But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. I Cor. 7:12 & 13
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without a word be won by the conversation (manner of life) of the wives; I Peter 3:1
In my blog article For Christian Husbands, I discussed how a Christian husband, who is supposed to be the spiritual leader in the home, submits to his wife. The answer is found in Ephesians 5, under the Spirit filled characteristic of submitting to one another; the Christian husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.
I want you to understand that submitting in Scripture between a Christian couple is a two way street. If you are married to an unbeliever, it becomes a one way street, because the unbeliever is not able to submit or love in a biblical way. The unbeliever does not have the Holy Spirit. Biblical love and submission is possible only by the Spirit’s enabling.
If you find yourself in the situation of being married to an unbeliever, you need to understand the Scriptures outlined above and their meanings, so that you do not expect more of your mate than they are able to give. The unbeliever will not be able to love you or submit to you as Christ has commanded the believer to do.
So what’s the point?…..Would you shout at a blind man because he stumbled into your flower bed? Would you discipline your child for spilling his milk because of his/her childish awkwardness? Would you become angry and resentful at your mate because he/she does not have the ability to be spiritually minded and obedient to God?
The point is that you cannot force, nor would you want to force, an unbelieving mate to conform to behaviour that is expected of a believer.
A better approach would be to tell your unbelieving mate one time that you have become a Christian. From there on, let them see Christ change your own life one day at a time. Pray for them and let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, but never force your unbelieving mate to conform to your new standard of behaviour. Conformity on their part might make you feel better, but it would be absolutely disastrous for them spiritually. Outward conformity without inward transformation is not only hypocrisy, it will create a false sense of spiritual security for the both of you.
You must keep your priorities in order. A believer’s priorities should be as follows and in this order: (1) Your personal relationship to God. (2) Your relationship to your mate and children. (3) Your relationship to your church. I list the family above church because the Scriptures clearly teach that a pastor whose children are not in subjection is not qualified for the ministry. In other words, if a man cannot lead his own family, how shall he lead the church? Ministry starts at home.
Keep in mind that the last place on earth an unbeliever would want to be is in church. Do not manipulate them into being spiritual by guilting them into attending church. This doesn’t mean that you should go to the lake every weekend with them, but on the other hand it doesn’t mean that you should leave your unbeliever alone every time the doors of the church are open.
I know a gentleman whose new mother-in-law found out that he was a football fan. She was not. What she did to develop a relationship with him was outstanding. She learned all she could about the game of football. She learned to talk football and developed a true interest in the game. All this was done sacrificially by her in order to have a special relationship with her new son-in-law. He said the only bad thing about it was that in the process she became a Nebraska fan!
So,……forget about spiritual manipulation. Be a genuine husband or wife to your unbeliever. Let God transform you before their eyes by letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly, and by letting the beauty of Christ be seen in you. Only God can do the work of conviction, repentance and regeneration in your mate.
Note: Biblical submission doesn’t mean that you submit to everything an unbeliever may conjure up. If you are asked to disobey a clear command of God, you must gently but firmly refuse. If they break the law, call the police first!
Also Note: When I refer to a believer or a Christian, I mean someone who is depending on Jesus Christ and His merit alone as his/her only hope of salvation. Your unbelieving mate maybe very religious but depending on something other than Christ alone for salvation. It is important that they see a transformation in your life. I Peter 3:1 above states that the unbeliever may be won by your manner of life, not by coercion or manipulation. This is not a show or an act that is put on for their benefit. It is a way of life.