I firmly believe the spiritual dimension in marriage is indispensable. It has the power to change lives and homes, especially when both husband and wife share similar spiritual beliefs and practices. It’s not by mistake that when Paul wrote about selecting a prospective spouse, the one thing he chose to focus on was the spiritual connection. Paul clearly said that a follower of Christ must marry another follower of Christ. As he described it, the other person “must belong to the Lord.“ (1 Corinthians 7:39)
Your Spiritual Connection Matters
Having been raised in a home where I saw firsthand the effects of spiritual disharmony, even between two professing Christians, I am in complete agreement with Paul. If you want to do yourself a big favor, make sure you and the person you marry are on the same page spiritually. If you’re a follower of Christ, marry another follower of Christ. Otherwise, your life and your home will suffer from your differing spiritual beliefs.
Often when a believer marries an unbeliever, there is a detrimental impact on the believer’s faith. Moses acknowledged this potential danger when he told the Israelites not to marry someone who did not share their spiritual beliefs. Before the Israelites returned to the Promised Land, which was occupied by people who had substituted their own man-made gods for the one true God, Moses warned them, “Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods.“ (Deuteronomy 7:3-4)
A Sad Picture
Unfortunately, they ended up doing the very thing Moses told them not to do. The Israelites “took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods. The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.” (Judges 3:6-7)
A sad picture, isn’t it? I’m sure those parents had the best of intentions when they gave their kids away in marriage. They probably wanted their children to experience the joys of companionship, child rearing, security, and love in marriage. But you have to ask yourself, was the trade-off they made worth it? Sure, they ended up married. But they also ended up abandoning God. I call that a bad deal.
After God took a backseat in their lives, these newly married couples were left to make their marriages work in their own strength. Let me tell you, that’s a shaky way to begin and grow a marriage. The Bible goes so far as to say, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.“ (Psalm 127:1) Trying to build a home without God’s help is destined for trouble and failure. I doubt that’s what you want out of marriage!
Stay out of a Spiritual Mismatch
Years after Moses warned the Israelites not to intermarry, the apostle Paul gave similar advice in his two letters to the Christians in Corinth. In his first letter he told them to marry only a fellow believer. In his second letter he added, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.“ (2 Corinthians 6:14)
Since most of us don’t use yokes today, we miss the full impact of what Paul is saying. In Paul’s day, a yoke was a bar or piece of wood that linked two animals together. When two working animals, like oxen, were evenly connected by a yoke, it empowered them to do more together than they could have done apart. But if the animals were unequally yoked, in kind or size, the work was hampered by their differences. Everything they would attempt to do together would end up being more difficult.
Paul urged Christ followers not to be yoked together with an unbeliever. The differences are too great. Doing so would make it difficult or impossible to work and live together. A spiritual mismatch would make it tough to be married.
Marrying an Unbeliever
I not only saw that firsthand in my own childhood, but I’ve seen it many times since, as I’ve counseled spouses who are in a spiritual mismatch. Stephanie’s story is pretty typical.
I know I should have never married him. I knew what the Bible said about marrying an unbeliever. But I ignored it. I just figured it would all work out. Well, it hasn’t. I am so frustrated. It’s gotten to the point in our marriage now where he doesn’t want me to go to church on Sunday. He says it’s the only day we can have together as a family. But I want our two children to grow up in the church. I want them to continue going to Sunday school. I can’t imagine them not being able to enjoy seeing their friends and teachers at church and benefiting by all that they are learning. So, Pastor Dave, what should I do?
Don’t Make a Spiritual Mismatch Mistake
You know what I tell wives and husbands who come into my office frustrated by their spouse’s lack of spiritual interest —or worse yet, their desire for no one else in the family to be involved in a church? I basically say, “Work for a compromise. That’s all you can do right now. Let him/her know how you feel, but don’t ram your opinion down his/her throat. Accept whatever she decides. Be kind and loving and patient. Do your best to show Christianity through your love and lifestyle. And pray like mad that God will change his/her heart.”
I’d like to say that advice always works, but it doesn’t. If you’re reading this because you’re thinking about getting engaged, the best thing I can say to you is don’t make a spiritual mismatch mistake. If the person you are considering marrying is not on the same page with you spiritually, back off.
This article comes from the book, Before You Get Engaged. It is written by David Gudgel and Brent Gudgel, with Danielle Fitch, and is published by Thomas Nelson. This book offers advice and direction for those who are dating who are considering whether or not they will want to eventually marry. It can be seen as a pre-engagement book —which makes it unique. It aims at equipping you with insight, and peace to make one of the biggest decisions of your life.
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