Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a fellow believer has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. (13) And if a believing woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him. (14) For the believing wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the believing husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy. (15) But if the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the believing husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace. (1 Corinthians 7:12-15-NLT).
Yesterday, I discussed marriage between two believers and talked about how believers should deal with problems in their marriage relationship. Today, I want to discuss marriage between a believer and a person who isn’t, or a person who says they are, but never acts like it!
In the verses above notice that Paul strangely says but to the rest, I not the Lord, say. He said this because this is the first time in scripture that a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever is mentioned (In the Old Testament, and in the gospels, marriage is addressed in the context of two Jewish believers under the law). When the church age began in the first century, those who were converted and already married found themselves in this situation.
No believer should marry an unbeliever! If you are a believer and are not married, you should not even date an unbeliever. Why? Because in our culture, dating is a way for looking for a potential spouse. And a christian should only look inside the family of God for a mate (check out 1 Corinthians 6:14-18).
Then, in the beginning verse, Paul basically says that if a believer has an unbelieving spouse, they should remain together as long as they get along and treat each other with kindness and respect. As long as the believer is in the home with the unbeliever, there is an influence of righteousness that speaks into the life of the unbeliever and sets an example for the children. And the unbeliever may come to the Lord!
Those who do not get along have to weigh their options. If the unbeliever is abusive or hurtful to the spouse or children, then the believer has to make the choice of what should be done. Are the actions so bad that they warrant leaving? These matters should be discussed with church leaders, and be treated with much prayer and caution. Rash decisions and hurtful actions by a parent can leave a child scarred for life!
Here is an example. Years ago I ministered to a lady who had challenges in her marriage. One Wednesday night, she came into our service just as we were dismissed and was breathing like she had been working out! I asked her what was going on and she told me that she had just walked six miles to church from her home! She told me that her husband would not give her the car keys and would not let her go to church, so she just walked to church, all six miles! She told me her husband tried to control everything she did. If his underwear drawer was not perfectly straight after she washed the laundry and put up the clothes, he would go into a fit of rage. She said he tried to control every facet of her life.
My encouragement to her was to tell this man she loves him, but that she has a free will of her own, and that she will not live this way. I encouraged her to make choices that would keep her from having a mental breakdown trying to deal with such nonsensical living. Her husband obviously needed professional mental health help, and God would not require her to stay in a place where her very life may be threatened. Her husband was not willing to live with her in a sane way. He was a beast.
In normal circumstances where the unbeliever is civil, and both husband and wife can get along in a fair way, then the believer should stay and trust God for the salvation of his or her spouse. God’s ultimate will is for the unbeliever to come to the Lord. And if the believer will pray and live a godly lifestyle, then that may just happen!
If you are a christian in a marriage with a non-christian, pray for your spouse to come to Jesus. And show your spouse unconditional, self-sacrificial love. Your spiritual influence has a huge affect on them. There is an atmosphere that you carry with you that can woo a person to want to walk with Jesus, if you will love them and be an example of godliness.
This is a day to carefully guard our marriages and families with much prayer. Our nation needs strong families. Our children need the example of those who do it right!
Let’s pray for families today. Let’s believe God for His best in life where we find ourselves right now. Don’t waste time brooding over the past. Look ahead from today, and let’s give God our best!