Are You Married to a Non-Believer? : You Might Be the Influence for The Next Greatest Warrior of the Faith, Who Knows?

Posted: June 24, 2015 in 46-1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 7:1-40 — Yesterday, we talked about sex! We talked about how sexual relations between a husband and a wife is symbolic and necessary for their to be true spiritual union between them. Now, today, we talk a subject that often makes a major difference in marriages and can land a marriage squarely on the rocks. It can even lead to divorce. Today, we will take a look at 1 Corinthians 7:10-16. This passage talks about being married if your husband or wife is not a believer in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Here we go again. Another proof that the Bible is applicable to today’s world as it ever was. It is after all the ageless, timeless Word of God. In many marriages today, this is a hot topic. How to handle life as a Christ follower when your spouse does not know Christ as their Savior and Lord. At the time of this letter, some people in the Corinthian church thought that they should divorce their pagan spouses and marry a fellow Christ follower instead. Paul affirms the marriage commitment. It is God’s ideal for husbands and wives to stay together – even when one spouse is a non-believer. Wow! That is very topical today’s world much less it being addressed to a specific issue in the Corinthian church in the first century.

The first point that Paul makes is that we may not always get to choose the circumstances in which the marriage finds itself. Many of us when we marry are not believers in Jesus Christ – neither the husband nor the wife. How do we handle such things. What if we become a believer during our marriage and our spouse refuses or at least only pays lip service to this whole Christ follower thing but never becomes a true believer. What do we do then? Do we immediately divorce our spouse? You see it play out in many marriages today. The couple grows up living the party lifestyle. The couple grows up living the American Dream of self-indulgence and in pursuit of things to make us happy. One of the husband or wife then realizes that this lifestyle is so empty and meaningless and begins searching and seeking. They find Christ and it changes their whole outlook on life. It changes them from seeking the next self-indulgent thing to a life that is a pleasing aroma to Jesus Christ. They seek to please God in everything they do. They are changed from the inside out. Yet, their husband or wife refuses to accept the change in them and most of all they reject this Jesus Christ thing. Paul says it would be easy to rationalize leaving a non-believing spouse. Paul believed like Jesus (Mark 10:1-9) that marriage is a binding commitment that is permanent in nature. Paul says that we should stay in our marriages to the non-believers because of the influence for Christ that we can be in the home. We can be a positive influence on our non-believing spouse. The blessing that from our own salvation don’t stop with us. They extend outward to the people around us. God regards the marriage as set apart for his use by the presence of one Christian spouse. The non-believing spouse does not receive salvation through the presence of the believing spouse but is blessed through the presence of the believing spouse. Even though they may reject Jesus Christ, the non-believing spouse is constantly being exposed to Christian values in an intimate setting. They get to see first hand how a believer processes life through the lens of Jesus Christ and Scripture. It is like having a ring side seat at a prize fight. It is like having sideline pass at a major college’s football game. They get to see you process life up close in a way that they would not otherwise see. What if we decided to leave our non-believing spouse, how are they going to get as close a look at the Holy Spirit in action daily if you leave?

Paul’s statements here are given to encourage the Christian spouse to try to make their marriages to non-believers work. Paul was writing to say to be people that you can do God’s work and demonstrate your faith in any situation. If you became a Christian after marriage and your spouse is a not a believer, you can still be a Christ follower. You can still live for Christ. Don’t assume that you are in the wrong place or the wrong marriage. You may be exactly where God wants you to be. You may be the one that leads your spouse to Christ and your spouse may, even though it may not seem like it at the moment, become a powerful voice for Jesus Christ. God may have intended to be in this marriage to be the gospel catalyst that brings your spouse to Christ. Go to the Lord in fervent prayer for the salvation of your spouse. Lift them up. View them from this lens that you are there to be an example for them. Don’t lord it over them. Just be an example. Speak of Christ in ways that they can relate to. Speak of how it has changed your life and how you view the world. Keep an eye toward the prize of them coming to Christ. Who knows? Your non-believer spouse may be the next champion of Christ in a mighty and powerful way when they finally do make the decision to accept Christ as their Savior and Lord. In all areas of life, we are right where God wants us for this moment in time and with the people that He has us with. It may be a painful time. It may be a time that seems like wasted time. It may be a time in which we are to learn patience and perseverance. It may be time that we are to learn the power of prayer. It may be a time in which we are to learn total dependence on God. This can be the purpose of the your marriage to your non-believer spouse. See your spouse as a child of God. See your spouse as made in the image of God. See that salvation is available to us all. Do not simply write off your spouse as being hopelessly lost. You have been placed in their lives for a reason by God almighty. We must seek unity in our marriage with non-believer not discord.

What then would be conditions in which we are to be set free from a marriage with a non-believer? I think Paul is pretty clear that we are to attempt to save our marriages, even to non-believers, at all costs. We are to seek reconciliation and unity with our spouses even if they are not believers. If the non-believer wants to end the marriage by leaving, then we should let them and we are released. We should try every way possible to make our marriages to non-believers work. It may involve temporary periods of separation but we should come at those periods of separation from the point of view that there will ultimately be reconciliation not divorce. To me the only ways that we are freed from a marriage to a non-believer is

  • if they are unwilling to reconcile and have already moved on to other relationships
  • or if to stay in the relationship we would have to deny our faith in Jesus Christ to make the marriage work.

In any other circumstances we are to be all-in in our marriages. Who knows? Like I said before, it may take 20 years but your non-believer spouse just might encounter Jesus Christ as their Savior because of your influence and presence in their lives. Who knows? Because of your long-suffering patience and influence, they might come to know Christ as their Savior and Lord and become a mighty, mighty warrior of God. Who knows? Pray without ceasing.

This passage is a tough one in today’s throwaway marriage world. Divorce has infiltrated the church just as much as has in general society. We are taught nowadays not to be patient. We are taught that love and passion are one and the same thing. We are taught that it is easier to throw away a marriage than it is to work at it. Christ followers have become very much like the world in this regard. From statistics I have read, the divorce rate among Christ followers is equal to the divorce rate in the general population. We must read this passage as Christ followers. We must end the passion is love thing and seek a spouse who matches our soul step for step and not confuse soulmate with someone who I just wanna have sex with every moment I can. Sexmates and soulmates are two different things. Soulmates are that one female for a man and that one male for a woman that gets you. The one that will love you through anything. The one that will be by your side even when you are at your worst. The one that will be there when the chips have fallen all around you. The one that you look at and see your complement. The one that matches you even without thoughts of physical pleasure. The one that 50 years from now when they pass away that half of you yourself dies. That is what we should look for in marriages. Sex is important to marriage don’t get me wrong but it should be the cherry on top of the sundae of marriage and not the whole reason for its being. If we are to have successful marriages, we should think long and hard before we marry. We must measure our future spouses by the qualities of Christians found in Galatians 5. If we spent as much energy on being discerning about who we marry as we do on getting divorced, maybe there would be more quality Christian marriages out there.

It is my prayer that if you are single, be discerning about who you are to marry. It is better to have a long singlehood than it is to have a divorce or multiple divorces. Pray for God to bring your a godly husband if you are a woman. If you are a man, pray for God to bring you a godly wife. Make sure. Be discerning. Marriage is a lifetime commitment and that’s a long time. Make sure. If you are already married and your spouse is not a believer, don’t look down on them. You were once a non-believer yourself. Be supportive. Live a life as an example. Pray fervently for ever how long it takes. Make the marriage work. However, do not deny Christ ever! If we spent more time thinking of God’s plan for our marriage to a non-believer than our own plans, we may see that God has us there to bring the world next greatest voice of God to Him through our influence. May we pray about it all always. Pray for marriage. Pray for our spouses. Pray pray pray.

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