“Marriage is supposed to be two-as-one,” she wrote to me after leaving her unbelieving husband. “But that’s not how it was for us; We were not one.”
The woman had returned to the Lord while still married, but her husband persisted in unbelief. Her statement raises an important question: Does oneness in marriage require that you and your husband both love Jesus? Both attend church? Pray together?
Does “One Flesh” Require Spiritual Unity?
Of course, all Christians should desire spiritual intimacy with their spouse. And it’s true that the apostle Paul warns believers about entering close partnerships with unbelievers in 2 Corinthians 6:14,
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
After reading this verse, you might feel validated in kicking your husband to the curb unless he comes to Jesus.
But in a previous letter, Paul addresses believers who have already become one flesh in marriage with an unbeliever. He writes plainly,
If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him (1 Cor. 7:13).
God calls you, Christian wife, to remain in your unequally-yoked, one-flesh marriage. But why?
The apostle anticipates our questions by including at least one reason in the next sentence:
For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (v. 14)
A believing wife makes her unbelieving husband holy? How can this be?
I believe ithas something to do with the fact thatwhen you entered a marriage covenant with your husband, you became one flesh with him—whether he was a believer or not. (See Matt. 19:4–6).
How Then Should You Live with Your Unbelieving Husband?
So whatshould you do in this unequally-yoked, one-flesh marriage? Cajole your husband into becoming a Christian? Stop pursuing Christ so you don’t feel such separation from your husband? We find the answer in 1 Peter 3:1–2,
Likewise, 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.
Our gracious Father isn’t calling you to anything your elder brother Jesus has not first endured. Did you notice the way 1 Peter 3 started with the word “Likewise”? Peter compares your submission to your husband to someone else’s submission.
Flip the page in your Bible back to the end of chapter two, and you’ll hear God calling all Christians to submit to the authorities over us. Not only to those who are “good and gentle,” but also to those who are “unjust.” Why? Because Christ, our suffering Savior, submitted to His Father’s plan in His incarnation. He suffered for you and me:
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21–25).
An Unequally-Yoked Woman Speaks Up
Jesus’ own submission and suffering make all the difference for the believing spouse in a difficult, unequally-yoked marriage. Here’s what it looks like for another woman I know in a one-flesh relationship with an unbeliever:
Living in my home with people who do not know or have a relationship with Christ [is so hard]. I constantly question whether or not to share my perspective on so many things. I have been hurt, betrayed, and accused repeatedly by those who are supposed to love and care for me. To have that happen by your spouse is especially painful. I am supposed to forgive him, although he has never sought forgiveness.
There is so much pain and such a great divide between us. I have an emptiness and loneliness in my heart that overwhelms me at times. In a nutshell, my family does not truly know me. But I cannot walk away from Christ. He won’t let me. I am so thankful for that.
While this woman aches over the spiritual disunity in her marriage, she continues to hold fast to her husband out of love for and obedience to Christ.
I pray you will, too.
It’s not an easy road Jesus calls you to, unequally-yoked wife. You know that far better than I do. But it is one your suffering Savior knows intimately, and one He promises to walk with you. Continue to cling to Him and enjoy the rich fellowship He wants to provide you in His Body, the Church.
We love you; please let us know how we can help bear your burdens, precious, trusting sister.