I’ve heard the Bible referred to as an Owner’s Manual for humans – the “manufacturer” provides us with operating instructions that we should follow to insure we perform at optimum level. There are many things that God sets out for us in the Bible on how we are to live, some are things we should not do, others are things we should do. Most people view these directions from God as arbitrary rules He gives that take all the fun out of life or take away our freedom to make our own choices. But our “manufacturer,” our Creator, is love in its purest sense so we can know that all of His directions will make our lives as good as they can possibly be when we obey them.
We can see how many of God’s directions are in our best interests: do not murder, do not bear false witness, do not commit adultery, and help the poor are principles that obviously make our lives better. Then there are things that God tells us to do or abstain from where the benefits aren’t so obvious: turn the other cheek, be humble, sexual purity. These things are either opposite of how the world tells us to live or we don’t agree personally with them – perhaps both.
I was not a committed follower of Jesus until I was fifty years old, and by that time there were many things in my life that ran counter to His commandments. The things I didn’t understand as beneficial I simply ignored or decided they didn’t apply to me. Prior to December, 2009, God was just a religion for me – a choice I made about what I was going to believe in. It wasn’t necessary for people in my life to share that belief. I was divorced and I didn’t choose the men in my life based on their religion or lack of one. My beliefs didn’t impact my life in any real way. I didn’t make choices based on them and I didn’t view the world through that lens.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 – “14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God;…”
All of that changed when I committed my life to Jesus. He became more than merely a religious choice. I understood who He was, what He did for me and why I needed Him. I wanted to live my life for Him and be obedient to the way He directs us to live in every area of my life. As my faith and trust in Him increased, I began to change the things in my life that weren’t in line with His direction.
At the time I had been living with my boyfriend of eleven years. I knew exactly what God desired for me to do in that situation. But, there was another issue – my boyfriend was not a believer. I knew the Bible said something about being unequally yolked but I struggled to understand how obeying this principle would be of any great benefit to my life. After eleven years together, I still cared deeply about him. Our relationship wasn’t perfect but I had never felt so secure and loved in my entire life. I spent the next year going back and forth as to what I should do. If I decided that I should not marry an unbeliever, then I would be on my own and my financial situation was a mess. My children and grandchildren loved him and I didn’t want to put them through another broken relationship – I had done that to them too many times in my life. With every ounce of human pride I possessed, I decided that I would forego this direction from God and prove Him wrong! I dismissed God’s word that being unequally yolked was something to avoid and told myself I would be able to live a full Christian life with an unbelieving husband. I was also very confident I would make a believer out of him. We were married in March, 2011.
Colossians 2:20 – “Therefore, … you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world,”
At first, there were few problems. Changes in my life came slowly and I didn’t fully understand my conversion experience. I walked in my Christian life most of the time, but reverted back to our worldly ways in order to spend time with my husband. But, as time went on, I became convicted about most of the things we had enjoyed doing together and couldn’t participate in them anymore. The more I learned about Jesus the more I wanted to talk about Him. My husband couldn’t understand this and asked that I not bring it up with his family. He would walk away annoyed when I started discussing Jesus when we were with friends. I began attending church more regularly, listening to Christian music and popular evangelists but I couldn’t talk with him about the things I learned or the emotions I experienced. We disagreed about insignificant things that made up our daily routine like television shows or radio programs because I saw how the subject matter offends God. Discussions about world events were being seen in two totally different perspectives and we stopped discussing them because we could find no common ground about their implications or their root causes. As my passion for Jesus grew so did the distance between my husband and me.
1 Corinthians 3:19 – “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.”
I came to understood that, while my husband is still “of this world” I no longer am. He is a kind, generous, loving man but his priority is worldly things and securing our earthly future. One day he said to me “I believe in God. I just don’t want to worship Him like you do.” He doesn’t understand that God must be our first priority nor how all of the things we have are blessings from God, believing instead they are a result of his hard work. I have no fear of something happening that would take away everything we have – I know God will take care of me. He has no such comfort. I want God to be the center of our relationship and our home, but he doesn’t understand the need for that. He understands the basics of Jesus, but can’t understand why we need Him. Until recently, he didn’t believe there is a part of us that will live forever. Now that he understands we have an eternal soul, he believes he is a good enough person to gain admission into heaven, although he’s not fully convinced of its reality. His confidence is in the things of this world and I know how undependable and temporary these things are. Because of his worldly focus I cannot devote our resources – time, money, space, material possessions – as fully to God as I know we should.
1 Peter 3:1 – “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives,”
I know the ramifications of denying Jesus and my concern for my husband’s eternal soul weighs heavy on me. At first I spent a lot of time preaching and chastising him for his unbelief. I displayed an arrogance about how I was right and he was wrong. When I tried to tell him the things I was learning, there was no love in my voice. I was angry and prideful and scared for him. I came home from church feeling lonely and sorry for myself and would barely speak to him. All I could focus on was how wrong he was. I believed if I just kept talking that someday I would say exactly the thing that would turn him into a believer. Then I read 1 Peter 3:1 and God drew my mind to the words “without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.” It was time to draw up a new game plan!
I gave control of this situation over to God a few months ago. My role in saving my husband is to show God’s love in every situation – I make it my goal each day. After coming home from work or church, I let him know I am happy to see him and kiss him before doing anything else. When I feel annoyed at a comment he makes or offended at a television show he’s watching, I don’t preach at him anymore. I give him my attention when I can or find something else to occupy my time, but make sure to comment only if I can be positive. If I can’t come up with something positive, I just smile – we both know where my thoughts are without me having to say a word. And I see it paying off. I am beginning to see a softening in him, an understanding of the importance of Jesus in my life and a willingness to read some of the material I have “laying around!” From time to time I tell him about something I’ve read or done and he listens more closely, takes more of an interest. I never go against God’s commandments for my life and my husband has come to respect this new life I have. I know I am blessed that we don’t fight about it and he doesn’t insist I “change back.” My biggest challenge is being patient and let God work in this. Some days I find the process fascinating, other days frustrating.
1 Corinthians 7:12-14 – “To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 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.”
My husband is the only one in this relationship that has the prerogative to leave. As a believer, that is not an option for me. I pray every day that my husband will come to a full knowledge of Jesus. My struggle until then is to remain strong, be patient and remain obedient so God can use me in His plan to save my husband. My experience is also a warning to those who don’t understand the impact living life with an unbeliever can have on our Christian walk. Everything becomes complicated and you can’t give God full control over your marriage or your home because your spouse isn’t a participant. I know God has forgiven me for my disobedience and every day I must manage the consequences of my choice God’s way. I find strength in Paul’s words to Timothy:
1 Timothy 2:3,4 – “ For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”