So I am 22 years old, about to graduate college, and I have run into a problem with my girlfriend. She is a passionate Christian and very strong in her faith. I, on the other hand, would classify myself as an atheist - having grown up Catholic and realizing that that was not who I am. What concerns my girlfriend is that because I am a non-believer, I will be going to hell - no matter how moral and ethical I act in this life. This is the most important thing in the world to her and my respect alone for her faith and decisions is not enough.
So, she told me that she can never be with a non-believer. I understand why she says that, but I feel as though I'm being held to an unfair standard. We care very much about each other, and we make each other so happy, I am willing to try anything to help our relationship - why isn't that enough?
I've gone to Church with her, prayed with her, and tried to support her in her faith. But, it's not enough. I'm not saying that I'm not willing to try to build my own personal relationship with a God, but I don't know if it will ever be the same as hers, or if it will ever be up to her standards. I would appreciate any and all advice, commentary, or criticism. Thank you.
If your girlfriend is truly a Christian, then she has committed her life to God, through Jesus Christ. Doing so means one has accepted the fact that one will never be good enough to be a Christian, on their own strengths and resources. One who only tries one's best to live a moral and ethical life is trying to earn one's way into God's favor. That doesn't cut it. That's what the Pharisees were trying to do. In the New Testament, we see how God feels about that. Jesus' harshest criticisms were for people who tried to earn their way into God's favor without pursuing a relationship. My sons and my daughter are my children because they were born to me. They have my love, favor, and blessings by virtue of their birth. They didn't get any of it because of good conduct and behavior and they will never lose any of it because of bad behavior. I interact with them because I love them and I want to be with them. They aren't going to lose their status as my children if they screw up. If one bases one's relationship with another upon conduct and behavior, then one must continually do good things and behave well, in order to keep the relationship alive. How much is enough? Who is to say what constitutes a good work, and its value? If good conduct and behavior maintains the relationship, then bad conduct and behavior ends it. We all know that sooner or later, someone else is going to make a decision that impacts us in some way, and we aren't going to have any say in the matter. It's not always going to be in a positive way, either. Being laid off from a job is a good example; driving through heavy traffic in a city or on an interstate highway is another good example. One might find oneself having been selfishly used by another who did not care at all about how their actions affected us. If I am upset at people, it is not going to end my relationship with God. Yes, I surely am responsible for responding in a Christ-like manner. But I still make mistakes. At other times, I simply don't want to be nice and loving. I have to choose to ask God to help me, through His Holy Spirit, to respond the way I should.
If one is focused on getting and maintaining a slate of good works, one will miss what God really wants: a one-on-one relationship with us.
One asks Jesus Christ to come into one's heart, and to do what only He can do. God is merciful and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. But He is Holy. He does not allow sin in His presence. And everyone has sinned.
Having been raised a Catholic, you are knowledgeable about Christianity. Therefore, I probably said a lot of things in the previous paragraphs about things with which you are already familiar. Forgive me if that is the case.
Would you be willing to ask God that if He is real, that He show Himself to you in such a way that would convince you beyond all doubt? God is not going to force Himself on you; you aren't going to hear God speak unless you're willing to listen. You can even talk to God in an angry tone of voice, demanding an answer, and He will not be angry.
Larry - thank you for your response. I've never really understood why my good deeds might not be enough and I've never heard it put so eloquently as you did above. The analogy of parental love is a very strong one. Thanks for your help.
Yes, she was. And I knew she was. And she knew that I was an atheist before. We've talked about it and both of us tried not to fall in with the other because of our beliefs. I knew, going into our relationship, that she might have a problem with my beliefs - but I never thought it would be the one thing that could end our relationship when everything else is so wonderful. I think we ended up together because we are both incredibly nice, moral, friendly, and kind people who needed each other. We've found comfort and support in each other's arms, and challenged each other to be better people. It bothers me that something that seems so right could be thrown away because I don't believe in a supernatural being.
James, part of the problem here may be on her part---she may have thought you were simply going through a faith crisis, and that after a time, it would resolve itself. She probably told herself that she wouldn't let the relationship go "too far" unless there was some movement in that area---and when you were willing to pray with her or go to church with her, that gave her a sense of optimism that you may have been coming around. She may honestly have not been able to conceive the notion of you not believing in God at all.
I doubt that you'll ever find peace with this one. Still, at 22 I wouldn't worry about it too much. Plenty more fish and all that.
How long have you dated? Hopefully it wasn't long because unless you are able to become a christian, I don't think this is a match made in heaven. These things happen.
If the relationship has enough value for you to make an attempt at christianity, then go for it, I guess.
It seems like you already have and you are troubled by it. Part of what bothers you may be the fact that you are lying to her and yourself. If you have have to build this relationship on deciet, then maybe it's not meant to be. How would that make you feel about the relationship if it required lying to hold together?
Just be honest about what you want and if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. However, if you are honest, maybe it will.
We've dated about 4 months, so not that long, but we've known each other for much longer. And I think part of the problem is that we're not lying to each other - we both knew from the very start what the other's beliefs were, and she even told me how she tried to avoid falling for me because I was not a Christian. I, likewise, could not hold her beliefs against her as I learned how wonderful she is. I would never want to be in a relationship based on lies, and I know that in our relationship we can always be honest with one another.
I'm not saying that I'm not willing to try to build my own personal relationship with a God, but I don't know if it will ever be the same as hers, or if it will ever be up to her standards.
You don't get to choose what you believe, and you can no more decide to be Christian than she can decide to be an Atheist. If she is that committed in her belief that she will choose to end a relationship due to her partner's faith, it has ended already. This is not something you're going to logically hash out, as she appears from your description to be completely unwilling to accept an arrangement to agree to disagree.
Based on what you know right now, could you choose to believe that the tooth fairy, or santa, or Thor are real?
Your choice, certainly, whether to say the words, and pretend at belief. But I do not think you could consciously choose to actually believe that the tooth fairy would put a quarter under your pillow at night while you slept.
I definitely agree, that was not what the OP was saying though. You believe what you believe, not what you choose consciously to believe. That someone else (or even you yourself) cannot force you to believe something else, was exactly his point.