By Bethany Verrett, Crosswalk.com
Commitment is a big deal. Marriage, one of the biggest commitments a person can make, should not be taken lightly. For Christians, there is a lot of guidance on how to look for the right person to marry, what traits to look for, how to pray for the specific partner God may be leading you to, and how to have a healthy marriage.
God’s Word gives encouragement and focuses on key foundations. People who are not Christian do not have to pursue these guidelines, but believers should. One of the most important principles Christians should follow when pursuing marriage is encouraged in the Epistle from Paul to the Corinthians, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14a).
When Christians marry other Christians, their marriage glorifies God, used by God to sanctify one another, and is usable by God for His glory.
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What Does the Bible Say about Marriage?
Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman, ordained by God for them to experience love, unity, to create a family, and to build one another up spiritually. When people get married, they are agreeing to build a life together, which means they are moving together toward one common goal - a future.
In a Christian marriage, that goal is both temporal and eternal, since God has a purpose for the people who are submitted to His will. While there are many couples in the Bible who believed in the God of the Bible together, there are also many who did not. The greatest example of a follower of God and nonbelievers marrying is that of Solomon and his many wives. While Solomon loved and followed God sincerely, he married hundreds of foreign women and took hundreds of concubines, and very few of them gave up their false religions.
“For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:4).
Israel fell into idolatry as a result of this influence. Marriage is a sacred bond, and the two brought together because of it become one. One cannot ignore the other’s spiritual walk.
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Why Is It an Uneven Yoke if a Christian Marries a Non-Christian?
The symbol of oxen being yoked is one that most of Paul’s audience would have understood. In fact, it is still recognizable by cultures today, as it has been for thousands of years. When more than one ox are bound together, they are attached by a device called a yoke. It allows them to pull together as a team. For them to work together as efficiently as possible, the team needs to be made of oxen that are of relatively the same size and they need to be moving in the same direction. If there is one that is much bigger, it can push and pull the other around, and the smaller one is not as helpful, unable to pull its own weight. If the oxen are trying to go in different directions, they will not get very far.
In a Christian marriage, two believers can support each other, move with one purpose. They can bear the burden together because they are moving with a singular purpose - to glorify God and live for His purpose. Because they believe in God and the Bible, they have the same values and can support one another’s burdens.
For marriages that are between a believer and a non-believer, they may have different values or they may not. They may not love one another deeply, or they may. Where they will truly be incompatible is in spiritual matters. They will be moving in different directions, one towards an eternity with God and one away from the Lord. One will be working for God’s purposes and His glory, and one will not.
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What if I Got Saved after I Got Married?
Marriages between believers and non-believers can be difficult, not necessarily because an unbeliever is a bad spouse or an abuser, but because of their spiritual incompatibility. One of them is spiritually alive while the other is still spiritually dead. For someone who is already saved, the Bible would encourage them not to enter into a union with a nonbeliever. Of course, people get saved after they get married all the time. Paul gave very specific details about people who come to faith after their marriage:
“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. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” (1 Corinthians 7:12-16).
This advice comes from Paul, and he qualified that God did not explicitly give him it as a revelation. For Paul, divorce should be avoided on the side of the Christian since God hates divorce. It is also in the best interest of any children for the couple to stay together as long as there is no abuse in the household.
There is also the possibility that the believer may influence the unbeliever, allowing the Holy Spirit to work so the other may be saved. Ultimately, marriage should be driven by prayer, and the Christian should also go to God in prayer for their spouse, especially if he or she does not yet know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
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A Prayer to Find a Christian Spouse
Thank you for instituting the bonds of marriage. Thank you for the opportunity to love in a special way. Lord, I lift up my future spouse to you. I ask that you would guide me to the person You ordain for me to marry. Lord, please be blessing their steps, and preparing me for that person, and them for me. Bring us to one another so that our life may glorify You.
In the name of Jesus Christ I pray,
A Prayer for an Unsaved Spouse
Thank you for always being with me, for walking with me, and for saving me from my sin and making a way for me to be with You forever. Lord, I lift up my spouse to You. Please be working in their hearts and their lives. Remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh, one that is listening to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, I know You are standing on the door of his heart and knocking; please don’t stop. Please do not leave him; You are the great shepherd who does not leave any sheep. Show me what I can do to be a part of the salvation of my partner, and please save them.
In Your name I pray,
Chivers, Miranda. Unequally Yoked Staying Committed to Jesus and Your Unbelieving Spouse. Sanctified Hearts Publishing, 2018.
Larsen, Dale & Sandy. Couples of the Old Testament. Downers Grove: IVP Connect, 2003.
Strauss, Richard. Famous Copules of the Bible. Tyndale House Publishing, 2003.
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