A few nights ago I was talking with a friend — we’ll call her Jenny — who has been spending some time with a certain single guy. They have mutual friends. He’s new to her small town and doesn’t know many people. And they share some common interests. Now, under ordinary circumstances, you might think this friendship has the potential for more. The thing is, this guy — we’ll call him James — though very nice, is not a believer.
Because they don’t share their faith in common, Jenny has looked upon her relationship with James as just a good friendship. In fact, as far as I can tell, her emotions have not slipped into entertaining even an inkling of romantic inclination. However, as all good male-female friendships tend to go, Jenny and James recently reached a crossroads in their friendship.
Jenny called to tell me that James has recently been releasing little flirty comments into the text-o-sphere. For example, “My friends asked me where my ‘girlfriend’ was tonight.” And that wasn’t the first time he’d dropped the g-word (girlfriend). Jenny asked me how she should broach the subject with James of her personal conviction not to date unbelievers.
This made me think of the times I have handled — sometimes badly — this situation. One time, at a party, a friend of a friend asked me if I would like to go out on a date. Knowing that he wasn’t a Christian, I unfortunately blasted him with my bluntness: “I’m flattered, but I only date Christians.”
After an awkward, squirming moment, he uncomfortably said, “And I’m definitely not one.” Then he made an excuse to exit stage right. I knew the moment the words left my mouth that I hadn’t been a great testimony in my response. At the same time, I couldn’t think of what else to say. I’d told the truth.
Several years later, I found myself in a similar situation. I had struck up a friendship with a guy who was not a Christian, and he began making it clear that he had dating on his mind. This time I sent an e-mail, explaining that I had picked up on his attentions toward me and that I took dating seriously and considered a shared faith the most important factor. He took it well, and our friendship continues to this day.
If you hold the conviction not to date unbelievers, how do you communicate this in a graceful way? (For a primer on why shared faith is a biblical principle for relationships, I recommend Carolyn McCulley’s article “Same-Lord Relationships.”)
Thankfully, the day after we spoke, Jenny had a great opportunity to talk about her faith and view on relationships with James before he even asked her on a date. “I think he understood where I’m coming from and won’t ask me out,” she said. Now she is excited about the opportunity to be a testimony to James of what it looks like to be a godly, intentional single. How have you handled romantic offers from those who don’t share your faith? How can Christian singles express grace in the turndown?