Question:

My boyfriend and I have been together for a year and half. He's a good guy, but he is not a Christian. He is not an atheist and is still sitting on the fence about God. He wasn't raised going to church and he's quite open to going and learning when I started going out with him, up until now my mother has refused to meet him. This has done a lot of damage and he feels quite rejected (understandably).

My mom believes I am sinning by dating an unbeliever and this is the reason she has refused to meet him. If I marry him, she will not attend our wedding. In regards to how she will be after we get married I think she will meet him then only because we would already be married. From my point of view I believe she's gone about this wrong. My boyfriend emailed her and expressed how much he'd like to get to know her as she is my mother, but she told him that while she believes he's a good guy, she cannot meet him as God would not approve if she did and God must come first.

He has gotten a bad view of Christianity over this. I think it's put him off to a large degree. I feel if my mom had gone about things differently, met him and treated him like Jesus treated the sinners he met, shown him what it means to be a Christian, and tried to win him to the Lord it would have worked out much better. He likes discussing things about God and has questions. My mom could have guided him a bit, shared her testimony with him and just shown him by example why and how Christians are different. But to her meeting him would be the same as condoning our relationship and I don't agree. She could express her feelings about things without shunning him or shutting him out. When people ask me what my mom thinks about my boyfriend, whether she likes him or not, I don't know what to say and I feel embarrassed.

Luckily his family doesn't bring it up with me and have tried to be discreet and understanding, but, of course, they think the whole thing is strange. I feel so down and feel a lot of guilt too as though I am causing my mother all this grief. If she doesnt attend our wedding, I feel like it's my fault, and she's missing out because of me. I am not sure how to handle this. What should I do? It's easy for others to suggest I break up with him and simply find a Christian man, but it really isn't that easy.

Thank you.


Answer:

I can't help thinking about the Jews in the first Century. They got upset when Peter went to Cornelius' home. "And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, "You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!"" (Acts 11:2-3). They ignored the fact that God had Peter go to Cornelius and showed His approval by the giving gifts of the Holy Spirit. They skipped over the fact that these Gentiles were now Christians, just the same as they were. That is, until Peter brought all these points to their attention (Acts 11:18).

Still that didn't settle the problem. "And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved"" (Acts 15:1). In other words, the claim was that sure, Gentiles could follow Christ, but they had to become Jews before they could be saved. That argument was soundly squashed by Paul, Barnabas, Peter, and James.

That should have settled things, but problems continued to pop up. "Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy" (Galatians 2:11-13). Amazing isn't it? The man who baptized the first Gentile and who argued that the Gentiles are saved allowed himself to be persuaded not to associate with these same people.

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

Your mother has fallen into the same trap. We are commanded not to associate with Christians who live sinful lives. "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person" (I Corinthians 5:11). But notice the verses prior: "I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world" (I Corinthians 5:9-10). What you are doing by dating a non-Christian man is not a sin. If your mother thinks that it is a sin, then consistency would demand that she stop associating with you, not your boyfriend because in her view you are the one who should know better.

You are correct that your mother has tainted the Gospel by causing a man who needs to hear the gospel to conclude that Christians are snobs. If she does not want you marrying a non-Christian, she would have served all better by encouraging you to wait until this man converted to Christ -- and then worked to see that such happened. By refusing to teach a sinner the truth, she has violated the command of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). One point that Jesus made clear is that no one can play one command against another (Matthew 15:1-9), especially when the one being used as an excuse to not do God's command is a tradition and not a command of God.

While marrying a non-Christian is not the best choice a Christian can make in selecting a spouse, we know it is not a sin. Paul discusses how marriages to non-Christians are to be handled (I Corinthians 7:12-15). Peter does the same thing (I Peter 3:1-2). Some argue that this only applies to marriages where one spouse becomes a Christian after they had married. While they do apply to such as situation, there is nothing in either passage that shows they are limited to only those situations. We are not allowed to add restrictions where God has not given a restriction.

However, telling your mother this will not change her mind. I'm sure she believes she is more knowledgable and that her daughter can't teach her. You can't be responsible for another person's wrongful conclusions -- even your mothers.

What I suggest is that you focus on teaching your boyfriend the gospel. See if the local preacher will help you. Explain to your boyfriend that your mother misunderstands the verses about not associating with a Christian living in sin and has applied it too broadly to include non-Christians. Then see if he will learn the truth or not. If he does decide to become a Christian, then things will be an easy choice. If he decides not to believe, you will have a tough choice of deciding whether to do something your mother disapproves of and that will make your life much more difficult, or ending the relationship.