The world’s first problem was loneliness. God immediately recognizes that when he said it wasn’t good for the human being to be alone. However, He had a solution. He would split the human into two, and create a counterpart with strengths and resources that the singular human didn’t have on his own.
The human being was alone on a perfect planet, witnessing the beauty of flawless landscapes and wonders of the animal kingdom. However, it wasn’t until man saw the woman that he finally found a creature he could fully relate to. “This at last is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman (isha), because she was taken out of Man (ish)” (Genesis 2:23).
In the verses that follow, the couple are vulnerable with each other physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. This is God’s model for marriage: well-matched partners experiencing a deep and exclusive unity with each other. They should be able to share all, bare all, and help one another discern the deepest issues of life, including spirituality. That’s an ideal picture of relational and spiritual harmony, but why is it so hard to find when it comes to relationships and marriage today?
Imagine you are about to take a long, treacherous hike. In lieu of going alone, you decide to take a partner. Just as you reach the opening of the path, your partner informs you that there are two trails which run mostly parallel to one another and likely end in the same location. The person you have selected to join you on this journey suggests you each take a different path. Suddenly, you see yourself making this hike alone and wonder what was the point of having brought a partner?
Many have compared a spiritual journey to walking a path, and regardless of the different beliefs we may hold, most can agree that a life of faith is a long road. Perhaps some feel that all paths lead to the same place. Still, trying to make that journey with a partner who is walking a different route can be difficult, emotionally draining, and even downright impossible sometimes. Can two partners who hold different beliefs support each other on their spiritual journeys?
The intermarriage rate in America between Jewish and Gentile couples has been above 54% since 2001. If you’re in one of these interfaith marriages, you’re the Jewish majority in the U.S. However, we know that these marriages also have double the divorce rate of marriages where both partners are Jewish.1 Perhaps you are personally experiencing these statistics like these.
Maybe you are currently in an interfaith marriage, or you are dating and dealing with this paradox firsthand. If you have children old enough to date, it might be a family concern. Oftentimes, those on both sides (particularly in Judaism and Christianity) will urge their loved one not to create an unequal partnership. Even if a couple has been married for some time, unresolved issues can still exist.
Imagine you’re back on that hiking trail. You agree to separate, trusting and respecting your partner’s choice to choose the other route. The two separate paths seem to start out parallel, but soon you lose your counterpart in the maze of trees. Before long, you realize what you suspected all along: these two paths are not heading in the same direction. You have a choice, either to follow the path you believe to be correct, or to join your companion on the alternate route.
Many are certain they will be able to convince their potential partner to join them in their faith. They may even know another couple this has happened to. Consider that your testimony to the person you love is much stronger when you don’t enter into a committed relationship with someone who is not on your path. In this case, is a person relying on the power of God or trusting in their own strength?
If we take God at His word that He desires to have a truly intimate relationship with us, then our commitment to Him must be the governing factor in all our other relationships. However, He’s made it clear that He created marriage and honoring Him means honoring that commitment.
If you’re married, stay married. There’s no need to break your commitment and there are many resources available. If you’re dating someone, now is the time to consider this issue very seriously. Seek counsel and be thoughtful. How valuable might it be to your journey that you have a partner who can begin and end the journey with you?
You can begin your process of discernment at JewishGentileCouples.com where you’ll have a free consultation with an expert where you can take the next steps to finding spiritual harmony in your marriage or relationship.
This content was adapted from an earlier Jews for Jesus article by Stephen Katz.
1. Vaughn R.A. Call and Tim B. Heaton, “Religious Influence on Marital Stability,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 36:3 (1997): 390.