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Can a Believer Date and Marry an Unbeliever?

Within marriage, there needs to be unity, yet this cannot happen between a believer and an unbeliever. There would be constant friction because one would be following Jesus while the other will not.

Contributing Writer
Updated Aug 18, 2022
Can a Believer Date and Marry an Unbeliever?

The topic of Christians dating or marrying an unbeliever is a popular subject in the modern day. Numerous individuals have approached me concerning this topic and asked me about my own thoughts and views on this issue.

Whenever we come to a conclusion on any matter, we need to come to a conclusion from our reading of the Bible. While the Bible does not specifically address dating, the Bible does address marriage. In this article, we are going to be discussing if a believer can date and/or marry an unbeliever.

Dating and Marriage

Since dating should only be done with the purpose of pursuing a relationship for marriage, a Christian should not just “date around.” Many Christians feel it is fine to date an unbeliever because they don’t have the intention of marrying their unbelieving date.

As Christians, we should only date others in pursuit of seeing if the other person is someone we are going to marry. Dating an unbeliever is not “harmless.” There are many dangers with dating an unbeliever, even if you do not have the intention of marrying the individual.

The Bible strictly prohibits marriage between a believer and an unbeliever. 2 Corinthians 6:14 tells us directly, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

As Paul tells us in this passage, a believer cannot be yoked together with an unbeliever. Paul tells us this vital piece of information to help us, not to hinder us. If a believer dates or marries an unbeliever, it will hinder their relationship with Christ.

Since the unbeliever doesn’t believe in God, then there cannot be a secure foundation based on God in the relationship. If the believer and unbeliever disagree on the most important Person of the entire world, Jesus Christ, then how can they have unity in the marriage?

Within marriage, there needs to be unity, yet this cannot happen between a believer and an unbeliever. There would be constant friction because one would be following Jesus while the other will not.

If your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife is not a believer, how can they help you grow in your relationship with the Lord? Since your unbelieving partner doesn’t believe in God, they won’t pray with you, pray for you, go to church with you, or have a relationship with the Lord.

This is not to say that unbelievers are not kind because they can be. I have known many unbelievers, and some of them are the kindest people I have ever known.

Thus, unbelievers can be extremely kind and sweet, but if they do not know Jesus as their Savior, a believer cannot date or marry them — no matter how nice, sweet, or kind they may be.

Not being able to date or marry an unbeliever might seem like legalistic teaching, but it truly is not. God is not restricting believers in this manner but rather helping them. He knows if both spouses are believers that, they will be able to build up each other in the Lord.

Despite what we may believe, if we date or marry an unbeliever, they will influence us. More than likely, the unbelieving partner will influence the believer more than the believer will influence them.

Many individuals feel they can help bring their unbelieving partner to the Lord, but ultimately, none of us can “make” another person believe in Christ and accept Him as their Savior. An individual has to make this decision themselves.

Simply because you marry an unbeliever does not mean that they will accept the Lord at some time during your marriage. The more likely result will be that they will influence you and cause you to drift away from your relationship with the Lord.

As Christians, our most important relationship is with the Lord, not with anyone else. Our first priority always needs to be the Lord.

Built Upon God

Biblical marriages need to be built upon God and His Word. God created marriage as Genesis 2:22-24 tells us,

Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

The Bible also tells us, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:9).

When marriage is between two believers, the marriage is built upon God and His Word. This doesn’t mean marriage between believers will never have problems, yet it does mean that the believers will be able to work through their problems and issues through praying to God, talking to one another, and the Word of God.

A marriage between two believers brings God glory and helps mirror the relationship of Christ and the Church. Just as Christ cares for the church, men and women should care about their spouses (Ephesians 5:25-33).

Dangers of Dating and Marrying an Unbeliever

Dating or marrying an unbeliever is not harmless. I personally grew up in a home where my parents’ relationship was not built upon the Lord. This is what happens when a believer marries an unbeliever.

The unbeliever will have no desire to build the marriage upon God despite the best efforts of the believer. My mom was a believer, but my dad did not become a believer until after my mom passed.

Thus, throughout their marriage, my mom was the only believer in the relationship, which caused constant friction.

My sisters and I grew up seeing this friction, and let me tell you, friend, it was not a happy relationship. No matter how much you may think you love your unbelieving boyfriend or girlfriend if you marry them, there are going to be problems.

There will be constant disagreements and friction in your relationship. It was very rare that there was not an argument in our household.

As young children, my sisters and I remember hiding in the bedroom as we heard the arguments and the screaming between our parents, and as a result, we developed negative views of marriage.

Constant screaming, yelling, and friction caused me as a young child to wonder if my parents would get a divorce. They never got a divorce, which was good, but there were always problems, nonetheless.

I tell you this to help warn you and caution you against dating or marrying an unbeliever. Even if you think your unbelieving partner is the “person of your dreams,” you need to weigh it against Scripture.

The Lord doesn’t want you to pursue a relationship with an unbeliever, nor does He want you to marry an unbeliever because He knows it will cause a rift in your relationship with Him.

As Christians, our first love will always be God, and we cannot leave Him on the sidelines for someone who doesn't love Him.

If you are currently dating an unbeliever, it is best to leave the relationship. You can still be friends, but dating should not be pursued.

If you are currently married to an unbeliever, you should not seek a divorce, but try your best to help them know Christ and model Christ in your actions. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 7:12-14,

To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

Thus, dating and marriage between a believer and an unbeliever need to be discouraged and not pursued (2 Corinthians 6:14). God gives us this command not to restrict us, but to give us true freedom.

Marriage between a believer and an unbeliever will be filled with friction, pain, and grief. Before you start to date someone, check first that they are a Christian and that they truly love the Lord.

As a Christian, who loves the Lord, make sure you don’t allow your emotions to cloud your judgment and cause you to drift away from your pure devotion to the Lord.

For further reading:

What Does it Mean to Be Unequally Yoked in Marriage?

Why Are Husbands Told to Love Their Wives?

What Is the Biblical Definition of Marriage?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Jeffrey Hamilton

Vivian BrickerVivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.

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