Marry a Believer

People have all kinds of ideas and notions on whom they are to marry, how they go about finding “the one” to marry, and the list of standards and ideals they have for the one they marry.  Let’s clear up a few things, shall we?

The bible doesn’t say anything about waiting for your soul mate to get married. It also doesn’t say anything about God having that one special person just for you…although people will argue with me on that one! What it does say is that we are to get or find a spouse—that means you don’t sit and wait for God drop one into your lap.  Check out my DVD set Singles and Stinking Thinking: A Clear Path to Marriage for more information on dating and why I believe God does not have “a special one just for you.”

The only other clear directive to believers is to make sure that the person you marry is also a believer. (See 1Corinthians 7:39 and 2 Corinthians 6:14.) Notice that scripture doesn’t tell us to marry a person who simply says he or she is a believer.  There is a huge difference between the two, but in all honesty, most people don’t get that.

Far too often single people—especially women—will date anyone who claims to be a Christian regardless of whether or not they have any real evidence of action to back that report up. You are not a Christian just because you went to church as a child, or because you attend services on Christmas and Easter. Even sitting in church every Sunday doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in your garage makes you a car.  There are signs that you need to look for when trying to evaluate a person’s commitment to their faith. And make no mistake, it is exactly what you should be doing during the dating process.

Does the person actually show the fruit of their proclamation of faith? Does he regularly attend worship? Is she actively involved in a local church body? How often does he read his bible, pray, or fast? Is she a generous giver who volunteers her time, money and also tithes? Or is this person someone who just stamps “Christian” on their life but is not living out the Christian disciplines? Are they impatient, inflexible, demanding and selfish? Do their behaviors reflect the heart of a true believer or do they act no differently than those pagans in the world around us?

You need to really look at the person you are interested in and honestly assess their commitment to self- restraint, denying their flesh, exercising sacrificial attitudes and a devotion to truly following Jesus. Check the fruit. Are they the real deal, or just some facsimile or counterfeit of a genuine believer? Far too often single people will jump into a relationship and get all emotionally tangled with another person who claims to be a believer but in reality, is living like total hell.

They don’t read the bible, pray, give to or even attend a church regularly. Some of these men and women may attend church but are out there living just like the heathens when it comes to dating by freely giving oral sex or fornicating their little brains on the first few dates. Clearly there are those who say they are a Christian, and then there are those that truly live as one.

Singles out there in the dating pool must be more discerning and less duped and dense when it comes to choosing the person they will be yoked to in marriage. Don’t make the common mistake thinking all that matters is what a person says in regard to their faith. This is definitely a time that actions speak louder than words, and you need to see their faith in action.

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38 Responses to “Marry a Believer”

  1. Ed says:

    MArk is s right about being careful. I was a widower 8 years ago, and used online dating sites. I was very clear that I went to church evey week, was involved in music ministry, volunteered in other way, and felt like something was wrong if I missed church – it isn’t optional, it’s my necessary check-in. But I was contacted by a number of women who sid they were Christians, but hadn’t been to church in months, or years. And yeah, some of them were crawling all over me on the first date, which really wasn’t flattering. If you use online dating, go look at THEIR profile before even answering back, and don’t get suckered by a pretty face. See what they say about their life, and see if it lines up with what you said about yours. Get equally yoked. I found a great CHristian lady, but she wasn’t the first one I met for sure.

  2. Kendra says:

    I find it interesting that in our culture, which pushes marrying for “luuuuuuv”, unlike many others that marry in pre-arranged, we have the highest divorce rate. I guess its also socially excpetable here too though

  3. Shanna B says:

    I dated a “Christian” for 2 years. He went to church regularly, was baptized and had some Christian ideals. However, I hardly ever saw him making time to read the Bible, meet more people or volunteering his time or money to church. He didn’t want to grow in any way, just wanted to hurry up and settle down. When I think about it, he just seems like a “CINO” Christian in name only.
    I believe this entry wholeheartedly. Watch over their actions and attitudes. However, you have to know what to look for, so make sure you are reading your Bible and spending time with real Christians.

  4. Debbie J. says:

    The pretty face and hot body wears off in a matter of hours after the wedding. Some people realize this a few hours too late. So many couples wake up after the honeymoon staring at their spouse wondering “who is this person” “what have I done”. Life and traditions teach you to marry someone that turns you on and you’ll be happy. That could not be any further from the truth. There is so much more to marriage than sex. The key to marrying a believer is that it guarantees that you have someone that shares your values, someone that you know will hang in there despite troubles and persecution because that what it takes to be Christian and that’s what it takes to be married.

    • Megan says:

      I have to disagree Debbie. Marrying a believer guarantees only that you’ve married a believer. Values vary greatly, even within Biblical principles (if they didn’t, we wouldn’t have different denominations and church splits).

      I know Christians…genuine believers…with different opinions on gun control, gay-rights, interracial marriage, spanking, sending kids to private school, sex ed for kids and even sex in the bedroom within marriage. I think the human experience is much more diverse than we’d like to admit…even within the Church.

  5. Denise says:

    Oh wow – this article speaks to me soooo well, Pastor Mark! I have spent the last nineteen years raising my son and spending time serving in various areas of the church. About a year and ahalf ago, I was approached by someone I’d known from youth group days and we started dating with the agreement that we both believed that sex was for marriage only. At the time, I just didn’t realize what his definition of “sex” was. After many questionable conversations and things he tried to push for, he came out and blantly asked me to let him perform anal sex. I was horrified! Come to find out, he considered “sex” to be only vaginal penetration and that everything up to that was fair game. I tore up the pavement running the other way. Since that time, however, I’ve been just amazed with how many people who even claim to be Christians and are living together, having sex, etc. and don’t even keep that information to themselves. What has happened to the church and the name of Christ?????? It is a sad state in that the few “Christian” men I’ve talked to since then, when approached with the sex before marriage question, tell me they think it is an honorable goal but not realistic. There seem to be no single men OR women in our society who believe in a true Christian walk.

    • Dan says:

      Denise: Yes, the practice of using anal sex as an outlet in order to maintain virginity is so common that it has its own term: saddlebacking. But not even when the couple agrees on the definition of “sex” is there any guarantee. One of my best high school friends, Katharine, was deeply in love with her boyfriend, Rick, and they were both genuinely committed Christians and very active in our church. They married young, as Mark recommends. It turned out that Rick was actually gay, knew it was a sin, and trusted God to make him straight. I don’t know any of the details, but it didn’t work out that way, and Rick died of AIDS in the 1980s after they divorced. You can’t even be sure you’ll be OK if you marry a pastor these days. Look at all the pastoral sex scandals. The long-time trusted pastor of my brother’s church in Indiana was caught hiding video cameras in air fresheners in the church women’s bathroom stalls. It’s hard to know where to turn for any genuine assurance.

  6. Megan says:

    As a single Christian who’s never married (age 32) I do wonder how this concept meshes with advice to marry as soon as possible. I’ll take your word that churches are pressuring youth to wait until later in life (though my experiences from a lifetime in both Black and White churches have been hearing the exact opposite), but I would imagine that their reasons for “wait” are rooted in exactly what you’re saying here. The level of discernment it takes to identify a genuine believer isn’t something that comes naturally to people at a young age. Yes, you’ve given a checklist of sorts, but the forethought to even consider looking for such a list is uncommon in those under 25.

    The alternative is asking God’s guidance in finding a partner (not a soulmate or the love of your life) as we advise people to do in all other areas of life. I would add though, that it’s even more important to ask if you SHOULD marry since the Bible supports both lifestyles for those that are directed to them.

  7. carol says:

    What do you say to someone who married a person who was a believer–the evidence was there that he was truly committed to the Lord–Bible studies, church attendance, purity–everything you would look for in a marriage partner according to God’s Word. This person is now professing to be an atheist. So what do you say to the wife when her life is now radically changed by her husband’s newly found “belief system”. And what should her response to him be?

    • Liane says:

      Carol, Speak God’s Word to your friend and encourage her to read the Word daily. Her strength and comfort will come from Jesus. Please don’t allow her to share unseemly comments about her husband as that only keeps her mind on things that will lead her to sin. Admonish her not to dwell in regrets and an “if only” pattern of thinking. Her faith my be bruised as she may wonder why God allowed her to marry a man who would turn from his faith. Pray for her and remind her that God knows how she feels and He has promised never to leave her. As she walks in faithfulness to Jesus her husband will see it and the Holy Spirit will work in his life. For too many years I complained in my heart over my situation with my husband and used it as an excuse for the areas where my spirit lacked growth. She has an opportunity to live the love of Jesus and her husband has a front row seat. If I have sounded preachy, Carol, will you forgive me, please? I am very passionate over this subject as I know just what your friend is going through and it is with many tears that I compose this note.

  8. Adriana says:

    Oh yes WE can, men and women in Christ still can wait and make it right. Even though I’m not proud to say that I was married before, my husband and I dated and went through all the courtship stages until we finally got married. During this period of time it was very hard for us (specially me) to deal with our sexuality…but we made it and for almost 4 years we’ve been enjoying “everything” that marriage comes with, including our “gift from GOD” baby Amaru Enam Johnson Castillo!!!

  9. John Mayne says:

    Greetings from the UK. We could really use your prayers right now over the debate about so called ‘gay marriages’. The Bible is quite clear about marriage being the union of a man and a woman under the blessing of God. We have a good deal of politicians and other leaders in society siding with changing the legal definition of marriage in order to secure support from members of the homosexual community. Our Prime Minister claims to be a Christian but does not pray/ study his Bible/ attend church regularly and much of his public behaviour is not in line with what we would expect from a Christian; he backs this change. I want to see God honoured in this country and for us to be blessed by our loving God as a Godless society will only implode and decline into the abyss. My hope is that Christians in the U.S. are more effective in resisting this decline. God bless you, yours in Christ, John Mayne.

    • Dan says:

      John: It may help to understand that, *at least as far as the state is concerned*, marriage is only a contract between consenting adults that imposes various rights and responsibilities; there is no requirement for any religious belief or ceremony. It may be different in the UK where the monarch was historically the head of the Church of England as well, but here our Constitution forbids the establishment of a state religion. We are free to gather with people of faith in our church communities who agree with us on matters such as these, and I think that’s where we should rightly take our refuge from the social upheaval going on around us, and not necessarily invest so much passion and energy in imposing our beliefs on the rest of the culture.

      • Dan says:

        I forgot to add that not only does the state not care about religion when it comes to marriage, it also doesn’t care about sexual orientation, really. As American political pundit Ann Coulter correctly pointed out, every gay person in the country can get married tomorrow, no matter what state they live in. They just have to marry someone of the opposite sex, in states where that’s the law. Whether they would *want* to do that is a different question entirely, but it’s completely legal. The practice isn’t uncommon; it’s called “lavender marriage” and there’s a good Wikipedia article on it (“Mixed-orientation marriage”). Nobody from the government asks or cares whether a couple is sexually compatible in any way.

  10. Sandra Marie Garza says:

    Thank you Pastor Gungor,….I am glad I read this in that I was hoping to marry this person I have dated since Jan lst this year, reading your words of wisdom, encouraged me to “detente” and pensar, for no pesar later. I not a young person in age, and in the spirit I am old, but it stands to reason, I’ll always be teachable, and will learn from the wise guys~ of which you have proven this beyond record. Praise our Lord for what gifts he has given you, one of which is bravery to come to the edge and take a jump in the faces of all that deal with being totally dumb in dating. Blessings dearest brother and Pastor. If I lived in your area, I’d zoom to your church and live…thrive. Blessings again, to you and Debbie/all you love.
    Always Sandra Maria but not Garza.:)

  11. Lady says:


    I agree with the advice to “test the fruit”. I am in my mid-forties, and was dating a gentleman who not only professed to be a Christian, but was an active minister/assistant pastor, and also was the son of a pastor who had been pastoring for almost 30 years. This person had a horrible temper, was very vindictive, felt perfectly justified to “disown” family and others who disagreed with him or did not allow him to extort money from them in the name of his “ministry”. He would curse people out frequently and then try to use as an excuse “Jesus walked the earth as a MAN!). He watched secular music and rap videos with more than half-naked women and an over-abundance of profanity, with the excuse that he could not minister to the “world” if he did not “know what they were in to”. Soon after he met my family during which time he told many lies about his alleged “ministry and businesses”, I ended the relationship. At that time, he literally threatened my life, as if that would somehow encourage me to get back into a relationship with him! The whole point of this story: BE CAREFUL, WATCH AND PRAY, INSPECT THE FRUIT, AND MOST OF ALL, DON’T RUSH! There are worse things than being single, and as a true believer, I think that being married to someone who was a FAKE, would be like living in hell on earth. I would truly rather be alone the rest of my life than to have to be YOKED with someone who would undermine my faith and therefore my life at every turn!!!!

  12. Cari Andreani says:

    Totally agree and I am passing along to others! I minister to women by speaking and writing for a blog with 5 other wonderful Christian women. ( Praying God will use us to encourage wives to inspire their husbands with their behavior (1 Peter 3:1) and to glorify God with their lives and families. Would love to use some of your articles on our blog. Thanks for answering the call to help us grow! Love your perspective and find there is such a need. God bless!
    Cari Andreani

  13. Glynes says:

    I completely understand the complexity of issues surrounding the “dating” scene today. The over”sex”posed world we live in completely brainwashes us into thinking that sex is the way to true happiness, when in fact it’s Satan’s way of distorting minds and relationships. My Christian husband of 30 years left me after he had an affair with one of my friends and I have been single for 7 years now. I had no interest in dating up until about a year ago, but after a year of experiencing the dating scene (yes, in “Christian only” circles)I have been extremely discouraged. Not only do most men that call themselves “Christian” live like any “worldly” man, but they are also carrying with them years of woundedness that they have not healed from. Hence, they are spinning their wheels trying to find relationship as wounded souls. They never will find a healthy relationship if they don’t take the proper steps to heal from their wounds, change their mindsets about realistic relationships, and grow in Christ. I took those steps after my divorce and am grateful I did. The only problem is that now that I know what a healthy relationship should look like, I’m not seeing any healthy men out there. Our Christian culture is in dire need of helping men AND women find health and wholeness spiritually, relationally and emotionally so that they can understand what it means to have a healthy, God-honoring relationship.

  14. Carol says:

    I truly believe this myself,I think your prespective partener should be equally yoked with you in your beliefs,have self restraint,denying their flesh.It’s important that they read Gods word,and work accordingly to his will,volunteering time,tithing is very important,God gives you
    what you have ,you have to give back to him 10%.What the heart reflects shows who the person is,being selfless instead of selfish, patient and kind,just loving God with all your being.Actions do speak louder than words. Thank you for your insight.

  15. Liane says:

    When I read the title of your message, “Marry a Believer” tears immediately began to roll down my cheeks. Thirty-four years ago I thought I was marrying a believer. It turns out that he had a “jail-house conversion”. Just this past year he told me that he married me because: 1)he knew I would not consent to sexual relations prior to marriage,2)he wanted a companion, 3)he didn’t want to be lonely. In his mind it had nothing to do with God’s will or His plan for our lives. I truly thought he was a believer and that we would spend our lives together in ministry serving Jesus. He attended church, Bible studies, read the Bible, purchased Christian books and commentaries (which I found out much later he never read). Living in an unequally yoked marriage has been a constant heartbreak. I have spent 34 years wondering why God allowed this marriage to take place. Today I have committed to try to live out 2 Corinthians 12:9. His grace is sufficient for me. I have repeatedly told my children that the two most important decisions they will ever make is whether they will choose to take up their cross and follow Jesus and who they will choose to marry. Follow Jesus, marry a believer.

  16. Bruce says:

    Really appreciate the no-nonsense, cut to the chase point of this post. With our youngest daughter getting married in two months, after a longer than expected wait to me her fiance, it is refreshing to hear common sense advice.

    According to Stephen, the fiance, “she interrogated me for three hours and similar like sessions on several dates”. She sought out the hard answers and he got the “job” of soon replacing me as the numero uno man in her life! Way to go Brittany!

  17. Friendly Agnostic says:

    I am a Agnostic that grew up as a Christian so I can speak for both sides of this issue. I have to disagree that marrying a believer is any better than marrying a non-believer because it all boils down to how you are treated. I am currently engaged to a Christian woman and I respect her Christian beliefs and do not try to change her and neither does she try to change me and we are happy very happy. I know the bible better than she does so the core principals of Christianity are just being a good human being basically. I was a Minister of Music in a church once and I can tell you just because you have the title Christian or believer does not make you a better person or someone that should treat people better. I have seen Pastors do all kinds of horrible things but still preach my point is what matters is choice. You have a choice in how you want to treat someone good or bad it has nothing to do with what you believe in. If someone makes you happy and accepts you without trying to change you what is more important that they make you happy or they believe in what you believe? Belief is personal, how you treat someone is a moral choice

  18. Chris Wegner says:

    AMEN, AMEN, AMEN!!! Thank you for these words of encouragement for singles! Brian and I have been married 4 1/2 years, we are both in our 50′s. The wait is SO WORTH it…finding someone and BEING someone that lives out their faith is critical! Thanks for this post, I’m sharing it with my single friends!

  19. Leah says:

    Before I started dating my husband (when we were just in the email/talking on the phone phase), I knew he was not a Christian. I prayed that God would shut the door on the budding relationship. My life was good and I wanted no part of it being with a non believer, no matter how great a guy he seemed.

    To my surprise, the Lord DID NOT close doors. In fact, many more opened (along with some windows as well)! Through fervent prayer and scripture reading the Lord made it clear to me He was going to use ME to lead this man to HIM!

    I took the Lord at His word and married this man BEFORE he became a Christian.

    After one big blowout argument about faith/religion and a well-timed message on WAITING on the Lord, I stopped trying to argue my husband into the Kingdom. I continued to pray for his salvation (along with many others at our church). We went to Bible studies and Sunday services. Ten months after we married, the Lord saved my husband.

    My hubby has quickly become the spiritual leader of our home. He rises early to read the Bible. He has stacks of nearly 1000 index cards of Bible verses he has written down and committed to memory. The Lord has changed my husband’s heart and it’s been wonderful to witness.

    While I didn’t marry a Christian, I married a man with the trust that the Lord was going to save him. He kept His Word and I could not be happier.

  20. JJSherman says:

    My thoughts are on the facts of if I knew what I know now I would of made the Lord the center of my decision before I even spoke with my ex-husband. I constantly ask of His forgiveness and now being alone without a husband, or my son’s in my life I truly believe if I had allowed the Lord to choose for me, I would of still been married, and probably had good son’s who would of love and respect me. To mention I am a product of an affair, and it seems as though I am being punished for the sin’s of my parents. In closing I ask that you pray for me, I am alone without family or friends

  21. Daisy Miles says:

    Hi, My name is Daisy and i am recently divorced but was single for 3 years before ti was final. About a month ago I approached a Godly/ Christian man at church and told himthat i would like to get to know him better. we exchanged numbers and the texting and calling began. We had both agreed that friends first and then dating if it lead that way. Well not to long after that agreement something went wrong and the calls stopped . Well after 2 weeks of him not responding to me i called him from a friends phone and OH he answers only to tell me that he is waiting for God to drop someone infront of them. How do I deal with this? it just seems easier to be unequally joked after this!

    • J says:

      I’m deeply sorry to hear of your troubles. It does really burn when we go through something as tough as a breakup or divorce, only to have more heartache occur afterward. With that said, a gentle piece of advice, if I may: do not pursue men. Approaching the man in your church was starting a relationship that was never meant to happen. Men by nature (and by God) were made to be the pursuers. It’s why they become CEOs, politicians, or play sports and try to win medals. They thrive on challenge. Perhaps if you were to let men ask you out, you’d see how much better it could be. This man wasn’t interested in a relationship because he was not interested in you. Open yourself up to being approached by men and let them take the lead. You’ll feel so much better! You deserve a man who will go to Hell and back to win you.

  22. heidi says:

    I met my husband back in 1991 when I was a Christian but not walking with God. We have been married for almost 16 years. I started walking with God again when our first child was 4 months old. I realized at that time that turning my back on God didn’t just effect me but it would hurt my husband and child so I gave my life back to God. I had to learn to live for Jesus in front of them. It was very hard to be in a mismatched marriage for my husband, our children and myself. I felt a lot of guilt and it took me a long time to forgive myself even after God forgave me. God brought much good from this and after 13 years my husband gave his life to God. This is not to encourage men or women to marry unbelievers because it was a long, hard road and when there are children involved they are affected by it too! Also, there is no gurantee that they will become believers. My husband and I have always been very much in love with each other and he is a wonderful man who is growing closer to God and I am thankful everyday to God for that! God gave us a lot of grace and mercy and I have grown a lot closer to God. That said, there were a lot of consequences to marrying a non-believer for him, our kids and myself. Thankfully He forgives and restores.

  23. April says:

    As a true Christian, who has been through a death experience – and yes, the doctor signed the death certificate – I am disenchanted with my current suitor who frequently requests me to stay overnight at his home. He also recently commented that he may as well leave my home one night because, ” I am obviously not going to be invited to stay.” I explained Galatians ch: 5 to him as I see it. However, he has responded by inviting me to meet his Catholic Priest at his church, but cannot recall when he last went there. Time to move on???

  24. Andrea says:

    My husband married me and I wasn’t a believer. In fact, I referred to myself as a staunch atheist. (I became a Christian June 2012.) If it hadn’t been for his love and support and his quiet presence, my life would have been much different. He now admits that when he met me he had this feeling that he just had to wait. He waited… for 7 years. We now have a Godly marriage with 2 beautiful children that we are raising in a Christian household. We are stronger than ever and show a united Christian front. Would it have been easier if we shared the same faith from the beginning? Absolutely. The important thing is that we share one now.

  25. Mark is a hypocrite says:

    Well, 1 Corinthians 11:9 also says that women were created for a man, so there’s that…

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