Going It Alone (Part 2)

June 6, 2016

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Jennifer McGehee

Is it Possible to have a Gospel Centered Marriage If I’m Married to a Non-Christian?

This is part 2 of a three-part series highlighting the difficulties, responsibilities, and encouragements to Christians who are in “unequally yoked” marriages. Today’s post examines the responsibilities of the Christian spouse.

Many Christians are in “unequally yoked” marriages, whether by choice (a believer knowingly married an unbeliever) or Providence (one spouse is saved after marriage). Marriage to an unbeliever (or— more hopefully— a pre-believer) can be challenging, but it can also be a rich environment for the Christian to experience God’s help and mercy in personal and profound ways, so take heart. You are a child of God, and as such, it is possible for you to experience the Gospel in the center your marriage.

What Are the Christian’s Responsibilities?

Scripture teaches that the believing spouse is to remain with the unbeliever as long as the unbeliever desires (1 Corinthians 7:12-13). You know that you cannot save your spouse, so what are your responsibilities toward him or her?

  1. You are responsible to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling knowing you are not alone in your endeavor, for God is at work in you (Philippians 1:6; 2:1-12).
  2. You are responsible for being the best disciple of Jesus you can be (Matthew 16:24).
  3. You are responsible for loving your spouse (Matthew 5:43-48). This includes learning all you can about him or her and seeking Christ’s wisdom for applying love to that knowledge.
  4. You are responsible for staying in the marriage for as long as the non-believer is willing to stay in the marriage (1 Corinthians 7:12-13).
  5. You are responsible for obeying Scripture’s instructions to husbands/wives. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25-33, Col 3:19) and to treat her gently (1 Peter 3:7). The wife is respect her husband (Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18), to submit to him without fear (1 Peter 3:6), and to try to win him to obedience to the Word by her chaste, respectful behavior, not by nagging (1 Peter 3:1-4).
  6. You are responsible to move toward your spouse in love and hope of restoration/salvation, as God moved toward us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), and you should guard against closing off your heart.
  7. You are responsible to keep the greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30), and the first commandment, “you shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). You should guard against letting the desire for your spouse’s salvation become a functional idol in your life, controlling your behavior or happiness.
  8. You are responsible to pray for your spouse’s salvation, not for your own gain but for his or her (James 4:3).[1]
  9. You are responsible to remember who the enemy is—and it is not your spouse (Ephesians 6:12). You should try to pray and behave accordingly.
  10. You are NOT responsible for your spouse’s salvation or obedience to the faith. That is God’s work (John 6:44, Romans 8:29-30, Philippians 1:6).
  11. You are NOT responsible before God for the decisions and actions of your spouse (believing or not) (Deuteronomy 24:16; Matthew 12:36; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Peter 4:5).

The above is not an exhaustive list, though it might be exhausting to read. Remember that Jesus and the power that raised Him from the dead dwells in you (John 14:23, Romans 8:11). Also remember that “He who called you is faithful, and He will bring it [your sanctification] to pass.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24, emphasis mine). You are not expected to accomplish any of this in your own strength.

Join the Conversation

What are some lessons you’ve learned from your experiences in trying to fulfill these types of responsibilities?

[1] See http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2014/february-week-4/six-ways-to-love-your-unbelieving-husband.html?start=3