What does the Lord want us to learn from his forbidding Israelites from intermarrying with the nations around them? Is this some sort of racial supremacy thing? Is it something else?
Deuteronomy 7:3-4 – 3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.
Let’s first understand that, had the Lord made a command about this based solely on ethnicity, he would have been righteous to do so. After all, God had already promised to preserve a particular family line through which he would bring Messiah into the world. God has every right to make a command like this based on national and family groupings. But that is not what he is doing here.
God is clear that the reason that he does not want Israel to intermarry has to do with the religious influence of the nations nearby. It is not some sort of claim that any particular ethnicity has superiority over another. It is the simple fact that, were Israel to blend her families with those of the surrounding Canaanite nations, Israel would be led away from the law of God.
As I said, this should be simple. There is no right way to read this text that would allow for Christians to claim that people cannot marry across ethnic lines. That was an argument prevalent in a racist past, but it should not be considered today.
And, while this argument should be simple, it also appears that, when we watch many self-proclaimed Christians in practice, its primary point is something we either miss or ignore.
In Deuteronomy, God forbids his followers for marrying those who do not follow him. In the New Testament, God is clear that this principle still stands. Christians are not to marry outside of the faith. But, as a pastor, I will say to you that I know of few commands more quickly disobeyed by young believers who have allowed themselves to become emotionally connected to a lost person.
So, let me say this with absolute clarity: Christians are not to marry non-Christians. Since this is true, it is at best foolish and at worst sin for a Christian to allow himself or herself to become romantically interested in a person who is not in the faith. The union of a believer and a non-believer leads to pain and confusion. And, worst of all, that union dishonors the name of God as the believer declares by his or her actions that God’s commands are secondary to our romantic desires.
I know that, for many a believer, this is a painful thing to read. I have known and still know so many dear believers who made the choice to marry a lost person in their youth. For some, God has even graciously chosen to save that spouse. For many others, however, that choice, while leading to a happy marriage in general, has led to deep fear and heartache as the believer realizes that his or her spouse is outside of god’s grace and destined for judgment. And, for still others, this decision has led to deep unhappiness as they realize that they have married a person whose ethics and values will never be those of the Christian.
Friends, I do not write this to be mean to anybody. But I do write it to be, perhaps, a warning that will be heeded. It is a sin for a Christian to marry a non-Christian. Compromise occurs when the believer disobeys God’s command here. And, God warns that other compromises are likely to be introduced as the lost spouse will, actively or passively, attempt to persuade the believer to embrace values or behaviors that are against Scripture.
There are many sins that we fall into in our youth. I have more failures in my past than I can count, and certainly more than I am willing to recount for the Internet. And all sin is wicked rebellion against the Lord. But the sin of marrying outside of the faith is terribly destructive, because it is a sin that has lifelong implications. If you have failed here, know that the grace of Christ covers all sins of all who come to him. But you know that this choice has impacted your life deeply. And if you are a Christian considering a relationship with a non-believer, I urge you, I plead with you, for the glory of God and the good of your very life, please turn from this now. You need to be united to a person who knows your Lord and who loves his word. Anything else is devastating to you and dishonoring to God.