2001-07-18 - Married to an Unbeliever

1 Corinthians 7:13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, let her not send her husband away.

"Here is my question:

What biblical insight/help can you give to someone who is married to an unbeliever?"

Scripture has a lot to say about marriage and this is a good thing because it is quite prominent in our culture. Marriage was God's idea (Genesis 2:18-24). It is to be a permanent union dissolved only by death (Matthew 19:6, Romans 7:2-3). It is also something that is to revolve around love, one to another (Ephesians 5:22-33).

So much for the recap. We all know either by experience or observation that marriage is not an easy institution. Socrates said, "By all means marry: If you get a good wife you'll be happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher." Marriage between two people who have different world views only complicates things more. And that is exactly what is the case when one spouse is trusting in Christ and one in himself/herself. The differences between a Christian and a non-Christian are sweeping and even earth-shattering. Living under one roof together can only lead to conflicts and heartache.

This is why I don't think it is a good idea for Christians and non-Christians to date. Several of the questions that came in were asking whether it was OK to date outside of the Christian faith. My suggestion would be that this is a less than ideal situation to put yourself in.

However, this question regards a Christian who is married to an unbeliever. God, in His wisdom, foresaw that this would take place among couples. 1 Corinthians 7 is a great place to start, but in truth, the whole of the Bible is the beginning for this and every question.

My simple advice is to learn patience, perseverance, and strive to grow in godliness every way you can. But this is true for everyone because these are the keys to life in general. Having a spouse who does not share your faith in Christ is certainly an added burden but almost everyone has added burdens, in some measure, in life. God knows this and has given us both a promise and an encouragement in Scripture. The promise is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13: "No temptation has overtaken you such as is common to man. And God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it." The encouragement is given in Hebrews 4:15: "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin."

In a sense, the Christian who has a spouse who is not a believer has a great opportunity. There is probably no one who is closer to your spouse who can serve as a living testimony and witness for Jesus Christ. There is no denial here that it is God alone who saves, but He uses us to share His good news both by word and by deed. We are, truly, His ambassadors. 2 Corinthians 5:20

When I was a freshman in college, my roommate in the dorms was a Muslim from Quatar. Naturally, as roommates we became friends. I worked hard to witness Christ's love to him and had my successes and failures doing so. At first he prayed five times a day to a picture of Mecca that he had placed on our wall. After several months he had given up on his faith, but had embraced the world by going to bars, pursuing women, and drinking quite a bit.

One weekend, while I was away, he attempted to gain the favor of a woman at a local watering hole. Turns out she was a Christian, shared the gospel with him, and he trusted in Christ. When I came home, he told me and I had some interesting thoughts. In my mind, I had done all the work of bringing him to Christ. I had lived with him and endured both persecution and mocking. Yet some woman who had put in none of the work I had, gets the joy of leading him to Christ. While I rejoiced at the outcome, it also taught me a lesson. Sometimes we are the laborers and other times we get to be the harvester. But the joy is that God uses us in the process and sinners are snatched from the lake of fire and brought to the mercy seat of the boundless love of Christ.

You may never know the influence that you, the Christian, are having on your spouse who does not believe as you do. I would have guessed that my roommate was very far from thinking of Christ; never mind trusting in Him. But all the time, my roommate was watching me and I was simply one of the laborers that God used to bring someone else to the point of getting the privilege of snatching a soul from the lake which burns. This may be something that God is doing through the Christian who continues to remain married to an unbeliever. We pray for the lost soul of this one who is so close to us. We seek to live faithfully to the high calling of being a child of God. We pray for faithfulness and beg forgiveness when we fail. And then we do what only we can do, we pray more. May the Lord hear those prayers and bring your family united to His blessed kingdom.

Soli Deo Gloria,

[email tim] godrulestb@aol.com