To the Man with an Unbelieving Wife
“There are plenty of stories about the Christian woman who has an unconverted husband, one who hasn’t put his trust in Christ as Savior. But what about the marriages in which it’s the other way around? Too often we neglect the topic of how a believing man is to live with his unbelieving wife.” So writes Larry McCall in his book Loving Your Wife as Christ Loves the Church. Living with an unsaved wife is a reality for some Christian husbands, but the counsel to them—at least published counsel—is scarce. So, let me summarize for you the direction given by Pastor Larry in one of the appendices of his book.
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ but your wife isn’t, you are not alone. There are couples who both were unconverted at the time of their wedding, and later the husband was saved but not the wife. A number of men have married someone who claimed to know Christ, only to find out later that her profession of faith was merely insincere words uttered to get the man to marry her. Some Christian men—maybe hoping that the spiritual situation would improve after the wedding—knowingly chose to marry their sweethearts who were still without Christ.
Here are biblical principles to guide in these three situations:
- If you knowingly married a non-Christian then you need to deal with your disobedience to the clear command of 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with an unbeliever…” You need to confess your rebellion against God and receive His gracious forgiveness.
- You need to realize that your situation does have its peculiar difficulties. A Christian and a non-Christian have very different value systems by which they live and make decisions; they have different priorities in life.
How does a Christian man live peaceably with his non-Christian wife? McCall writes, “Commit yourself to loving her in the following ways.”
Pray persistently. Sometimes a Christian husband tries to coerce his wife into becoming a believer. Understand that God alone saves. “As a backwoods Christian man once exclaimed in this simple but profound way, ‘If God don’t turn the lights on, they don’t get turned on!’” Pray the Lord turns the lights on.
Live consistently. “We’re all hypocrites in some ways, but as much as you can, by God’s grace, consistently reflect the character of Christ in your daily life….Seek to honor the Lord in your home by providing a godly influence.”
Love unconditionally. “Loving a person with radically different priorities and passions has its challenges, but seek to love your wife without conditions. Assure her of your unswerving commitment and devotion to her even though she doesn’t share your commitment to the Savior.”
Lead gently. “Being a Christian husband means leading your home in the ways of Christ, even if your wife doesn’t wholeheartedly support you in it. You still have the responsibility to provide spiritual leadership to your wife and children.
McCall then provides the following encouragement: “Following the biblical principles we’ve looked at in this book, we might apply Peter’s counsel for converted wives with unconverted husbands (1 Peter 3:1-12) to the opposite situation, paraphrasing it like this: ‘Husbands, in the same way love your wives as Christ loves the church so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their husbands, when they see the sacrificial love and humble service of your lives.’”
[My fuller review/summary of Larry McCall’s book is posted at Books At a Glance.]