The “hottest” response I’ve had to anything I’ve written on this blog came after I posted the text of an email I had written to a young Christian woman (name withheld), begging her to end her relationship with a non-Christian man. I posted some clarifications in the comments which seemed to stem the flow of hostility! Not long after this, I was contacted by another young woman I know, who told me how thankful she was to her pastor for warning her about a similar relationship. I asked her if she would write out her testimony about this experience, and I am so grateful that she agreed. Her name is Angela McInnes, now happily married to James, a student for the ministry at the Free Church Seminary in Inverness, Scotland. Having seen so many Christians damage their lives and testimony in a mad dash to marry, regardless of the warnings and counsel of God’s Word and God’s people, I pray that God will use this testimony to prevent this happening to others, and also to rescue those caught in this snare of the Devil. I also hope it will encourage pastors to lovingly warn their straying sheep. Here is Angela’s story.
I had always feared marrying an unbeliever as it is clear from scripture to be wrong – I had seen a number of friends do this and their spiritual life stalled. I remember speaking to one friend who was engaged to an unbeliever about her relationship and her response was that she knew scripture taught it was wrong, but that in her situation God had made an “exception”. “Are you not afraid that this person, the one you love the most in this world, will one day go to a lost eternity if they are not saved?” I asked. “I’ll just have to deal with that if it ever comes to it,” she replied and they married.
I had been warned by my mother, after speaking out to some of these friends, of the need to take heed in case I also would fall into the same sin. I had broken off a relationship when I was converted as the man was an unbeliever. This was difficult to do not so much with him but with his family – his mother was very hurt and could not grasp why we just could not continue as we were but with our different “interests.” But my life and interests had changed so dramatically then that I could not even envisage this and scripture seemed very clear to me –it would be wrong. Not long after I became a Christian, I became close with James, a lovely Christian man from my church. He was a big help to me in the early days of my new life, everything seemed great, and I was convinced we were to marry – when quite suddenly, he ended our relationship. He couldn’t really give a reason why but it was over. I finished my training in university and moved to another part of the country where I tried to forget him. For four years I pretty much mourned the loss of our relationship, and remained convinced that we would one day get back together and marry. I had a real desire to go on mission and had been very involved in trying to prepare myself in different ways for this. I attended one mission training weekend run by an organisation involved solely with the people group I then felt compelled to go to. One speaker suggested that some in the meeting “were bound in chains” and these chains were limiting their ability to serve God fully. The group was broken up for prayer. “Could you be one of those in chains?” I was asked by the married couple who were to pray with me. I then began tearfully to tell them of how my heart was in serving God in mission, but I was in love with a man who did not love me and I wished to be free from that so that I could focus on my calling. I asked them to pray that all my feelings for him would be taken away. Instead they prayed we would marry! I left the conference really quite concerned and confused. Still, no contact from this man ensued and I began to pray and pray that all feelings for him would be removed so that I could be “free” from any distraction to serve God. I must say I was (maybe still am!) quite a chatterbox and I loved to share the gospel, I would pray for opportunities and would try to speak at any time to anyone about the Lord. I was called “our wee missionary” at my work, for some it was a big joke and I would be playfully teased, with others very good conversations (I hope) were had. Then one day I met a man at work who I naturally seemed to click with. He was excellent at his job –very compassionate, dedicated and disciplined – really quite different from most of the others and also he seemed very, very eager to hear the gospel. He had some Christian background, but really knew very little and described himself as “agnostic.” It was very exciting to share the good news of Jesus with someone who seemed so open and receptive. He started coming to church with me, he read the Christian books I would give him, we would debate and discuss for hours the Bible and what it was to be a Christian. It seemed a wonderful opportunity to witness, and I felt spiritually refreshed and close to the Lord because of all our discussions and my reading of scripture and good books to try to convince him, and find answers to his questions. It all seemed so encouraging and I was convinced he would surely soon be saved! We discussed our relationship and I tried in a round-about way at the start to lay down ground rules by saying that Christian and non-Christian dating was a no-go area. He said he understood and that my faith was one of the things he admired about me and would never want to change. I was not dating this man but we were very close friends – becoming increasingly attached to each other and spending a great deal of time together. I would mull over the fact that here was a non-Christian and yet he was so interested in the gospel, I could discuss with him much more about the Lord than I could with most male believers I’d known. I would think what a great Christian he would make! With all his personal and professional qualities and with his interest in working in the developing world – his skills and his knowledge could be put to so much use in mission too… I believed that God must be thinking this way too! (Romans 11:34).Then one weekend I attended a young peoples’ annual Bible school. Like the previous years, the teaching was fantastic and we had great Christian fellowship. I basically cajoled this chap into attending on the Lord’s day, and he even swapped shifts to do it. I was convinced that if he heard this pastor’s preaching, he would be converted (and I guess in the back of my mind it was that then we would be free to be together). The preacher was doing a study on Elijah, the studies had been so helpful, and the Lord really brought the Word alive to me on the preceding days. As the sermon began, he stated that he was going to preach on Elijah but had felt compelled to preach on 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness?…” My heart sank, but I must say I also felt afraid as if the finger of God was pointing at me. The Lord was speaking, very clearly. I still don’t know if anyone had told the preacher my situation but I felt so ashamed – but why if he was only a friend? I knew that in my heart he wasn’t, and that I hoped he be converted not just for the Lord but for me. As you can imagine my friend listened in silence to a service where the preacher spoke of the separation there must be between the “children of God” and the “children of the devil” – he said at the time that it was a “good service” but days later revealed how very angry and upset it made him. He said he was not a Christian but most certainly was not a “child of the devil.” I really didn’t know what to say. I was in turmoil but despite being afraid with hearing such an overt word from the Lord I became more concerned for my friend and how he felt and how to make up for it.A few days later my minister asked me to meet with him in his home to discuss transferring my membership to his church. At this meeting he spoke of seeing some “chemistry” between my friend and I, and that someone else had remarked to him of the same. He warned me of the danger I was getting myself into and of the sinfulness of the course I was following. I thanked him, denied anything was going on, and left feeling very angry, hurt and embarrassed but I knew he was right. There I was – God had already spoken but I had still not obeyed. He had been very patient with me though and sent a preacher to reinforce the message. I called this man and made it clear there could be nothing between us and tried to explain how God had spoken.I often thought of the damage I did to him, he had experienced problems in the past; and much of it, he thought, was due to spiritual struggles. I had to face him often at work after this and it was difficult. The whole situation hurt him very much. I often thought how hindsight is so helpful, but if only we guarded our hearts and lives as God’s Word commands – lessons learned in hindsight would not be so painful, or so necessary. Well, it all seemed such a disaster, I felt like I had messed things up for him and for myself. I was afraid that being separate from him I would still live missing him, pining after his company and always mulling over in mind “if only things were different.” I didn’t want to live like that and I believed it would have been sinful to do so. I was not to be in a relationship with a non-Christian either in practice or in my heart or head. I prayed to God to help me.At that time I was living with a young Christian lady. We had had a very rocky beginning to our house sharing a year before as she had been dating an unbeliever and I spoke to her at some length about this. Now the boot was on the other foot! I told her of my difficulty in dealing with these feelings; I had prayed, I had stopped contact with him what else could I do? “Hold God to his promises,” she would say. Each time she would say this I would think, “That’s awfully presumptuous and demanding to hold God to anything!” But her words started to hit home and I began to pray more, and to believe that he would provide the means of escape from this temptation just as he promises in 1 Corinthians 10:13.Days later I had an email from James, the Christian man whom I had been so fond of before (see above), and had, for so long, believed I would marry. It had been over five years since we had communicated. We have now been married for six! I was recollecting this account with my old pastor recently and his wife emphasized that even if there was not such a happy outcome of a Christian marriage, it would have still been essential for the relationship with the non-Christian to have ended. That is so true. God doesn’t give us all the same means of escape even for similar trials. Neither are we excused from speaking out over something the Bible says is sin, either because we have or have not the experience of falling into that sin, or because to challenge or rebuke someone over it might bring out a hostile response. God’s Word is God’s Word, we must obey it for our own good, even when it seems, humanly speaking, the hardest and most lonely option.
It was a very difficult but a very right thing for my minister to speak to me and warn me. As much as it hurt at the time, I am extremely grateful that he spoke out against my sin and the road I was taking. It’s not easy to face and rebuke a very emotional woman – my poor minister didn’t get a “thanks” at the time as I was pretty wild at him! But I love him for it now. Some might think what’s all the fuss, especially if we are not dating anyone. But God makes clear in His Word that sin begins in the heart (Matthew 5:28) and we should deal with it then (or when it’s reached temptation point), and not wait until people get so deeply entrenched in wrong relationships, when it’s so much harder to end them.