I read a really good blog post today, written by a sister in Christ by the name of Kathy Keller entitled “Dont Take It from Me: Reasons You Should Not Marry an Unbeliever“. I think the advice she provides is very important for Christian singles!!! I’d be the first one in line to earnestly beseech my fellow Christians to obey God in who they date and marry! Many times however married people who are in an unequally yoked situation may feel like there is plenty of messages telling them the situation they are in is wrong but not enough Biblically based encouragement as to what to do if you are married to an unbeliever or in an unequally yoked Christian relationship (such as one person struggling in their faith while the other is strong or a protestant and a catholic). I would like to point out the following which God has been teaching me as a spouse in an unequally yoked situation. In spite of the stress and pain that can rear its head in the relationship due to being unequally yoked:
1. Being unequally married gives the believer or stronger Christian no license to treat the other without respect/love – Ephesians 5:33 is an act of obedience towards God and not contingent on the other spouse. Respect/love them with your heart, voice, face and actions whether it be in the home environment or publicly to others in church or elsewhere.
2. Just because the stress and pain of not being able to pray, read the Bible or fellowship in Christ together may be present, doesn’t mean that there isn’t any friendship or fun going on in the relationship. My spouse is still the same person I fell in love with, that will never change and the reasons I fell in love with them are still there. As with any marriage, love is a decision and a commitment.
3. Being unequally married does not give the believer or stronger Christian the license to “give up” on a) the marriage and/or b) their pursuit of God.
4. I think the article when directed towards single Christians is good advice, however I feel like there shouldn’t be an “all hope is lost” portrait painted of couples in an unequally yoked situation. Some people end up in an unequally yoked situation because one of the spouses came to Christ later in life or sometimes because one of the spouses backslid in their walk Christ. Even if they fell into an emotional battle and sinned as a Christian by marrying an unbeliever God’s grace is sufficient. Although sinning is never worth it, with repentance and faith in God all things are possible! Even pursuing God and being transformed into a godly spouse in spite of the situation. Our hope and joy in Christ is not dependent on our situation – give thanks in all circumstances and offer up your prayers unceasingly to God our Father.
5. God gives hope to the believing spouse in 1 Peter 3:1 saying that their spouse may be won over not by discussion but by the godly life of the believer or stronger Christian. An important thing to notice here is that this verse turns your eyes off your spouse and makes your life not about nagging or dragging them into church but about pursuing God because when it comes to being godly well there is always room for great surrender to and transformation by the Holy Spirit. Again, loving and respecting your spouse should not be contingent on whether or not they believe or obey God but is an act of obedience toward God.
6. There are the downsides/consequences-not being able to pray or read the Bible together or perhaps them not wanting to get involved with church etc. which can cause pain and strife. However God commands the believer or stronger Christian not to take part in arguments because they lead to quarrelling and to answer their opponents with gentleness and courtesy in the hope that the unbeliever will be saved, 2 Timothy 2:23-25. See how God again makes it about you and becoming more like Jesus instead of being about how to change the other person?
7. Just because someone is married to an unbeliever or to someone who is struggling with the faith gives the church or other Christians no right to pass judgment because the only one out there with the right to judge is Christ since he lived a sinless life and He chooses to give grace. In fact the only response the church/Christians should have towards people already in an unequally yoked marriage should be love, acceptance, compassion and support for BOTH spouses (believer and unbeliever) as Christ would. How else will the unbelieving or struggling spouse see Christ? If the husband hears from his wife how awesome God is but then is made out to be the villain, judged, criticized and/or snubbed by God’s people, then what?
8. Sometimes the lack of mercy and compassion my spouse has received from other Christians made me upset. It hurt because in spite of the pain that I do feel in my marriage due to being unequally yoked, I still love my spouse! However God calls me to forgive my fellow sisters and brothers in Christ who do pass judgment or who are unmerciful because Christ forgives me for my shortcomings and I should pray for them and be unhindered in my pursuit of being a godly wife.
9. Lastly, like Stormie Omartian says in her best-selling book, The Power of a Praying Wife, “Shut up and pray!”. God loves both spouses so much, no matter where each spouse is or “is not” in their walk with God. Surrendering a spouse to God to let Him pursue them can be hard sometimes cause it feels like you are giving up hope. However the less they hear from you the more the “air is cleared” for them to hear from God and the more you pray the less your eyes will be fixed on your spouse and more on God which leads to being transformed more into His likeness.