these life-shaping decisions based on emotions than on the truth. (1 Peter 5:8.)

It's understandable that you're having trouble breaking free of this relationship, especially if you've already become one sexually. But that doesn't make it excusable. Sex was designed to bond husband and wife for life; that's why it's so powerful. And also why it's so dangerous when you're having it outside the covenant of marriage.

Sex bonds two people. God designed it that way. It's stronger than super glue or any other adhesive, stronger even than two things being sewn or knit together. The act of sexual intimacy makes two people one flesh. It happens in the natural realm, but more powerfully, in the spiritual realm. This is essential for strong marriages and provides a staying power to couples — a great benefit and gift, given the challenges of walking out the covenant of marriage over a lifetime. This is all very good.

The problem is that the adhesive properties of sex exist not only within marriage, but outside it. That means that people who have sex without a commitment still have the one-flesh reality at work. This is why it's so hard to end a bad relationship, a sinful relationship, even a dangerous relationship between two people who are being sexual intimate (and this includes sexual activity that's shy of intercourse but not shy of climax). It's hard, but not impossible.

Knowing why it feels so wrong to be without him will help you do what's right: stay broken up. The fact that you feel like you should be together is understandable — you were living and acting like a married couple. But your feelings aren't reliable. They shift. And your hormones aren't dependable. They don't know that they were activated without the benefit of a covenant. This is where you have to use your brain to override your feelings.

This is why it's so essential to study what the Bible has to say about the consequences of sin and God's design for sex within marriage.

Ecclesiastes 8:1 says, “As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it.” You might be thinking, is what we did really wicked? Our sex-any-way-you-want-it culture would laugh at the idea.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

But there's good news, too. Christ came to set the captives free. Wickedness won't release you. But Christ will! He can redeem you. There's also something you can do. You can flee temptation. He's given you the grace to break up. Now it's your turn to take that freedom and run. Run hard the other direction. It won't feel right, but it is right.

2 Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

You're going to have to make a decision, an act of your will, to turn away from what you know is wrong. But it's not just a mental exercise. And it's not just you. The Holy Spirit is vital. He's the helper, the one who can convict your heart of the truth and give you the power to walk away from sin, toward life.

And as that verse in 2 Timothy says, other believers are a big part of your victory, too. You need the body of Christ, the church, to help you pursue righteousness.

I'm sorry to hear you're suffering. But I pray you will be strong and courageous, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and make wise decisions that will be subject to the Lord's blessing rather than His discipline.

Blessings,
CANDICE WATTERS

P.S. About this matter of discrimination. It sounds very much like he is trying to manipulate you back into a relationship with his statement.

Galatians 3:28 does say, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” So in one sense, your ex-boyfriend is right. But he's taking that verse out of context by using it to say you have no reason to not date and marry him. He's pulling that verse out from the rest of Scripture to the neglect of verses like the one above about not marrying unbelievers. This is evidence of superficial understanding of the Christian faith, as well as proof that you would indeed be unequally yoked.

We think not discriminating is the noble, high-minded thing to do. And we think we're all supposed to be non-discriminating, not only in a legal sense, but also in a personal one. We've lost a right understanding of the word. Discrimination isn't inherently bad. In it's original form, discriminate simply means “to distinguish.”

It's one thing for our country's laws to say you can't discriminate against a person of another race, color or creed when deciding to rent out your apartment or fill seats in your restaurant. It's quite another to say you can't discriminate in your choice of a husband.

Let's be clear: Deciding to get married is all about discrimination. Everyone who decides to say “I do” is at the same time saying “I don't.” That's the whole point of getting married. You're saying you will be with one and only one man for the rest of your life. You're very publicly discriminating against every other man in the world, saying you won't be with them. Ever.

It's not that your ex-boyfriend doesn't want you to discriminate. He does. He wants you to discriminate in his favor. And he's trying to pressure you into it. He's being dishonest about his intentions and trying to manipulate you in the process. This is a red flag all its own.

Copyright 2010 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

If you have a question you'd like us to consider for this column, please send it to editor@boundless.org. Please note that all questions we select for this column may be edited for clarity and privacy and become the property of Focus on the Family.

Donate

Like what you see?

If you’ve enjoyed this article, will you consider giving a tax-deductible gift to Boundless right now? We’re a donor-funded ministry, and we rely on friends like you to help keep us going! DONATE NOW »

References
  • .

THE BOUNDLESS BUZZ

Get the FREE e-book A Girl's Guide to Marrying Well or A Guy's Guide to Marrying Well when you sign up for our e-newsletter.