The relationship was going smoothly. He was intelligent, funny and considerate. I had passed him numerous times in the hallways of my university over the past three years. He finally spoke to me last semester and asked me out.
Although I had just “officially” met him the previous week, we had already gone on three dates in five days. Everything appeared to be just fine. Then, I asked the all-important question:
“Are you a Christian?”
With a frustrated sigh, he replied, “I knew you were going to ask this question. I’ve been preparing for it.” Pause. “No, I’m not.”
Deciding how to respond when you find out your date is an unbeliever can be extremely challenging; it was for me. At first, I didn’t know how to reply. I knew that the Bible states not to be “yoked together with unbelievers.” But I wondered whether a few dates could even count as “being yoked.” Surely not, I thought. We weren’t even officially dating. This was only friendship, right?
Yet another question came up: Could I justify investing time, energy and maybe even my heart in a potential romantic relationship that’s not biblically grounded? Again, surely not.
Should I blurt out, “It was nice knowing you!” and abandon the awkward scene? Surely not.
How should you and I as Christians respond when we discover we’re dating a non-Christian? Here are three things to try:
Live It Out
OK, the first way to respond should actually happen before the situation arises. Let’s call it a pre-response. As Christians, you and I should live according to God’s Word and His direction in all aspects of our lives. Everything we do should point others to Christ because we shouldn’t “conform to the pattern of this world.” This means we’re not afraid to apply a biblical worldview to everything, whether we’re on campus, at work, or at the coffee shop. We should be fearless in our faith. We should confidently say “no” to activities that are compromising, unwise or contrary to Scripture. People – including potential dates – will know where we stand if we boldly show character and live our faith for all to see.
Living it out also means that we should be ready to decline dates. We shouldn’t be endangering our hearts just because we feel obligated to be kind. Likewise, dating a non-Christian (missionary dating) in order to witness to him or her is not OK. Missionary dating can be dangerous. A connection will inevitably develop, making it more difficult to break things off down the road. Instead, let your date know that your relationship with God is primary in your life, so you can’t pursue anything more than friendship. This way, expectations will be clear, and neither of your hearts will be unnecessarily compromised.
That said, discovering your date isn’t a Christian (as I did) doesn’t mean that you should freak out and sprint to the exit. Instead, use the opportunity to ask questions about your date’s beliefs. Questions show that we care, regardless of our differences.
The questions I asked my date allowed me to demonstrate the love of Christ as well as “give the reason for the hope that [I] have.” My interest in my date’s life increased his receptivity toward my own beliefs and allowed me to share the gospel with him. He didn’t immediately convert to Christianity; in fact, he didn’t convert at all. But this discussion of differences allowed space for a rich conversation that would’ve never happened if I had just rushed away.
Be Kind, but Set Boundaries
After that conversation, I struggled to know how to interact with my date moving forward. I realized that immediately texting him 25-30 convicting Bible verses wouldn’t be smart. But I also knew that blocking his number and avoiding him in the hallways wasn’t reasonable, either.
What’s the alternative? Provide the option to keep communication open, but set firm boundaries. Let your date know you’re willing to have conversations about faith and life. However, you don’t want to lead them on. Extensive communication or large amounts of one-on-one time is not a good idea. Instead, invite him or her to church or a Bible study or just out hiking with your friends. These opportunities can allow a friendship to continue without suggesting a romantic attachment where there is none.
Overall, we need to remember to be wise and intentional in our interactions, especially with unbelievers. God might use us as witnesses to them, but He’s perfectly capable of changing hearts in His own way. At the same time, we can stand up for our convictions while still demonstrating kindness. After all, Christ inside us could be what attracted our dates to us in the first place – they just didn’t know it.
EmilyRae Burton is Boundless’ summer intern. She’s from Prattville, Alabama and is studying English and Graphic Design at Auburn University — Montgomery. She loves the outdoors, classic literature, and BBC mysteries.