5 ways to live out the Golden Rule in marriage
The Bible is clear, isn’t it?
“Be ye not unequally yoked.”
The King James version of 2 Corinthians 6:14 has been stamped in my mind since I was a teenager. The King James was the “authorized version” my church used when I was young.
The Message version expounds on that:
“Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives.”(2 Corinthians 6:14-17, MSG)
But sometimes the person you married isn’t who you thought he was. Or maybe he changed. Maybe you changed. One or the other of you stepped away or toward a life of faith so that after you “yoked” yourself to a spouse, you find yourself “unequally yoked.”
My friend Elle and I find ourselves unchurched at the moment because we find ourselves yoked to someone who doesn’t want to attend church with us. Longing for Christian fellowship, we decided we would get together once a week to do a Bible study.
But what to study? I didn’t want to jump into a book that might prevent new people from joining us, should they want to do so. So we decided on a topical Bible study. Elle provides the topics based on her burning questions; I search the Scriptures in an attempt to provide the answers.
The first of Elle’s questions I tackled was this one: How can I be a godly wife when my husband is not involved in church?
Two passages came to mind when I read her question, the “be ye not unequally yoked” verse, of course, and one other, which I’ll share later in this post.
Like me, Elle had grown up hearing the “unequally yoked” verse and knew she shouldn’t date an unbeliever, let alone marry one. Like me, she hadn’t dated nor married an unbeliever, but time has shown the differences in how we and our spouses pursue a life of faith. It seems we are “unequally yoked.”
So now what?
The Bible addresses “mixed marriages” — Christian married to non-Christian, at least — in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16. If your pursuit of God looks substantially different from your husband’s, you might consider yourself in a mixed marriage, even if your spouse professes faith in Jesus.
Since the Corinthians passage is a bit long, I’ll summarize it. Basically, if you, a believer, live with a spouse who is not, but he still wants to live with you, stay together. The unbeliever benefits from your pursuit of holiness. Certainly, your children do, too.
If, however, your spouse doesn’t want to stay, let him go graciously. Who knows? The way you handle the situation might just bring your spouse back to you and God!
That last sentence of the 1 Corinthian passage has a message similar to the second verse that had come to my mind in response to Elle’s question. This one:
Wives, in the same way, submit yourselves to your own 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.(1 Peter 3:1-2, NIV)
I know it might be tempting to get hung up on the phrase “submit yourselves,” but instead focus on “they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,” by displaying purity and reverence.
How do you do that?
Elle and I compared notes. Our husbands aren’t going anywhere. So, assuming your husband wants to remain with you, then how do you handle the differences in your beliefs? How do you behave in such a way as to win them over? (Or at least not push them away!)
I would suggest you do these five things:
Strengthen yourself in the Lord
First, whether you’re able to participate in a church or not, strengthen yourself in the Lord. (We can’t do life without Him!) How? By putting on “the full armor of God,” as indicated in Ephesians 6:10-18, so you can stand against Satan’s evil attacks. (The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.)
Those verses also remind us that our struggle is not against our flesh and blood husbands “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV).
And while we may have a dark world and spiritual forces of evil working against us, we also have the Holy Spirit working for us. Therefore, we should “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:18, NIV)
Shift your focus
Stop looking at the person standing in the way of what you want. Look at the person of Jesus who saves you not just for eternity but for every moment. (Our eternal life started the moment we trusted Christ, after all.) And trust Him to take care of your husband.
When my mother and my brother were alive but in poor health, my sister Trish and I used to say she had “mom duty” and I had “brother duty.” It meant we had to make sure the one “in our care” was OK.
I have to put those in quotations because, really, we could only do so much. Right? Well, we don’t have “husband duty,” either. Our spouse isn’t our problem; he’s God’s problem. Let Him do the work in Him (and in us). We simply look to Jesus.
Small “h” in that him, because I mean him as in husband. Yours. Mine. We need to make our husbands the No. 1 human in our life. Yes, even above our child(ren). Those little people naturally demand our time. We have to drive them, feed them, coordinate their social schedules, etc.
But we can show our husband honor by serving him first. Make his coffee? Give him the biggest slice of cake? Make his favorite meal? Weed the yard even when the carpet inside is begging for your attention?
Yes. And if you understand his love language, speak it to the best of your ability.
Speak love to him
One of the best ways we can speak love to our husband is to praise him at every opportunity. Love him with our words by noticing his good works. What does he do well? How has he tried to please you? What does he do that keeps the family afloat financially? To keep the house in order? (Or if not in order, to keep it running and standing strong?)
Praise him for those things! Thank him. Sincerely. Even if it’s in his job description.
Speak love about him
It’s tempting to run to someone else and whine, isn’t it? Just to vent. The only problem is that someone may then resent your husband too. I liken it to the boy who hammered nails into the fence in anger. He later returned and removed the nails — but the holes remained.
We may move forward, forgive and forget, plucking out the nails of anger and hurt. But the holes — even the nails — might remain in that someone who’s building a case against our spouse.
Instead, let’s talk to God about our husbands in prayer. Not just to whine and vent but to ask for blessings in his life. Rather than asking God to fix his flaws (or just asking God to do that), let’s ask God to help us love well and see our husbands the way He sees them. Let’s talk to God about this man as if he’s the most important human in our lives.
Basically, let’s treat them the way we would like them to treat us. (It is what’s called “The Golden Rule” for a reason.)
And, really, I could have started with that verse:
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.(Matthew 7:12, NIV)
Whether our marriage is on the same foundation spiritually or we find ourselves “unequally yoked” in some way, let’s consider how we wish our spouse would treat us and make sure we’re treating them that way.
As I contemplated Elle’s original question and how to answer that, ultimately, I had to look at myself and ask, Would I want to be married to me? If I were looking at my life from his perspective, would I want my faith?
Yes, Elle’s first question hit a little too close to home, but it was a great place to start our time in Bible study together. May I pray for you and me?
Dear Father, thank you for the privilege of marriage. Thank you for the truth we find in your Scriptures and for the Holy Spirit empowering us to live out our faith in front of our spouses. Help us seek you first and trust you to work in our marriages. Help us to love in word and deed and truly live by the Golden Rule. Give us grace and grow us into the spouses you have called us to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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