Meeting this woman has set my heart on fire for God again after a long period of not praying and staying away from the Word. I felt like I was running away from God until this girl showed up in my life.
How should I show her who Christ is? Is it OK to pursue a further relationship in hopes that she might believe in Christ?
Thanks for writing and asking these serious and important questions. Let me take your two questions in reverse order.
First, as believers in Christ, we want to test all of our desires and decisions by God’s Word as set forth in Scripture. By that standard, dating a non-Christian in the hope that he or she will later come to Christ — what some call “missionary dating” — is always unwise and almost always involves clear sin. Let me explain.
Scripture is clear that we are not to marry unbelievers. After making several other pronouncements on married life, Paul instructs in 1 Corinthians 7:39 that when a widow remarries, she may marry anyone she wishes “only in the Lord (the NIV translates the verse to instruct that the potential husband “must belong to the Lord”). Also, Ephesians 5:22-33, the fullest exposition in scripture on God’s purpose in marriage and how it should function, describes a marriage that glorifies God: Each partner is fulfilling his or her role in the marriage for the purpose of illustrating the relationship between Christ and the church.
More specifically, wives are to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord” (v.22), and husbands are to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” for her spiritual good as defined by Scripture (v.25-27). Only believers can act with the purpose of glorifying God by applying existing faith to his or her God-assigned role in marriage (Romans 8:7-8). For a follower of Christ, intentional marriage to an unbeliever is contrary to Scripture and therefore is sin.
It’s also true, as I have written many times before (check out the first article in my “Biblical Dating” series for one example), that the purpose of dating is not recreation, or to “practice being married.” The purpose of dating is to find a spouse. It stands to reason, then, that if one cannot marry an unbeliever, it is at least spectacularly unwise — and nearly always an indication of sin — to search for a spouse among unbelievers.
Maybe you’re a person who knows one of the very rare instances in which missionary dating “worked out,” in the sense that the unbeliever involved came to Christ either before or very shortly after the wedding. Even on the rare occasions when God uses those circumstances in that way, it doesn’t mean that the original pursuit on the part of the believer was a wise or godly decision. And the simple fact is that efforts at missionary dating usually don’t “work out.” I have heard from and talked to many, many people over the years who married someone in the context of missionary dating or dating a person who was a very new believer, only to have the person later renounce Christ — with devastating consequences for the marriage and the spiritual and emotional wellbeing of both the believing and non-believing spouse.
In short, my friend, while it may be hard for you to hear, given your affection for the woman you wrote about, I strongly caution you against continuing in any kind of dating or other close relationship with her until you clearly determine that she is a genuine follower of Jesus. Please trust me when I tell you that temptation, sin and heartache lie down the other path.
To answer your other question, if she’s not a believer, there are at least two things you can do for the good of her soul. First, you or a female believing friend can share with her the Gospel of Jesus Christ: that there is a perfectly holy God who created the world and all that is in it (including mankind) by His word and for His glory (Genesis 1-2); that we as human beings have sinned against this perfectly holy God, and therefore we deserve and are under His just condemnation (Genesis 3; Romans 3, Ephesians 2:1-3); that God, because of His great love and mercy, sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life and die on the cross as a substitute, to atone for the sins of all those who would repent of their sins and believe in Him, and to restore those who believe in Him to eternal fellowship with God (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:4-9; Acts 4:12); and that God raised Jesus from the dead, to make clear to the world that Jesus is God’s Son, and that all He said about Himself and the Gospel is true (Luke 24:1-12; Acts 3:12-21).
Second, invite her to church. (That assumes, of course, that you yourself are a regular, active attender or member of a solid, Bible-believing church. If not, that should be your first order of business — for the sake of your own soul.) Introduce this woman to other women at the church who can get to know her, share Christ with her, and, if she has interest, disciple her. As much as you may desire to see this woman come to Christ, your own feelings (and hers) mean that you are not the right “point person” to shepherd her through that journey. As you wrote in your question, trust God in all of this. He knows your desires and He is good.
I will pray for this woman’s soul, for your own growth in Christ, and for wisdom in the face of temptation.
For His glory,
Copyright Scott Croft 2016. All rights reserved.