Living With a Pagan Husband
There are many Christian women who live with husbands who are not believers and it is difficult. This is why the only criteria for who we are to marry, according to the Lord, is that they be a believer. Life with an unbeliever is hard since everything a godly woman believes and the way she lives her life comes from the Lord and unbelievers don’t have this Rock upon which they have built their lives.
God instructs women who are married to unbelievers to stay with them. “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy” (1 Corinthians 7:14). What does this mean? I went to the commentaries of old and this is what Barnes’ Notes on the Bible had to say about it.
“The husband that is not a Christian; who still remains a pagan, or an impenitent man. The apostle here states reasons why a separation should not take place when there was a difference of religion between the husband and the wife. The first is, that the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife. And the object of this statement seems to be, to meet an objection which might exist in the mind, and which might, perhaps, be urged by some. ‘Shall I not be polluted by such a connection? Shall I not be defiled, in the eye of God, by living in a close union with a pagan, a sinner, an enemy of God, and an opposer of the gospel?’ This objection was natural, and is, doubtless, often felt. To this the apostle replies, ‘No; the contrary may he true. The connection produces a species of sanctification, or diffuses a kind of holiness over the unbelieving party by the believing party, so far as to render their children holy, and therefore it is improper to seek for a separation.'”
As a godly woman lives in close connection with her Savior, her unbelieving husband will see Jesus in her. Many women have won their husbands to the Lord by living in subjection to them without preaching or nagging while living godly lives. A godly person who lives what they believe is highly attractive to others; their kindness, gentleness, generosity, joy, and love draws others to Christ in them.
Even for those who have a believing husband, they should be living like this since they are saved from their sin and from the wrath to come, plus they get to spend eternity in a place that is free from sin and suffering. This world isn’t our home so we shouldn’t live as if it were. Let’s live as living sacrifices for our husband, our children, and others and be a blessings in their lives instead of a curse.
Since we have been freed from the law of sin and death, we have freedom and liberty in Christ. “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). With the freedom we have in Christ, we are to use this freedom to serve others. We are to serve our children and husband even when it’s hard. This is the way that we show them we love them. When you serve a pagan husband, this will show him that you love him and may win him to Christ. This is how we are called to spend our lives – loving and serving others.
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
1 Peter 3:1-6
18 thoughts on “Living With a Pagan Husband”
My husband is a non-believer and for many years I attended church against his wishes. I was always aware of 1 Peter 3 but told myself I was being a submissive wife, just not on Sundays. A few years ago, I started reading your blog and realized that I was not truly in full submission. I realized that I was trying to be the spiritual leader of our home and that there are many verses in scripture regarding submissiveness but only one regarding attending church. I quit church and now study the Bible, pray and listen to sermon podcasts when my husband is at work and listen to Christian radio when I am alone in the car. I look to Jesus as the spiritual leader of our home. My faith has flourished, and God has blessed us in so many ways. My husband is much happier with me because I am home more, and I make him a hearty breakfast on Sunday mornings instead of rushing out the door. Also, he really hated that I gave his money to an organization that he doesn’t like. I still struggle to be submissive in every thing and ask God to create a meek and quiet servant’s heart within me. Maybe he can be won yet? Thank you for the work you do.
Oh, there’s a good chance he will be won, Laurie! It may be on his deathbed but never give up hope. His eternal soul is at stake and you are storing treasures in heaven!
“Many women have won their husbands to the Lord by living in subjection to them without preaching or nagging while living godly lives.”
Yes we have! Sadly though, it is surprising how many misguided ‘christian’ women took me aside and whispered in my ear: “You don’t have to stay you know, if your husband is too wild and harsh; you were married when neither of you were saved. The rules are different for you.” (true story)
These poor ladies at church(es), as well as most of church leadership, put such added weight on my journey (i’m not looking for pity) … I’m only sharing so that if you who are reading this, come across a sister looking for some support, don’t encourage her to disobey God. See her as emotionally in need.
On the upside, an amazing thing happens when you’re forced to walk alone because you cannot get the support — your faith becomes rock solid. For that I’m so grateful to God, and wouldn’t change any of those 18 years!
My Nan was married to a man like this and every day, she lived out the spirit of Jesus. She left behind an awesome legacy.
My own husband is a believer in his heart, (and was attending church when we married) but he’s a battling believer right now, with addictions, and I don’t know if he will ever come back to church. He encourages me to go, though, and to take the kids, so I have it easier than many women.
Thank you for this post, Lori. It’s really encouraging.
My husband is a non believer.
I became a Christian after we had been married a few years. It can be particularly difficult when decisions are to be made relating to the children.
Yes, it is very difficult, Sarah, but the Lord is with you and remember that you may win your husband by living in subjection to him. No, this isn’t easy but it’s good.
His ways are good, and acceptable, and perfect, Robyn! Thankfully, you obeyed the Lord rather than listening to others.
Laurie, good for you!! I eventually stopped attending church on Sundays and found fellowship elsewhere too! Do not give up hope and dare I say, enjoy your journey!
Laurie, it must be so tough for you- perhaps you could meet with one or two Christian friends for coffee or at the mall or even at each others’ homes and that way you are fellowshipping and not going to a church. you can BE church without going to a building each Sunday. You can study the Bible together.
Thank you Robyn and Lori for your encouragement!
This is so difficult because first and foremost a wife should submit to her husband but I do not believe that this can ever go as far as actively sinful acts.
No, it doesn’t go as far as actively sinful acts. Is your husband asking you to do this?
Not for me but many women are asked by their non believer husbands to sin in their dress, behaviour or lifestyle.
Especially women who are lead to work when they should be at home with their children. Or asked to practice birth control.
How does one submit to the spiritual leader of the home when the leader (husband) seemingly has no spirituality or has turned his back on God?
Writing this, I wonder if there are books or teachings on the subject that you can recommend?
For years, I was totally submissive to a very abusive and unfaithful husband who decided to harden his heart towards the Lord because he said that “being a Christian is too hard” and that he would rather serve you know who … Submitting to a man like that took a terrible toll on my life, though I am thankful for the lessons learned through it all.
He left (many times) and I felt that God instructed me to “let him leave” (1 Corinthians 7:15) … But many women have seen the Lord turn such marriages around through prayer … How do you submit completely to evil desires and serve Jesus at the same time?
…or have open marriages, etc.
I am no longer bound to such, thank God!
But what advice can we give young women who are being coerced or even commanded to sin by their husbands?
It’s only through God’s power working through you, Deborah, BUT a wife never has to submit to evil desires. She obeys God over her husband. You had every right to let him leave if he left and call the authorities if he was physically abusing you.
They don’t sin! God’s commands are over the husband’s commands.
My wife is an ultra humanist/feminist and I was a backslidden believer who returned to the Lord almost two years ago. We fundamentally disagree on almost everything. I don’t know how to lead in a home where my wife and her daughter reject everything biblical. We went to marriage counseling with a “biblical” counselor (a young woman), but the counselor is immersed in psycho-babble rather than Scripture and the counselor’s almost as humanist/feminist as my wife. So that’s made it all so much worse. I pray for change but see none. In fact, it’s much worse. So I’m at a loss how to proceed. Thanks for listening… and for teaching women how to obey God instead of American culture.