Marrying a non Christian

Is it really forbidden for a believer to marry a non - believer or seeker who has yet to come to Christ? I’ve had friends who suffered because of this, when their churches refused to allow the marriage unless their partner converted to Christianity. I’m just wondering if this is right, because a ‘forced’ conversion doesn’t make one a true believer does it? What does the Bible really say about this issue?

7 Likes

I believe that this a 3 part question.

  1. Should a believer marry a non-believer?
    I think the Bible is clear that it would be better to marry a believer that a non-believer. Equally yoked could be understood as an admonishment to do the same.

14 Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers, for what participation is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? (2 Co 6:14LEB)

Granted this is a verse that can be applied to many circumstance that involves a partnership with the objective of Glorifying the Lord.

  1. Should a pastor knowingly marry a believer and non-believer? I am not a Pastor but all the Churches that I have been a member of allow the pastor the discretion to make that decision. As you can imagine it is difficult to make that call based on an interview when one or both parties that wants this very badly.
  2. Can we make the non-believer convert? I think the obvious answer is no. When every I hear that someone forced their belief on another and to do so under duress, i.e. you want to get married don’t you? I believe it is a sin.
9 Likes

Thank you for your reply @Jimmy_Sellers
I actually realize how it may take many years for some people who are sitting on the fence to make a decision to accept Christ. For some it happens in a heartbeat, for some it takes longer.
Is it then fair to tell a couple that they should not be married because one party is taking too long to make this huge decision of faith?
Can we not say that this verse applies to this situation?
1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.

3 Likes

Hi @Shanti, before we get into the verse of 1 Corinthians 7:14, we have to look at the whole book and the history behind the city as well as the intention of the letter.

For more detail reference you may look it up City of Corinth

It is a lot to cover in a post but let’s focus on issue of your reference and question.

Corinth was a thriving city; it was at the time the chief city of Greece both commercially and politically. Its religion. Corinth contained at least 12 temples. Whether they were all in use during Paul’s time is not known for certain. One of the most infamous was the temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, whose worshipers practiced religious prostitution.

Now Paul wrote the letter address to:

  1. Married- verse 8-24
  2. Unmarried - verse 25-40

1 Corinthians 7:14 was addressing to married couples not to couples going to be married. So this verse cannot be used as an approval for marrying an unbeliever lover. However in matters of marrying unbelievers in Corinth, Paul was not straight forward because that would contradict the verse 14. He also knows that it would not be right to break off engagement but he continues with verse 28.

28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

It was not a commandment, but rather a choice of option. But if an option was presented Paul continues at verse 39

39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.

As with many cultures in the ancient world, marriages were determined by the parents not by their own. Even more so in cases of female virgins. So virgins don’t have a choice to choose who to marry. But if you do, won’t it be better to be with a believer.

So to your question is it forbidden? I can’t speak for the rest of the Christian community but my opinion is still free will. Is it ok to eat food that has expired? You can eat it, it is still food. You may encounter stomach upset and others complications but you won’t end up in Jail for breaking any Law nor will you die from it.

Food is vital for survival just as Marriages are sacred union. You need food to survive and in the same context you need marriage to avoid sexual immorality. Therefore a verse for you to ponder:

36 If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married.

May the Lord guide you, @Shanti in your quest for answers. Amen.

6 Likes

Thank you @Kenny_Chen
This is an eye opener.

2 Likes

This is an interesting question that I still ask myself sometimes.
I agree that some passages in the Bible seems to show quite clearly that it is not a good idea. But is it completely “forbidden”?
Personally I tend to believe more and more that it is not.
I mean we never know what someone may become in the future. Some people come to faith, some people who were in the faith leave it. I have seen in the church I guess too much the emphasis on marrying believer. The problem is that as soon as the person is a believer then everything seems fine. But in many cases I have seen a commited believer who was really living out for Jesus marrying with someone who was “simply a believer”. Once they got married though the one who was on fire for Jesus grew cold in the faith and became more and more distant.
I guess what I would answer today is that it is not necessarely forbidden, but it is clearly not a good idea. If you really put Jesus first and want to live out for Him, you shouldn’t just marry a believer, but a believer that has the same passion and goals in life as you have, to genuinely pursue Christ and serve Him.
If you still want to marry with someone, who is not really commited, or not a believer at all, I would personally say that you are not sinning, but need to be carefull that you are making something that can really endanger your relationship to God. But I do believe that in some rare cases that could actually be God’s will? (I’d like to hear your opinion in that). I mean I have seen people coming to faith through their partner. And I also remember I think it was Billy Graham who said the most spiritual women he has ever met were the one who had the worst husband. I wouldn’t say we should follow these examples, but stay open that in some cases God can also use that.
But this is a subject I am still very open to change my mind, I reckon that I still have a lot to learn in that field.

3 Likes

I really like how you put it @Eli77
I believe that marrying someone who superficially proclaims that they are a believer does not necessarily mean your marriage will turn out perfect. And vice versa.

I am married to a devout Christian who is a son of a pastor. I however was raised in a different faith. So, I have only had people share the gospel with me after I have met his family.
For me personally, the journey to Christ took a few years. But I was not pressured by his family or the church to convert before our wedding. So it saddens me to see my friends (from other churches) who have their pastors totally oppose their plans to marry their partners who are non believers.

3 Likes

Hi @Shanti,

This is a question that is raised all the time in multi-religious countries, and more and more in almost every modern country now. Seeing that marriage is something serious, I’m really glad to see Churches treating it seriously, rather than being nonchalant and whimsical about it at all. On a positive note for your friends, I see it as a good time for them to deliberate before they plan to marry someone for the rest of their lives. Not taking some blind, uncalculated risk, because no one cares enough to “make it tough” for them to consider seriously the gravity of their romantic decisions, which they have to bear for the rest of their lives. I know personally, I thought I knew what I was doing when I was getting married, but now more and more I realize I didn’t even know the half of it, and I am so thankful to people and churches, God put in my life, who have invested so much to equip me for this beautiful committed journey.

The Biblical View
The quick answer is it is not forbidden, as we are not bound by any legalistic religious law anymore (Rom 7). Everyone is free to do what they wish, but whether it’s beneficial or troublesome, that is another question. (1 Cor 10:23) And the Bible does teach many principles that will help us live our lives according to His purpose. Know that a marriage, according to the Bible is a lifelong commitment. Not a trial-and-error-til-you-get-it-right decision. No undo or redo button. You must live with all it’s ramifications, good or bad for the rest of your life. It’s designed by God to be a permanent union (Matt 19:4-6)

Country Law
And every country has different law as well, say for example in Indonesia, both must be registered under 1 religion. There is to be no cross-religion marriage. This is usually sidestepped by one of the spouse making a paper conversion for documentation sake, but not a personal one.

Mature Believers
I believe, personally, if the believer is really mature, and faith does matter to him/her, he wouldn’t seek a non-believing partner in the first place (2 Cor 6:14). I know I personally eliminated all non-believing candidates, because I want to save myself from having to choose between God and my wife, when the values clashed, and our priorities so different, and I will have to exert a lot of energy explaining myself every time I make a spiritual decision that she doesn’t understand or agrees with. Because these things matter even to a semi-mature believer. I’m a first-generation Christian, and my parents always wanted to force me to marry a Buddhist wife. (They are usually not this radical, but they believe this is the only way to bring me back to Buddhism. Otherwise, they would have lost me forever to another religion)

Immature/Indifferent Believer
If a believer is not as mature, or doesn’t really mind(indifferent) what the bible suggested (not forced) about marrying a fellow believer, then they wouldn’t mind being married through any church who are leniently more permissive in this matter. People think the church is making their life difficult if they refuse to marry them, but the opposite is even more true, that they are the ones making life difficult for the church and the leaders, which brings me to the next point.

Church or Pastor’s Policy
From the church’s point of view, or at least the church leaders/pastors who marries them, they have the right to stand by their own personal policy/conviction. Hey, it’s the people who comes voluntarily to the church, not the church who goes to them. It’s the people who has to comply to the church policy if they want to continue attending, not the church changing policy just to accommodate some people. As long as the church is consistent in this issue on everyone, not making exception to a privileged few (this is then another totally different problem in itself).

My Church’s Example
Just to drive home this point, my church sometimes decided against marrying even fellow believers, because my church deemed them both immature or carrying too many troublesome baggages, and we can see their potential problems. We would facilitate helping them through those issues first before we marry them. As with most churches, we have strict procedures they have to qualify themselves through, like pre-marital classes, personal interview/counseling with certain leaders, evaluations, before the approval is stamped. And I think this procedure can help many start well with a good foundation for the rest of their lives.

Pastor’s Accountability
Even fellow believers doesn’t guarantee potential trouble-free marriage. Can you imagine the burden placed on the Pastors? If they take their ordained calling seriously, they are responsible before God. Doing the church’s due diligence and conviction is the least they can do to be responsible and accountable pastors.

Other Churches
Some churches have different take on this issue, and that’s their own accountability before God, not for any of us to judge. I’m sure they have their own consideration for it. If you prefer that, go ahead, you don’t lose salvation, but if you don’t fancy that, hey, it’s your choice.

Summary
So, to summarize again, no one is forced to marry or not marry against their wishes, but it’s unreasonable for them to demand the church to break, for them, a carefully constructed existing policy, as their form of accountability to God, according to their conviction. CMIIW, but I believe this is the real issue of your question. Forgive me for establishing from every angle before I arrive at this conclusion.

I will leave you with a final verse from Heb 13:17:
“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you”

Blessings in Christ,
Roy

8 Likes

Thank you @RoySujanto for bringing up all the different angles from which we should look into this issue. I’ve taken some time to carefully digest it.

1 Like

Hi @Shanti, thank you for sharing your question. My husband no longer follows Jesus so I’m answering this as someone who is in the situation that your friends are considering. I love my husband and have no intention of leaving my marraige but to anyone else considering marraige to a non-believer or an ‘almost’-believer I would warn them against it. God’s law is good, his intention for us is good, and this is reflected in his word and instruction for us as his followers. I can see how in the situation you’ve described it could feel like God is holding out on them, that his law is preventing their happiness by preventing a relationship they desire… but I honestly believe that far from holding back good from us, obedience to his word and law will result in fullness of life. And anything we give up in obedience, including people we love, will be honored and rewarded by our father, in this life and the next. Hope that helps on some way.

8 Likes

@Shanti

Thanks for the question. I tend to agree with most of the things that have already been said, so I doubt I’m saying anything groundbreaking. I don’t think you could come out and say that the Bible expressly forbids a marriage in this circumstance, but it is clear that the wisdom says that it is not a good idea.

I agree very much with Becky @becky.giuliani

This, to me, is the most helpful way of thinking about it. God has taken the time to make mention of this wisdom in His Word and this means that it is meant to be thought through deliberately and with care. Remembering that God’s Word allows for anyone in their circumstance to be able to serve faithfully in that circumstance. But changing that circumstance to something else is entirely different and must be considered using the wisdom that God has given us in His Word which is for our good.

I have heard tale of many people who have tried using a relationship (beginning one, I mean, not an established one) to convert the non-believer, or telling people that it was their intention to use the relationship in order to do the converting… but more often than not it seems that it happens the other way round. This is not always the case, I’m sure, but I would take the wisdom of the Word… well… at it’s word.

I hope that you find a clear course in your thoughts, guided by His wonderful Spirit.

4 Likes

@becky.giuliani

Hi Becky… really appreciated your thoughts on this topic. I hope and pray for you, in your particular situation, that you can continue to be a light and an example of the Lord Jesus in your husbands life and that God will bring him back to a knowledge and love of Him.

1 Like

Thank you @becky.giuliani and @tsbehan for your insights.
I guess what seems unfair to us sometimes it meant for our own good. And sometimes things are not clear to us until the time is right.

2 Likes

Thank you Tim @tsbehan really appreciate the prayer and words of encouragement.