Christian Biblical Counsel: UNBELIEVING MATE

Unbelieving Mate

Becoming a Winsome Witness

by June Hunt

In a court of law, witnesses are people who testify to what they have personally seen and experienced. Their testimony can change the entire outcome of the trial. In Acts 1:8 Jesus told His followers, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Since then, witnessing to others of Christ’s saving grace and life-changing love has been the privilege of believers for two thousand years. Remember, in a court of law the strongest evidence presented is that of an eyewitness. As a Christian, you are God’s eyewitness to those around you. But your unbelieving world may not begin when you leave your doorstep. It may begin when you enter the door of your own home. Your biggest challenge may be that of … your unbelieving mate.

“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

(Acts 1:8)

I.     Definitions

From the beginning of time, God’s design for marriage was for a male and a female to become united as one … united physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. If spiritual oneness has eluded you, that is all the more reason to be the Lord’s silent witness before your unbelieving mate. Never lose hope.

“We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the people around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel.”

(Ezra 10:2)

A. What Is an “Unequally Yoked” Marriage?

•     An unequally yoked marriage is the union of a husband and wife in which one is a believer and the other is an unbeliever.

•     The Bible tells believers to avoid becoming yoked with unbelievers.

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

(2 Corinthians 6:14)

B. What Is a Believer?

•     A believer is a person who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and who seeks to live a life relying on the Lord for everything.

•     In Greek the word for “believe” is pisteuo, which means “to trust in, to place confidence in, to rely on.”

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)

•     Mere intellectual assent that Jesus is Lord is not evidence that one is a believer. A changed life is the evidence of authentic salvation.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

C. What Is an Unbeliever?

•     An unbeliever is a person who does not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and who lives life trusting and relying on human effort instead of relying on the Lord for everything.

•     The Greek word apistos means “unbeliever” or a “person without faith.”

“What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:15)

D. What Are the Basic Needs in a Loving Relationship?

•     The need for intimacy


sensing   a personal connection


•     The need for commitment


having   a security of relationship


•     The need for forgiveness


recognizing   your own imperfections and accepting those of your mate


•     The need for conformity


being   in agreement and harmony with one another


“All the believers were one in heart and mind.”

(Acts 4:32)

Q   “Being married to an unbeliever is too hard. I am so unhappy. I know God will forgive me if I get a divorce. Doesn’t God want me to be happy? Wouldn’t it be better for me to be in a Christian marriage where I could serve Him more?”

God has allowed your situation for a reason. Determine to see your life as a testimony of God’s love. Your happiness does not depend on your husband’s salvation, but on your relationship with the Lord. It is important to understand that your “happiness” is not God’s goal. His goal is your transformation into the image of Jesus. Your service to God is not a matter of emotion, but of will. That kind of service is not limited by your circumstances, but rather is enhanced by your commitment. God does not condone divorce. Romans 6:1 says,

“Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”

God’s Heart on the Unequally Yoked Marriage

“If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?”

(1 Corinthians 7:12–16)

•     The believer must not divorce his wife   because of her unsaved state


v.   12


•     The believer must not divorce her husband   because of his unsaved state


v.   13


•     The unsaved spouse is sanctified*   through the sanctified believing spouse


v.   14


•     The children of an unequally yoked couple   are called holy* because one parent is a Christian


v.   14


•     The believer is no longer bound to the   marriage if the unsaved spouse deserts the marriage covenant


v.   15


•     The believer should not be defiant toward   the unbelieving spouse who desires to leave


v.   15


•     The believer is called by God to maintain   a spirit of peace


v.   15


•     The believer could be the means of   salvation for the unsaved spouse


v.   16


*Both sanctify and holy mean set apart—set apart for God’s purpose.

Q   “My spouse and I were both unbelievers when we got married. Since I am now a Christian but my spouse isn’t, am I obligated to stay in the marriage?”

Many of the first converts to Christianity shared your experience since most were married when they first heard the gospel. In some cases both marriage partners accepted Christ, but in other cases only one spouse became a Christian. What was true then is still true today. The thing to remember is that the marriage covenant is a forever commitment. Your spiritual condition when you married is not the issue. God expects you to honor your marriage vows and to trust Him with your spouse and with your marriage.


II.    Characteristics of an Unequally Yoked Marriage

“Never married” singles often view marriage as the answer to all their problems. Single women are on the lookout for their knight in shining armor. Bachelors begin to lose hope that they will ever find “the perfect woman.” When they finally find that person of their dreams, they ultimately realize all that glitters is not gold. Once inside marriage, both partners experience power struggles. Conflicts center on decision making, money, children or any number of other things. Of particular concern are spiritual matters. At this point, your role as Christ’s “image bearer” becomes vitally important.

“You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

(Colossians 3:9–10)

A. Characteristics of the Discontented Believing Mate

•     Loneliness


longs   for spiritual oneness


•     Envy


compares   own marriage with other Christian marriages


•     Anger


feels   frustration that mate does not change


•     Fear


sees   only future unhappiness and worries over destiny of mate


•     Guilt


feels   bad about marrying an unbeliever and/or the inability to lead mate to Christ


•     Depression


loses   hope in God’s ability to change the situation


Q   “How can I have the right spirit when my unsaved husband doesn’t want to change?”

Don’t focus on what your husband doesn’t do. Focus on the good that he does do that will enhance your relationship with him. And pray that your husband will respond to all that the Lord can do in his life. It is important to understand that your “right spirit” is not dependent on anyone else’s attitudes or actions. It is dependent on your right relationship with God—and that is dependent on you, not on anyone else.

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1–3)

B. Characteristics of the Disgruntled Unbelieving Mate

•     Anger


“You   are ruining our marriage!”


•     Bewilderment


“You   are not the same person I married.”


•     Apathy


“You’re   just going through a phase. It won’t last.”


•     Skepticism


“You’re   trying to manipulate me by being nice.”


•     Fear


“You’ll   drive all our friends away.”


•     Jealousy


“You   love God more than you love me.”


•     Confusion


“I   thought I understood you, but I don’t.”


Q   “Why doesn’t my unsaved spouse respond to spiritual values and truth?”

Those who are unsaved do not have the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God to draw them to spiritual truth. The Bible says that unbelievers are “dead in transgressions and sins.” Since dead people have no hunger, it stands to reason that spiritually dead people have no hunger for spiritual things. So don’t be unrealistic: don’t expect non-Christians to have the same desires as those who are Christians.

“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment.” (1 Corinthians 2:14–15)



Marriages become stronger or begin to collapse based on both partners’ willingness to work through their power struggles. Caring communication plays an important role in resolving conflicting values, but your efforts to communicate won’t work if you live with unrealistic expectations. Your greatest role as a witness may simply be that of understanding and accepting your mate “as is.”

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

(Philippians 4:11)

A. Major Causes of Conflict

Different Values in …

•     Marital expectations


roles   and responsibilities


•     Time commitments


priorities   and schedules


•     Monetary expenditures


tithing,   borrowing, purchasing


•     Social interests


friends,   entertainment, hobbies


•     Parenting


rules,   method of discipline, boundaries


•     Personal conscience


behavioral   standards


B. Root Cause of Discontentment

Wrong Belief:

“I will never be fulfilled or content unless my mate changes and becomes a Christian.”

Right Belief:

I pray for my mate to become a Christian; nevertheless, I am fulfilled and content because Christ, who lives in me, is using this experience to transform me into His likeness.

“We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)



Have you reached the point where you understand that only God can change your mate—you can’t? Have you come to realize that part of God’s plan in your marriage is to change you? Have you accepted the truth that you can be used by God in the life of your mate, but that the salvation of your spouse is not your responsibility—that it is your mate’s responsibility to respond to the Lord’s call? If so, then you can receive the tranquility and peace that surpasses all understanding.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 4:6–7)

A. Key Verses to Memorize

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

(Colossians 4:5–6)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

1 Corinthians 13:1–8, 13

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

•     If I … am an eloquent, charismatic and powerfully persuasive speaker … but … my words do not come from a heart of love … then … I am offensive and even painful to hear.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, then I am nothing.

•     If I … have the supernatural ability to foretell the future and thoroughly understand the mind of God and know everything about everything … and … if I … have unswerving faith that enables me to perform supernatural deeds … but … love is not my motivation … then … I am a miserable failure and an absolute nobody.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

•     If I … give away everything I own to those in need … and … if I … actually die as a martyr for the cause of Christ … but … not because of love … then … I derive absolutely no benefit from my sacrifice.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.… And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

As a Christian spouse, take the Love Test by asking yourself …

•     Am I … slow to lose patience with my spouse?

•     Am I … thoughtful and considerate of my mate’s feelings and needs?

•     Am I … always looking for ways to be constructive in my marriage?

•     Am I … content with my life and my marriage?

•     Am I … possessive?

•     Am I … anxious to impress my spouse or others?

•     Am I … cherishing inflated ideas of my own importance?

•     Am I … practicing good manners toward my mate?

•     Am I … pursuing selfish advantage within my marriage?

•     Am I … touchy and easily irritated or angered by my spouse?

•     Am I … harboring ill will toward my mate?

•     Am I … gloating when my spouse is wrong or fails at something?

•     Am I … eager to share the joy of my mate?

•     Am I … conscientious about speaking truthfully to my spouse?

•     Am I … quick to protect and defend the reputation of my spouse?

•     Am I … unwavering in my trust that God is working in the life of my mate?

•     Am I … always hopeful of receiving God’s best for my marriage?

•     Am I … committed to persevere in my love for my spouse?

Q   “My husband thinks I am stupid because of my beliefs; in fact, he is verbally abusive. He won’t consider my opinions and insists on making all important decisions without my input. In this situation, isn’t it okay for me to go behind his back and make some decisions myself?”

In Genesis 2:24 the marriage relationship is described as being “one flesh.” That phrase comes from a Hebrew word describing an organic unity. To go behind your husband’s back is a violation of the very nature of covenant relationship. However, you are not to submit to abuse of any kind: verbal, psychological, physical or sexual. The kind of controlling spirit evidenced by your husband is a type of abuse. Have you considered seeking counseling for yourself? Would your husband agree to counseling? If not, a trial separation may be indicated—a separation with concurrent counseling. That might be the wake-up call that he needs in order to begin to value the relationship with you.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

C. Display Christlike Attitudes and Characteristics

•     Do … Respect your mate as a unique creation of God.

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

•     Do … Choose to love your mate unconditionally.

“Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)

•     Do … Be a person of total integrity.

“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” (Proverbs 10:9)

•     Do … Seek positive fellowship with other Christians and, if possible, with other Christian couples.

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” (Proverbs 27:9)

•     Do … Nurture one or two Christian confidants.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10)

•     Do … Enlist your Christian confidants to pray for specific events in your mate’s life.

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength.” (Ephesians 1:18–19)

•     Do … Communicate lovingly, with wisdom and understanding.

“The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:21)

•     Do … Be an encourager in private and a praiser in public.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

•     Do … Work on changing yourself, not your mate.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Luke 6:41)

•     Do … Let the Lord fight your battles.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)

•     Do … Pray for your mate, never giving up hope.

“Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1)

D. Let God be God.… Don’t Play Holy Spirit

•     Don’t accept responsibility for the salvation of your mate.

“They will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (1 Peter 4:5)

•     Don’t manipulate with indirect hints.

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.” (Proverbs 14:8)

•     Don’t force your mate to attend religious activities.

“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

•     Don’t arrange a spiritual ambush with people you think can convert your mate, but trust your mate to God’s providence.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

•     Don’t foster an uncomfortable religious atmosphere in your home.

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” (Proverbs 14:1)

•     Don’t use religious terminology such as … “I’m praying for you” or “I’m glad to be in the family of God.”

“A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” (Proverbs 17:27–28)

•     Don’t criticize your mate’s church or view on religion.

“He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” (Proverbs 21:23)

•     Don’t be unpleasant or judgmental.

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)

•     Don’t respond to your mate in anger.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

•     Don’t demand respect and honor.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:3–7)

•     Don’t be consumed by self-pity.

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15)

•     Don’t compromise the Word of God.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:22–25)

E. Put Your Trust in God


Trust in the Lord’s faithfulness to work in your mate’s life and in your marriage.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Release any expectations for Christlike attitudes from your unbelieving mate.

“The god of this age [Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)

Understand that your own contentment does not depend on your mate’s salvation or spiritual condition.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11)

Seek to understand the true meaning of biblical submission.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

Turn to Christ, who is living in you, to provide the will and the way to do what is right.

“It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)

Being in an unequally yoked marriage   is like running a three-legged race tied to a much shorter partner—neither   can run the race with a natural stride—one inevitably pulls the other off   balance. God says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” But if the   marriage cord has already been tied, the believer can run the race with   victory and appeal—relying on the power of Christ and reflecting the person   of Christ.

—June Hunt



Look for the Silver Lining


•     The believer can be compassionate and forgiving   with the faults of an unbelieving mate who is in total darkness.

“They are darkened in their   understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance   that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”

(Ephesians 4:18)


•     The believer has freedom to gain spiritual   instruction through avenues of personal choice.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where   the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

(2 Corinthians 3:17)


•     The believer grows into a deeper   dependency on the Lord through sharing in Christ’s sufferings.

“For it is commendable if a man bears   up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how   is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?   But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable   before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving   you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

(1 Peter 2:19–21)


•     The believer has a greater sense of serving   the Lord as His “personal emissary” in the life of another.

“You are the light of the world. A   city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it   under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to   everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that   they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

(Matthew 5:14–16)


•     The believer will reap God’s   blessings for faithfulness and perseverance.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres   under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of   life that God has promised to those who love him.”

(James 1:12)


Tracing Trust

Through the Psalms


Write His   Words on your heart by memorizing these Scriptures!


Psalm   9:10


“Those who   know your name will TRUST in you, for you, Lord,   have never forsaken those who seek you.”


Psalm   31:14


“I TRUST in   you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my   God.’ ”


Psalm   33:21


“In him our   hearts rejoice, for we TRUST in his holy name.”


Psalm   37:5


“Commit your   way to the Lord; TRUST in him   and he will do this.”


Psalm   40:4


“Blessed is   the man who makes the Lord his   TRUST.”


Psalm   56:3


“When I am   afraid, I still TRUST you.”


Psalm   62:8


“TRUST in him   at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”


Psalm   91:2


“I will say of
the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and   my fortress, my God, in whom I TRUST.”


Psalm   125:1


“Those who   TRUST in the Lord are like Mount   Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.”


Psalm   143:8


“Let morning   bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my TRUST in you.”


Questions and Answers


Q.  “It is   too painful for me to go to church alone. It hurts to see all the married   couples together. Is it okay for me to stay home? I can have a close   relationship with the Lord without going to church.”

All   Christians need to be fed God’s Word in order to grow spiritually. Going to   church is not the only way to take in His truth. It is possible to have a   close relationship with the Lord outside of church. However, it is necessary   to understand that believers will never be all that God wants them to be   without intimate fellowship in the body of believers. Focus on the benefits   of fellowship and teaching that you receive while at church instead of   focusing on the married couples you see there. Understand that the primary   purpose of assembling together is to bless God through our worship—it’s not   what you get as much as what you give that is important. Change your focus to   giving to God and see what He does in your life.

“Let   us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.   And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good   deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of   doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day   approaching.” (Hebrews 10:23–25)


Q.  “I feel   different from other Christians. I feel inferior because of my unbelieving   mate. I know that if we were a Christian couple, I could be more spiritual.   Does God see me as inferior to other believers?”

The   Bible says in Colossians 1:22, “He has   reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in   his sight, without blemish.   God sees every believer as acceptable and important to Him. Your feelings of   inferiority may be a result of wrong thinking, or they may be a spiritual   attack. Your acceptability to the Lord does not depend on your mate’s   salvation. God uses our individual circumstances to provide us with special   opportunities to glorify Him.


Q.  “What if   my children and I are looked down on, even ostracized, at our church because   of having an unsaved father and husband? What if church members won’t accept   my husband at church-related activities?”

Unfortunately,   this sometimes is the case. You must not allow the sin of others to keep you   from God’s will. Not all church members will feel this way. In fact, the   majority will not. Surround yourself with Christians who accept you and your   children and who will be a testimony of God’s love to your children and to   your husband as well. If this critical attitude is characteristic of your   “church,” it may be that you need to seek out another congregation. The   fellowship of believers is to be a fellowship of encouragement, not of   judgmentalism or critical spirit.

“Get   rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every   form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each   other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31–32)


Q.  “What can   I do if my wife refuses to socialize with other believers? Is it okay to   leave her at home while I pursue Christian activities? How much is too much?”

It   is very important for you to socialize with other believers. In Hebrews 10:25   God tells us to meet together so that we might be an encouragement to one   another. Since you will not be able to attend all church related functions,   choose the activities you enjoy the most, those that are most uplifting to   you. Be sure to spend quality time with your wife so that she will know that   she is important to you as well. As a woman, your wife has needs for expressed   affection and for transparent conversation. She will be drawn to strong,   servant leadership, and as you exhibit that kind of leadership, she may also   be drawn to the fellowship of believers where you worship. Meet her needs,   and see what God does in her.

“Husbands,   in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them   with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift   of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” (1 Peter 3:7)


Q.  “Is it   okay to try to teach my husband the Bible? Whenever I do, it always causes an   argument.”

Arguing   about the Bible causes tension and discord. God will bring others into your   husband’s life to teach him. Your responsibility is to love him. When either   partner attempts to “teach” the other, that person often feels “parented.” In   a healthy marriage relationship, the anticipation is not to be “parented” by   your mate but to partner with your mate. Your responsibility is not to teach   him, but to honor him. See 1 Peter 3:1–2 for a wife’s “job description.” You   might ask him to read 1 Peter 3:7 for his “job description” and ask his   opinion. Then listen to him without instructing him. Listen with the   expectation of possibly learning from him.

“If   any of them [husbands] do not believe the word, they may be won over without   words by the behavior of their wives.” (1 Peter 3:1)


Q.  “I have   been a Christian for many years and try to live a life that is pleasing to   the Lord. I have been praying for my husband for 20 years. Why doesn’t God   answer my prayers?”

God   will not force Himself on anyone. Everyone has a free will and the ability to   either accept or reject Him as Lord of their life. Your humble, loving   testimony before your husband may lead him to a saving faith. It will certainly   be honoring to your Lord and Savior. Also, remember that God’s concept of   time is wholly unlike ours. His actions on our behalf and on the behalf of   those we love are not limited by time.

“Do   not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a   thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8)


Q.  “Christians   tell me to just pray and my wife will be saved. They don’t understand what   it’s like to be married to an unbeliever.”

While   it is essential that you pray for your wife, praying does not guarantee that   she will be saved. God understands your pain and the challenges you face and   will give you peace in all situations when you lean on Him. He is to be your   source of strength, comfort and happiness. The degree to which you rely   solely on Him for these things is the degree to which you won’t “need” your   wife to be different and the degree to which you will be freed to love her   unconditionally.


Q.  “The   Bible says, “Wives, submit to your   husbands.… For the husband is the head of the wife” (Ephesians 5:22–23).   Am I to submit even when what he wants me to do is contrary to God’s will?”

The   Bible states that the husband is the head of the wife but that God is the   head of the husband. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loves His   church. Christ would never do anything to bring harm to His church;   therefore, the husband should never demand anything that would be harmful to   his wife. God is the ultimate authority. If obeying your husband violates   God’s law, you are to obey God.


Q.  “My   husband doesn’t want me to go to church. Is it better for me to stay home in   order to make him happy?”

While   it is important for you to go to church, it is also important to show your   husband that you love and respect him. Staying home with your husband on   certain occasions can be an assurance to him that you love him and are   interested in meeting his needs. God can use these times to strengthen your   marriage relationship, and you will be a witness to your husband. If your   husband “forbids” you to go, you must lovingly submit to him but seek to   understand the reason for his position and try to find a way to remove the   reason. If he simply expresses his displeasure with your going, you might   compare your church attendance to some activity that he feels is necessary   for his own well-being. Honor his desire for that activity and ask for his   support of yours.

“Let   us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual   edification.” (Romans 14:19)


Q.  “What can   I do if my mate insists on teaching our children beliefs that are contrary to   God’s Word? I don’t want to criticize their father, but I don’t want them to   be confused by false teachings either. Should I allow him to take them to his   church?”

Teach   your children the truth as presented in God’s Word. Trust God to protect   their hearts and minds against false doctrine. Certainly you want to protect   your children, but sometimes you just have to release them to God’s care,   knowing that He loves them infinitely more than you do. Also, remember that   God is not the author of confusion—He can bring clarity to their thought   processes in ways that you cannot imagine. Honor—respect—your husband, and   trust your children to God.

“Let   us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual   edification.” (Romans 14:19)


Q.  “My mate   practices a religion that teaches false doctrine, and he wants to be the   spiritual leader of our home. Am I required to listen to his teachings?”

God   has placed the husband as the head of the home. Your prayers regarding   important decisions will be honored by God. If you love your mate with a   godly love and present your opinions in a nonthreatening way, you and your   husband may be able to come to an agreement on some issues. God can intervene   on your behalf. Your husband will be accountable for his choices, as you will   be for your submission to him.

There   may be some doctrines of his church that are consistent with God’s Word. If   you will acknowledge such truths to him rather than dismissing his religion   altogether, your husband will feel your acceptance and be less defensive.   Avoid doctrines that cause contention.

“Wives,   in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not   believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their   wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” (1 Peter 3:1–2)


Selected Bibliography

Berry, Jo. Beloved Unbeliever: Loving Your Husband into the Faith. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.

Berry, Jo. How to Live with an Unbeliever. Grand Rapids: Pyranee, 1981.

Bustanoby, Andre. When Your Mate Is Not a Christian. Grand Rapids: Pyranee, 1989.

Deal, William. Unequally Yoked: Help and Encouragement in Light of God’s Word. Westchester, IL: Good News, 1980.

Fanstone, Michael. Raising Kids Christian When Your Husband Doesn’t Believe. Ann Arbor, MI: Vine, 1998.

Fanstone, Michael. Unbelieving Husbands and the Wives Who Love Them. Ann Arbor, MI: Vine, 1994.

Fanstone, Michael, and Diane Fanstone. Praying for Your Unbelieving Mate. Ann Arbor, MI: Vine, 1997.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Kennedy, Nancy. When He Doesn’t Believe: Help and Encouragment for Women Who Feel Alone in Their Faith. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook, 2001.

Smith, Beverly Bush, and Patricia DeVorss. Caught in the Middle. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1988.

Strobel, Lee, and Leslie Strobel. Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.[1]


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Unbelieving Mates: Becoming a Winsome Witness (1–20). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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