you choose Q: what about being married to a nonbeliever?

Q: I would like to get more information on being married to a nonbeliever.  —Mary

A: If you are asking if it is permissible for a Christian to marry a nonbeliever, then the answer is no. The Bible makes it clear that our marriage partner must be a believer in Jesus (2 Corinthians 6:14-16), one who “loves the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39) or as NIV puts it, one who “must belong to the Lord.”

If after marriage you came to believe in Jesus, but your spouse remains an unbeliever, then 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 provides some directions on how to live with a non-believing spouse. Paul urged believers to be faithful and to honor the marriage commitment, if possible (1 Corinthians 7:12-13). He explained that the “Christian [spouse] brings holiness to the marriage” (1 Corinthians 7:14). Paul did not mean that the unbelieving partner is saved by this marriage. To be a Christian, one must personally confess his or her sins, believe in, and receive Jesus as Savior. Paul taught that the unsaved spouse is placed in a position of special privilege and spiritual potential through living with the Christian spouse, for the nonbelieving spouse has come under the believing spouse’s influence (1 Corinthians 7:16).

There is always the hope that the believing spouse will convince the unbelieving spouse to come to faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 7:16). For example, a non-Christian man who has a Christian wife faithfully praying for him and living an exemplary life before him in the home is in a position where conditions can be favorable for his salvation to become a reality. That’s why Peter encourages believing wives to live godly lives before their unbelieving husbands so their “godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives” (1 Peter 3:1-2). Not only does his wife influence him, but fellow Christians who know the man’s spiritual state will also join in praying on his behalf.

To help you in your marriage, you may want to read these resources online:

Building Blocks To A Strong Marriage

What Is The Promise of Marriage? —K.T. Sim

Feel free to submit a “you choose Q” to ODJ by using the contact us form on the home page!

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4 Responses to “you choose Q: what about being married to a nonbeliever?”

  1. tom felten says:

    Thanks for these biblical insights, KT. By God’s grace, I’ve seen many couples united in Jesus over time through the faithful, prayerful example of one spouse that became a believer in Him after the nuptials. As you have written, however, it’s never right in God’s sight for a believer to marry an unbeliever.

  2. lorrainehhume says:

    I have been a believer since a child. I am married to an unbeliever, but currently separated due to ongoing domestic violence. Although I knew at the time of our marriage 17 years ago that he was not a believer, I took the vows. I have tried constantly through the years to keep the peace for our daughter’s sake (she is now 14 years old) and to honor our wedding vows. It is extremely hard to keep a marrage alive when I was the only one making an attempt. My daughter and I attend church regularly; my husband would attend with us once in a great while, but he always had an excuse not to, even so much as getting out of the pew and leaving before the service started. I gave up asking him to come. The abuse continued and I finally came to realize that what our daughter has seen (including my husband being arrested and jailed six years ago for beating me up) is just too damaging to her. After his jail time and subsequent rehab for drug abuse, I took him back. Nothing changed, and I suffered through six long years of his erratic behavior and physical abuse. I finally came to the realization that I could not continue on that path. I prayed then for his salvation and still continue to pray for him. I have asked God’s forgiveness in my disobedience for marrying a non-believer and I know that I am forgiven. But I also know that He does not want me in a violent marriage, where I could end up severely hurt or perhaps even dead. I have found out the hard way that what God says, He means – “be not unequally yoked.” I am in no way whatsoever blaming God for what happened – I made a bad choice. I am also not implying that marrying an unbeliever will result in physical abuse. Obviously, my husband has severe issues which he needs to accept and be held accountable for. But in the long run, the unbeliever will tear you down spiritually and you will find yourself pushing God aside for whatever reason comes up. It is not worth it! Even though I am struggling to keep from losing my house, my daughter and I have peace when we get up in the morning. I am totally trusting God for financial, emotional, and spiritual support. My faith is getting stronger and stronger every day. Praise Him, for He is good!

  3. bluefigtoast says:

    While I can not say what makes a successful marriage, I can say, what does NOT:

    These are areas which caused my marriage to fail: communication, commitment, character.


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