Muslim-Christian Marriage Possibility
Q: I’m a Muslim woman in love with a Christian man, both of us of Pakistani background. He wants to be a Christian pastor and currently attends seminary. Is marrying him allowed according to the churches? He is Evangelical Protestant and neither of us is willing to convert, for we both are practicing individuals. Would any church hire him? We have discussed this many times and are not willing to leave each other. Neither of us is willing to end the relationship. I am just concerned as to how the church will handle it and if he will be hired, would any one accept him and me?
A: So much here depends upon your individual beliefs and consciences, as well as upon the particulars of the church to which your beloved seminarian belongs. He would need to speak with the leaders of his church body to see first of all if they have any set rules and then what the unwritten expectations might be. In my part of Lutheran Christianity, pastors not only are told not to marry outside of the Christian Faith, we’re not even supposed to marry non-Lutherans. Some churches have similar requirements while others do not. In most bodies where married ministers are allowed and encouraged, the pastors are specifically forbidden to marry outside the Faith and even those that have no specific rules largely frown on mixed-faith marriages.
Of course, we’re so far only mentioning the Christian side of this — does not Islam also frown on marriages with non-Muslims? And like Christianity, are there not differences among various branches of Islam, as well as cultural and national variances? Of course, I imagine that they would be greater should you be a Muslim religious leader looking to marry a Christian.
This leads us to the matters of faith and conscience. Christianity holds to God’s Word through Paul concerning the unmarried: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. (2 Corinthians 6:14)” If two non-Christians are married and one becomes a Christian, the apostle applied a different standard: “If any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. (1 Corinthians 7:12-13)”
These, however, only speak of the generalities. I ask you to consider the specifics, not only as a prospective pastor and his possible wife but also as two people who strongly believe different and often contradictory teachings. First of all, whether one or the other of you changes or not, how will each of your families cope with this marriage? What stress will each of you face through the years if each of you is certain that the other will not share eternity with you? Does either of you want to leave the other behind, facing not only separation but also damnation? Will these concerns alienate either of you or move you to zealous efforts to convert the other?
With all this in mind, I strongly encourage both of you to sit down individually to think of and list any and all particulars and possible current and future challenges. Then, after comparing, discussing, and combining your lists, speak with the important people in each family and then sit down with your religious leaders. Remember that the attraction of love is strong — but the ties and the walls of belief can be stronger still. In my opinion, concerns about future employment matter much less than concerns about your marriage and about faith and eternal life.
See also a post from several years ago, Muslim-Christian Marriage.
Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.
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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.
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Newspaper column #535:1