Unequally Yoked: What Do I Do When My Husband is an Unbeliever?

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Cor 6:14 ESV). I’ve heard this passage applied to dating relationships quite often, and rightfully so, in my opinion.  We should definitely be careful in who we join ourselves to as Christians.  The passage goes on to say, “What partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”  When we are following Christ we shouldn’t even be attracted to the old ways of flesh or  people who could pull us back into darkness.

But, what if you find yourself in a marriage, now, unequally yoked?  Some may claim you can leave when the going gets tough.  Your unbelieving husband may drink too much, argue too much, lie too much, or cuss too much.  He may look at too much porn, treat you disrespectfully, and be a lousy father. It makes sense that God would want you in a better situation where you could be happier. It may make sense to us, but let’s take a closer look at what God really says.

But for those who are married, I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord. A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife. Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a Christian man 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 Christian 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 Christian wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the Christian 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 Christian 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? Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches. (1 Cor. 7:10-17)

Amazing! Scripture speaks directly to the situation of a marriage that already exists between a Christian and a non-believer. Remain in the marriage.  Do not leave.  You might be able to save your husband’s soul.  Save his soul!  Why, if you believe in the truth of God, would you leave for “happiness” and jeopardize eternity for someone you once committed your life to? Stay put right where you are. God certainly has placed you there for His purpose.

Well, you might be staying put, but how are you feeling about it?  Are you resentful, bitter, or condescending to your husband?  Do you let him lead in the areas he is willing, or do you stifle his masculinity with mistrust and nagging. Let’s look at another gem of scripture.

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives (1 Peter 3:1-2).

Excuse me one second while I reread that.  Did he say “without ANY words”? Oh. I guess he did.  The admonishment is to win over a disobedient husband by leading a Christ-imitating life.

If you are a woman struggling to serve God against the current of an unbelieving husband, let me encourage you with this.

  • Love your husband’s soul (Matt. 22:39)
  • Clothe yourself with gentleness and quietness (1 Pet. 3:4)
  • Rely only on the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:4)
  • Remember God will reward you (1 Pet 3:14)

Comments

  1. Tough thing to hear but you can’t argue with the Bible. There really isn’t even much room for different interpretations. It’s pretty clear.

    I can speak from experience that the whole “not saying a word” thing works. God knows what he’s talking about. :)

  2. Even though Daniel was a Christian, there was a time a few years ago that his walk with God hit a road block. I met his struggle with a cold shoulder and a sharp tongue. God wasn’t able to bring healing to either of us until I starting obeying this very thing. Today, our marriage isn’t perfect, but we are centered on God and totally transparent with each other. It’s a MUCH better place to be.

  3. Great post, Serena!!! My husband and I have been going thru a series called “love and respect” by Emerson Eggerich, and it has changed how I relate with my husband. This passage is one that he uses to confirm that men need respect like they need air to breathe (I Peter 3:1-2). With your RESPECTFUL conduct, they are more likely to turn to the Lord. Unfortunately, as women, we like to yak at them for every little thing they do wrong. Without a word, with respect to their desire to work, protect, provide, etc, many a man has been won over to Christ, and those who are already Christians, have become better men, husbands, and fathers basking in the glow of their wife’s respect. THANK YOU for this great reminder, even to those of us who have never found ourselves married to a non-believer… I can use this!!

  4. This makes an excellent point on how if we just try to figure things out on our own, while it may make sense to us, we need to first find out what God says … because He knows better. :) And even if our husbands are believers, there are many good reminders here. Thanks! :)

  5. Gerri Prince-Rivers says:

    Thank you for thus post. I was in this exact situation for 20 years. Unfortunately my husband (unbelieving) chose to not stay. This is such a heartbreaking situation for me and my 2 teens. Lots of hurt and very slow healing. It is hard to swallow this situation. While I know there are always areas of improvement to be made in a relationship, I do feel that i gave it my all and worked to be respectful, living and patient with him. I was not a nagging wife, infact, he wished that I would have nagged the kids more.

    Please continue this wonderful blog. It has helped me…and i thank you! Now, off I go to figure out how to move on from divorce from a man I planned to spend my life with…not just 20 years. I wasn’t giving up, but unsadly, he did.

    • Thank you for sharing that. What a difficult journey this has been. May you be comforted with these words, “For your Maker is your husband–the LORD Almighty is his name–the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth._ Is. 54:4

  6. Joe Bigliogo says:

    I am an atheist man married to a Christian woman and I don’t want my “soul” (whatever that means) saved—there is nothing to save it from. When you die—you die—you don’t get to live forever, that’s just wishful thinking. Christianity is false and it’s god imaginary—of that I’m very certain but I still respect my wife’s right to hold her beliefs. Why can’t you do the same when it comes to your husband’s lack of belief? People believe different things, we are not religious clones of each other—better get used to it. Why not give him the same respect for his lack of belief that you expect from him in return for your Christian belief. As far as “winning your husband over” you are deluding yourself—you have no more chance of winning over your husband to your beliefs than he has of making you an atheist.

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