by Jill Jackson
Some members of our local congregations are engaged in mission work . . . in their homes. Their mission—to save the souls of the men they married. Perhaps a friend taught them the gospel and they embraced it, but their spouses weren’t so receptive. Maybe they willingly entered into marriage with nonbelievers.
Some of these women have spouses that create no “obstacles.” On some level, they value it’s importance to her and support her, but they’re not interested personally. Some husbands may want their children to go to church, and share the faith of their mothers, despite not wanting it for themselves. On the other side of the spectrum, some are antagonistic and make it very difficult for their wives to be faithful. Under any circumstances, a Christian married to a non-Christian experiences hardships.
They are unable to talk about spiritual things with the person that matters the most. They can’t share a zeal for serving Christ. They can’t pray together. There is a missing element to their intimacy because they lack a spiritual connection. They have no comfort in the thought of separation because as things stand, they will not spend eternity together. Often there’s even an inability to spend time with Christian friends because of their spouses’ lack of receptiveness. Life can be lonely.
Religious discussions explode into conflicts. Guilt is a constant companion. Choosing to go to church and serving God becomes “choosing not to be with me.” Many, after choosing the good and right thing, return home and get the “what for” or spend the rest of the day getting the cold shoulder. Life can be combative.
Many who have children worry about the impact of living in a spiritually divided home. They fear their children will be subject to religious hostility. They recognize they will not get the guidance and spiritual influence they need from a spiritually broken home. They fear they will not choose to serve God. Life can be worrisome.
Clearly these “mission workers” have struggles and heartaches, but the Bible provides a soul winning formula of hope. “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. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:1-4).
Peter instructs Christian women to respect the authority of their husbands. Despite the fact many were unmoved by the gospel, or worse, rebelled against it, they were encouraged to focus on their conduct and not that of their spouses. Respectful and pure conduct does not include brow-beating, nagging, or manipulating. Rather the avenue of hope for winning a spouse to Christ is through actions that don’t involve words. Too often words turn combative. When the mouth stays closed, hostility is disarmed, and the opportunity to lead by behavior comes to fruition.
Peter emphasizes the need to focus on inner beauty—the heart—which God values. Her spirit, the inner disposition which reveals itself through daily actions, should be gentle and quiet. Gentle means controlled in her actions and emotions. Quietness is a quality of imperishable beauty, a characteristic not associated with pushiness, nagging or being selfishly aggressive. The influence of one faithfully striving to live like Christ has the power to make its mark on the heart of others. This adorning of the heart can soften the hardest of hearts in a way that even the most heartfelt words could never achieve.
If you are involved in this mission work, I want to encourage you not to lose sight of your most valuable asset—YOU. When Jason and I recently flew to Tennessee to attend the FHU lectureship, I listened to the flight attendants go through their safety information before we took off. When it comes to those little masks “in case the cabin loses air pressure,” they instruct parents to put their mask on FIRST, and THEN assist their children.
When married to an unbeliever, you need to remember to save yourself first—then save your spouse. Just because one is “saved” today, doesn’t mean she will be “saved” if she chooses to quit living according to the Scriptures. You’re currently living on an island of higher ground than your mate. Think of it as if you’re standing on a table, and he is standing next to you on the ground. The reality is, it’s going to be a whole lot easier for him to pull you down, than it’s going to be for you to pull him up. You can’t lose sight of your own soul and where you want to spend eternity. If you fall from grace (Galatians 5:4), there’s little hope of him fulfilling the requirements to accept God’s grace. Consider five ways you can save yourself first.
"Save yourself first" by getting in the word. Every day needs to have a time for structured, spiritual focus. The word is a necessity for sustaining the soul. Bible study needs to be as valuable as the air you breathe (Matthew 4:4, James 1:25, 1 Peter 2:2-3).
"Save yourself first" by petitioning the Father. One who is married to a non-Christian is susceptible to being weakened by her spouse. Because of this, there should be a great effort made to be in constant commune with God. Share with him your heart’s desire, and lean on him for comfort and support, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
“Save yourself first” by cultivating deep relationships with your Christian family. You need a support system. Many times, because of the hostility of one’s spouse the majority of close friends end up being outside of the church. This can make the believer even more vulnerable to losing her soul, because bad companions can corrupt good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33)! You need to hold fast to your spiritual lifeline. Maybe you can’t invite someone over for dinner because of your husband’s hostility, but perhaps you can have someone over when he is at work or meet a friend for lunch. Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).You need to find at least a few people you can be real with. You need people who can encourage you, give you wise counsel, and pray for you.
“Save yourself first” by being as active as you can. Attend every service possible. Granted, there are some situations so volatile that attending one service a week may be all one can do without embarking on World War III, but some become content with this as opposed to truly trying to peacefully pursue more time with the saints.
“Save yourself first” by keeping your emotions in check. Some signed on for this mission work when they walked down the aisle. Maybe they did so because they believed their spouses would come around in time . . . or maybe they accepted that they may never come around and were convinced they could be okay with that. In some circumstances, time creates “game changers” and the Christian spouse struggles emotionally, and spiritually with the decision they made. Though they may love their husbands very much, they find they’re no longer content being married to individuals who do not share their faith. Perhaps this change of heart is a result of having children, or maturing spiritually. Whatever the cause, they can create expectations of their spouses they didn’t have upon marrying them.
The nonbeliever says, “Hey, you knew who I was when you married me.” There is a valid truth to be made in such a statement. While one can certainly strive, hope, and lead by behavior because of a desire to save her spouse, she must also be mindful of the fine line that high emotions can cause her to cross. Recognize that crossing this line may add to the friction in your home. Because of this, there should be an extra effort made to focus on all the good things—the things that made you fall in love with your husband.
Truly love your spouse by making him feel valued as he is, and in so doing, you may be the “game changer” for his eternal state. May God bless you as you strive to live by the principles found in 1 Peter.
Jackson, Wayne. Should a Christian Marry Outside the Faith?
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