It is a scary thing to face… you think you are dating (or engaged to) a man who is committed to following Jesus. But then, as you begin to watch his life, you realize that you and the man you love are not on the same page spiritually.
What do you do if you are already in a committed relationship?
It’s tricky because lots of people profess to be Christians. They may even go to church. But just because a someone says he is a Christian doesn’t mean he knows the Lord and is a disciple of Jesus.
The most important thing to be sure you understand about any guy before you commit to dating or marrying him is his relationship with Jesus. What does he believe it means to be a Christian? What priority does Jesus have in his life? Is Christ anything but #1?
Other well-meaning believers give all kinds of advice in this situation:
- Just keep witnessing to him and try to get him to come to know Jesus but don’t break up with him.
- Don’t judge his relationship with the Lord.
- You’re too picky if this is a concern for you.
- Ditch him. You’re too good for him.
- Get counseling. You can probably work it out.
Scripture is very clear that Christians are only to marry those who are “in Christ.”
If you realize that there is anything/anyone else who is more important to your guy than Jesus and his walk with Him, it is a problem.
This requires great wisdom and discernment.
Some girls are with great guys who do know the Lord but these women believe their men are far from the Lord. Maybe they have unrealistic expectations of what godly leadership means or what a godly marriage should look like. Maybe they just have different personal convictions and think that means the guy is “worldly” when he actually is not.
God designed husbands to be the spiritual leader in marriage. How are you going to follow a man who isn’t fully submitting himself to the Lordship of Christ? Be sure that you are able to respect him, his faith, and his spiritual leadership before you agree to marry him.
We are to avoid being “unequally yoked” as believers in Christ. (2 Cor. 6:4)
A yoke is a wooden bar that joins two oxen to each other and to the burden they pull. An “unequally yoked” team has one stronger ox and one weaker, or one taller and one shorter. The weaker or shorter ox would walk more slowly than the taller, stronger one, causing the load to go around in circles. When oxen are unequally yoked, they cannot perform the task set before them. Instead of working together, they are at odds with one another. (from www.gotquestions.org)
Don’t ever go into marriage expecting to “fix” your man.
- I can change him.
- He’s my project. I’ll give him an emotional and spiritual makeover.
- My love will transform him.
- Being married to me will inspire him to heal.
- If we are together, he’ll automatically grow spiritually.
- Once we are married, he’ll mature a lot.
- When we’re married, he’ll be motivated to be a more godly man.
- Yes, he’s a lost puppy spiritually now, he just needs the love of a good woman.
How can you know if a man is not really a believer in Christ?
Examine the fruit of his life. (Examine the fruit of your own life, as well.) Do you see Jesus making a huge difference in his thinking, speech, priorities, and actions?
- Does he love things of the world more than he loves God?
- Does he respond gently and respectfully when people oppose him?
- What is his leadership style? Does he act like a selfish tyrant? Or is he very passive and unwilling to lead at all?
- What is he doing to nourish his soul daily?
- How does he handle sin in his life?
- Is he completely entangled in sin right now, unable to get free?
- Is he humble enough to admit when he is wrong?
- Can he accept constructive criticism?
- How does he handle anger?
- How does he handle sexual temptation?
- Does he expect you to “keep him in line?” Or does he take personal responsibility for his thoughts, words, and actions?
- Is he transparent about his struggles spiritually and about his online activity?
- Does he keep a lot of secrets from you?
- Do you see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control in his life?
No man is going to be perfect. Even those who do love the Lord. So you are not looking for perfection. But you are looking for humility, willingness to admit wrong, teachability (with mentors and with the Lord), kindness, selflessness, general holiness, and personal responsibility.
If you see the following, you should have serious concerns. It may not be wise to move forward, even if he says he knows Christ.
- Is he violent with anyone or with animals? If he is already violent, before you are even married, there is a good chance he will eventually seriously hurt you.
- Is he unrepentant about sexual sin (or other sin) from his past or present? Someone who is following Christ will mourn over his sin and be grieved at the thought of breaking Jesus’ heart. They will hate their sin and want to make things right with God and others ASAP.
- Is he addicted to pornography, drugs, alcohol, gambling or anything else? Being married to someone with an addiction is a recipe for misery. There is no guarantee they will break the addiction later if they can’t break it now.
- Is he consumed with bitterness or hatred toward anyone? If he can’t let go of this, it is going to be very toxic for him and his relationships.
- Is he very controlling toward you or anyone else? Control usually escalates after marriage. Does he generally treat you with respect and honor?
- Does he have any godly friends or are all of his friends super worldly? Is he only attracted to people doing sinful things?
- Has he recently announced he accepted Christ because you told him you would only date him if he did that? This happens all the time. Someone will say they became a Christian just to get to date or marry the person they like. But it may not be real. They drop the act once they marry.
- Has he ever threatened you with harm? Does he throw things in anger? These are signs that someone doesn’t have his temper under control.
- Is he cheating on you with someone else? If he is not willing to be faithful now, don’t expect him to change later.
- Is he confused about his sexuality or sexual identity? People need to figure that out way before getting into a committed relationship.
- Is he extremely wounded from past trauma or abuse? He may need a lot of healing to be ready for a committed relationship.
- Is he suicidal or very emotionally/mentally/spiritually unstable? He may need to have a chance to figure things out for himself and find healing before he is ready for the additional stress of a committed relationship.
Getting married doesn’t fix people’s problems.
In fact, marriage magnifies difficult issues. Once you get married, all the baggage comes out and gets dumped on the living room floor. And once you marry him, all of his problems become your problems, too.
It is difficult to find a godly spouse today. So many people have turned away from truth and the Bible. It is a rare person who wants to devote themselves completely to Jesus.
If you’re not sure if he knows Jesus as his Savior and Lord, what can you do?
Here are some steps to take if you believe you are in a relationship with a man who isn’t committed, (all on his own without any prodding from you or anyone else) to live for Christ:
- Pray. If you don’t know for sure where your man is spiritually, take time away to seek the Lord and His wisdom and direction.
- Talk with your guy and seek to understand him. Respectfully and gently let him know about your concerns. See what he says. Have a calm, friendly discussion about what you each believe it means to follow Christ and your spiritual expectations for any future romantic relationship.
- Have you simply misunderstood something?
- Are your expectations unrealistic or unbiblical?
- What priorities do you share?
- Where are you heading in different directions?
- If you are still confused, consider seeking wise, godly counsel from someone you trust who knows you both and who will be honest with you. Ideally your dad, mom, or a trusted Christian mentor. (Please don’t go to guys who are interested in dating you for advice on this!) You could go alone or together. But don’t let other people make this decision for you. You need to make the best decision for yourself.
- If you know that you are definitely not on the same page spiritually, it is important to break off the relationship. But you can do this in a way that preserves his dignity, honors him, and doesn’t burn bridges.
If you decide to break off the relationship, what should you say?
If it becomes obvious that you want to live for Christ wholeheartedly, but your guy doesn’t, and you need to break up, here are some options:
- As you know, I love you dearly. I wanted so much for this relationship to work. But it seems we are on different pages spiritually. I respect that you have the right to decide how you want to live your life and that this is where you are spiritually right now. I also know that I am not heading in the same direction. So, even though this is going to be painful, I believe it is best for us to part ways now. I wish you all the best in everything.
- I love you and want the absolute best for you. Earlier, I thought we were on the same page spiritually and now I see that we aren’t. I want, more than anything, to honor the Lord in all I do, including my choice for a husband. The last thing I want to do is try to change you. I respect you too much. And I don’t want you to change for me. So I believe we can’t continue forward in this relationship now that we realize we are not going in the same direction. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for all of the wonderful memories. I wish you the best in everything.
Most of all, seek to honor Christ in absolutely everything you do. Let His Spirit transform you. Stay close to Him and pursue Him more than anything or anyone else. He can give you the wisdom you need for every decision.
Learn from My Mistakes about Ignoring Red Flags – a guest post
THE ABC’s OF SALVATION
- Admit you are a sinner and you can’t be perfect and holy enough in God’s eyes to be right with Him on your own. Turn away from your sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom. 3:23
- Believe that Jesus died on your behalf to pay the price for your sin and to give you a way to be right with God – to be forgiven. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus, our Lord.” Rom. 6:23
- Confess that Jesus is your Lord – this means, Jesus is now your Master and you live your life for Him and His glory rather than for yourself. You say it out loud to others and you live it from now on. “If you confess withyour mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heartthat God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with your heart you believe and are justified, and with your mouth you confess and are saved.” Rom. 10:9-10
My understanding of the Gospel of Jesus and my theology matches The Confessional Statement of the Gospel Coalition.