I recently had the opportunity to meet one of my favorite authors. He’s a man named Lee Strobel and he’s written dozens of books about the Christian faith including the bestseller, The Case for Christ, which was made into a movie. The book (and the film) tell the extraordinary story of Lee’s life and his marriage.
Lee had been an atheist and a successful journalist and when his wife, Leslie found a church and became a Christian, Lee thought she had lost her mind, so he used his journalism skills to research the Christian faith and attempt to disprove it. What happened instead is that the facts he found convinced him that Jesus was real and the Bible is true.
Lee and Leslie struggled in their marriage during those turbulent years where Leslie was wholeheartedly following Christ and Lee was doing everything he could to undermine her faith. Ultimately, Leslie’s powerful testimony of love and grace, combined with the evidence of Christianity, led Lee to give his heart to Christ and devote the rest of his life to ministry. Decades later, Lee and Leslie have a wonderful marriage and a solid partnership in their faith and their ministry.
So many couples are in the situation Lee and Leslie were once facing. It can cause tremendous stress on a marriage when one spouse has a devout faith in Christ and the other spouse doesn’t. In that situation, both spouses are facing life with different compasses. They’re operating from two different worldviews, and it makes unity in marriage an elusive struggle. We often get questions from a desperate husband or wife who wants to know how to connect with their unbelieving spouse.
I was talking with a lady at our church on Sunday and with tears in her eyes, she started to tell me about these same struggles in her marriage. With a trembling voice, she said, “My marriage is falling apart. You might not have even known that I’m married because my husband never comes to church with me. He’s not a Christian. It’s like we live on two different planets. Our value systems, beliefs, and worldviews are miles apart. My faith is the most important part of my life; but I can’t share it with him, because when I do, he just accuses me of preaching at him. I feel like we keep drifting further and further apart. I pray about it every day and I do everything in my power to improve our relationship, but nothing seems to work. What should I do?”
As a pastor, this is one of the biggest marital challenges I see. God knew this scenario could create a lot of heartaches, so he gives explicit warnings in the Scriptures for a Believer not to marry a Non – Believer. No matter how much chemistry and compatibility you might think you have with someone, if one of you is a Christian and one is not, DON’T get married. God’s commands are always for our protection.
Once you’re already married, you can’t build a time machine, so the Bible’s instructions on whom to marry (or not to marry) don’t apply. The Bible has very specific instructions for this scenario as well. I’m going to put the most direct passage of Scripture on this matter below and then unpack five practical ways I believe every Christian should respond when married to a Non-Christian:
“Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a fellow believer has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. And if a believing woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him. For the believing wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the believing husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy. (But if the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases, the believing husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.) Don’t you wives realize that your husbands might be saved because of you? And don’t you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you?” 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 (NLT)
In light of this passage and all the Bible has to teach on marriage, I believe every Christian who is married to a nonbeliever should do the following four things:
The passage above reminds us that we are called to live in peace (1 Cor. 7:15). Practically speaking, this means that you shouldn’t go picking fights with your spouse. Don’t try to use guilt, manipulation or demands to get them to see things from your perspective. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers. (Matthew 5:9)” Strive to be the one who resolves conflicts in your marriage; not the one who starts them.
For additional resources to build your marriage and your faith, please check our resources at www.MarriageToday.comand www.XOmarriage.com