In the same way, 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. – 1 Peter 3:1
When my husband and I were married, I was what you would call a baby Christian. I was nominally saved and knew little of the Word. This is commonly known as having fire insurance: I was saved from the fires of hell, but that was as far as my faith went. My husband deferred to my belief system and told me he was comfortable letting me raise our children according to its precepts. In my ignorance, that was good enough for me.
Then, within a couple years of our marriage, I joined a Bible-believing church where I grew exponentially in my faith and became well-versed in the Word of God. My faith was no longer an incidental part of my life; it was an essential part of my life. It was everything. I was a soul-winner. I was a Bible-thumper. I was a serious Jesus fan girl.
During this time, my husband joined me at church and even had his own Bible. He would meet one-on-one with our pastor and hang out with our church friends. But he wasn’t saved. The faith that was everything to me was simply an object of curiosity to him.
After many years of exposure to the truth and of prayer – mostly mine – he was finally saved. Maybe your husband isn’t there yet. Maybe you’re convinced at this point he never will be. But if you’re married to an unbelieving husband, here’s how God’s word calls you to respond.
Respect Your Husband
Note that Peter commands women to be submissive regardless of whether their husbands are saved. This doesn’t mean you act as his doormat or submit yourself – or your children – to abuse. It also doesn’t mean you allow his bad choices to put yourself or your family in harm’s way. In 1 Samuel 25, for instance, godly Abigail’s wise intervention prevented destruction as the result of her husband Nabal’s pride and impetuousness.
Submission does mean you show your husband respect: You admire him; you show sensitivity to him; you honor his feelings and his wishes (the ones that don’t cause an army to rise up against you). Elevate him in the eyes of your children, and regularly lift him up before the Lord. Let him know he is second only to Christ in your life.
Seek First His Kingdom and His Righteousness
Matthew 6:33 commands us to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and then all these other things shall be added unto you as well.” Notice the seeking comes first and the adding comes later. Make Christ your first love. Grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18), and live out your faith by displaying the fruits of the spirit – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Remember to “let your light shine before men” – in this case, man – “so that others” – in this case, another – “may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:33). Remember how people constantly pressed around Jesus? His love and grace were a magnetic force that drew the multitudes to Him. Live in such a way that your husband may be drawn to the Jesus in you. And pray for him without ceasing (2 Thessalonians 5:17).
Nagging won’t win your husband over to Christ. It will drive him from you and cause him to seek shelter on the corner of the roof, where it’s likely to be more peaceful (Proverbs 25:24). Rubbing his nose in your faith would fall under the nagging category.
However, if he asks you how you’re able to keep your sanity when the kids are driving you crazy, how you can respond in kindness to someone who spits in your face, or how you can love him when he loves you so imperfectly, always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is within you (1 Peter 3:15).
Stay in Your Marriage – But Let Him Go If He Leaves You
Your vows are to the Lord, and you are bound to them – unless your unbelieving husband leaves you of his own accord (and this without any encouragement from you).
Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. – 1 Corinthians 7:15
This does not constitute failure on your part; rather it’s a painful realization that the world – represented here by your unbelieving husband – first hated Christ (John 15:18). And even then, persevere in prayer for his soul. From this you are not released.
Remember, my dear friends, that you are first and foremost the bride of Christ. He is our forever bridegroom and the One to whom we will be joined eternally. Love Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and entrust everything – including your husband’s soul – to Him. Live as women of the Word.