Is it best for your children to date unbelievers? Here is the BIBLE answer to a crucial problem our young people have to face, reprinted from the October, 1953 issue.
DATING is a custom which has been practiced, in differing ways, since the beginning of history. If rightly directed, it can be a natural and helpful means of enabling young people to become better acquainted with the members of the opposite sex. It is GOD who has made us male and female. It is God who created sex and ordained marriage. God INTENDED that young people come to know each other, fall in love, and marry. Therefore, a true Christian should have no "prudish" feelings about the varied aspects of courtship and marriage. But he SHOULD determine how to glorify God in all these things. It is God, after all, who made us male and female.
The Bible does not enjoin any particular method of acquainting young people with one another, or of bringing about a marriage. Even in the Bible history, customs have varied in this matter. In many instances, in ancient times, the parents of a young couple arranged for their marriage. The laws in Exodus and Deuteronomy indicate that men often selected their own wives, and courted them as they do today. Consequently our present custom of courtship and marriage is certainly not wrong, and it seems to be the best practice among modern peoples who are not living in large family groups as in patriarchal times. Dating, then, is a very necessary custom not only socially, but to enable young people to make a wise choice of a life partner. It is a practice which tends to broaden social interests, to develop personality, and to give that needed experience and companionship with MANY members of the opposite sex. No one should date as though he were "looking for a wife." It should be a natural means of fellowship with the realization that some day a life partner will be discovered, and that the practice of dating will give that experience with the opposite sex which should serve as a valuable guide in avoiding hasty decisions based upon "infatuation," and not real love. Since dating is a form of intimate fellowship which may lead to marriage, Christians should exercise great care in selecting the persons whom they date.
Christians are COMMANDED by God: "Be ye NOT unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" (II Cor. 6:14). We are to AVOID anything which would cause us to FELLOWSHIP or to be "yoked together" with unbelievers. Marriage is certainly the closest form of being "yoked together." And dating is a kind of close FELLOWSHIP which usually precedes and may lead to marriage. Is God trying to impose His harsh will on you when He FORBIDS this kind of fellowship? NO! This instruction is a great BLESSING designed to help you live the happy and abundant life that God intends (John 10:10). True Christianity is a WAY OF LIFE. It is the WAY that will bring greatest happiness at this time, and ETERNAL life in God's kingdom. It is the way of SURRENDER and OBEDIENCE to God and His commands, and of spiritually growing each day more like God that we may finally be BORN into His family and kingdom. BUT an unconverted husband or wife is going to oppose and fight the WAY OF LIFE God reveals. Why? "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7). If you marry an unconverted person, YOU ARE TYING YOURSELF TO A BALL AND CHAIN for the rest of your NATURAL LIFE! God wants to SPARE you from such a mistake!
The Bible Principle
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible shows that God's people are to remain separate from this world. In Deut. 7:1-4, God commanded the Israelites NOT to marry the heathen, "For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods" (v. 4). Joshua warned that if they married the heathen, it would be as scourges in their sides, and thorns in their eyes (Joshua 23:10-16). I Kings 11:1 shows that King Solomon's foreign wives turned away his heart from worshipping God. The Bible shows TIME AND AGAIN that marrying a carnal, unconverted person will lead to retribution, misery, and may well prove to be an OBSTACLE to prevent you from serving God as you should. Many of you whom we have met on the baptizing tours can testify to this fact. How many times you have wished that your mate were converted so that you could share your lives more fully. What a wonderful BLESSING it is when both the husband and wife are converted. All of you who are blessed in this way should get down on your knees EVERY DAY and thank God for it. A converted couple can encourage one another in prayer, in Bible study, in keeping the Sabbath, in rejoicing together during God's festivals. They can share all the little things in life in a way that is impossible when one party is unconverted. True Christianity involves the things you eat, the places you go, your interests and hobbies — your ENTIRE LIFE. God intended that a husband and wife be a help to each other in all things. That is why He commands: "Be ye NOT unequally yoked together with unbelievers."
What About Dating Unbelievers
Knowing the definite command of God not to marry unbelievers, what about dating them? As we have mentioned, dating is a very intimate sort of fellowship which may possibly lead to marriage. Should you TEMPT yourself by dating those whom you know that God FORBIDS you to marry? You should NOT! And regardless of possible marriage, a Christian is not to have fellowship with unrighteousness (II Cor. 6:14). Unrighteousness is simply sin — BREAKING GOD'S COMMANDMENTS. In Ephesians 5:1-17, the apostle Paul shows that Christians are not to be partakers with the children of this world in their wrong ways. He exhorts: "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." Paul wrote to the saints at Rome to present their bodies a "living sacrifice" to God and to "be NOT conformed to this world: but be ye TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:1-2). If you are seeking God's will and His guidance in your every thought and action, you will find it a GREAT HINDRANCE to be closely associated with a carnal-minded person — whether on dates, or in any other form of fellowship. There will always be the tendency to let them PULL YOU AWAY from obeying and serving your Creator. They will continually be urging you to break God's Sabbath, to eat unclean meats, to attend the wrong kind of movies or spend your time in night clubs and other wrong kinds of amusement. A carnal-minded companion will exert just the OPPOSITE kind of influence from what you should have, IF you love God more than this world, its carnal people, and their wrong ways.
Draw the Line
James tells us, "Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the ENEMY of God" (James 4:4). As a Christian, put God FIRST in your life. Have the courage to DRAW THE LINE on whom you will, and will not, date. You are to have NO FELLOWSHIP with unbelievers. Who is an unbeliever? Christ said, "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad" (Mat. 12:30). A "believer" is not merely one who believes in Christ as Saviour. Jesus himself prophesied that many would come IN HIS NAME, preaching ABOUT HIM, and would DECEIVE MANY (Mat. 24:5). A "believer" is one who believes in Christ AND HIS MESSAGE. Faith that is not ACTED UPON is DEAD (James 2:26). Notice Acts 2:44, "And all that BELIEVED were together, and had all things in common." They had ACTED upon their belief, and were sharing the material things with one another during their stay in Jerusalem. One who KNOWS much of the truth, and yet REFUSES to obey it is not to be regarded as a true believer at all. Such people are often more slick and clever in MISLEADING OTHERS than one who is in total ignorance of God's precious truths. "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments" (I John 2:3). One who really KNOWS God will BELIEVE that His way is right and will obey Him. People who refuse to do this are not believers. Therefore, YOU SHOULD HAVE NO REGULAR DATES OR FELLOWSHIP WITH THEM.
Once you understand the principle of having no fellowship with the world which might weaken your faith, you can apply this to any case which arises. For instance, there might be a rare occasion when a converted young person would be visiting in another city and a date might be arranged for him by friends who didn't understand his views. In such a case, he should carefully survey the circumstances. If he knew that the date wouldn't involve participating in any wrong form of amusement, and would not involve him in any future dates of this nature, he might accept in order not to offend others. This would not be a REGULAR association or FELLOWSHIP with unconverted persons. But even then, the Christian involved should CAREFULLY AVOID a recurrence of this practice, and ask God's guidance in the whole matter. To cite another example, it would be permissible to date OCCASIONALLY someone whom you felt quite sure by the "fruits" was being called to repentance and obedience to God. You might have good reason to believe that you we helping such a person learn more about God. But here too, be extremely careful that the association is not REGULAR FELLOWSHIP, and that the other party is not just "putting on" in order to date you. If you are deceived into marrying such a person it may WRECK your life! Also, some of you who have been married and divorced may wish to date even though you know that it would be ADULTERY to marry again. Common sense should tell you that you are playing with DYNAMITE! You are putting a very SERIOUS TEMPTATION in your own path and in the path of whoever you date. If you value ETERNAL LIFE, you will not date except under very rare circumstances or until you become free to marry again through the death of your husband or wife. You may need God's Spirit to master yourself, but His power is without limit!
If you are converted and your children are not, should you force them to associate only with converted children? In the first place, VERY FEW people are really converted until the ages of eighteen to twenty years. You should NOT deprive your child of the opportunity of developing a balanced personality and interests through association with others. The IDEAL thing would be to have your children in association with the children of other converted brethren. Although still unconverted, the children would at least have an easier time learning the truth about pagan holidays and other worldly practices. It would certainly be BETTER means of fellowship. But the parent's responsibility is "train up a child in the way that he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6). While he is young, teach him God's truth in a reasonable and tactful manner. But after your child reaches high school age, if he or she is bound to have a "fling" and date worldly fellows or girls, you may PREJUDICE his mind against God if you are too overbearing about this. Use discretion as any intelligent parent should do, but don't expect your child to ACT converted when he is not. Just be sure he is in DECENT company, and then ask God to convert him in His time and way. God has provided excellent means for converted young people to become acquainted with one another. This is through attending the annual festivals of God. We are to "rejoice" in these feasts, and they provide a wonderful opportunity and atmosphere for mixed fellowship. Also, giving your child the advantage of a college education at Ambassador College — GOD'S college — may also prove a priceless blessing in the matter of finding a truly converted life partner. This is far more important than most parents realize. The entire matter of dating, then, is to be approached by understanding and obeying GOD'S PURPOSE in making us male and female, and in ordaining marriage. A converted mate is commanded to love and remain faithful even to an unconverted husband or wife (I Cor. 7:10-14). But to those yet unmarried, God has blessed us with the knowledge that we MUST NOT marry unbelievers, but that we should choose a mate who will truly HELP us grow "unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13).