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Writing Christian dating advice is quite the cottage industry. More than a few online personalities have built their entire platform on listicles like:

  • Tips for Christian singles
  • Men you should/shouldn’t date
  • Girls Christian guys should avoid
  • Differences between dating a boy and dating a lumbersexual hipster man

As a writer, it’s the perfect niche market. You’ll never run out of Christian young people to advise, and you can just keep cramming the same opinions into reconfigured content. It’s like the Food Network’s crappiest show where a spastic Guy Fieri makes a different kind of meatloaf every . . . single . . . day.

Don’t be unequally yoked — dummy!

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” — 2 Corinthians 6:14

This verse is an important tool in the youth pastor’s utility belt. It ensures that young people never date outside of their faith. And even though Paul doesn’t address marriage in the entire letter, and doesn’t seem to have it in mind in this passage, it isn’t a ridiculous implication. Marriage is one of the most significant partnerships we’ll ever enter into, and it’s probably wise to consider our potential partners.

But is the unequally yoked thing a rule or a principle?

I don’t think it’s entirely possible to enter into significant relationships where I’m not unequally yoked on some level. If I publish a theology book with Zondervan, I’ve aligned myself with News Corp. and Rupert Murdoch. I don’t know about you, but that’s not who I would choose to be partnered with. But the reality is that we can’t always know everything about our potential partnerships.

In the same way, choosing a marriage partner based on the appearance of spiritual parity in your twenties and thirties is a gamble. In my early twenties, I was part of a circle of the most sincere believers you would ever want to meet. We prayed together constantly and studied our Bibles together on the regular, and most of us entered into equally-yoked marriages with other sincere believers.

Now over twenty years later, many of the people from that circle wouldn’t really consider themselves followers of Jesus any longer — or at least not in the same way they would have when they were younger. And only a couple of those marriages are still intact.

All things considered, maybe whether someone identifies as Christian or not shouldn’t be the ultimate factor in who you marry. I know it’s going to sound insanely heretical, but there are tons of people outside the church who are incredibly kind, respectful, and mature and would make a wonderful spouse for a Christian — and plenty of Christians you should be running far away from.

Is missionary dating a thing?

If you were raised in the church, you’ve heard the legends of the horrible “missionary dater.”

Missionary dating is when a Christian courts someone outside of their faith with the intention of eventually leading them to Jesus. The moral of the story is that it never works and the unbeliever eventually leads the Christian astray (probably into a questionable lifestyle that includes watching R-rated movies and voting democrat).

Here’s the thing though, I know quite a few sincere believers who have dated outside of their faith and I don’t know a single missionary dater.

When you’re dating someone and considering a life together, you have to factor in so many compatibility issues:

  • How similar are our families of origin?
  • Do we have similar goals and desires?
  • Do we both want children?
  • Do we both share the same political views?

Faith is one of the many factors one considers when thinking about a spouse. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t the most important. Not one of my friends that dated outside of their faith took it lightly or glibly — and none of them just figured, “I’ll eventually convert them to my faith.” If that was their plan, I would have encouraged the other person to dump them fast.

What’s interesting is that some of the unbelieving spouses did end up believing. So even though that wasn’t the goal, it was the outcome. Many of the others still have perfectly happy marriages that have had to include learning to be respectful of their spouse’s contrary perspectives and worldviews.

What if Bible characters wrote dating books?

Considering many biblical characters relationships’, it’s a wonder that we find it so easy to enforce a relational standard. Here’s a list of relationship books I would imagine biblical heroes would write:

  • JacobWooing the Love of Your Life after Marrying Her Sister
  • AbrahamHaving a Child — with the Help of the Help
  • EstherFulfilling God’s Plan Using Pre-marital Intimacy
  • David: When the Woman You Love Belongs to Someone Else
  • SolomonWoah, Wife #232 Has Breasts Like Gazelles! 

My point is simply that the Bible is more honest about the messiness of humanity and our relationships than Christians  often are. The idealized view of what Christian relationships should look like can be a barrier to healthy coupling. It gets even worse when we introduce stupid, fatalistic mythology into our relationships that say, “God has one perfect mate for you.” He doesn’t. But when you think he does, you spend every difficult moment in your marriage wondering, “Did I make the wrong choice?”

You want Christian dating advice? Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. When you make decisions from that place, they’ll generally be the best ones (even if they don’t necessarily look like the decisions that another Christian would make).

Paul’s promise that “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28)” is an assurance that God is at work writing his story and redeeming the world through your decisions — even the dumb ones. I think it’s entirely possible to follow your heart into places a blogger would advise you not to go, and still find yourself in the center of God’s perfect will.