When a Christian is Married to a Non-Christian

Wes  —  October 19, 2016
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I have received several e-mails and messages asking me to write a blog post about Christians marrying, and being married to, non-Christians. This can be an incredibly difficult situation and a sensitive subject. So I want to address this issue from a couple of different angles. First I want to address those who are considering marrying a non-Christian. Then I want to offer a few words of encouragement to those who are married to a non-Christian.

married non-christian

Are You Dating a Non-Christian?

If you’re a Christian who is dating – or engaged to – a non-Christian, there is a question I would like for you to seriously consider: What is most important in your life? Or perhaps it might be better to ask, Who is most important in your life?

Being a Christian should mean Christ “is your life” (Colossians 3:4). It should mean you’re preoccupied, consumed, even obsessed with thoughts about who He is, what He has done, and what His will is for your life. And if Jesus is your life, why would you consider marrying someone who doesn’t understand or appreciate the most important aspect of your life? If the person you’re dating doesn’t understand the most important aspect of your life, how can they understand YOU?

In 2 Corinthians, Paul was urging the church to make room in their hearts for him and his ministry (see 2 Corinthians 6:11-13; 7:2) and not to enter into partnerships with unbelievers who rejected Paul’s message. But he asked the Corinthians some interesting questions that you might want to consider:

“For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).

What is it that you have in common with an unbeliever? Why do you seem so compatible? Does that concern you?

Finally, consider the fact that Paul even wrote that when a woman’s husband dies, she is “free to be married to whom she wishes” but he also specified, “only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39). In other words, a Christian widow is free to remarry, but only a Christian man. If that is true for a second marriage, why not a first marriage?

Are You Married to a Non-Christian?

Many Christians find themselves in the situation where they are already married to a non-Christian. Maybe you’ve grown in your faith since you got married and what seemed like “no big deal” at first, has now become a very big deal. Maybe you weren’t a Christian when you got married, but have since obeyed the gospel. Maybe you married a Christian, but your spouse has become unfaithful. If you find yourself in a situation like this, I want to give you three words of encouragement.

1. Don’t Give Up on Your Spouse

I know you get frustrated and discouraged by the fact that your spouse doesn’t believe like you believe. I know it is a huge burden to bear. But don’t give up. Keep loving them. Keep looking for opportunities to show them your faith. There have been millions of Christians who were brought to Christ by the perseverance of a spouse. Perhaps one day you will help bring your spouse to Christ.

Peter wrote, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct” (1 Peter 3:1-2). And Paul asks, “For 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 7:16).

Don’t give up! Please don’t give up!

2. Pray for Your Spouse

You likely have moments of intense anxiety about your spouse’s spiritual situation. When you feel overwhelmed and you don’t know what to do, let me encourage you to pray.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Pray for your spouse and invite your Christian friends and family to pray for your spouse, for you, and for your marriage.

  • Pray for them to have an open heart and mind.
  • Pray for their wisdom and discernment.
  • Pray for them to see the hope that is in you.
  • Pray for more Christian couples to spend time with you and your spouse.
  • Pray for the church to be a light that shines into your home.

Praying not only changes the situation, it also changes the way we feel about the situation. It reminds our heart and mind to put our trust in the Lord.

3. Be the Best Spouse You Can Be

Finally, you must remember that your responsibilities as a husband or wife do not depend on your spouse’s beliefs or behaviors. God’s word tells you to be the best spouse you can be. Not in an effort to manipulate them into becoming a Christian, but simply because that’s what you promised to do when you got married.

Husbands, you should still, “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Wives, you should still, “be subject to your own husbands” and let them “see your respectful and pure conduct” (1 Peter 3:1-2). Show your spouse the kind of grace and forgiveness Jesus has shown to you. Lavish them with love and respect.

Not only is this the best chance you have at helping them to come to Christ, but it is simply the right thing to do.

The Bottom Line

I believe the Bible teaches Christians to marry Christians. But it also teaches Christians who are married to non-Christians to be faithful, loving, respectful, and kind; and it teaches there is hope for them coming to Christ.

In whatever situation you find yourself, I know it is hard and I want you to know that I’m praying for you.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams