Married to an Unbeliever?

The image of a family, nicely (and conservatively) dressed, going to church together is a nice one, though this 1950's image certainly isn't typical even for many active Christians today (and that's okay).  Notice that the man in the image has full head of hair, the wife is a size 0, and the children are all smiling perfectly.  How realistic is that?

But there are also men and women who don't fit this picture because their spouse simply won't come to church with them because they are married to a non-Christian.

It can be incredibly difficult to be a Christian who is married to a non-Christian.

Such Christians face the following...

  • Instead of receiving help from your spouse in your Christian walk, your spouse is indifferent to the things of God (at best) or hostile to them.
  • Your spouse isn't going to pray with you or do devotions with you.
  • Holidays are challenging because Christmas and Easter are Christian festivals, but for the unbelieving spouse they are something far different.
The list could go on...

However, one of the true challenges faced by those married to an unbelieving spouse is faced each Sunday morning in simply going to church.
  • Your spouse isn't going to help you get out of bed, which makes it even harder because Satan is already tempting you to sleep in.
  • Your spouse isn't going to sit by you in church and you might think that people are whispering about you, wondering where he/she is.
  • For those with children, you don't have the extra help in dealing with the kids.
Now, you might wonder if the Bible says anything about being married to an unbelieving spouse; Yes, yes it does.

If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.      (1 Corinthians 7:13-17)
 In short...

  • If you're married to an unbeliever and your spouse isn't leaving you, you shouldn't leave them either.  Don't seek a divorce. 
  • If the unbelieving spouse leaves you, you aren't enslaved to that marriage. 
  • The believer has a great chance to be a witness to the unbelieving spouse.
So the believing spouse shouldn't allow his or her unbelieving spouse to be an excuse for breaking the First Commandment (that God should be first in all things).  Attending Church on Sunday is something that should happen, because God wills it (Hebrews 10:24-25).  Regular prayer isn't optional, but necessary to a Christian.  Time in God's Word is vital and shouldn't be shunned because it might offend the unbelieving spouse.

And by these actions, the believing spouse is an ongoing witness to the unbelieving spouse.

But such a Christian need not feel alone, because he or she is part of a church family!
So, what can we in the church do for those who are in such a situation?
If you know a Christian who is married to an unbeliever...
  • pray for them regularly
  • encourage them in their faith (remember they don't get that encouragement at home)
  • offer to sit with them at church (this might be more important that you realize)
  • seek out chances to engage, encourage, and mentor their children
  • love them
The church isn't made up only of nice looking families with perfectly groomed and well behaved children.  The church is the assembly of believers, including the young baby who was just baptized and the 100 year old who lives at the nursing home.  It includes the single mom and the and single man who has never married and has led a chaste life.  It includes those whose family members are all Christians and those who are the only Christian in their immediate and extended family.

And that's just the way God designed it.  Repentant believers, from all walks of life, gathered together in Christ. 

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