Marriage to an Evil

Marriage to an Evil Spouse

Question:

Suppose that a husband or wife is a truly godly person who is Christlike in all that he or she does, but he or she is married to a wicked mate. What is to be done?

Answer:

We know that seldom does a man who is truly holy and loving marry an evil wife who is selfish and ungodly in attitude and action. Likewise, seldom has a wife who is loving, gentle, and kind marry a wicked and selfish man. However, for the sake of this question, let us suppose that this is the unlikely case.

If this situation does occur, let us ask what is to be done not in marriage but in everyday life. How should a Christlike married person respond to a sinful friend, family member, or associate? How does a Christlike individual act, speak, and live before another who does not share the same spiritual perspective?

Probably this sort of relationship must have happened frequently in the first century during the early days of Christ’s body. Suppose that a tender-hearted woman was touched by the good news of Christ and responded to this message of salvation. On the other hand, suppose also that her husband refused to consider Christ and, with a hard heart, did not come to the Lord for His forgiveness. Let’s notice several passages of Scripture that could apply in this situation.

Peter gives this wise and inspired counsel: “You wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior” (1 Peter 3:1-2). As we can see, this saved woman should be submissive to her unsaved husband, just as any woman is to be submissive to her husband (see 1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:34; Ephesians 5:22-24, 33; Colossians 3:18; 1 Timothy 2:11-12; Titus 2:4-5).

Further, the general feminine and Christian qualities should be something that she will want to cultivate. For instance, she is to be chaste (1 Peter 3:2). She is to be respectful (1 Peter 3:2). She must not concentrate on immodest or inappropriate clothing nor wear jewelry (v. 3). She is to emphasize the “hidden person of the heart” and have a “gentle and quiet spirit” for this is “precious in the sight of God” (vv. 3-4). She is to be obedient to her husband (vv. 5-6) and must be subject to her own husband (Ephesians 5:22). She is to recognize that her husband is her “head” and she is to be “subject” to him (vv. 5:23-24). Additionally, she is to “respect” her husband (v. 33).

How is this to be done if her husband has no fear of God and no desire to obey or serve Him? As we mentioned before, she is to simply respond to him as she would even if he had no interest in God or His word. Granted, this is a very difficult and trying situation, but with God’s help, strength, and power it can be done.

We must emphasize that the wife must not respond to him in this way merely under a sense of duty or a feeling that she is forced to do this. Just as one would obey Jesus, she must also respond to her husband with a humble, submissive, and obedient attitude. Remember this is just what was required of the servant (or slave) who was to respond to his or her earthly owner or master (see Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25). God would not want the wife (or the slave) to only submit herself to the Biblical instructions out of a sense of duty.

The godly and loving husband must also respond to his ungodly wife in a proper manner. Thus, the husband must “love” his wife as Christ loved the “church” or assembly of God (Ephesians 5:25). He must give himself up for his wife (v. 25) and truly love her (vv. 25-33). He must not be “embittered” against her (Colossians 3:19). He should “live” with his wife “in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman,” and should “grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life” and thus not hinder his prayers (1 Peter 3:7). All of the other dozens of instructions given to Christians in relating to others should surely be applied to his wife.

Thus, even if the unbelieving spouse is a child of the devil (John 8:44), an enemy of all righteousness (Acts 13:10), and actively seek to manifest the deeds of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21), the Christian should do all that he or she can do to respond to him or her in a loving, kind, patient, godly, and righteous manner. The way that you respond may touch his or her heart and bring the sinner to repentance. Surely the believer should not separate from or divorce the unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:10-13).

This can be a very difficult situation and a trying relationship, but with God’s supernatural strength it can be done. Do you know of anyone who is presently experiencing this sort of relationship? In fact, are you—yourself—now experiencing such a defective relationship? Don’t give up and don’t seek worldly answers. Seek God’s answers from His Word, follow them, and apply the principles we’ve discovered. Respond to your spouse as God would want!

–Richard Hollerman

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