Spiritual Mismatch

Click here for more messages from the Christian Home Fixer Upper series.
Click here to return to the Sermons page.

2 Corinthians 6:14-16; 1 Corinthians 7:12-16; 1 Peter 3:1-2

INTRODUCTION: We are continuing our series on Christian Home Fixer Upper, and so far we have looked at Christian marriage, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, singles and the role of kids in a Christian home. Today we are going to look at the question of spiritual mismatch in the home. It is one thing to speak about Christian Home Fixer Upper when the husband and the wife are both Christians. But what happens when one of them is not? How does God say we should address the situation of spiritual mismatch in the home? We will be looking at several Scripture passages this morning that address this question, but for now let me read from 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 as we get started. [Read and pray.]

————————————

As we talk about spiritual mismatch this morning, let me begin by saying that some differences in marriage are good. Marriage is not about two people coming together who think exactly the same thing about every issue and have exactly the same strengths and weaknesses. We have all heard the saying, “Opposites attract,” and that is not necessarily a bad thing for marriage. It is a good thing when two persons in a marriage bring complementary strengths to the relationship, and it is a good thing when we learn to respect our spouse’s different opinions, likes and dislikes. So some differences in a marriage are good – but not all differences. Some differences are so critical that they pose extra challenges that marriage was just not meant to bear.

One of these major differences is the situation of spiritual mismatch. Although spiritual mismatch can also exist when one person in the marriage is more interested in spiritual matters than the other, today we will be talking about the situation where one spouse is a believer and the other is not. This can be a challenge for both spouses. Usually the unbelieving spouse feels threatened by the believing spouse’s faith, while the believing spouse feels frustrated by the unbelieving spouse’s lack of faith. And so spiritual mismatch cuts both ways in the relationship.

I am mostly going to be speaking to believing spouses today, because, surprise, surprise, they are the ones who are usually in church more often. However, if you are a spouse who is not a believer this morning, first of all let me tell you how glad I am that you are here today. I want you to know that you are always welcome, and I hope that you feel welcome here and enjoy coming. And I would invite you to keep coming. It is a great encouragement to your spouse when you are here. There are a lot of great people in this church who care about you and your family. And this is a great place to learn more about the God who made you and loves you as we look at the Bible together each week. And even though I will primarily be speaking to believers this morning, I hope that you will gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the situation of spiritual mismatch as well.

So, back to believers now, basically we are going to look at three key commands from the Bible concerning spiritual mismatch this morning. 1) God commands you as an unmarried believer not to marry an unbeliever. (1 Corinthians 6:14-16) 2) God commands you as a married believer not to divorce your unbelieving spouse. (1 Corinthians 7:12-16) 3) God commands you as a married believer to be a witness to your spouse by your godly behavior. (1 Peter 3:1-2)

I. God commands you as an unmarried believer not to marry an unbeliever. (2 Corinthians 6:14-16)

So first of all, God commands you as an unmarried believer not to marry an unbeliever. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 again together. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” These verses have a wider application than just marriage, but marriage is certainly one of the major applications we can draw from this passage. God clearly commands you as an unmarried believer not to marry an unbeliever.

Now this is not because you cannot have a good marriage with an unbeliever. There are many good marriages where one person is a believer and the other is not. They still have to face the challenges of spiritual mismatch, which are not easy, but many couples in this situation are able to work through the challenges and still have a good marriage.

So why does God tell you not to marry an unbeliever? It’s not because you cannot have a good marriage; rather it’s because you cannot have a Christian marriage. A Christian marriage is one where both spouses are united not only with each other in marriage but also united together in Christ. God’s ultimate design for marriage is oneness – the more oneness, the better. If your spouse is not a believer, you can still be one together physically, emotionally, intellectually and socially, but you cannot be one together spiritually. And that is a great challenge to the marriage relationship.

What are some of the specific challenges that you face in a spiritual mismatch? There are several. First of all, you cannot share with your spouse on a spiritual level. As a Christian you have come to know God and Christ in a personal way. God has forgiven your sins and filled your life with new meaning and purpose. You love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Your relationship with God through Jesus is the most important aspect of your entire life, but you cannot share this most important part of your life with your spouse. That is an incredible challenge for the marriage relationship.

Secondly, there is the challenge of raising your children to know Christ in a spiritually mismatched home. In a Christian home both parents set the example, and they share the responsibility of raising their kids to know Christ together. But in the spiritually mismatched home, the entire responsibility falls on one parent’s shoulders. It is not easy praying with your children alone, reading the Bible to your children alone, bringing the children to church all by yourself, trying to set the example of Christ-centered living all by yourself. It’s especially hard when your spouse does not share your beliefs, and the children hear mixed messages from mom and dad. Raising children in a spiritually mismatched home is a huge challenge for any parent.

And then thirdly, there is the challenge of knowing that, unless your spouse comes to Christ, you will not spend eternity together with God. That is a terrible burden to bear, knowing that the person you love most in this whole world, your partner for life, will go to hell when they die if they do not accept Christ. All marriages have their challenges, Christian marriages included, but these are some of the additional challenges that you face in a spiritual mismatch.

If you are single and a Christian today, let me encourage you to take a stand and to make a commitment that you will obey this all-important command from God not to marry an unbeliever. This would also mean making a firm commitment in your life not to date an unbeliever. Dating an unbeliever is a spiritual compromise that eventually leads you to spiritual mismatch down the road. I don’t know any Christian who married an unbeliever who didn’t date him or her first.

Let me also encourage you to talk with some of the people in our church who face the challenges of spiritual mismatch in their marriage every day of their lives. They can share with you far better than I can why God in his wisdom commands you only to marry another believer. This is probably the number one mistake that many Christian young people make, and it is a decision that lasts for a lifetime. God commands you as an unmarried believer not to marry an unbeliever.

II. God commands you as a married believer not to divorce your unbelieving spouse. (1 Corinthians 7:12-16)

But what if you are already married to an unbeliever? What then? That brings us to the second command. God commands you as a married believer not to divorce your unbelieving spouse.

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 here. “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?”

God commands you as a married believer not to divorce your unbelieving spouse. If you are already married to an unbeliever, God’s command for you is to stay in your marriage despite the challenges of spiritual mismatch.

You might wonder why this second command is even necessary when the first command tells you not to marry an unbeliever to begin with. Well, it is necessary for several reasons. First of all, not everyone obeys the first command! Some believers marry an unbeliever in direct disobedience to God’s commands. They need to know that the decision to marry is still a lifetime commitment, even if they married in disobedience to God’s commands. Secondly, some people become Christians after they get married. In other words, they did not disobey any commands concerning spiritual mismatch. They were already married before they came to Christ and suddenly found themselves in the situation of spiritual mismatch. They need to know that God desires for them to continue in their marriage relationship even if their husband or wife is not a believer. For them the challenge of spiritual mismatch is not part of the cost of disobedience to God’s commands. Rather, it is part of the cost of discipleship. It is one of many challenges that all Christians face in this world when we confess the Lordship of Christ.

Verse 14 gives us the reason why the spiritually mismatched couple should remain together: “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” This does not mean that the unbelieving husband or wife is saved through their spouse’s faith but rather that their relationship is holy in God’s sight. In other words, the believer’s relationship with God is not corrupted in any way by being married to an unbeliever. On the contrary, the unbeliever is sanctified through the believing spouse. In the same way their children are set apart in a special way through the faith of the believing spouse. Verse 14 has several implications, but I believe that one important implication is this. The unbelieving spouse in the marriage and the children in the marriage both have an opportunity to come to faith in Christ that they would not have apart from the believing spouse. And so Paul commands you as a believer not to divorce your unbelieving spouse.

Notice, verses 15-16, however. “But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” The challenges of spiritual mismatch are not easy, and unfortunately not all couples deal with those challenges successfully. If you are the believer in a spiritual mismatch, God commands you to stay committed to your marriage, regardless of the challenges. But if your spouse chooses to leave the marriage, God says you may let him or her go. You are not bound in such circumstances. God has called you to peace. You have no guarantee that you will save your spouse by trying to hold the relationship together. In such a situation, you may let your spouse go and commit them to God’s grace. Pray for them, but leave them in God’s hands.

III. God commands you as a married believer to be a witness to your spouse by your godly behavior. (1 Peter 3:1-2; Titus 2:10)

1) God commands you as an unmarried believer not to marry an unbeliever. 2) God commands you as a married believer not to divorce your unbelieving spouse. 3) And thirdly, God commands you as a married believer to be a witness to your spouse by your godly behavior. Look at 1 Peter 3:1-2 with me. “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”

This whole section in 1 Peter 3 (verses 1-7) contains instructions to all husbands and wives – regardless of spiritual mismatch. In other words, if you are a husband or wife, these verses in 1 Peter apply to you whether you are married to a believer or to an unbeliever. But verse 1 also makes note of the special situation of spiritual mismatch. Godly behavior is important for a husband or wife in any marriage. But it becomes especially important in a spiritual mismatch. And although we find this principle in the section dealing with instructions to wives, the same principle also applies to husbands. Whether you are a believing wife married to an unbelieving husband, or a believing husband married to an unbelieving wife, God commands you to be a witness to your spouse by your godly behavior.

Notice that this verse puts the emphasis on witness through behavior rather than through words. The content of the gospel is fairly easy to share. You can sit down with any reasonably intelligent person and comfortably share the content of the gospel with them in under an hour. “God loves you. He created you. He wants to have a relationship with you. But you are separated from God because he is holy and you are sinful. You need a Savior to save you from your sin. Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came into the world to be that Savior. ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16) Jesus died on the cross for your sins so that you could be forgiven and restored to relationship with the God who loves you and created you.” That is the content of the gospel. Once you have shared the content of the gospel with someone, now they need to make a decision. “Do I believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do I believe that he died on the cross for my sins? Will I turn away from my sins and come to Christ for salvation, trusting him as my Lord and Savior?”

Once you have shared that with someone, there really is no need to repeat it to them over and over and over again. You have shared the gospel. Now they need to respond. When Jesus sent his disciples out preaching, he told them if one town did not accept their words, to shake the dust off their feet and move on to the next town. (Luke 9:5) Of course you can’t do that in your marriage. You don’t share the gospel with your spouse and then shake the dust off your feet and move on to someone else. You’re married. You live with this person. You have entered into a partnership for life. And so your primary witness changes from a witness of words to one of behavior. You are to live out your Christian life in the home in such a way as to win your spouse over. Or in the words of Titus 2:10, you are to live in such a way as to “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”

Of course, that is good advice for all Christians everywhere, but it is especially good advice for the believer in a spiritually-mismatched marriage. Live in such a way as to “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” Don’t highlight your spouse’s sins or faults. Don’t take on a holier-than-you type of attitude. Don’t overdo church activities to the neglect of your spouse. Don’t share the gospel with your spouse over and over again. Rather, live out the gospel in your home and pray that God will touch your spouse’s heart.

Part of your witness to your spouse is to fulfill your biblical role in the marriage. We looked at the biblical roles in marriage earlier in this series from Ephesians 5, and we saw that the husband’s role in the marriage is sacrifice motivated by love, and the wife’s role in the marriage is submission motivated by respect. As the believing wife respects her husband and willingly submits to him as Christ submits to the church, her godly behavior becomes a powerful witness to her husband. As the believing husband loves his wife and sacrifices for her as Christ gave himself up for the church, his godly behavior becomes a powerful witness to his wife. Of course, none of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes. But we can still witness to our spouses by our behavior when we admit our mistakes and when we apologize for our wrongdoing.

If you are married to an unbeliever, it is not easy to live out the example of Christ to your spouse on a daily basis. They may not always understand or appreciate your commitment to Christ. That’s okay. And you may or may not win your spouse over to Christ. That is in God’s hands. All God asks is that you do your part. What is the third command? God commands you as a married believer to be a witness to your spouse by your godly behavior.

CONCLUSION: If you are in a spiritual mismatch, let me give you some final words of encouragement this morning. First of all, thank God for your marriage. Even if you married an unbeliever in direct disobedience to God, confess your sin to God, receive his forgiveness, and thank God for your marriage. Sometimes people get discouraged about living in a spiritual mismatch. They want to serve Christ in so many ways, but they feel limited by their spouse’s unbelief. Just remember, you are not called to serve God in the marriage that you don’t have. Rather, you are called to serve God in the marriage that you do have. Begin by thanking God for your spouse and for your marriage.

Secondly, pray for your marriage. I know many of you do, but sometimes we spend more time praying for changes in our spouse than we do praying for changes in ourselves. Pray for your marriage, and pray that God will help you to fulfill your role in the marriage in a way that will minister to your spouse and bring glory to God. God is always working in answer to our prayers. You need never give up hope as long as you are praying.

Thirdly, enjoy your marriage. Remember, you can be married to an unbeliever and still have a good marriage. You will still have all the challenges that come with a spiritual mismatch, but then again, every marriage has its challenges. Marriage is a good gift from God, and there is so much that you can enjoy in life with your spouse even if he or she never comes to faith. Life is short, and we should enjoy the good gifts God gives us while we are here.

What are the three commands God gives us concerning spiritual mismatch?

1) God commands you as an unmarried believer not to marry an unbeliever.

2) God commands you as a married believer not to divorce your unbelieving spouse.

3) God commands you as a married believer to be a witness to your spouse by your godly behavior.

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 says this: “And now . . . what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands . . . that I am giving you today for your own good?”

Whether you are single or married this morning, I pray that you will follow these commands concerning spiritual mismatch, commands that God has given you for your own good.

© Ray Fowler

You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this message provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and that you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For any web postings, please link to the sermon directly at this website.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copies:
By Ray Fowler. © Ray Fowler. Website: http://www.rayfowler.org

Click here for more messages from the Christian Home Fixer Upper series.
Click here to return to the Sermons page.