January 13, 2014

Why an unequal “yoke” in dating is more like a noose…

Gary Thomas — 
photo: Oleh Slobodeniuk, Creative Commons

photo: Oleh Slobodeniuk, Creative Commons

One of the most popular quotes from The Sacred Search, a line that has been retweeted many times, is “If I’m going to make myself extremely vulnerable to someone, I want that person to be ruled by the Holy Spirit.” The farther you walk into dating, the more intimate it becomes. They get to know you. They learn things about you—where you live, what you like to do, where you are likely to show up. That’s good, and that’s potentially bad, because the more someone understands how to love you, the more they understand how to hurt you.

This is part of the sacrifice of relationship; there’s no guarantee, but it’s worth the risk. There’s a difference between “wise risk” and “foolish risk” however. When you sign a mortgage, you can’t know for sure that you’ll be employed steadily for the next thirty years, but if the numbers work out and the house you’re buying will consume just 20% of your annual income, that’s a reasonable risk. If your mortgage would consume 40 to 50% of your income, that’s a foolish risk. Both people are buying a mortgage, but one is being wise while one is being foolish. The same thing is true in dating. Everyone has to risk, but there are wise risks and foolish risks.

Relationally, I want to open up to someone who I know has the Holy Spirit working in her life.

If things get passionate, I don’t want to rely on my own will-power; I’m comforted by the fact that God could speak to either of us if my own resolve becomes weak. When I share things, I want to know that there is more than her own good intentions to keep those things sacred; there is also the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And if I am contemplating building a future with her, I want to know it’s a future in which the Holy Spirit will be refining her, growing her, empowering her, and strengthening her so that the two of us could face life’s inevitable challenges with divine assistance.

Do you want to get passionate—or worse, naked—with someone who the Bible says is ruled primarily by their lusts? Do you want to share secrets with someone who doesn’t have the power to forgive, so if the two of you break up and they get angry, they’ll spill all, using gossip as a weapon to get back at you? Do you want to spend your days with someone who doesn’t take any time to bask in God’s presence, who never lifts you up in prayer, never seeks God’s guidance when they are thinking about your relationship?

It always amazes me when politicians, business and religious leaders seem surprised when a mistress or prostitute “betrays” them by telling all to a newspaper for money. If a person is willing to betray a marriage, why would they hold a secret as sacred? If they’ll have sex for money, why wouldn’t they sell information for money?

If you are “unequally yoked” in dating, it’s more like you’re living inside a potential noose.

When that person is pleased and happy, you’ll feel safe. The moment the relationship turns, you’ll suddenly realize the threat. Everything they learned in order to love you can now be used to hurt you.

Paul urges women to choose someone “in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39) for a good reason. He wants to protect them. This isn’t to say that Christians never gossip or hurt, or betray. But I didn’t say “mere” Christians, did I? I said, if you’re going to make yourself vulnerable, choose someone who is ruled by the Holy Spirit. That’s a particular kind of Christian who takes their faith very seriously. Singles, you’ll do yourself a big favor if you pay attention to this admonition of love from Scripture.

When you subscribe to Gary’s blog, you will receive blog posts directly to your e-mail inbox. You will be one of the first to learn about the latest in Gary’s writing.

6 responses to Why an unequal “yoke” in dating is more like a noose…

  1. Gary, this article sums up my thoughts on choosing who to date… I think looking at it from the perspective of who I want to be vulnerable with is an excellent way to make a decision. It applies equally to all people, believers and non-believers, and gets past the problems in articles that only address whether it’s a sin to date non-believers or not (it’s not discussed explicitly in the Bible, so you need more than just “is it a sin or not” to make a decision).

  2. Thanks for writing Gary! I think it’s hard enough to honour Christ when both of you are pulling in the same direction, let alone just one. Recently I’ve noticed a lot more Christian couples who are dating go on vacation together alone. What’s your take on the issue? I wrote about it in my blog: http://www.kierancarr.net/christian-couples-dating-go-holidays-together-alone/.

  3. “If things get passionate, I don’t want to rely on my own will-power; I’m comforted by the fact that God could speak to either of us if my own resolve becomes weak.”

    Love this and it addresses a concern I currently have in my relationship with a Christian guy whom I’ve been dating for seven months now. This being my first Christian relationship since I got born again 5 years ago, I don’t have much experience on Christian dating. Furthermore, I didn’t bargain on the fact that it would be so hard to have a romantic relationship without the sexual element involved. We are at a stage where things are starting to heat up when it comes to intimacy and I feel like I’m the one who always put an end to things before they get out of hand. So that statement you made really hit home for me.

  4. This is really encouraging, and a great reminder to be wise in dating. Thank you! I especially appreciate you pointing out that one should not merely assume that ANY Christian will be a suitable person for one to date. There is all kinds of being unequally yoked. This is something I have had to find out the hard way over the last few years. I never would have considered dating an unbeliever, but I have dated other Christians who were not ruled by the Holy Spirit, or who were just in a different place spiritually, and though God used those experiences to grow me, the relationships were not glorifying to Him, and only side-tracked me from loving Him and others well.

  5. Fantastic truth here!

    Particularly love this line: “the more someone understands how to love you, the more they understand how to hurt you.”

    So true! However, that reality not only explains why we should heed the Biblical wisdom in your post.

    It explains why we’d rather settle for the attention or acceptance of someone, or romantic affection or even sexual arousal (even with someone who’s not really there). Can’t get hurt so easily then…or so we think… until we realize that refusing the risk of healthy intimacy with the people most important to us leaves us alone.

    Sharing with the Future Marriage University community at https://www.facebook.com/FMUniversity. I also address this issue in this post on my blog: http://f-m-u.com/Blog/an-urgent-message-for-the-spiritually-mature/. I’d love your feedback on that if you get the chance to read it.

    • Thanks Michael. I’ll head on out to that post now. Dating IS risky, but like I tried to say, it’s about trying to make WISE risks instead of foolish ones.