Acts 16:1 (NKJV) Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.
Despite Timothy’s father having been an unbeliever, Timothy’s mother was able to be a godly influence in his life. Paul’s second letter to Timothy tells us in verse 5 of chapter 1 that his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice were first to believe. It is likely that his mother and grandmother were both saved during Paul’s first visit to Lystra, but Timothy came to faith not by the ministry of Paul and Barnabas, but by the faith of his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois. The fact that Eunice had an unbelieving husband did not seem to prevent her from being a godly influence in her home.
It seems to me that there are a lot of Christian households where one spouse is saved and the other is not, and the believing spouse soon becomes discouraged. In the case where there are children in the home, please know that even with a disbelieving spouse you can be a godly influence on your kids. In fact, you may even have the potential to be a greater influence than you realize since your faith in Christ will contrast with the life of a non-believing spouse. And in a home in which there are no children, a believing spouse can be a light to the other. I’ve seen it happen many times where one spouse resists and resists, but eventually is won over through the faithful persistence of the believing spouse. So, if you are in that situation, please do not grow discouraged or give up! The eternal destination of your spouse is at stake! Unless there are issues of abuse or physical harm, do not look for a way out of the marriage. Paul wrote of the very situation you are in saying:
1 Corinthians 7:12-13 (NKJV) But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.
God is going to honor your decision to remain in the marriage and minister to your spouse through hardship, after all, it is God Who has given you this opportunity. You should be realistic about the situation, and never should you allow yourself to be abused by your spouse. If there is abuse, go to your pastor or your pastor’s wife and let them know immediately. Abuse by someone you love causes confusion and irrational decisions and a pastor or other Christian counselor can help you make the right decision. Also be realistic about the fact that a marriage takes two and sometimes the other spouse may decide to leave. Paul also deals with that in 1 Corinthians 7:
1 Corinthians 7:15 (NKJV) But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.
It may be that despite your best efforts at preserving the relationship, your unsaved spouse refuses to honor the covenant of marriage and divorces you. If that is the case, then you are free. But where there is a willingness on the part of the unbelieving spouse to continue in the relationship, AND there is no abuse, then Paul says to stay with the marriage because, “how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?”
So then, there is implied a reason that God allowed your marriage to be so, and that is that the presence of the believing spouse sanctifies the unbelieving spouse. That does not mean that the unbelieving spouse is saved, but that the presence of the believing spouse gives the Holy Spirit a foothold in his or her life by which they may eventually repent and be saved. But there is also another reason, and that is for the little eyes that watch and the little ears that hear everything that happens in the marriage. For, whereas the spouse may have a hardened heart, the hearts of the children are much more available to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. So, if you are in that situation, understanding that you are to remain with your unbelieving spouse unless there is abuse or until they leave.
Now, what I’m going to share with you is not limited to a marriage relationship, but might relate well to a friendship or to a sibling relationship, perhaps someone you have invited and shared with and done everything you know how time after time and yet they still reject Jesus. First, remember your conduct. Do not be dragged down into activities that do not glorify God and do not compromise on biblical standards of faith. If your spouse, sibling or friend can bring you down to their level, then you will not set their eyes on Jesus. Second, share your faith. Persist in inviting them to church, even after they have said no for the thousandth time. When they are struggling with the emptiness in their own life, remind them of the fullness of life that you have in Christ. Finally, don’t allow yourself to resent them or grow bitter toward them. Don’t expect a non-Christian to act and speak like a Christian or to understand why they need Jesus. Bad behavior can be lovingly corrected with love, grace and mercy. And when they say no to your invitation to church for the thousand-and-first time, remember that God has you there for a reason. Their rejection of Jesus is not a rejection of you. Paul said that the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. Perhaps God will use you to give them new sight.
Linda Luecke says
Sharing with my bestie! She is going through this with a couple of friends. <3