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.

  • Anonymous

    well, as someone who has been a christian for 18 years but married to a non-believer for 25 years i can only say may the LORD Himself richly bless you in your labours for Him. it is incredible to me to see how many young people, often from godly homes with good Christian parents, see nothing wrong with being involved in casual, serial dating and who may even convince themselves that the non-believer has been brought to them by the LORD so that that person will be saved. being married to someone who is not like minded is lonely, heartbreaking, involves continuous never ending anxiety and worry, not to mention stress, and just as we can not pull a person UP if we are stood on a chair, but the other can pull us DOWN, so being married to a non-believer will drag us down. i read the other post, and the comments, raising ones children in the fear and admonition of the LORD, keeping the commandment in deuteronomy 6 v7 is well nigh impossible if the husband is not a saved man, i have been greatly blessed in homeschooling our two children and our daughter is going on well with the LORD, our son, otoh, is terribly backslidden and causes me great worry, what will the LORD have to do to bring him back? will my wonderful husband die and go to a lost eternity? we need godly men in the pulpits teaching our young people about the biblical roles of men and women, about the true nature of marriage and how important it is to marry a like minded believer – and to wait on the LORD for that like minded believer, trusting that GOD does know what is best for us. sorry, almost turned into a rant. God bless.

  • Milly

    Well. I’ve read all of these very attentivelly. I’m christian girl in a similar situation. I’ve just broke up with my unbeliever friend…everything is so painful…is a disaster. My heart is broken and his too. Am afraid that i have hindered him instead of helping gim to come to Lord. Even though nothing unpure happened between us. He is 30 and I am 23 and he loves me so much, he couldn’t even think to force me into something that is wrong.What I really need to know is this: what happened wiht your ex unbeliever friend, Angela??? Are you still praying for him? How did he react when you got marry? What did he say about you, about God? Can you be happy knowing that he is not saved…and that if he would have been saved in the past now HE would be your husband? Please answer me honestly…I need to know..God bless you.

  • Angela

    Hi Milly, sorry for being so slow to reply -we’ve been off email whilst away on holiday. Sorry to hear you’re also going through this and at the same age as I was, it’s a really, really difficult time for you just now and I’m sure you will be feeling very raw and heart sore but I will try to answer your questions. What happened to my friend?… How did he react when I married?… I don’t know what has happened with my friend, we lost contact years ago. The last time I spoke to him was when he telephoned a few days before I was to marry (I hadn’t spoken to him in quite some time), he was a bit surprised that I was getting married so soon but I don’t actually know what he thought of it. He was a kind man and I’m sure he would have been happy for me that I was marrying someone I loved. In some ways it would have been nice to keep in touch, he was a lovely person, we had so much in common and I didn’t want him to feel like I was “dumping” him as a friend but the only wise thing to do in this situation was to stop our contact. I think otherwise I would have stayed at risk of falling into the same situation again. Also I think it would have been hard for my husband -to -be, I personally don’t think it’s wise to be in close friendships with former “boyfriends” and I think that too with social networking sites like facebook, etc, I don’t think it’s good to have what we call in Scotland “old flames” in your contacts. You don’t want to end up igniting an old spark that should have been put out. I think as hard as it is in these situations you have to remember that it is God that saves, sometimes we think “well if I stop contact then he will not have any Christian witness and then there is no way he will be saved” -but no matter how hard we try we cannot save anyone, it is God’s work and God knows your friend too, it’s better to give him over to the Lord and for you to move on and allow him to do the same. Am I still praying for him?…I prayed for him a lot initially but now I can’t say I pray for him regularly, when I think of him I do pray for him. I’m sure you can hardly imagine not thinking of your friend or not being in contact or even no longer praying daily for him, I felt like that at the time but seven years later , I am married with three children of my own and my life is very different from what it was then, things have moved on. I don’t believe it would be right to be thinking about him a lot as I have to be careful to protect my marriage and family and thinking over and over about past relationships is not healthy or wise. It might sound sad to you but he is no longer a part of my life, nor am I of his, because of this I can’t say I still pray regularly for him, I don’t but I know that God does not forget our prayers, perhaps in his case they have been answered, perhaps they are still to be, I don’t know and I maybe never will. At the difficult stage you are at it is hard to see it but things will change and life does go on. God has a purpose for you and there is more to your life than this relationship. Can I be happy knowing that he is not saved…and that if he would have been saved in the past now he would be my husband?…I don’t agree with the idea that “if he had been saved he would now be my husband”, I believe God had planned for me who I was to marry and that’s my husband James, God does not give us second best, sometimes when we refuse to obey Him and are stubbornly going on in a sinful path He allows us something that we want -but which would not be the best for us -to show us how wrong we are, but when we are seeking to obey Him and to walk in faith I know He gives us His best. So for me I know that relationship was never to have gone anywhere -I was to marry James and I’m very glad of that. What did he say about me and about God?….At the time he said he felt I was too influenced by the church and that I was just following tradition or rules and that they would make me unhappy, he was very angry initially about the whole thing and I think he felt sorry for me. I certainly wouldn’t have looked very strong at that time -more like a wreck! so it’s no surprise he would have thought I was not thinking for myself and that I was being weak and the church heavy handed. He felt my minister had no right to challenge me about it. He didn’t understand that it is God’s Word and His rules and that as hard as it was to split from him in the long term it would have been far harder as a Christian to be married to a non -Christian (see Julie’s story above).I think he also found it difficult because he thought of himself as being “Christian” enough, he wasn’t outwardly a “bad” person so if it was only good morals we would be thinking about I’m sure it would be hard for him to see why we couldn’t be together, but self made “good” morals do not make a Christian, only Christ in us can make us Christian -no amount of praying for him, arguing for Christianity to him, witnessing to him or dragging him to church could ever save him, like your friend he must believe himself, you cannot do that for him.I think the best thing to do just now is to use your time wisely -pray to God to help you, read his Word as much as you can and use it as an experience and time to grow as a Christian and be careful, sometimes we think that we are strong after we have overcome a temptation but there’s always the risk of thinking “I won’t fall into that same mistake again,” we are all sinners and can make the same mistake twice.One of the saddest things I’ve seen is Christian friends who are stuck in on/ off relationships with non -Christians. They break up because they believe it’s wrong but keep falling back into the same sin, I think that’s partly because they break up but stay such close friends. It isn’t fair on the unbeliever because they are also not free to move on and always left hoping that the Christian will eventually just give in and marry them, sometimes when they do finally part years have been lost in this struggle between two that should never be together anyway.Lastly I hope you have a good church to support you, I had a great one at the time and had an active church life so I could be busy and I know I was prayed for and supported through it. Try to find even one trusted older Christian who can help and encourage you and who you can talk to honestly -I used to meet with an older lady each week for prayer and Bible study. Having someone to be a bit accountable to can be a help especially when we are struggling with a temptation. Another thing that my old pastor would have said to me is to remember to pray for others who are also going through this, sometimes when we are going through something hard it’s easy to think only about ourselves but the Bible says that these temptations are “common” to people, lots of us fall into the same sins and are tempted in similar ways and it’s good to remember that so that we can be a help to others and also to encourage that others have survived this and you will too! I hope that none of this sounds harsh and I hope this is helpful, I read your email and remembered how sad I felt when it first happened and how lonely and a complete- and -utter failure I felt and the fear that “maybe I’ll always be alone now”, so I really feel for you but God knows, bring it to Him and rely on Him to help you in the coming days, He cares for you much more than even your friend ever could. God Bless you too, Angela.

  • Tala Basante

    hi beloved, Angela, your story is very touchy………i recently became born again and when i told my boyfriend, he gave me an ultimatum, he doesnt even want to hear anything about the Lord, i was warned against this relationship, but i was so inlove and did not listen, until i went to visit him in his home town just to find out he found himself a new girlfriend, i am so hurt and i pray every day to get over him, i know it was wrong to be in a relationship with him in the first place, but i was being stubborn, i feel somehow the Spirit lead me, so i can go see for myself that what i am doing is wrong.i am still hurt, but i pray everyday to get over him i also pray for him though, we are both 23 and i would also want him to change his attitude towards God, eventhough i am not thinking of ever having a relationship with him, i still love and care for him a lotbut that is not God’s will for me….

  • Ruth

    I can only tell you that marrying an umbeliever is a sin of disobedience. We are told not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers for a reason – we have nothing in common with them. I fell into the trap of marrying an unbeliever. I really believed that I loved the Lord too. My husband seemed to be such a lovely person but after a year and 4 months of marriage, I can tell you that my life is very sad and empty. I don’t go to church anymore – he hates God, the Bible and anything to do with Christianity. I am too ashamed to go to church by myself which is what he tells me I can do. Since our wedding we have been to church 5 times and two of those times were for funerals. My ‘marriage’ bears absolutely no resemblance to what Christian women hope for and is a source of pain. There is no shared church attendance, no reading the Bible at home together, not praying together (he won’t even say grace before he eats), nothing. I can’t believe how unhappy I am. He thinks everything’s fine even though I have explained many times how I feel. I no longer find him attractive because his anti Christian rants make him very ugly to me but I still have to be a wife… Please don’t marry an unbeliever. Your flesh will be happy sometimes but you will never have true joy as God intended – you will never be one in Christ. I would like to look at my husband with genuine respect, love and admiration but all I see when I look at him is a man who moved into my house to disturb my peace. My husband knows how unhappy I am but he doesn’t care. Please don’t let the enemy deceive you. Stand fast in your faith and trust God to give you a spouse after His own heart. I am now very depressed and feel that my whole life is a sham. I am so ashamed of what I have done. I was lonely sometimes before I got married but now I am really lonely all the time. Please don’t do it. Don’t make the same mistake I made. God bless you.

    • David Murray

      Ruth, I’m very sorry to read your painful story and hope that not only others will learn from it, but that you would know God’s sustaining grace even in the midst of this long-term trial. I would encourage you, though, to start attending a Gospel-centered church again though. It will not only give you the spiritual resources you desperately need to preserve and strengthen you through this affliction, but it will also be a much-needed witness to your husband. The most likely way he is going to be saved is through your own Christian witness (1 Cor. 7:14; 1 Peter 3:2). I don’t think you will feel the shame you fear if you attend a church where the focus is on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Charmaine Siqoza

    I KNOW THIS IS LONG BUT PLS READ AND ADVISE, HELP! I knw ths is an old post but its so relevant to where I am. Nd bcz I hv no1 2tok 2 out of fear of being judged I guess I can only hope for biblical advise and wisdom from ppl in ths community. I wil try cut my long story short. I have been born again for a lil over 5yrs and when I got born again I decided I wouldn’t date but court and my next relationship would be my last leading up to marriage. Primarily bcz I had been hurt in the past by a Christian brother. So I was single for 2yrs and focused on serving and loving the Lord and it is during that time that I become close frnds wit a godly man in the church. I did think much of it until I heard the Lord speak to me saying this man was to be my husband. I immediately started takn an interest in him but we only started courting a year later with th approval of our pastors and leaders. We courted for 2yrs and 6 months and it twas nothing but beautiful during the good times and the bad bcz we had God as our foundation. Bt a lil later I began to backslide and I soon wasnt praying or reading the word and I wasnt attending church due to family politics. All that took a toll on my spiritual life and during that time I met a non believer and altho I knew being friends with him could be dangerous I sucked it up and convinced myself I was being friendly I began entertaining him chatting and all at the same time paying lil attention to my Christian boyfriend. It was then that the non believer asked me out and altho I new in my heart dated a non believer was sorry I started comparing him to my Christian boyfriend
    And how than than being saved he had it all and my family would readily accepted as opposed to my Christian boyfriend. So I broke up wit my Christian boyfriend it hurt but I was blinded and so backslidden I sonehow ignored it all. I then began dated the none believer twaz awesome the first two wks but something in my heart knew ths was wrng. As th weeks went by I become increasingly bothered by the relationship and how hard I was try to love ths none believer makn him my best friend and compromising everything I know just to be worldly again so we can be together. Like alwaz I ignored the nudges of the Holy Spirit. Fast forward it’s bn 3mnths of dating the non believer and last week I couldn’t stand it anymore and I felt God drawing back to him and so I repented and I am working on restoring my relationship with GOD. My problem is I am in a mess I dnt knw how to fix, I dnt hv th heart to break up wit th non believer its like im breaking anada heart months afta I broke up wit my Christian boyfriend. Not to mention his family knows abt me. Dont get me wrong I dnt want to date ths guy anymore I really dnt I just kp praying he breaks up wit me bt each day he professes his love and I cant stand it it seems I may hav to face the consequences of my actions. And break up with him…I wish I ddnt hv to be th one to do it. Thats half of the story, on the other hand as I hvn bn wrkn on restoring my relationship with God I have become increasingly aware of th fact that in my backslidden state I lost my bestfriend the man God told me I would marry and to make matters worse I hurt him. I want us to eventually get back together and that he forgives but I don’t knw if he will altho I know what God said about us. I need help as to how to deal with th non believer and secondly do I just wait and pray thay God restores my relationship with th chriatian guy? Pls help

  • Cherry

    Im going thru the same situation right now. Its been almost 2months now after I broke up with non believer boyfriend. Weve been together for almost 2yrs and I was a lost sheep when he courted me. I really thought that he was gonna be the man for me but after being together for 18 months, I felt that God is drawing back to him. I thought it was okay if I will just share the gospel to my ex then I thought He will bless the relationship. But I realized after weeks of praying and getting council from my friends that the relationship that i was in is totally wrong. That God has special plans for his children. I was so moved by John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commandments”. It was really painful for me. And its still painful for me right now as i am typing this. There are times when I felt the urge to get back in his arms but God has been gracious to me in all those circumstances. Sometimes God chastens his children so that we will learn. I just keep him in my prayers and ask God to take away all the guilt in my heart as well for causing him pain. I know that God listens. And that one day, in His time, I will be completely healed already and so is he. Take courage sisters, God is close to the broken heart and he saves the crushed in spirit. God bless us. :)

  • Gordon Akipia

    “Begging her to end her relationship with a non-Christian man” is completely not according to Christain logics from Bible. Jesus died to save Gentiles who are non-Jews, and now gentitles transformed to christians. If a man is non-Christian, and his believe is somewhat outside something else, this is where we supposed to preach the word. You should support the young lady to be in a relationship with that man, continue to pray and transform that. God will be more happy to see that. God listens to prayers, nothing is impossible, fear is not what God wants. You have given Fear to that young lady, VERY WRONG ADVISE.