“Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.”Exodus 34:11-16
Believe it or not, there are still racists today who believe that white people intermarrying with other races is a sin, and this is one of the passages they will use to “prove” that interracial marriage is a sin. As is typical of every false doctrine and heresy, they don’t bother to read the context. Context is everything. God knows the heart of His people, especially after the golden calf incident in chapter thirty-two. So, He commands them to destroy the false gods of the nations He’ll be giving to them and not to marry their people lest they turn them toward false gods. It has absolutely nothing to do with their race because God literally says nothing about it other than their identification. It is not a race issue; it’s a 1st Commandment issue.
God repeats this command for the same reason in Deuteronomy 7:2-5, “‘and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons and their daughters to your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following Me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and He would destroy you quickly. But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire.'”
There’s also the fact that some people in the Bible did have foreign spouses, such as Ruth and Boaz. Boaz was a Bethlehemite, and Ruth was a Moabite. Yet their interracial marriage was permissible because they worshipped the same God, Yahweh. In fact, Jesus comes from their lineage.
It’s not too different for us today either. Hardly any devout Christian will marry someone from another culture who worships a false god because they know that Yahweh is the One True God and it would be dangerous for their faith (and unhealthy for their marriage and children) if they, for example, married a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or what-have-you. It’s not because of their race but rather faithfulness to the One True God. As Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).
In other words, if you do not love Christ above all things—if you do not “fear, love, and trust in God above all things”—so that it appears as if you hate everything else in comparison, you cannot truly be Christ’s disciple. Thus, my wife and I could get married because we worship the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The fact that she’s Finnish and I’m Hispanic American does not matter. If I married a Muslim, my faith would be in jeopardy and my salvation at stake, for they worship a false god. (While their Allah is the God of Abraham—and while “Allah” literally means “God” in Arabic—they do not worship Jesus, who is God, nor the Holy Spirit, who is also God. They deny the Trinitarian Godhead. Therefore, we do not worship the same God.)
Why is it so important that you are mindful of who you marry? Because salvation is at stake. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” Jesus says. “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Contrary to what our culture teaches, Jesus is the only way to salvation. If we want to take our faith seriously and don’t want to lose our salvation, we would do well not to intermarry with other religions that tempt us to worship false gods. If your spouse is a practitioner of a false religion and worships a false god, this does not mean you’ve lost your salvation, but your salvation is at risk, so you must remain ever vigilant and be diligent in bringing them to Christ. Divorce is not an option, but if your unbelieving spouse leaves you, you are not at fault (1 Corinthians 7:15). If you’re single, you would do well to marry a Christian. And as this is written primarily for a Lutheran audience, it would be better for you to marry another Lutheran. Either way, Christians should only marry Christians, lest they turn you toward false gods. This does not make you racist; this simply makes you faithful and guards you against spiritual adultery.