Unbelievers, Please Don’t Be Yoked With Believers

In my lifetime, I tend to have a lot of spiritual conversations with people that I’ve never met. I get pegged as the pastor or religious guy and then end up talking about some pretty sensitive and deep issues with people in the middle of a crowded room. Good thing I love it.

Last weekend I was at a friend’s birthday party and I got talking to this guy who found out I was a pastor and then wanted me to talk to his fiance about the Christian faith and why it was so important for her to have it. So the wife comes over and joins the conversation and I spent the majority of the first part of the conversation just listening to them express each of their sides and why they thought the other person was missing the point. The Christian guy just wanted his fiance to “have faith” and to accept God as a reality in her life because it meant so much to him. The girl, who has no religious upbringing, didn’t understand why it had to be his God, or his Bible, or his explanation of truth. She also didn’t want to get married in any kind of way that would offend or give a middle finger to her gay friends (by having the minister say that marriage was only between a man and a woman).

This conversation begun as the Christian trying to get me on his side to ‘make’ his fiance see that we were right and that she just needed to believe the way that he did. The conversation ended with me telling him that he needed to practice humility and do better at listening and seeing the world from another person’s shoes and admit that maybe she had something to offer to this conversation and that he didn’t have all the right answers. In what would normally be perceived as an opportunity to evangelize and gain a new convert, I couldn’t help seeing that the real conversion needed to happen to the Christian in this circumstance. His view was one sided, unsympathetic, over-powering and lacking compassion. The unbeliever in this case though was asking real questions, wanted truth and was wrestling with how to get there and how to oppress others along the way. The believer just wanted the unbeliever to believe what he absolutely knew to be true and the unbeliever wanted to know why and get to the heart of the issues and seemed to have a godly heart.

It was in that moment as the tables turned in that conversation that I realized that it wasn’t the Christian that was going to suffer by marrying an unbeliever. The general rule that is espoused throughout the church is that Christians shouldn’t marry non-Christians because it will drag you down. I’d like to offer another suggestion though to all that wouldn’t consider themselves a believer. Don’t be unequally yoked with believers. They could limit your search for truth and make it less likely that you will ever find Jesus or truth on your own. There is a chance that they will be full of ignorance and arrogance that their belief is the right one and demean you and your journey and not give you the room to explore a spirituality that you need. They may only try to introduce you too their version of Christianity and you might have to just sign on to be with the one you love. Don’t do it. It’s not worth it and they may in fact just drag you down to a level of intellectual stagnation that you would be ashamed of.

6 Comments

  • Bam! If all you’re looking for is someone to cross the finish line into the chosen few, you’ve got some issues brewing. I think it’s really solid advice to folks on a spiritual quest not to be tied to those with all the answers. That would be a very unhealthy relationship. That said, it’s about more than intellect. It’s just as much about emotional and “spiritual” stagnation.

    Discourse and dialogue, ideas and knowledge help us to describe our journey, our discoveries and experiences, but they are not, in the end, the ultimate arbiter of truth.

  • Permit me a moment of deconstruction!

    You contrast his view with her’s (and presumably your own) describing his view as, “one sided, unsympathetic, over-powering and lacking compassion,” while her view is characterized by, “asking real questions, want[ing] truth and wrestling with how to get there…”. Furthermore, he “just wanted the unbeliever to believe what he absolutely knew to be true,” whilst she, “wanted to know why and get to the heart of the issues and seemed to have a godly heart.”

    OK, so, I question the charitability of your readings of these two folks here. You clearly favour the female, but why? Perhaps you identify with her “asking real questions” and “honest searching for the truth”. But, here’s the thing, I doubt he is as unsympathetic and uncompassionate as you make him out to be, just as I doubt she is as honest and genuine. And, here’s the other thing, “asking real questions” (I’m not really sure what that means, even!) etc. is not in and of itself a virtuous endeavour. After all, most people who ask “real questions” usually have some other anterior motive guiding their questioning, that is if they haven’t already made up their mind on the matter!

    Oh, I’d also challenge your point that unbelievers can, “find Jesus or truth on [their] own.” Certainly, we get no sense of this from Scripture, do we? Folks don’t simply stumble upon the truth, they are confronted by it. And they are not simply confronted by it generally and confusingly, but are confronted by it clearly and specifically in the risen Jesus. And to be confronted by the risen Jesus is to be confronted by Jesus *and his Body, that is, the church*. So, there is not “finding Jesus on our own”, at least not in any sort of historically Christian sense. But you’re right, at least in the sense that the risen Jesus does indeed, “limit [our] search for truth,” namely, because he is himself the Truth.

    Alright, now something a bit more constructive. You say that Christians often discourage believers marrying unbelievers, “because it will drag you down.” Surely, there is truth to this. However, I’d say that this isn’t the primary reason. Rather, my guess would be that the primary reason lies in the fact that the husband and wife are one (in Christ), and what has light to do with the dark?

    OK, I’ve said too much already (sorry, I couldn’t resist. I’m weak.). There are other items I could take issue with (i.e. you’re jab at the end whereby you suggest that unbelievers are somehow less “intellectually stagnant” than believers) but this should suffice.

    If I were to put on my “psychotherapist hat”, my guess would be that this post has more to do with you than anything else. So, to conclude, a question perhaps you want to reflect on (not here): why does this bother you so much?

    Peace!

  • 2nd paragraph, 2nd to last line should read, “ulterior motive”.

  • OK, Strangelove. Your point is well taken. I in no way was trying to promote that I was a objective player in the situation. The entire post was more to be a little tongue and cheek thought practice for Christians that very possibly the ‘unequal yoke’ might be the Christians fault instead of the unbeliever. I grew up in a culture where Christians were inindated with a belief that they were somehow superior because they were Christians and that to date a non-Christian would be getting ‘dragged’ down. So I thought maybe a little wake up call was in order, that it isn’t necessarily true and that there is (and was) cases where the unbeliever actually had a spiritual maturity surpassing that of the Christian. And you are right – what does light have to do with the dark. This was far from me trying to do a proper exegesis of the verse and more just swinging the pendulum hard in the other direction to expose a bit of the ridiculousness of it if we see ‘unequal’ as meaning less or greater than.

    So at least that explains my intent with a post like this. My intent was not to judge one individual over another (which is why you’ll never know their names or who I’m talking about) but just make a charactiture sketch to help make a general point. I am not trying to paint with a broad brush here. It’s also why I felt like picking favourites might be the best tactic to accomplish my task as it tends to greater emphasize the weakness in such comparisons all together.

    So let me answer your questions

    1. I favour her (in this story) because she wasn’t saying “i’m right and you need to think like me” and he was. She was willing to listen and he found it much more difficult to do because the language she was using was foreign to him.

    2. Why do you doubt that he was unsympathetic and uncompassionate and she was genuine and honest? Just because you can’t see that there would be too such contrasting sides and that people are not all bad or all good? I think it was a fair assessment in our thirty minute conversation to note that these traits were pretty strong in both of them.

    3. Yes, I agree with you about your questions. However, the main difference being that he wasn’t asking her anything, he was telling her what she needed to think. He seemed to be guided by conviction that he didn’t understand and didn’t care to, he just wanted her to be guided by the same conviction. So while she was also guided by a conviction it wasn’t the convivtion of “my view is right and you should believe what I do” it was more “who am i hurting, how can I hold onto my doubt and not fall apart.”

    4. Your paragraph on truth and Jesus, I agree. Though in the same way that I would confront the street preacher for ‘sharing truth’ I would confront this guy for making the same mistakes while going about it. Truly I think that he has something that she doesn’t, or at least isn’t able to articulate (neither of them could very well) and that I would love for them to be able to work towards better unity on this together. Also, I in no way am trying to suggest to unbelievers to break up with believers because of that label.

    5. You ask me why this bothers me so much? I don’t think it bothers me at all really. To be quite honest, I love the conversations and I love helping people understand each other better and discipling people and moving along this path. This post all started with me thinking how hilarious it was that I grew up constantly hearing that Christians shouldn’t date non-Christians because it was usually understood that like you said what does light have to do with the dark” but I think if we are honest with each ourselves we can admit that the answer to that question might be ALOT. There is light and dark in me not just one or the other and there is light and dark in both people in this situation. And to demonize one over the other based on a label is futile (something I proved I feel with this post). What bothers me is sweeping judgments and direction that doesn’t take into account anything beyond someone’s immature understanding of their own faith.

    So you are right to question my words and approach, I probably could have done it better. When I said “Don’t be unequally yoked with believers” I’m just turning the tables a bit, because I find that fun to do, and not trying to suggest a rule to live by.

  • Hey, thanks for the response! I’m not meaning to be a confrontational ass here or anything, I just thought the post was interesting enough to respond to is all.

    But yes, having grown up in a similar sort of environment (same denomination if I remember correctly) of course I am familiar with much of what you’re saying. And if we use the term “unequal” to refer to some sort of inherent attribute of a person so as to make some “greater” and others “less” then yes, that’s worth attacking! After all, that is surely not what Jesus meant by “unequal”, so right on.

    However, I see merit in the language of light and dark. Jesus did say those things, right? But you’re right, still, these aren’t words that label attributes in people. The line between good/evil runs through every human heart, as you rightly note. As far as I can tell, “light” and “dark” refer to one’s “being in Christ”, so to speak. So, if I am so bold as to say that I am in the light, it is not because there is a thing called “light” which I possess as an attribute but because I am in Christ by virtue of my baptism into him and my eating and drinking of his flesh and blood etc. Of course, there is a sense in which every single human creature is “in Christ”, in that Christ took on flesh and our humanity is taken up into him and reconciled (all of it, everywhere). But, the gospel demands a response of some sort, and this is what we call faith. Of course, you know all of this and so I’m not trying to convince you of anything you’re not already convinced of. My point is just that if you can acknowledge all of this then it’s not a very far leap to acknowledge the wisdom that says believers shouldn’t marry non-believers, however crudely that might be put (and sometimes it is put *very* crudely, and need be corrected).

  • I enjoy the banter! Keep it coming.

    Yes Jesus said these things (of light and dark) but when he says things I am hesitant to assume the meaning behind them, especially if that meaning inherently creates an us and them scenario (which this seems to do). I am especially hesitant to use it when one person claims to be on the more “positive” side of the phrase and puts the other into the negative side, which it is clear here that one side is better than the other.

    So by saying that unbelievers shouldn’t be with believers, I’m somewhat casting the label of ‘dark’ onto ourselves (those Baptised) and saying you really shouldn’t date our kind, because we are messed up and might actually mess up your journey.

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