Many of us have faced this question at one point or another. We start to wonder if there is some way we can date a non-Christian and turn them toward God through the relationship. But truthfully, "evangadating" is a terrible idea. It leads to all sorts of heartaches and usually ends with one person compromising their beliefs to make the other happy, or else both people leave the relationship feeling even worse. (Also see: How can I make someone a Christian?)
Your earthly friendships and relationships are supposed to help bring you closer to God—not draw you away from Him. You cannot make someone change their heart in order to date you, but what is the alternative? The alternative is that you split your heart between One Man who died for you and one who doesn't love Him. You will eventually have to choose between them if the other person doesn't come to know Christ.
"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" —2 Corinthians 6:14
Perhaps you know this intellectually, but how do you convince your heart? Yes, it hurts to see someone whom you think would be perfect for you—good, nice, funny, makes you feel really special—only to turn away from them. But at the end of the day, you must ask yourself, "What do I want from a relationship?" Do you want to have someone who can make you laugh? Or someone who can make you laugh AND help you become more like Christ? Do you want someone who makes you feel tingly and giddy? Or someone who can pray with you and make you feel special to both them AND God?
It's so easy to lose track of the long-term results of any dating relationship: Marriage or break up. All relationships eventually end in one of those two ways.
Personally, I made myself a list of things I would like in a future husband. I have a couple "non-negotiables" such as: he must be a Christian; he should share the same faith and morals; he must be okay with my special needs sisters, etc. Additionally, I have a list of red flags such as: excessive drinking, constant use of foul language, lack of respect for the less fortunate, etc. I also have a couple of "God, it would be really nice if" points on there: taller than me, will dance with me, likes cats and nerdy stuff.
Whenever I start looking twice at a guy, I take my list to prayer and start asking God if this man fits my non-negotiables (James 1:5). Then I look to see if he has any of the red flags I am watching for. If he doesn't fit the non-negotiables or if he has any of the red-flags, I gently, but firmly, tell my heart that he is not for me. I remind myself that he won't help me grow closer to Christ, and he won't help me become the best I can be.
There have been several times when I've looked twice (sometimes three times!) at a guy, and I've spent lots of time in prayer about it. I may even go on a date or two with them. But if they don't fit my non-negotiables? I cannot justify handing my heart to them. These non-negotiables are there to protect us both. I've tried allowing relationships I've felt wary about, but having to backpedal out of those relationships is a really, really hard and painful process for both parties. So, I guard my heart, I defend my relationship with Christ, and I protect myself.
"The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established." —Proverbs 16:1-3
Keep in mind that just because a person meets every criterion on your list of "Everything I'd Ever Want in a Marriage Partner," they still may not be the person God intends for you. I had the blessing of meeting a man who fit all my criteria and had pretty much everything on my "would be nice" list, but we just weren't a match. Unfortunately, this has happened with two separate guys in my life. I'm still good friends with both, but I knew that anything more wasn't going to allow me to be who I was created to be. While both men's hearts were moving toward God, each had radically different life missions from my own.
My advice for you is to wait. Wait and see. Pray. Take your desire to God. Let Him take care of dissolving that crush if that is His will. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to "trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."
Maybe you can make your own list of a few "non-negotiables." Don't make it frivolous; make it essential: loving Christ more than you, respectful toward the opposite gender, etc. Add whatever else is at the core of your desire, such as wanting children, wanting him to respect your desire to have a career, good communication, etc. Only you and God know what should go on that list. But make it with God, then wait. Test each spirit. Test each person.
But most of all: DO NOT SETTLE. You were made for a purpose, and if that purpose includes marriage, then trust that the person who really does have what you need will be running toward God first—not you.
Picture yourself on a path, walking toward God. Get yourself firmly on the path, going at a steady pace, then look to see who is walking beside you. That is the person you should look twice at. Many people will walk with you for a short bit but have their own trails to tread. Many people will walk beside you but not on your trail. Never, ever leave your trail. Your end goal in life isn't marriage. Your end goal is Christlikeness. Don't ever let anyone steal that goal from you.
Brianna is a manager at her favorite childhood bookstore. She is likely to be found curled up with a book and her black cat, Bear, talking to a stranger, dancing outside in a thunderstorm, singing Disney songs while making cookies, or snuggling her best friend's baby while drinking coffee. Her heart is fueled by the desire to help people find their unique wings and use them in whatever capacity God has created them for. She is passionate about seeing and finding Christ in the secular world wherever she can.