Is a believer obliged to stay married to a non-believer?

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In the case of two non-believers who are already married, when one of them becomes a believer the Bible advises, “And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy” (1 Corinthians 7:13,14). The believer needs to pray for the salvation of their non-believing spouse and ask for God’s Spirit to work things out and bring peace to the relationship.

But if the non-believing spouse leaves the relationship, the Bible says, “But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister (believer) is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 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 7:15, 16). If peace cannot be gained while the Christian and the non-Christian are living together in lawful marriage, and the unbeliever insists on departing, there should be agreement on a peaceful separation.

The reason why the believing spouse should not take the initiative to leave the other, or desire to be separated from the unbeliever, is that the non-believer might be led to accept Christ as their Savior by the example and life of his/her converted spouse. The conversion of the unbeliever would bring great joy and peace to the family on earth as well as the family in heaven.

This goal is very important and the Christian should be willing to be patient and endure hardship in order to bring it to pass. One should never stop living as an honest Christian, no matter what aggravation may arise to cause stumbling. The Christian should have a daily relationship with God (study the Word and pray) that the unbelieving spouse may be won over from unbelief to a life of peace and happy preparation for eternity.

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team


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