I'm sure you've read or heard the story of Narcissus. He was a hunter renown for his beauty. He was so entranced with himself, he couldn't tolerate his lesser attractive admirers. He was tricked by Nemesis, his nemesis, into looking at a reflection of himself in a pool of water. He was so infatuated with his own reflection, he couldn't leave it behind. Thus, he died.
When we are infatuated with something, when we love it, we find it difficult to leave it behind and move on. This is because what we love often reflects a part of us that we love. To leave it behind is to leave a part of ourselves behind with it. We cannot deprive ourselves of ourselves, so we choose to keep it in our lives. The same is true in our relationships. We often love the person to whom we relate the most. We either relate to them because (1) they have attributes that we have, (2) they have attributes we believe we have, but don't, or (3) they have attributes we wish we had. We do this because we ultimately love what we admire, and we admire either what we are or (more likely, if you're not like Narcissus) wish to be. If we didn't admire these attributes, we wouldn't have them or seek them out in others.
Now, what does this have to do with dating unbelievers? I would suggest that an unbeliever is more attractive to someone than a believer simply for the same reasons: what that person admires/loves the most is found to a greater degree in the unbeliever than it is in the believer. As I spoke about in the preceding post, our relationship with God, which is either one where we have come to see Him as most admirable, to be loved the most, will influence our other relationships. This is because when we come to see God as most lovely, we come to seek out His attributes everywhere in other people. This is why a true believer seeks out Christian fellowship, especially in the church, because God's attributes are being (or should be) displayed more strongly through them. The believer does not have to go to church. The believer wants to go to church, because he or she is drawn to the other believers there, as he or she is drawn to Christ who is displayed in them. We seek out what we love, so we seek out relationships with people who display what we love the most.
Now, this is more troubling for someone claiming to be a believer, and yet, dating an unbeliever, as the unbeliever, though not devoid of certain admirable attributes to a lesser degree, lives his life in the absence of God as the ruling factor that puts all other things into perspective. In other words, Christ is not his love in life, so what he seeks out are depraved counterfeits for God. He loves depravity. He loves a godless life devoid of God's attributes as Savior and Lord. He does not talk about the Lord as the center of his existence. He does not live as though the Lord is the center of his existence. And he does not think about the Lord as the center of his existence. Why? Because the Lord is not the center of his existence. And this is what the Christian finds appalling. A godless life is not attractive to a genuine Christian. The Christian may have compassion upon such a life, but not in a way that wants to join our Christ-filled lives with his Christ-less life. We don't admire it. We think it's pathetic and that his whole life needs to change.
So why are people who are not Christians still attractive to we who are? Well, there are always attributes that non-Christians have that we will admire. It's just that we will admire Christ so much more than those that our attraction for those lesser attributes will fade in the light of Him. So attraction is manifold, but what we are attracted to the most is what we love and admire the most.
Hence, a genuine relationship with God that gives us a greater love for Him than we have for anything or anyone else will affect how powerful our attraction is to another person. Anyone can sin and do otherwise, but this should be seen as a breakdown in one's relationship with, and love for, Christ, rather than simply a mistake that needs fixing by mustering up our will power and trying in our own human strength and ability to do what is right. That will lead to law/obligation rather than love, and law/obligation without love always leads to disobedience and death. Instead, the problem of believers dating unbelievers is a problem of their relationship with God. In fact, whether they make a turn from it is a good indication of what they love the most, which itself is a good indication of whether they have a relationship with Christ in the first place. Hence, again, the so-called believer may, in all truth, be an unbeliever and that is why he or she is attracted to unbelievers the most.
Now, there is another way our deceptive selves will try to have the best of both worlds. When we love something, we have the tendency to justify it. We will emphasize what we see as good attributes that allow us to keep the person with whom we have a relationship, and deemphasize the bad attributes that scream out to us that we need to end this relationship. Like buying a car that we really want, we pass over the defects, and those things to which we really should be paying attention, in order to pretend that the car is in great shape and is "buyable." So we convince ourselves that the unbeliever is more like a believer than other unbelievers are; or, at the very least, that he will become a believer in the future. Hence, our relationship with him is justified, simply because he is a believer by way of technicality. In other words, even if Christ is not the Lord of his life, he lives as though he is, or at least, he will.
The person is satisfied with this type of reasoning because it allows him or her to keep the relationship with the individual to whom they are most attractive; but what he or she fails to see is that the question is not whether the person is technically a believer or will be at some point in the future, but whether he or she (i.e., the professed believer) is attracted to a person, who at this moment reflects the ruling presence of God and His love less in his life than those who are true believers. The fact of the matter is that the person whom we love today indicates what we love today. It shows us whether we love God today. If the person we love also loves God, that says something about us, where we are at in terms of our relationship with God, not simply something about the other person.
So the problem before us is not a matter of getting the person we love saved, so that our pursuit of this person will then be acceptable, but it is a matter of understanding that our very pursuit of this person when they were not saved is an indication that we are not saved either. Hence, when Paul says that those who seek to get married contrary to Christ have set aside their faith, and stand condemned, he is not saying that faith no longer saves, but that they never had true faith to begin with. The superficial faith, one that is not accompanied by the love of God as its supreme driving force in life, cannot stand on a sea of lesser attractions without sinking into them, simply because God is not the person's supreme attraction and love in life.
Ironically, this person is not pursuing what is best, but settling for what is worse. As C. S. Lewis once said, "our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased" (The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, 54). The "believer" who has never come to know the infinite joy of the love of God as that which determines every other decision in life has settled for a lesser relationship as he has settled for a lesser life. He has settled for the mud pie of a relationship with an unbeliever, simply because he is ignorant that the relationship he supposedly cannot live without is actually slop compared to the relationship God has offered to him in Christ. Not only this, but it is slop compared to the other relationships that emulate our love for God that he would have had if he himself loved God in his primary relationship with Him.
So we seek out what we love; and it simply does no good to try to mold what we love to look like something else that others tell us it should look like, because our love is evident by what we love, not by what we pretend it to be. We can paint refuse to look like gold, but we would only do so because we love that refuse. If we loved gold, there would be no substitute, and it certainly wouldn't be refuse. So one must take a hard look at himself and ask the tough questions, "What does it say about me to choose an unbeliever over a believer in my quest for a romantic relationship?" "What does it say about my relationship with God?" and "Should I continue to call myself a believer if I choose such a relationship in the betrayal of my professed faith and love for God?" We can then begin to see that it is the unbeliever who is kissing Judas because the betrayal is found in the one who professes a loving allegiance with God, but who breaks that promise of friendship through his actions.
Like Narcissus, we will not be able to leave behind what we love. We will die there, giving up all else to gaze into what we love. But what we love reflects who we are. It tells us about ourselves. Our relationships are the pool that remove all pretenses, and (for better or for worse) make our true loves known. All else will fall by the wayside, and be abandoned in the pursuit of whatever shines to us the brightest. If we knew the truth, it would be Christ; but we don't all know the truth, and that is the problem.