I spoke with a friend at church Sunday who is also unequally yoked, and she brought up an issue I think we all run into at one point or another. As unequally yoked spouses, what can we do to cross the faith barrier to connect with our unbelieving spouses? And in so doing, how do we handle the judgments we sometimes receive from other believers.
We’ve talked in the past about how our actions speak louder than words. Sometimes the actions God call us to can look questionable in the eyes of others. I’ve recently joined my husband in playing an online video game that some would consider the “wrong influence.” Is it my first choice of activities? No, but it’s something my husband enjoys and joining him sends the message that I want to spend time with him, and I’m willing to do it on his terms (without sinning, of course) to show my love and acceptance of him.
I knew going into this that other Christians I know would not approve, but I moved this direction out of obedience. This was something God put on my heart to do. Let me cover some key points here:
1. God gave me the freedom to do this in order to connect to my husband. Had I not had this clarity and reassurance, I would not have gone this direction. I made sure God approved first.
2. This isn’t something addictive in my husband’s life, nor potentially addictive to me. Therefore, I wasn’t sinning against God. I believe things like this, whether they are a sin for an individual, must also be determined on an individual basis. What may be a sin for me isn’t a sin for you. And vice versa. For example, I know I struggle with the sin of gluttony, so for me to overindulge in an oversized piece of cheesecake is a sin. For you, this may be a rare treat that you’ve chosen to enjoy, but you could get up and walk away at any time. The point here is, the motivation and whether that force holds you in bondage.
3. Sometimes what we know is the right course of action may displease others. As Paul says, we can’t please others and still please God. Our job/joy is to be obedient to God, not the whims and opinions of others who may or may not understand our situations.
Sometimes these situations can bring unfair judgments upon us by other Christians. I ran into this when I didn’t force my teenagers to go to church. For a believing couple who is united in going to church, this works for them. They’re modeling the importance of church in the lives of a believer. But in an unequally yoked marriage, this sends an entirely different message to the unbeliever. The dynamics are completely different.
In this situation I had to completely trust God to move in my daughters’ lives and be the best Godly influence to them on a daily basis. Not only did I honor God in this but I also honored an agreement I’d made with my husband years back. When our girls were small, he agreed to let me take the girls to church if I agreed that in the end, our girls would make their own choice.
Did God come through? You bet he did! My oldest daughter attends her own church and even told her dad recently that she couldn’t miss church Sunday because she’d missed the Sunday before. What a testimony she had that day! And my youngest daughter is very strong in her belief in God and Jesus, and even witnesses to her online friends about God’s love. So you see, sometimes we will receive judgment, but we must remain true to God in our obedience. I promise you, God won’t let you down.
“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?” — James 4:12(NIV)
Let me close with one final thought. When we are in a situation where a fellow Christian wrongly judges us, be very careful not to fall under the same sin. We can easily judge them for their offense and then we are just as guilty.
This takes us back to point three, that we are to please God, not others. We can leave the judgment of others to God for correction, and believe me, he will see and handle it. Trust him to do so, and move forward in obedience to him.
Amazingly, God will use our active obedience to not only witness to our spouses, but to inspire and encourage those on the sidelines watching as well.
Going forth boldly!
Photo by Zoran Ozetsky