What to Do When Spouses Hinder
Several weeks ago, I wrote an article detailing the supportive intention of the marital relationship (as opposed to spouses hindering one another). I have since received a request from a kind sister-in-Christ to follow that article up with one discussing what spouses should do when their mates are hindrances and not helpers, and I am happy to oblige. Sadly, many members of the church of our Lord have mates who either are not Christians or are not faithful to their Savior. What should spouses do when their mates are hindrances?
I believe the apostle Peter may offer some insight and assistance. In his first epistle, Peter speaks much of submission and subjection. He alludes to this in the first chapter by referring to us as “obedient children” (1:14), but he directs this theme more prominently in the next chapter: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake…” (2:13), and continues with the exhortation to servants being in subjection to their masters (2:18), even if they should suffer wrongfully (2:19-20). After he illustrates this prominent principle with the example of Jesus Christ (2:20-25), he continues, “In like manner, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, even if any obey not the word, they may without the word be gained by the behavior of their wives” (3:1 ASV). Please ignore the chapter break—when he begins with the expression, “In like manner,” he is linking the previous thoughts from chapter 2 with his current thoughts in First Peter 3. Thus, under consideration are wives (spouses) who are married to husbands (spouses) who are not Christians. Due to this fact, there likely will be some form of persecution or hindrance in living the Christian life, as this is the context of the discussion.
First, Peter strongly urges Christian wives to be cognizant of their manner of living (3:1). The term “behavior” (“conversation” in the KJV) is one of the key terms of Peter in this first letter, and he states that a Christian woman who conducts herself with the right way of living may even be successful in converting her husband “without the word.” In other words, she is letting her light shine in the way she treats him (with subjection, as all wives are to do with their husbands—Eph. 5:22-24) and in her daily behavior. Christian spouses will never be successful in converting their mates if they do not model Christianity in the first place. Rather, they will come across as hypocrites (cf. Matt. 23:3-4), and will likely only exasperate the hindering situation.
Second, when spouses hinder, then faithful Christian wives need to concentrate on displaying both chastity and fear (3:2), which simply reinforces the former point. Chastity refers to the concept of purity or holiness (cf. 1:15-16), and fear references the submission or subjection that wives are to display to their husbands, even using the relationship between Sarah and Abraham as a biblical example (3:5-6). In other words, not only should faithful Christian spouses live the right type of daily life before their hindering mates, but they are to concentrate especially on their particular role within the marriage relationship—wives are to submit to their husbands, and husbands (should they be the faithful Christian in this incident) should focus on loving their wives, even though they pmay be hindering their faith (cf. Eph. 5:25-33). When Christian mates display their respective roles as Christ desires within the relationship, then it will help the hindering mate to respond appropriately.
Third, when spouses hinder, then faithful mates should never make it about themselves (3:3-4). Speaking to those wives, Peter admonishes them never to live in such a way where the focus is on them (inherent within the restrain they should have in their adorning). We ought to remember this always, especially by those who are in such circumstances. How easy it is for one spouse to develop the “Woe is me!” complex, and begin to crave attention and focus. As a matter of fact, whenever there is any tension in any marriage relationship, the devil will tempt the other mate to think, “He (or she) is not living right and treating me badly,” and then the focus turns to self rather than the one who is sick. No Christian ought to live in such a way where they crave focus and attention—“Look at me!”—but rather to live where the focus and attention is always on God!
From the apostle Peter, here are some thoughts that may help when one Christian may be married to a spouse that is hindering and not helping the relationship. Live right every day, be sure that you are fulfilling your respective role in the relationship and never make the situation about self. In this way, we may see more unbelieving or unfaithful mates draw closer to Jesus Christ!