Thursday, April 9, 2009

What Then?

1 Corinthians 7:12-16 Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a Christian man has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. 13 And if a Christian woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him. 14 For the Christian wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the Christian husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy. 15 (But if the husband or wife who isn't a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the Christian husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.) 16 Don't you wives realize that your husbands might be saved because of you? And don't you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you?

We've talked about divorce, and how God is not okay with it. Today we are going to look at what happens when you get left by a non-Christian spouse. Remember, the Corinthians were new Christians. These were first generation believers, so there were some families where one spouse received the Gospel, but the other did not. If you are a Christian, you are expected to marry a Christian. (2 Corinthians 6:14 Don't team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?) This verse is not dealing with race. I'm not sure how that rumor got started, but there is absolutely no evidence that it has anything to do with it. Simply reading it kind of proves the point. (Do not team up with... unbelievers.) I don't care if they're purple, you're going to have more in common with a Christian than with a non-Christian with the same color of skin that you have. That being said, let's go ahead and look at the first verse, and see what God has to say on the subject.

1 Corinthians 7:12-13 Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a Christian man has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. 13 And if a Christian woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him.

When Paul says that he does not have a direct command from the Lord, he is not saying that we should ignore the following statements because they're uninspired. No. He's been quoting Jesus when he says that a woman should not leave her husband, and that she should only get remarried if she is reconciling to her husband. Now he is moving away from things that Jesus Christ said specifically while on earth. He is still under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but the Corinthians couldn't trace his statements back to Jesus.

If you find yourself in a marriage with an unbeliever, whether by way of a bad choice or because you were saved after the wedding, it is going to cause tension. Satan may very well tell you that God's will for you is to leave your husband because it does make the Christian life much harder when you're married to a player of the opposing team. Paul is saying that difficulty is not an excuse to leave your husband. We are still required to be faithful and loyal to our husbands, whether they have the same ideology that we do or not. As long as he is willing to stay with you, you should stay with him.

1 Corinthians 7:14 For the Christian wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the Christian husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy.

A marriage can glorify God, even if one spouse isn't saved. "How can that be?" you ask. The Christian spouse can bring glory to God in the way that she/he acts within the marriage. If you've ever known a Christian who is married to someone who is not a believer, you know that it is extremely difficult to deal with a lot of the situations that come up. In that difficulty, though, there are opportunities to do things well. When such a believer relies on Christ for the wisdom and help that he/she needs, they show off the power of God. God can use such a situation for His glory. That does not mean that you should intentionally get into that marriage, though. That's just unwise. Such a marriage brings both partners tons of pain, and it usually causes the children even more pain.

Speaking of children... a Christian wife brings a lot to a marriage, and to parenting. It's a lot harder for one parent to raise Christian children, but it's harder still for two lost parents to raise Christian children. A Christian mother's prayers, biblical advice, and godly discipline make all the difference in the world. Staying in the marriage may seem difficult, and even painful for the children, when one spouse is lost. You have the very difficult task of making a good marriage out of an incomplete list of ingredients. You may not be able to do it, but there is One who is able.

1 Corinthians 7:15 (But if the husband or wife who isn't a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the Christian husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.)

You may get left. You may do everything well. You may choose to put away your Bible in the mornings when hubby gets up in order to keep the peace. You may quietly get out of bed on Sunday mornings, and quietly get the kids ready for church. You may pray silently over your food instead of out loud so he doesn't feel out of place. You may work very hard to make sure that you don't seem morally superior to him. He still may leave.

How do you deal with that? According to this verse, you allow him to go without a fight. When there are children involved, that's going to be completely counter-intuitive. You're going to want "what I'm due". Your friends are going to tell you about all that you deserve. You're going to look at your children, and you are going to feel hurt or angry, probably both. You're going to want revenge.

But, "God has called you to live in peace." I don't know how hard that is going to be. I have a wonderful husband, and parents with a healthy marriage. I do know this: if God tells you to do something, He is going to make it possible. He watched His Son die on the cross. Why did He do that? He did that because of our sin. When we cheated on Him (that's what sin is, cheating on our first love), He made the move to fix our relationship. He gave up the most precious commodity He has (though only for a short time), so we could be reconciled to Him. In light of that, struggling to pay the rent doesn't seem as unbearable. And even in the worst divorce situation, there is still hope...

1 Corinthians 7:16 Don't you wives realize that your husbands might be saved because of you? And don't you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you?

Even in the way you react to divorce and custody battles, you can be a light in the darkness. That Light can penetrate his dark heart, and that Light can bring them into an eternal relationship with the Most Holy God! How wonderful would that be? What if God healed his heart, your marriage, and your family? What a testimony to God's grace! Even if the results aren't that astounding, you can know that you did what you were supposed to do. You can know that you obeyed. You can maintain a relationship with God that can get you through anything. You can know the joy and peace that intimacy with our True Father can bring.

If you're still married to an unbelieving husband, but you're struggling, you may want to know how. How do I do that? How do I make him love God? You can't make him, but you can make it easier.

1 Peter 3:1-2 In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over 2 by observing your pure and reverent lives.

Living what you say is infinitely more effective than nagging. Loving him well, even when he isn't too lovable, can make a world of difference. Love God. Love him. Even when he's incorrect, submit to his authority (unless it's a moral issue; if it is, seek the counsel of a pastor or Christian counselor for specific advice). Be the wife God has told you to be.

Isn't it worth the chance? Doesn't God deserve for you to live the life He wants? Isn't His grace enough? How big is our God? And how good is He? Those are the questions that we silently answer when we choose to do things our way, and not His. Obedience answers those questions, too. What answer do the people around you see? What kind of a God are you serving?

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