In a previous article, we cautioned that Christians should not marry unbelievers. But what about a Christian who is considering marrying a Muslim, who is just as committed to his or her own beliefs and practices. Can Christians marry Muslims (or Hindus, Wiccans, Jews, Buddhists, and other religious non-Christians)?
Christians are cautioned against marrying Muslims or any adherents to other faiths. Such marriages can compromise the Christian’s own faith journey and inhibit the raising of children in the Christian faith.
Partnership in Marriage
In our prior article, we explored the importance of partnership in marriage. Against the backdrop of Paul’s admonition to not be unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14), we illustrated how a marriage between believers and unbelievers might cause strife, pain, and even compromise.
That writing applies primarily to a marriage between a Christian and someone who simply lives a “normal” life without any regard for spiritual matters at all. But when we consider marriage between two committed adherents to different religions, we must examine more closely why God prohibited His people from marrying foreigners in the Old Testament.
God instituted these prohibitions specifically so that His chosen people would not be led to worship false gods.
This was the sin that led Solomon astray. Many of Solomon’s 700 wives were from foreign nations who worshiped other gods. And in appeasement to them, Solomon introduced a pantheon of idols to Israel:
He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites…
On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.1 Kings 11:5, 7-8
The impure worship introduced by Solomon led to the division of his kingdom.
The southern kingdom of Judah spent generations vacillating between faithful worship and idolatry. One king would build shrines and altars and the next would tear them down, until Judah was conquered and exiled by the Babylonians
While rebuilding Jerusalem after the exile, Nehemiah reinforced the need for the returning Jews not to repeat the compromising marriages of their ancestors:
Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab… Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned?”Nehemiah 13:23, 26
After Solomon’s reign, the northern kingdom of Israel fared even worse than its southern cousins in Judah. For their entire duration, not one king of Israel had a heart of worship tuned to God.
This string of unfaithful kings was exemplified by Ahab, the most notorious of all of Israel’s kings:
He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.1 Kings 16:31-33
Through his marriage to Jezebel, Ahab was led to worship false gods that demanded sacrifice and promiscuous fertility rituals. Ahab dealt violently with the prophets who opposed him and even murdered people for personal gain (1 Kings 21).
Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, was such an active voice and force in his practices that her name has become an epithet to refer to a scheming and manipulative woman.
The Root Problem
The compromising marriages that began with Solomon affected generations of kings that came after him, and ultimately required outside intervention in the form of conquerors to reverse the damage.
God knows the human heart, and He knows that once a person is turned away from His truth, it is difficult not only for that person to turn back but for those who follow in his footsteps to turn to a truth they were never properly taught.
When He issued the Ten Commandments, God warned of this very phenomenon:
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.Exodus 20:4-6
As parents, when we model and teach faithful worship to our children, we make it easier for them to know God themselves. But when we introduce idolatry, we encourage our children on a path that leads away from God.
Since faith formation begins in the home, we are called to make our homes places where we honor God.
When Faiths Collide
In Western culture, there is a common view that all religions are basically the same, they just have a few differences on the surface. Nominal Christians and Muslims might even espouse this belief themselves, citing their mutual Abrahamic origins.
But religions are really more similar on the surface (with common practices such as prayer, moral codes, and houses of worship) and irreconcilably different at their core. Examining the differences between Christianity and Islam is beyond the scope of the present writing. But consider the most important difference:
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”John 14:6-7
To the Christian, this statement is the central truth on which the saving work completed by Jesus rests. To the Muslim, this statement is a blasphemous utterance that could not have been spoken by a prophet of God.
From this fundamental disagreement, a couple will run into strife over education, holiday observances, family relationships, and other areas where a husband and wife are called to be equally yoked partners.
Friends, not Spouses
As Christians, we ought to befriend unbelievers and people of other faiths, including Muslims, and treat them with hospitality, compassion, and grace. But the sanctity of marriage demands that we protect this most precious covenant relationship from impure worship through compromise.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”2 Corinthians 6:14-16