“How do I share Christ with someone who is an agnostic?” a college student asked after a talk I gave last month at a church in Oklahoma. Then she added, “My boyfriend is agnostic, but I feel like God has called me into this relationship.” Uh-oh. It’s decision time. I just met this girl a few minutes ago, yet she is my sister in Christ. Do I simply answer her first question about evangelism and ignore her later statement about being “called” to date a non-Christian?
I always tell students that loving people well means telling them the truth, even if it upsets them. A Mormon won’t be too happy when you share with them that they worship a different Jesus, but you still speak the truth. Truth-telling is an important way to love people. The Apostle John instructs, “Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18).
I couldn’t let this go. This young Christian college student has admitted to dating an unbeliever and needs to be lovingly challenged. However, I know this might cost me. She really seemed to enjoy the talk I just gave, but if I confront her, it will put a damper on her enthusiasm and even sour her entire experience with me. As I worked up the courage to speak, I was reminded of Francis Schaeffer’s words: “Truth carries with it confrontation. Truth demands confrontation; loving confrontation, but confrontation nevertheless.”
So I started with a question. “What do you mean ‘God has called you into this relationship?’” She explained their friendship started with her sincere attempts to share Christ with him before there was any romantic interest. Over time, their friendship moved into dating, and she felt that she had God’s endorsement. Then she revealed that they were planning to get married.
“You’re not going to like what I have to say,” I cautioned, “but I want you to know that I say this in love to you as my sister in Christ.” She nodded in acknowledgment. “I don’t think God has called you into this relationship. In fact, I think He has clearly called you out of it.” In 1 Corinthians 7:39, Paul says that a widow “is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” Paul is clear, a believer is to marry another believer.
Why this prohibition? I took her to 2 Corinthians 6:14–15, where Paul writes, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” Here Paul explains the why. We are not to “yoke” ourselves together with unbelievers in spiritual pursuits, like marriage. Such close associations—“fellowship” with unbelievers—can easily compromise one’s faith in Christ.
She persisted in her claim about God’s calling, so I asked her what she would think if I told her God had called me to sleep with a woman I found attractive who wasn’t my wife. “Well, that’s an extreme example, and I don’t think my situation is similar,” she responded, conscious of where I was heading with this illustration.
“Certainly I think that adultery is more grievous than dating a non-Christian, but the same principle applies in both situations. So hear me out. Do you think God would call me into an adulterous relationship with another woman?”
“Of course not,” she responded.
“Right, because He has already laid out His will on this issue in the Bible. No matter how sincerely I believe God has called me to sleep with a woman who is not my wife, you would not buy it because you know God is not going to contradict His own Word. In the same way, God has already spoken on the issue of entering into close intimate relationships with unbelievers. No matter how sincerely you believe God has called you to date and marry your unbelieving boyfriend, it cannot be the case that He has because God is not going to contradict His own Word.”
I offered her a closing challenge. “If you want to glorify God in this situation, why don’t you break up with this guy and live in obedience to His Word?” I delivered it gently, but directly. We eventually wrapped up the conversation and parted ways. Did she leave happy with me? No. Indeed, my mood was somber following our conversation. And not merely because she was not pleased with me, but because there are serious lifelong consequences waiting if she continues down this path.
To equip students with the truth means they will also have to face the implications of the truth. This young believer had to face the facts of God’s Word. Truth doesn’t always feel warm and fuzzy, but the truth can ultimately transform.