A righteous woman sat next to her believing husband in a small group meeting and glibly stated that all a church member needed to do was obey her husband. It’s easy. Obey him. This was in response to a question she had about struggling to do something her husband wanted her to do. The righteous woman smiled and callously stated, “Simply obey him.” What she didn’t know was that the woman struggled with her husband’s insistence on oral sex versus intercourse. She struggled to understand if she had to fulfill his wishes on a long term basis and forego intercourse altogether. The righteous woman’s comment conveyed that she didn’t care. Her quick draw response moved the small group discussion in a new direction. It was time for punch and cookies. The woman was left to her fate. Pleasing her husband in the name of obedience.
The woman who was struggling to know whether she should obey, or not is married to an unbeliever. She gets confused about when to follow her husband’s lead and when not to. Most people think that her biggest obstacle is just getting to church on Sunday with the kids, but there are more significant challenges that she faces. She doesn’t walk around talking about them and she may not always see them, but she is clearly aware that her marriage is different from those power couples at church. She quietly listens to stories of family devotionals, couples Christian retreats, couples prayer time and wonders if she will ever be able to share the same stories. She thinks of the reality of her life and the stark differences at home and strives to trust that God will do something wonderful in her life and the life of the man that she loves.
What does it mean?
It means a bit more than Suzy goes to church by herself on Sunday. I know some believe that’s all there is to it. Well you can make it to church and should. There is more to it than that. God Himself takes the difference between believers and unbelievers very seriously. He took it seriously enough to send His Son to die for unbelievers. If there is that much of a difference between us then wouldn’t it equate that those living in a 50/50 home have some very real challenges that can’t be simply dealt with by simple statements, commands, and exhortations? Perhaps there is more to it than simply getting to church on Sunday and simply obeying?
God describes the difference between believers and unbelievers in these terms:
- United with Christ.
- Live a new life.
- Live a disciplined life.
- Have the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin.
- Generally think more of others than themselves.
- Are heave bound.
- Are in the process of continual change to become more like Christ.
- Feel guilt over their sin and are prompted to change.
- Seek to put off their old self and put on living like Christ.
- Have a strong moral compass.
- Seek to obey God and please Him in everything they do.
- When they fail they confess their wrong, turn from it, and seek to live according to God’s Word.
- Are on their own.
- Live their own life.
- Live according to their own desires.
- Rely on the things of the world to overcome challenges.
- Generally think of themselves.
- Do not, yet, have eternal life in heaven.
- Ae not in a Holy Spirit process of change mode to become like Christ, but can change to conform to the rules and ethics of the world.
- My feel no guilt over actions taken.
- Seek to maintain their current state/self.
- Their strong moral compass is dependent upon their social standards, cultural norms, and rules the government has set in place.
- They do not seek to obey God and may not even acknowledge He exists.
- They are not prone, or spiritually prompted to confess wrong, turn from it, and seek to live to an eternal standard.
We eat as one, live as one, sleep as one, have relations as one, have children as one, yet we are not one. We are separated by a spiritual divide. This is in no way makes believing spouses a martyr, or gives us a license to ostracize our spouse because of our differences. We do not have permission to do anything, but treat our spouse as God has commanded us. The purpose for noting the differences is not to think less of unbelieving spouses, but to acknowledge the challenges that believing spouses face with living with someone who does not share in their faith and desire to share an eternal destination.
Do you remember what it felt like before you were saved? I do. I still see the same Marcy lurking about. She tries to get out and take over, but the Holy Spirit calms down that wild free thing and reminds her whose she is. As unbelievers we typically were not hell bent on ruining the lives of Gods’ people. We simply lived our lives as we chose to and if that contradicted people of faith then so be it. We were not cognizant of how far our hearts were from God and how much we needed Christ. At the moment we come to know Him is the moment we begin to change and the more we change the more we realize how different life is as a follower of God.
In the series ahead I want to look at the 50/50 marriage. I have been in one for 28 years. My husband and I were both unbelievers when we married. I came to know Christ eight years later, but he has not. I understand what it is like to love a man that does not love God, to seek to become one with him, and follow him as unto the Lord. I have lived through challenging times where his desires took him far from me and drove me to the feet of Christ. I get that there is more to this thing than just getting the kids to church and how hard it can be to watch Christian couples worship and love God together while you are on your own.
May we remember that this is not easy for spouses who aren’t Christians to live with spouses that are. They watch us change and grow and become concerned about things that are unimportant to them. Their status quo is messed up. Someone they feel close to suddenly has new interests, friends, and is becoming close to people they don’t even know. Newby Christians often try to go home and save their spouse which can cause a new set of relationship problems. In future posts I want to address the 50/50 marriage and the opportunities and challenges that both spouses face.