What should a Christian do if he or she is married to an unbeliever?
The Bible counsels Christians to marry other Christians. When writing to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul advised them, "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers" (2 Corinthians 6:14). He knew that close relationships, like marriages, between believers and unbelievers would suffer. When one side of a relationship makes decisions based on God's truth, and the other side remains dead in sin, the relationship has many challenges. Being in such a relationship can also feel like an extra hurdle in the spiritual growth process; it can be difficult to stay strong and encouraged in Christ when the ones you are close with disregard Him. The Israelites were similarly discouraged from intermarrying with other cultures in the Old Testament so that they would not turn away and worship other gods (Deuteronomy 7:3–4). Some think the best option is to divorce, but that is far from what the Bible says about being married to an unbeliever. If you find yourself in such a situation, do not be dismayed! There is hope and encouragement for you in Christ.
If you are a Christian married to an unbeliever, continue to trust God with your marriage and in your own faith walk. Whether you became a believer after getting married or chose to marry knowing you would be unequally yoked, you can still honor God in your marriage. First, by living out God's expectations for a spouse within a marriage and second, by sharing the love of Christ with your spouse.
A God-honoring marriage is a union between a man and a woman in which they become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). They commit to spending their lives together and do not break that commitment. In a marriage a husband is to love his wife as himself and a wife is to respect and submit to her husband (Ephesians 5:22–33). By following these guidelines, you can empower your spouse to do the same and create a healthy and happy marriage.
Many spouses in the early church found themselves in this position after becoming Christians while married to unbelievers. Paul told them, "To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 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" (1 Corinthians 7:12–14). God does not condone divorce, though He does allow it when one spouse has committed sexual immorality (Matthew 5:32). Paul also states in 1 Corinthians 7:15 that if an unbelieving spouse chooses to divorce the believing spouse they can consent to letting them go. However, Paul strongly encourages Christians to remain committed to their unbelieving spouse.
In addition to being a God-honoring spouse, you should also be a witness of Christ's love to your husband or wife. You can share your testimony with them, pray for them, and be an example of the transformative power of Christ in your heart. Also, make it a priority to teach your children about God. Ultimately, you are not responsible for the salvation of your spouse. It is up to them to make a decision to follow Christ. However, you are in a unique position to make a significant impact. First Peter 3:1 instructs, "Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct."
Christians who are married to unbelievers should be encouraged that God can equip them to remain faithful in their marriage and use them to glorify Himself in the eyes of their spouse. All Christians should be engaged in regular times of fellowship with God and with other believers (John 15; Hebrews 10:24–25). Especially for Christians who find themselves in an unequally-yoked marriage, it is vital to have regular times of encouragement in Christ. This is done not only through personal Bible study and prayer, but through regular attendance at church and habitual fellowship with other believers. Others in the family of Christ can help you stay strong in your walk with God, encourage you when things are difficult, join with you in prayer for your spouse, and even be witnesses to your spouse of the gospel and the truth and love of God.
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