Religion & Relationships - How Different Are We?

At school one day, you see this guy that you really love to watch, and the more you watch him, the more you come to respect all he does. He's always kind, he's the champion of the underdog, he smiles a lot, he doesn't do drugs or a have "player" reputation - he seems like someone even your parents would approve of.

Finally, after watching him for so long, you find the courage to talk to him and the two of you really hit it off and quickly start talking about dating. There's only one little - or big? - issue that prevents you from feeling completely comfortable with dating each other.

He's not a Christian: he comes from a different religion that you know very little about.

You've always been taught to date only Christians, always assumed you've only want to date Christians, and yet this guy seems so much like you, you really feel connected to him and you don't know what to do - is it really so bad to date someone of another religion? The basic answer to this question is that you have to make the choice for yourself, however there are a few things that you might want to think about while making the decision.

The Bible tells us to have fellowship - friendship - with other Christians, so that they can help refresh us and give us strength, and the courage, and knowledge, to talk to non-Christians who need our help. However, the Bible doesn't forbid us from entering a relationship with someone from a different religion. Most religions, Christianity included, tells us not to date people from other religions; to date only other Christians. The Mormons, for example, and the Jews, also suggest that you date only people from the same religion. They tell us this because even though it may not be wrong, per say, having a serious inter-religious relationship can have it's share of problems.

For example, if you're dating someone, then I believe that you should be able to see yourself married to them. If you're married to someone, then children will probably come into the picture at some point. If you're married to someone who doesn't share your religion, then the two of you may have conflict deciding how to bring up the children; where are they going to go to church for example. If you're married to an atheist, he or she might object to having them learn about the Bible, which would no doubt make you angry seeing as you believe that having the Bible as part of life is essential. How you discipline children may also differ. If you come from different religions, what kind of rules will you set as the children become older (the age you tend to let them date, the kind of people you let them date, etc)? These may also become issues. In my book, raising a child is the single most important thing that we can ever do. It is helping shape an entire personality, beliefs, morals, values, attitudes, and life views are in my opinion, irrevocably linked to parents. Because of this, then, it's important that whomever we marry share our ideas about how to raise a family.

Not only could children eventually become an issue, but, if you date someone from a different religion, then your attitudes on how you can act toward one another, and what you can do, may be different. For example, in a lot of religions, it is not considered wrong to have premarital sex. In Christianity, though, saving sex for marriage is a lesson that we learn early on. Viewing certain kinds of movies, and going to certain types of places, aren't considered wrong in other religion, whereas we, as Christians, are told to keep our eyes and ears clean. If you're dating someone from a different religion, you may find yourself being pressured, or talked, in doing something that you never had any intention of doing before you met one another.

Yet another potential problem in dating someone from another religion might be as simple as holidays and where to spend them. For example, the Jews celebrate holidays that the Christians know absolutely nothing about. If you dated a Jew, then, it would seem to me that you'd have questions about what he or she was celebrating and why. If you couldn't understand or agree with their holiday, then a potential problem exists. Certain religions restrict the kind of clothing you can wear and how you should act around people. This could cause a real issue with modern Christians, who tend to feel perfectly comfortable wearing rather un modest clothing.

Also, if you were to begin seeing someone from a religion that differed greatly from yours, such as seeing someone Jewish, both sides of the family may have problems with it, and therefore, cause you problems. I know when I started to attend a Jewish synagogue (along with my Christian church), my sister, and the rest of my family, and my fiance, all had major problems with it and caused me a lot of grief. My fiancée and I separated, for a time, because of it. Just because you are willing to work through the obstacles doesn't mean that your families are going to necessarily sit by and smile while you see someone seriously who doesn't share your basic belief.

The last potential problem is the biggest, and most serious. Whether we do it unconsciously or not, when we meet someone from a different religion, especially one we don't particularly understand, then we are probably going to try and convince our partner to convert to our religion. I mean, can't you hear yourself or someone else saying, "If only you were Christian, there wouldn't be a problem" and pressuring each other to go to a church, or a synagogue or a mosque. This is dangerous. I do not believe that anyone, from any religion, should EVER convert to a different religion for the sake of a relationship. The only way that conversion should ever take place is if the person genuinely feels the spirit, or a major need to convert. If placed with someone, from a different religion, who we nevertheless love and care a great deal about and do not want to lose, we may be tempted to put our religion aside and to go with theirs, perhaps even thinking, "I still believe in Christianity, but I don't have to go to church". When we do this, I believe we're sacrificing a major part of ourselves, seeing as religion plays such a vital role in our lives. We should always, under any and all circumstances, stand up for what we believe; even if it means sacrificing an otherwise good relationship.

Whether we realize it or not, religion shapes who we are. It shapes what we believe to be right or wrong, it shapes our attitudes and how we act. Even agnostics, who don't believe anything, are shaped by being agnostic. If you don't have a religion, after all, then you have nothing, morally, to keep you from doing things that might be harmful to yourself and/or to other people. Because of this, when we enter a relationship with someone from a different religion, we should be aware, up front, that there are going to be obstacles we'll have to cross.

But, you might say, doesn't every relationship have obstacles? Pretty much, yes, they do. So, then, the question becomes, "are you willing and ready to work through those obstacles, and is it even possible to overcome some of the bigger obstacles brought into the mix when you differ on religion?" Well, it is possible to overcome them. I have two very good friends of mine; one is Jewish and one is Christian and they are married and neither of them have ever converted to the other's religion. Not only that, but they are so much in love it makes me ill to watch them :). So, it is possible to accomplish, and Christ did embrace those different from Him. We should never shun anyone from us just for being a non-Christian. I have learned a great deal about myself, and about the person I want to be, from non-Christians. It's just that we need to be careful to keep our own beliefs in sight and that we don't sacrifice our own beliefs for someone else, anyone else.

The biggest tool to help us decide whether or not to enter into a inter-religious relationship is, and should always be, prayer. Pray together; go to each other's religious meetings, if only just once, so you can learn about what they believe. After all, we have to know what they believe to know how different their beliefs are from ours. Talk with a religious leader and find support: talk with each other and be very honest with each other. Would you rather try and work through whatever obstacles religion brings you and take the risk of ending up not even friends, or would you rather forgo the relationship to keep a good friendship? God can help you decide, if you'll talk with Him, read His word and listen to what He has in store for your life. If He wants you with each other, then He'll let you know. If He doesn't, then remember that He knows the future and you don't, so it's best to trust His plan, for He'd never lead someone He loves (you) astray.