I am married to an unbelieving spouse. I often struggle over our differences, but I remain committed to our marriage hoping the Lord will bring my spouse to faith one day. In the meantime, what does the Bible say about how I should approach my marriage? How do I live my faith while honoring my marriage?
Living with an unbelieving spouse is a challenge. Often it means a marriage with different goals, driven by your faith and your spouse’s ignorance of biblical truth. These challenges can be very difficult and cause significant stress in a marriage (in addition to the “normal” stresses every marriage encounters). Nevertheless, the believer is called to live in union with their spouse despite these differences, and the Bible offers abundant advice to the believer for how to approach the situation.
First, Paul addresses this very topic in 1 Corinthians. The church in Corinth asked him how to handle marriages between believers and unbelievers, and in his response, Paul emphasizes the importance of remaining committed to an unbelieving spouse and the necessity of living in peace:
1 Corinthians 7:12-16 (NKJV)
12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. 15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?
By no means is this a simple task. Rather, living with an unbelieving spouse requires complete dependence on the Lord and His wisdom. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you face the daily challenge of living with a mate who doesn’t share your deepest spiritual commitments:
2. Commit yourself to praying for God’s word to penetrate your spouse’s heart and that God will use you as an instrument in your spouse’s understanding of God.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
3. Be patient and show grace to your spouse.
Colossians 4:5-6 (NKJV)
5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
4. Be the hands and feet of Christ in your marriage. Commit yourself to serving your spouse out of love and respect.
Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Galatians 5:13 (NKJV)
13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Philippians 4:8-9 (NKJV)
Meditate on These Things
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
1 Peter 3:1-6 (NKJV)
Submission to Husbands
3 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
5. Check your heart and motives toward your spouse.
Second to God, are you putting your spouse and marriage first? Is your relationship with Christ making you a more enjoyable person to live with – or just a more religious one? These are important questions because our eagerness to study the Bible, serve the Lord and minister to others can come at the expense of someone else. This does not mean we are to stop seeking God’s truth. But, we are called to be aware and sensitive to the needs of others, especially our spouse.
Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV)
3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Are you showing gentleness and respect to your spouse?
1 Peter 3:15-17 (NKJV)
15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
6. Remember that God is the one who is at work in you and in your spouse.
Philippians 2:13 (NKJV)
13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
7. Refrain from being judgmental of your spouse’s reasons for questioning the Bible or your relationship with God.
Matthew 7:1 (NKJV)
Do Not Judge
7 “Judge not, that you be not judged.
Matthew 7:1 says we are not to judge others. Matthew is not talking about judging which actions are righteous and unrighteous, but rather the heart of people’s actions. Instead of judging, try to understand what it is that holds your spouse back and then pray for God to remove those barriers.
Pray for God to take your spouse on a spiritual journey that you are very much a part of. As we just read in 1 Corinthians 7, how are we to know if we will save our spouse? God tells us to find a way to live in peace for His glory.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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