Missionary Dating and Why I’ll Be Okay If My Kids Marry Outside Our Faith

Lately, a topic swirling around my religious internet circles causes me to squirm.  The subject: one should not marry outside one’s faith. The Bible passage referenced is from the Old Testament book of Malachi, sharing warnings to men marrying women who believe in different gods. Since I was a teen, I’ve heard the comical term, “missionary dating” when a Christian enters a romantic relationship with a non-Christian. 

This is not the first time I’ve been bothered when I hear others interpret the book of Malachi. In fact, I think I’ve heard warnings about inter-faith marriage from a pulpit at least once a year for the 43 I’ve been on this planet. I understand the concern about different beliefs in the household, it doesn’t make marriage easy. But then again, what does make marriage easy? 

When Malachi preached these warnings to the Jewish people, it was way, way, way before Jesus came to teach me how to live in grace and not legalism. Besides, didn’t Naomi’s Jewish sons “missionary marry” Orpah and Ruth? (Ruth 1)

You and I could discuss this topic all day long, I’m sure. But one particular (sometimes emphatic) statement by well meaning believers sends me in an inward tailspin of rage:

“Missionary dating will lead to divorce.”

If you’re a blog follower, you know all about my atheist boyfriend who became my husband. Through our relationship, Edd became a believer in Christ and by watching him in his faith, my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece and nephew became believers, too.

Just so we’re up on the math: 1 unbeliever + 1 believer = 5 new believers.

This year, Edd and I will celebrate our 18th year of marriage. Please God, tell me our “missionary dating” will not lead to divorce. Of course we’re never out of the woods when it comes to the future. I pray You will cover us.

What if my own girls fall in love with someone outside our Christian faith? I cannot fathom loving them any less because of their marriage choices.

If dreams come true, my girls will marry men who share in their love of Jesus and will treat my darlings in the same way Christ loved his church. (Ephesians 5:25) At present time, however, we live in a highly populated Asian-Indian community where just as many neighbors celebrate Dewali as do Christmas. Who knows where the girls will end up going to college or traveling after high school? I have to accept the fact that should my girls marry one day, it may not be to a Christian.

Am I all-right with this? If the men my daughters marry treat them as the princesses (small bias) they are, then yes. You know why? Just because someone says he is a Christian does not mean he may not also be a total jerk. 

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Let me tell you about my sister-from-another-mister’s first husband. He worked for the church, he lead Bible studies and he loved Jesus. He also loved drugs and alcohol. So much did he love his substances that he drove while on them. He killed not only himself, but a mother of small children sitting in the passenger seat of another car.

Can I tell you about another friend so dear to me? The one who married a man who, like her, grew up in the church. Only instead of prayer he found physical abuse to be an acceptable means of release.

I have personally encountered more than one Jesus loving, church leader to commit adultery. 

Those of you who have known me for a lifetime remember my first engagement. Oh, that Southern Baptist boy was a charmer, wasn’t he? So polite, so into God’s Word, he could pull Scripture to fit any situation. Thankfully, I believe God was watching to make sure that marriage never happened. The Lord knew I wouldn’t be happy with a husband who slept with a gun under his pillow, pathologically lied, and got other women pregnant. 

I would rather have my children marry atheists/Muslims/Hindus/Jews who have kind, faithful souls rather than a Jesus loving abuser. Just because a man loves Christ does not mean he is without serious demons. And just because a man is not a Christ follower doesn’t mean he is without a heart of gold.

If you are in a relationship with someone who can’t get away from substance abuse, run. 

If you are in a relationship with someone who can’t stop physical abuse, run.

But if you hear the internet, a friend, or even a pastor telling you to run from a relationship because of a difference in religion, stop. Think. Pray with all your heart, and your mind, and your strength for God’s leading. It may be a relationship to end. It also may be a relationship that will grow into a healthy, crazy in love, family.

* I used the male gender when referring to my daughters’ marriage. Please know I will never disown a child for whomever she decides to marry.


  1. Katie Matheny says

    its such a hard topic to walk on. Because definitely see "godly" marriages go down the tube, and non christian ones be successful. But I also think that ones that can appear godly on the outside can be full of sin and corruption which leads down the tubes, while other non christian marriages can be labeled ungodly because of disbelief, while their actions are still God honoring, though their intention may not be to honor God. Missionary dating, and marrying can be successful, yet it can also be very very very straining on the believer's faith. I dated missionaly a few times, prior to Randy of course. And I was rocked in every which way of my faith. It was a huge test, one I thought I would pass but I failed miserably. There were a few years post missionary dating that I lost nearly all my faith. However, on the reverse, because I still had a glimmer left, when I met Randy, it was reignited. It burned bright again. There's a lot of truth in the "be equally yoked" statement, at the very least for the ease of the people involved. But God really does what ever it takes to see His children walk in his love.

  2. Vicki says

    I love this! I have been told many times that if I marry a non-believer I will be cheated and be beat up. The Christian guys I dated were jerks. The non-Christian guys were the nice ones.

  3. says

    "I would rather have my children marry atheists/Muslims/Hindus/Jews who have kind, faithful souls rather than a Jesus loving abuser."

    Yep. When the one and only criteria for marriage is "Is he a Christian?", things can get pretty scary. I've seen some horribly abusive "Christian" relationships, and I have seen some beautiful, mutually respectful marriages of couples who are "unequally yoked."
    Stopping by from Elizabeth Esther's linkup today. Peace to you.

  4. says

    Thanks so much for stopping by and for your comment. I agree – it is so dangerous to look for one criteria. And people can be Christian and still be extremely flawed – even to the point of being dangerous.

  5. Jay says

    Currently dating a wonderful man who does know God yet but hoping he will someday. Thank you for such a great blog it’s a rare find in a sea of “don’t ever think about getting married to an unbeliever/non Christian”

  6. Shona says

    I am currently engaged to a unbeliever he asked my mothers blessing which she gave now she tells me she regrets it as we are unequally yoked, I have never dated and meet an eligible Christian man in my 36years.

    I love my fiancé and pray for him everyday and im worried that if I go ahead my mum will not want to be involved, reading ur story has given me hope for my fiancé

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