Honoring Your Non-Christian Spouse
by Mark Driscoll
1 Peter 3:1-2 – 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.
If you are an unmarried Christian, you should not even consider marrying someone who is not actively living for Christ. Jesus said a house divided cannot stand, and any family not built solely on Christ as the cornerstone is headed for hardship. Making matters worse, the highest divorce rates are for people who practice different religions.
Peter addresses a marriage between a Christian and a non-Christian, which can happen in one of three ways:
- They were both non-Christians when they married, and then one spouse became a Christian while the other has not yet converted.
- A Christian married someone who said they were a Christian but, at some point in the marriage stopped practicing their faith, or possibly just denied it altogether.
- A Christian knowingly married a non-Christian, which they should not have done, and now are dealing with the pains and problems caused by that division.
In context, the issue is how to honor both God and your spouse when your spouse does not honor God. 1 Peter 2-3 is devoted to “honor” in “every human institution” which would include marriage.
In that culture, the husband chose the family religion which left the Christian wife divided between her love and loyalty to Jesus and her husband. In that culture, the wife did not have the same legal rights as a man so that they could not own property, vote, or testify in court, much like a strict Islamic nation in our day. In our day, it is more likely that a believing wife would be married to an unbelieving husband rather than the opposite because statistically, once a husband converts, it is likely that the wife will convert, whereas the opposite is not true.
Apparently, this was a big enough issue that it needed to be addressed in the network of churches to whom Peter writes. The Christian wives have sought to influence their husbands who know the word, but “do not obey the word”. At this point, the husbands have heard about Jesus and rejected Biblical truth. To keep pushing the husband would likely lead to greater division and possibly even abuse. To simply divorce would leave the woman in a terrible financial and legal position, not to mention the fact they would probably lose their children in the process. When this was read in the local churches, these women were known and loved in the church family and the goal would have been to encourage the men to pursue her husband and encourage the women to support this wife. Peter gives wives in such circumstances (and, in our day, husbands in the same position), four things they can do:
- If your spouse is not under God’s authority, you appeal to God, who is in authority over them. This is done by living in accordance with the teaching of the Bible and praying for God to intervene in your spouse’s heart.
- If you claim Jesus, your character is your resume and witness to lost people starting with your spouse. If we love our spouse like Jesus loves us, they will see our faith as a blessing to our relationship and be more likely to see Christianity in a positive light.
- What is respectful varies from person to person so kindly asking is most helpful. If we are to respect someone, we need to understand that this is in their opinion. So, if we lovingly and humbly ask our spouse how we can honor them and then earnestly listen, we are doing all we can to build the relationship.
- The goal is not to win the arguments, but to win the spouse. If you have already said all that can be said, drug them to church, bought them Bibles and Christian books, taken them to evangelistic rallies, and sang worship songs in front of them while in the car, it may be getting to the point that you are getting between them and God. So, get out of the way, love them, and let God deal with them directly.
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Article Credit: Real Faith, a Bible-teaching ministry of Mark Driscoll Ministries.