In an ideal world, marriage would consist of a loving husband and wife, happily going to church or temple each week and sharing their love of God by also ministering outside of the church or temple.
Much more common, however, is a couple with all sorts of religious baggage that they bring into the relationship and often only one may even care about their spiritual health, dragging the other one to services. Even more complex can be a relationship where one was raised with another faith or has renounced their faith in any form of a higher power.
In my case, I was a very new Christian when I fell in love with my husband. I had not yet grown up in my salvation (1 Peter 2:2). I had not read enough of the Bible to understand how difficult it would be to be unequally yoked. Now, as a woman a bit older in my faith, I see several verses about not committing to an unbeliever (check out 2 Corinthians 6:14, Amos 3:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, Ephesians 5:7 or Isaiah 52:11.) Oh well, it’s too late. I just love that man like crazy!
Paul told the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 7:12-14) that if you are married to a non-believer you should stay with that person unless that non-believer wants out of the marriage. If you stay and can be a Godly example to them, you may have an opportunity to bring them to their faith. That’s tough. I am not always a Godly example, although I try my best.
I am still not sure exactly where my husband is on his spiritual journey but he has changed and mellowed over the years. If you too have a wife or husband who does not share your faith with the same fervor, please don’t push them. It is their journey and not yours.
Early in my faith and my marriage I had a serious conflict. As Christians, we are commanded to tithe (Malachi 3:10) but also commanded to be submissive to your husband so that if they do not believe the word, they can believe by your example (1 Peter 3:1-6). I asked my pastor “Do I tithe or listen to my husband who thinks that 10% is too much?” He told me to listen to my husband. I felt like I was cheating the church and robbing God. I felt like I would never get the big blessings that the book of Malachi talks about. I am thankful that I trusted my pastor and continued to do my fool headed best at being a good wife.
I am proud that we have both taken baby steps towards finding common ground and understanding what our belief means to us as individuals and as a couple.
My husband attends and even seems to enjoy church each week but it was not always this way. You see, he never even stepped foot in the church to see our firstborn child get Baptized. For our second child, he came to the church and sat in the very back row. For our third child, he sat closer to the front. Baby steps. Eventually, he went to a concert where a Christian artist performed. More baby steps. He also began to come to church on Christmas and Easter. Later he attended more regularly if I would ask him to. Baby steps.
Now, 33 years into our marriage, he attends without being asked, enjoys the sermons, has made friends and even stays afterward for coffee in the fellowship hall. He volunteered once or twice to serve breakfast for a mission group I am involved in and just this past Christmas he began to sing instead of staring blankly at the church screen that shows the readings and the Hymn lyrics. Baby steps. Perhaps, one day, he will come to the Lord as I have. I must always remember that his salvation is in God’s time, not mine. I will tread lightly and never push him.
If you are active both in your church and outside of the church and you do not have a partner who is as ardent as you are, make sure that your ministry is not pulling your time and attention away from your spouse. If your husband or wife is feeling resentful and neglected they can use that as one more log to throw on the fire of discontent.
So I ask you, is your ministry taking too much time away from your husband or your wife? Remember that although God should be first in your heart, your spouse should be the most important person you minister to. Make sure it is in a way that he or she feels comfortable with.
Your ministry to your mate should be subtle and loving, not badgering or placing blame or guilt. If you ever find yourself saying things like “Why are you watching that show?”, or “When was the last time you went to church with me?” then you will fail epically. I know. I was always pushing self-help and religious books on my husband, and playing the guilt card. It never worked.
When I understood that he was curious but skeptical, I took the pressure not only off of him but also off of myself. I began praying that I would continue to be a good example, but also that some Godly man would come into his life and show him that it is not nerdy or weird to love God. Several years ago we met a lovely man on our camping vacation. He had the campsite next to us and was an avid kayaker like my husband. I saw this man’s Bible out on his picnic table and assumed it was not just there for decoration.
He and my husband became friends. They shared contact information and for a few years, the two men would get together a couple of times a year for weekend kayak trips. God does answer prayers.
I cannot help but wonder if the time we met this man was about the time my husband started attending church more often. As the old saying goes……..God works in mysterious ways. Allow your ministry to shine at home as well as outside of the church.
If you would like more words of encouragement please do not hesitate to schedule a free 20-minute coaching call. It pleases me to see couples connect and understand their differences as they navigate this crazy life we are gifted.