You meet someone new and all the right factors seem to be in place – charm , dreamy looks, social suave, a pleasant appeal and even the same moral convictions. The only thing missing is . . . Jesus.
There seems to be a remaining shell of religion from times past, though. Perhaps dating a Christian is just what she needs? She is so close to the truth and loves so many good things the Bible supports; surely she would be compelled to follow Christ fully if she were enticed by a godly companion.
While it is a good thing to want to reach out to others with the gospel, I am not convinced that dating is the way to go about evangelizing. Sharing Christ is perhaps not best done through candle lit dinners and gushy love notes. No matter what we may prefer, the way of the great commission is not "flirt to convert” for two reasons.
1. True love is soul deep.
What do you find romantically attractive in someone who is not a believer? It would be unbiblical and frankly ridiculous if I were to say that all unbelievers are repulsive. Every human is made in the image of God and bears his beautiful thumbprint. Unbelievers can be kind, generous, endearing, and attractive. The attractiveness and even character of unbelievers is not the problem that should stop of us from dating those who aren’t in Christ. The relevant issue is: what is true love? If Scripture is true that God is love, then how can someone truly understand love apart from knowing Christ intimately (1 John 4:8)?
Take a good look at a person you may be considering who doesn’t know Jesus. What makes her tick? What consumes her? Is it a love for Christ and His Word? Do the pages of the Bible bring her joy? Is she moved to tears by the mercy and wonder of God? Do you see her serving those who can never repay her? Is she willing to be spit-upon and laughed at for the sake of the cross? Is she willing to stand for the oppressed even when it is not popular? Has the glory of God set her heart ablaze with passion to see Christ reign over every human heart?
True love is soul deep. In choosing a spouse, we want a person who may possess the kind of love that still stirs at old wrinkles. You want to clasp hands throughout life with a committed believer who wants to deny herself to live for the glory of God. A person who does not have the Holy Spirit at work in his or her heart will not have the mind of Christ at work within them to cultivate long-term love, sacrifice, and commitment that endures wrinkles. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is fleeting, but a man or woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)
2. Romance isn’t offensive; the gospel is.
Flirting to convert ultimately fails because it is not offensive enough. The Apostle Paul says the cross is offensive (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). The cross is gruesome because it calls the world to forsake all and treasure God first and foremost. The cross requires repentance on our part and this is offensive to our selfish desires.
Conversely, the things that come along with early dating tend to be agreeable and seeking not to offend the other person.
Dating an unbeliever is actually one of the most unloving acts we can do towards them. It is actually the opposite of evangelism. It says, I value you more than I value what Christ says. It brings confusion where there should be a clear call to repentance. I am not saying that God cannot use romance to bring about the salvation of a soul. Our God is in the heaven and he does whatever he pleases (Psalm 115:3). But I would argue that those who come to know Christ through intentional dating relationships, are saved despite not because of, their unequally yoked relationship.
Evangelistic dating is dangerous because it can exalt the gift over the Giver. Who wouldn’t want to convert in order to marry the person they are crazy about? Who wouldn’t want to say “yes" to Jesus in order for their significant other to say “yes” to them?
God doesn’t want to be a carrot on a stick. He wants people to come and die at his feet in order to find life in Him. (Luke 14:26)
What should you do if you are in a relationship with an unbeliever?
If you are in an unequally yoked relationship, consider seeking godly wisdom from older Christians who can come alongside to help know how to best end the romantic relationship. You must speak the truth in love to the person you are dating (Ephesians 4:15). The call of repentance must be clear and you must not be the prize for turning to Jesus. You will need to spend time explaining the gospel and pointing out the deep chasm of world views between the two of you. He or she needs to know how differently you think on the most important issues in life and why your differences in beliefs are deal breakers. Ending a relationship does not mean ending a friendship, however. But it does mean ending a romance. The person you care for will be served best if you point him or her to Christ instead of continuing to kindle feelings for each other.
Who knows? This obedience to God may be the means Christ uses to revolutionize their life for the gospel. If so, we can praise God but still need to be cautious rather than immediately moving back into the romantic relationship. Growth requires time and new believers need time to grow in Christ before we can see the Spirit’s fruit being born. Regardless, God will honor obedience for his glory and our good.