What should I do when a friend is dating a nonbeliever?
Recently one of the guys who “hangs out” with this family began dating a girl who could be a Christian but doesn’t show any signs of following the Lord. Everyone seems to talk about them behind their backs (regarding how it’s bringing him down and he shouldn’t date someone if she isn’t a Christian). Sometimes I find myself involved in the conversation as well.
I’ll stop the conversation if it arises again, but I’m not sure if or how I should approach him about the relationship. He is fairly new in his Christian walk, and I would like to provide sisterly advice, but don’t know if that is my role.
To clarify, I am not interested in a relationship with him. He is like my little brother. I appreciate your suggestions.
From what you’ve shared, it sounds like the person in the best position to talk to your friend is the husband of the host couple. He is presumably older, wiser and in a position to have observed the negatives you and your friends think you see in the dating relationship. And it will be much easier for your friend to receive such input from another man. These matters are best handled man-to-man. He may also see some positives that you’re not picking up on.
It’s not uncommon for jealousy to cloud one’s vision. I know you said you’re not romantically interested in this guy, however, it’s possible that just the thought of him pairing off with another — and the effect that has on group’s dynamics — is enough to make you unhappy about their relationship.
At this point, I think an equal, and possibly greater, concern is the conversations going on “behind their backs.” The potential harm of gossip is great. Proverbs says, for example, that “a gossip separates close friends.”
While a dating couple in your midst may disrupt your group, gossip is an insidious sin with the ability to destroy the cohesion of your Christian group. You probably think you’re getting away with it, but may be surprised to learn just how aware of the back biting your male friend and his girlfriend are.
Gossip has a way of poisoning the air. If she’s not a believer, you and your friends are doing nothing to point her to Christ with such un-Christlike behavior. Your fellowship group is in a great position to be a witness to her by loving her, showing her kindness and modeling mature Christ-like actions. What a gift that would be to her and to your male friend!
Another harm of gossip is the damage it does to your own reputation. No matter how bad the actions of the person you’re “discussing” with your friends, the bad you’re committing has a way of leaving people with the feeling that they can’t trust you. In fact, Solomon cautioned people to stay away from gossips, saying that since “A gossip betrays a confidence,” you should “avoid a man who talks too much” (Proverbs 20:19).
I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of talking about other believers in the guise of “prayer requests” (I’ve done it myself). But I also know the bitter pain that can come of speaking unkind words behind someone’s back. I love what Steven Covey says when he talks about “loyalty in the absent.” We should always strive, he says, to be loyal to people, even when they’re not around. I’ve found it a tremendous help to ask myself if I would still say something if the person I’m about to discuss was standing beside me.
May God help you to love your neighbor as yourself.
P.S. In case you think my reply is too candid, too harsh or misses the point, you may be interested to know that it was well-received by the questioner. Here’s her reply to my counsel:
Regarding Gossip: Just when you think you’ve got something under control you hear others in a conversation and jump right back into the sin like it is a comfy sweater or something. Lately God has been pointing out how my mouth and ears seem to be attracted to gossip. I think the most humbling experience was two months ago when someone (who isn’t a Christian) stopped a conversation, which I was a part of, because it was gossip. I realized what I allowed to happen and repented. After I got back home things were good for a few weeks then little by little conversations kept coming by my desk at work. Even though I wasn’t saying anything, I didn’t stop the conversations. Now look, I’m back where I started. It’s so frustrating to see myself back in the same place. I have no idea how God can be so patient and forgiving. Yet I am thankful He is. I think tonight I will talk with my Pastor’s wife to get some prayer and additional accountability. Thank you for being honest with your concerns.
A few days later I received another e-mail from her:
After talking with my pastor’s wife and continuing to be in prayer the temptation to gossip is significantly less. After I started praying specifically about the temptation, the Lord began to show me how to avoid others’ gossiping — there are so many other things we can talk about. I am more cautious to steer conversations away from topics where opinions can be hurtful towards others. I don’t know why we got stuck on things that just brought others down. Anyway, thank you for your honesty.
Her response is a model of how to walk away from sin toward righteousness in the context of Christian community. I’m so grateful for her willingness to share from a point of weakness, that we might all be challenged by it.
Copyright 2007 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Candice Watters is a wife, mom, and Bible teacher. She is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, co-founder with her husband, Steve, of Boundless.org and co-author of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. They have four children and blog at FamilyMaking.com.