Sooner or later, almost every family will be faced with what to do about a son, daughter, or grandchild, who has fallen in love with someone who isn’t a Christian. So, how should Christians respond?
I helped write the following letter for some parents whose daughter has fallen in love with a person who simply had no interest in Christianity. The man wasn’t of another religion, nor was he antagonistic of Christianity. He was fine with it, for other people, and even for this couple’s daughter. Christianity just wasn’t for him.
Dear Julie, Mother and I thought it would be best to write to you about the spiritual and practical implications of marriage to Daniel and the marriage ceremony itself, when one person isn’t a believer.
Daniel, we’re assuming you’re also reading this and we encourage you to do so, hoping it will help you better understand some of the issues we only touched on a few weeks ago, when you asked for our blessing to marry our daughter. And just for the record; you’re the kindest and most loving man Julie has ever dated. Thank you for caring for her. This discussion has nothing whatsoever to do with your character. But, it has everything to do with what we believe about marriage, the sacrament, not just the institution.
The first issue that you raise Daniel, was the question, “If I were to ask Julie to marry me, would I have your blessing?”
The “blessing” is a spiritual term that in the context of the Bible means “asking God’s favor”. Implicit is the assumption that God would be pleased with this person, family or nation to begin with and; therefore, would want to bless them. So in asking for a blessing from God, we’re really asking him to be happy with us and our choices because we’re confident we are in the will of God to begin with. We’d never ask God to “bless” something that is prohibited by the Bible. Why would he do that?
That doesn’t mean the two of you can’t be happy. That’s what “common grace” is all about. God gives good things even to people who don’t love him or obey him, because he is good. But, that’s a completely different issue than expecting God’s favor when we know our decision displeases him because it’s out of his will.
So Daniel, when you asked for my blessing whether you know about it or not, what you were really asking was for me to be happy and find favor in a relationship that the Bible prohibits, or at very least the Bible warns us as being unwise – the marriage of a Christian to a non-Christian. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” II Cor. 6:14 That’s why it’s not possible for me to give my blessing to your marriage. I’m sorry, but God simply doesn’t give me that option. That’s what it means to live under the authority of God. Some choices are his to make, regardless of my personal feelings or circumstances.
Julie and Daniel, if you do chose to get married; of course mother and I will attend your wedding and pay for it. And, although we’ve not spoken to all the family, we’re confident they too will want to be present. And, the day you are married Daniel, you will be fully embraced into our home and family. Hopefully, there will never be a moment that we intentionally shut you out of anything. Daniel, you may occasionally feel some awkwardness because our life and language is enmeshed in a biblical worldview and yours is not. It would be like being a liberal marrying into a family of hard core Tea Party devotees’. This is who we are.
But, there are other practical implications for a wedding you may not have thought of. For instance, where will you get married? Getting married in a church implies a commitment to the beliefs of Christianity, by both parties. Almost all the pastors of churches in our city require both people to be Christians.
Many pastors in our city have signed The Marriage Covenant. This requires all couples to get Christian pre-marriage counseling before any pastor will marry them. In the course of this counseling, you can be sure all of these issues and more will be raised by the pastor/counselor.
A second practical question is, “Who would perform the ceremony?” Most evangelical pastors won’t marry people who are not Christians. Would it have to be a justice of the peace, or a judge?
About the ceremony itself – I’ve always dreamed of walking you down the aisle. You’re my daughter and I love you and I will walk you down the aisle. However, I can’t imagine me actually “giving you away”, in answer to the question, “Who gives this woman to the man?” That implies a blessing I’m not at liberty to give. So, please don’t expect me to give you away in the traditional sense.
These are all questions unique to your situation that we’ve not had to think through before. And, these aren’t the only ones. You will have questions in the future about raising children when one loves and believes in Jesus and desires to live by a biblical worldview and the other doesn’t. How does that affect the unity of purpose and values, so important for a successful marriage?
None of these issues are insurmountable in and of themselves. However, making a successful marriage and family is hard enough, without these added challenges.
Here is a link to an article written by Kathy Keller. Kathy is Tim Keller’s wife, the pastor of the Redeemer Church in New York. Mom and I read their book on marriage a few years ago and I took more than a dozen pages of notes. They are wise respected teachers and not a couple of right wing fundamentalists. Please read not only her blog, but the comments as well.
So, Julie, pray long and hard about the life-long implications of this decision. Ask the Holy Spirit to be your teacher. We have as well and will continue to pray for you.
Love you, Mom and Dad
by Clare De Graaf
Question: How would you advise this couple or their parents differently?
Following Jesus in Real Life