In the following article, we take a look at what does the Bible say. We know that the Bible contains everything necessary for life and godliness. God doesn’t leave us hanging on this all important issue. Take a look at the comprehensive list of verses below with an open mind and a desire to obey God’s Word above everything else.
The central teaching on the issue of believers dating/courting non-believers.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,
“I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM;
AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.
“Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord.
“AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN;
And I will welcome you.
“And I will be a father to you,
And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,”
Says the Lord Almighty.
Thoughts: Paul here makes five contrasts here as to why believers should not be bound together with unbelievers. He contrasts righteousness and lawlessness. Believers have the righteousness of Christ. Unbelievers are enslaved to sin.
He contrasts light with darkness. Jesus has opened the eyes of believers and shown them the light. Unbelievers are in the dark, slaves of sin, and blind to the truth. Jesus also warned us to beware of “blind guides” (Matthew 15:14. On a side point, generally the two sides of a dating relationship will both give advice to the other side on many life issues. It would be unfair to be in this kind of relationship and never listen to the other side, but if you do listen to the other side it is listening to a blind guide.)
He contrasts Christ and Belial (that is Satan). No one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). There is no middle. Either we belong to Christ or we belong to Satan. There should be no partnership between the two.
He contrasts the believer and unbeliever. From 2 Corinthians 5:17 we know that the believer is a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come. One cannot mix old and new. (On another side note, the believer still has old flesh nature as well as the new nature. The unbeliever only has the sin nature, not the new nature. This will be two against one.)
Finally, he contrasts the temple of God with idols. As believers, even our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. We are supposed to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God. Unbelievers are dedicated to fleshly desires: sex, money, security, big house, education, career, position, fame, etc. These cannot mix.
Even after that, he quotes God’s command that we be separate from the world. Romans 12:2 tells us not to conform to the world or its ways. We have to be set apart and dedicated to God. How can we be set apart to God if we are involved in a dating relationship with an unbeliever?
Some believers say that they want to practice “missionary dating”. This is dating with the purpose to lead others to Christ. Please read the other articles for the response to this. In short, this is never a practice condoned or recommended by God. He has already set His principles in this area that we should follow. It rarely, if ever, works. It creates possible wrong motivations for the unbeliever that will question any profession of faith that is made. And more often than not, it isn’t really the reason a believer is pursuing the relationship. Rather it is a justification or an excuse to continue the relationship and fulfill their own desires.
The above verses are rightly applied by the evangelical church as a whole to include marriage. But most also agree it doesn’t only include marriage, but ANY unholy alliances (see 1 Peter 2:9). This definitely includes dating/courtship relationships. Those involved in these dating relationship are clearly bound together. That is why when the relationship ends it is called “breaking up”. You don’t “break up” something that is not bound. The girlfriend would be very angry if her boyfriend had several girlfriends. Why? Because they are bound together, yoked together. They have committed themselves to each other, even if only for a period of time. Dating relationships will also bring an emotional bond. The two sides rely on each other for support and call each other when they need help. Why? Because they are emotionally bound. Also, many times this emotional bound will lead to physical bounding together in intimacy. It doesn’t always lead to that, but the real temptation is possible and enhanced by the fact that one side doesn’t have godly morals. It is already hard for believers to resist temptation and stay pure. It is much harder when one is not a believer.
Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
Thoughts: Shouldn’t your closest companion be agreed with you on the most important thing in life? If two are not agreed on the most important things, there will be lots of problems later on. How will these problems be reconciled? Most likely they will be solved by the believer giving in, at least a lot of the time.
Verses on getting and listening to counsel
Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Without consultation, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they succeed.
Listen to counsel and accept discipline, That you may be wise the rest of your days.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
Thoughts: It is clear from Scripture that believers should get counsel in major decisions. This includes many things such as adopting a child, moving to another country, and also of course dating/courtship and marriage. Of all things, we are the most subjective about romantic relationships. Our feelings cloud the issue. Therefore it is all the more important to get counsel from godly believers.
What is the purpose of getting counsel? It is not just so that we can say we did it. But it is to seek God’s will! So how should we respond when much or all counsel is against something? We should listen! This is a protection that God gives to believers to keep us from making mistakes. This is why there is a church and fellowship. It is to help us. What if we think the counsel is wrong? Perhaps many or all our counselors misunderstand the Scripture or misinterpret it. What should we do? We should still submit ourselves to it and pray that if they are wrong God will change their hearts. Listening to counsel in the end is listening to God because God can move anybody and change their hearts. Prov 21:1, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.”
Examples of believers who were led astray by bad relationships
1 Kings 11:4-6
For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. 6 Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done.
Thoughts: Solomon’s wives turned him away from God. It happens even to the most dedicated and wise. Solomon was the wisest person who ever lived. He was extremely smart and extremely dedicated to God. Yet in the end he fell into terrible sin. Why? Because this kind of relationship is powerful. If it was too powerful for Solomon it is too powerful for us. Do not think you can handle it. Proverbs 6:27 asks, “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?”
Judges 16 – Samson and Delilah
Thoughts: Samson was led astray and eventually died because of his relationship with a Philistine unbeliever, Delilah. If he had listened to his parents and married an Israeli girl who believed in God this never would have happened.
Then the two men said to Lot, “Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place; for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the LORD that the LORD has sent us to destroy it.” Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, “Up, get out of this place, for the LORD will destroy the city.” But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting.
Thoughts: If Lot had stayed away from the evil influence of Sodom many of his family members would not have died. His wife died by looking back at the city. In addition, his sons-in-law were not believers. They did not fear God so therefore they did not listen to Lot’s righteous word. The result is that they died. While the passage is not clear, it appears that at least some of Lot’s daughters who were married to these guys were left behind and died (see verse 15 where the angel told Lot to take “your two daughters who are here.”) If they had not had these bad relationships they would have lived.
Verses telling us that the believer should form close relationships with and fellowship with other believers so that they can be encouraged and grow in their faith.
And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.
Thoughts: An unbeliever cannot serve God or follow God’s standards. How can he/she possibly stimulate the believer?
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
Thoughts: This verse is not referring specifically to fellowship among believers, but it is a general principle that two are better than one. This principle is applicable certainly to fellowship with believers and especially to dating or courtship and marriage. Believers should form close relationships to other believers who can pick them up when they fall and sin against God. An unbeliever cannot follow God, much less pick up another believer.
Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
Thoughts: Relationships will either sharpen the other party or dull the other party. If two people both serve and love God they can sharpen each other. But if one does not love God then this person will have a dulling effect on the other’s relationship to God.
Warnings to believers not to have close relationships with unbelievers because of the negative impact it will have on the believers’ spiritual walk
1 Corinthians 15:33
Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
Thoughts: An unbeliever’s moral standards are lower than the believer’s. It will be a negative influence on the believer.
He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Thoughts: Hang out with godly people and we will be more godly. Hang out with sinners who don’t believe in God and it will have a negative influence on our relationship to God.
2 Timothy 2:16
But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness
Thoughts: Unbelievers have worldly chatter. If we date them we cannot avoid getting sucked in to such kind of empty talk.
Warnings to Israel not to mix with the people around them by forming unholy relationships that would snare them later.
Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you.
Thoughts: Someone will say, this is a command not to marry. It doesn’t relate to dating/courting. Firstly, if someone is married it first began through dating/courting 99.999% of the time. Secondly, if being married is a snare then so is dating because it also includes spending lots of time with that person and will also be a negative influence.
Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. 13 ” But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim— for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God — otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they would play the harlot with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice, and you might take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters might play the harlot with their gods and cause your sons also to play the harlot with their gods.
Thoughts: Making a covenant with other nations would lead to closer relationships, which would become a snare. Israel is supposed to remain separate from those nations. For believers dating an unbeliever certainly might lead to marriage also which would likely cause following false gods. In this day and age it would likely lead to false gods such as money, career, etc.
But they mingled with the nations, and learned their practices.
Thoughts: Forming close relationships with unbelievers, including in dating, will definitely lead to learning their practices.
For other OT warnings on this issue please refer to Malachi 2:11, Ezra 9:1-2, Joshua 23:12-13.
Verses on the priority of God in our lives.
We are called to put God first in all aspects of our lives. Too often we make the mistake of telling ourselves, “There is no place in the Bible that expressly says this is wrong. God never says, “you should not date unbelievers, so it must be ok!” So many start dating or courting unbelievers and then hope that God will agree with them. Instead of doing what we want and hoping God agrees with us, we should consider what is the MOST pleasing to God, what will bring the MOST glory to Him.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Thoughts: We should be seeking God first and change our attitudes and convictions to match His, not seeking our way and hoping God will agree.
Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
Thoughts: We should set our minds on serving God above everything else, not set our minds on something we want and hope God will agree.
Points against dating/courting non-Christians
1 Corinthians 10:31
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Thoughts: Everything we do should be for the glory of God. This includes our relationships and dating/courting. Does dating an unbeliever really give glory to God? Actually it says that it is not that important if somebody believes in God or not, that there isn’t that much difference between the child of God and the one enslaved to sin.
Can you do it in faith?
Whatever is not from faith is sin.
Thoughts: This verse means that if we cannot do something with a 100% clear conscience and faith that it is right, we should not do it. After looking at all of the Scriptures and receiving a lot of negative counsel from mature believers, can you honestly date an unbeliever in faith, with a 100% clear conscience?
In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.
Thoughts: We are supposed to have a completely blameless conscience before God and men.
The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
Thoughts: The heart is deceitful. It is always easy to be misled and carried away by our own desires. It is especially easy when our objectivity is compromised during romantic relationships. Those who are dating unbelievers desperately want it to be OK. But they should not trust their own feelings. Instead they should look to God’s word and counsel. Do not be deceived.
The importance of submitting ourselves to godly teaching
2 Timothy 4:3-4
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
Thoughts: We should not try to find teachers, counselors, or fellowships that will simply give us freedom to do what we want. There will always be a pastor, teacher, counselor, or fellowship somewhere who will tell us what we want to hear. But we should instead seek out mature teachers/counselors and fellowships that are led by Scripture. Then, we must follow the Scripture that is taught, even if it is difficult and isn’t what we want to hear.
Biblical reasons not to date an unbeliever. A summary of the main points above.
Biblical mandate. The Bible is clear not to be bound together to unbelievers and dating is definitely a form of being bound together.
Believers should form close relationships with other believers in order to receive encouragement in their own spiritual walks. Dating an unbeliever is missing the best chance to form a close relationship with a companion who can help us spiritually. (The positive side is to build godly relationships, especially this very close one.)
Bad company corrupts good morals. Believers are commanded clearly to avoid spending a lot of time with worldly people. It will influence the believer and hurt his relationship to God. (The negative side is to avoid ungodly relationships, especially with someone so close who has such a big influence on us).
Dating an unbeliever will cause a lot of disagreement on key issues (Amos 3:3). The two cannot have a close, personal relationship without something giving way. Someone will be unsatisfied..
Counsel. What does godly, Christian counsel say? It is extremely likely if you get counsel from mature believers you will be counseled not to date an unbeliever. This is a form God uses to protect us and we should listen to it.
We are commanded to put God first and seek Him first in our lives. We are to do everything for His glory. Dating an unbeliever is an attempt to satisfy our own desires and hope God will agree. We should instead ask what God desires and do it.
There are a number of biblical examples (as well as countless outside the Bible) of believers who have decided they could handle it and who were instead led into temptation and sin and fell because of it. The likely consequences are too dangerous and serious to ignore.
It is extremely unlikely an informed believer will be able to date an unbeliever “in faith” with a clear conscience. Therefore it should be avoided.
Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.
Thoughts: Make the decision to honor God in this area of your life. Watch over your heart so the situation doesn’t happen in the future.
Disclaimer – I used the word “dating” and “courtship” rather interchangeably, but they are not the same. The principle of not doing either with an unbeliever however is the focus of this discussion and rarely if ever will somebody who practices courtship have this problem so I mostly referred to “dating”.