But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: 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. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But 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 Corinthians 7:12-15).
Today, I want to discuss marriage between a Christian and a person who isn’t, or a person who says they are a Christian, but never acts like it!
In the verses above notice that Paul strangely says but to the rest, I not the Lord, say. He said this because this is the first time in scripture that a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever is mentioned. In the Old Testament, and in the gospels, marriage is addressed in the context of two Jewish believers under the law. And Jews were forbidden to marry outside of their faith. When the church age began, those who were converted and already married found themselves in this situation of being married to an unbeliever. No Christian should marry an unbeliever, and that includes people from other religions!
Then Paul basically says that if a believer has an unbelieving spouse, they should remain together as long as they get along and treat each other with kindness and respect. As long as the believer is in the home with the unbeliever, there is an influence of righteousness that speaks into the life of the unbeliever and sets an example for the children. And the unbeliever may come to the Lord!
Those who do not get along have to weigh their options. If the unbeliever is abusive or hurtful to the spouse or children, then the believer has to make the choice of what should be done. Are the actions so bad that they warrant leaving? These matters should be discussed with church leaders, and be treated with much prayer and caution.
God’s ultimate will is for the unbeliever to come to the Lord in this relationship. And if the believer will pray and live a godly lifestyle, then that may just happen!
If you are in a marriage to an unbeliever, and you feel that your own needs are not being met, let me introduce you to a scripture reference that may be a good guide. Again, where abuse, neglect, or adultery are involved, a Christian spouse needs to seek the Lord and let church leaders prayerfully help them sort out their responsibilities and options. But if adultery, abuse, or neglect of common life responsibilities are not happening, and if the unbelieving spouse is just acting in uncaring or selfish ways, listen to the following. Though this was written to first century Christians who were slaves to terrible masters, the message is clear to anyone in a difficult place in a relationship:
You who are servants should submit to your masters with proper respect—not only to the good and kind, but also to the difficult. A man does something valuable when he endures pain, as in the sight of God, though he knows he is suffering unjustly. After all, it is no credit to you if you are patient in bearing a punishment which you have richly deserved! But if you do your duty and are punished for it and can still accept it patiently, you are doing something worthwhile in God’s sight. Indeed this is part of your calling. For Christ suffered for you and left you a personal example, and wants you to follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:18-23 – J.B. Phillips).
This is a day to carefully guard our marriages and families with much prayer. Our nation needs strong families. Our children need the example of those who do it right! Let’s pray for families today. Let’s believe God for His best in life where we find ourselves right now. in our marriages and relationships in life. Don’t waste time brooding over the past. Look ahead from today, and let’s give God our best!