Is it possible to live peaceably with your unbelieving mate? This is a question that many believers wrestle with on a regular basis. If you are married to an unbeliever, what does God want you to do? Are there clear directives revealed in God’s Word to help you live at peace with your non-Christian spouse? As you read these words of encouragement ask God to give you an open and willing heart to hear what He will personally say to you.
1. Don’t look for a way out. Many times when one partner receives Christ and begins to struggle in his marriage he will begin to view divorce as the easiest solution to his marital trouble. However, divorce is never a quick or easy solution for any troubled marriage. In fact, many times divorce will create even more difficulties and turmoil than if a person chose to stay and work out the problems. Over the years many couples have confessed to me in counseling that they regretted not having tried harder to resolve the issues in their marriages. For this reason Paul clearly instructs Christians who are married to non-Christians not to divorce: “If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him” (1 Cor. 7:12-13).
You must understand that it is by God’s design and not by some chance that you were saved while married to your spouse. If your unbelieving spouse is willing to live with you, then be assured God is working out His plan in and through your life. Paul encouraged the Ephesian church that God had saved them and that He wanted to fulfill His work through them: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Therefore, don’t look for a way out of the marriage. Instead, ask God to show you how He wants to fulfill His work through you in your present circumstances. Then do it.
Now, some of you are thinking, Aren’t there exceptions to what you’ve just said? Of course. If you read the entire context of 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, you will find that Paul also addresses these concerns. He clearly states that, “if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace” (1 Cor. 7:15). What does Paul mean? The word translated depart in this passage means to divorce and is clearly used in this context in 1 Corinthians 7:11. Therefore, if your non-Christian spouse is unwilling to live with you and demonstrates his or her refusal to abide in the covenant of marriage by abandoning or divorcing you, this behavior sets you free from the relationship.
Likewise, if your spouse is physically abusive toward you, this behavior demonstrates that your mate is unwilling to dwell with you in a peaceable manner. Remember, God is very concerned about the peace and safety of you and your children. God clearly communicated this concern for His people when He encouraged them in Deuteronomy 12:10: “The Lord your God is giving you…rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety.” God also promises: “I will set him in the safety for which he yearns” (Ps. 12:5). Therefore, you should never allow yourself to be physically abused by your mate. God doesn’t want you to remain in a dangerous relationship. If God told Jacob to remove himself from a relationship with his father-in-law because of unfair wages, how much more should you remove yourself from an abusive spouse who is endangering your life (Gen. 31:3)? Of course, the only exception to this counsel is if your spouse is sincerely seeking help for his or her abusive behavior through counseling and developing a right relationship with God.
However, if the above circumstances are not occurring and your spouse is willing to dwell with you, consider the following counsel to help you live peaceably with your unbelieving spouse.
COVENANT KEEPERS © 2014
If you would like more information on the marriage ministry of Pastor Steve Carr or his book Married and How To Stay That Way, please visit us on the Internet at www.covenantkeepers.org