Coming to faith in Christ while living with an unbelieving spouse or family member can be challenging. The Bible offers guidance on how to navigate this situation in a way that honors God and witnesses to those around you.
Understand the unbeliever’s perspective
First, remember that unbelievers do not share your new perspective and priorities (1 Corinthians 2:14). Your unbelieving spouse has not experienced the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. While you see the world through new eyes, they still view it the old way. Be patient and do not expect them to immediately understand or embrace your faith.
Practice empathy. Though it may be difficult, try to understand things from their viewpoint. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if the roles were reversed? Expressing genuine interest shows love and bridges relational gaps. Ask questions about why they believe what they believe. Listen without judgment or trying to “win” an argument (Proverbs 18:13).
Continue fulfilling your existing duties
Next, realize that coming to faith in Christ does not nullify your existing obligations (1 Corinthians 7:10-13). You are still called to fulfill marital, familial, and professional duties with excellence. While you are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), you retain your roles and responsibilities. Do not use your newfound faith as an excuse to neglect obligations to family.
In fact, your love and service to family is now empowered by the Holy Spirit. Fulfill duties in a spirit of grace. Go above and beyond. Take out the trash, do the dishes, mow the lawn. Watch the kids so your spouse can have a date night. Make dinner, give massages. Follow through on commitments. Your life should be marked by integrity regardless of what others do.
Be a model of grace
Recognize that you are called to model the heart of Christ in your home (Ephesians 5:1-2). Just as God has shown you mercy, extend mercy to others daily. Let your life radiate grace, patience, kindness, humility, and forgiveness to all. Reflect the fruit of the Spirit in your dealings (Galatians 5:22-23). This provides a powerful witness and creates opportunities to share the hope within you (1 Peter 3:15).
Consider that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Unbelievers need to see grace lived out. So be quick to apologize when wrong. Do not repay evil with evil. Turn the other cheek (Luke 6:27-36). Trust God to right any wrongs in His timing.
Continue steadfastly in prayer
Make prayer your first response rather than frustration or anger (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Pray for your unbelieving loved ones by name. Ask God to soften their hearts and open their eyes to the truth. Recognize that only the Holy Spirit can convert their souls. Your role is to love them faithfully and point them to Christ.
Also pray for patience, wisdom, and opportunities to share your faith. Confess your own shortcomings. Ask God to help you reflect Christ in trying moments. Seek discernment about when to speak and when to remain silent (Ecclesiastes 3:7). God promises to give wisdom generously when we ask in faith (James 1:5).
Guard your conduct
Live wisely by guarding your conduct. Keep your behavior excellent among unbelievers so that your lifestyle commends the gospel (1 Peter 2:11-12). Exercise caution to avoid temptations or potentially compromising situations. Flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18). Focus on clean living.
Also avoid obnoxious “holier than thou” attitudes. Do not condemn unbelieving family members for their practices. Be humble remembering you too were once lost. Do not deride their idols or expect immediate perfection. Change takes time. Win them by your life not arguments (1 Peter 3:1-2).
Look for opportunities to share the gospel
While difficult conversations may be avoided, look for natural opportunities to share your faith. Tell your story of how Christ changed your life. Share verses that were meaningful to you. Invite unbelieving family members to church or suggest Christian media that touched you. Point out Bible passages when relevant in given situations.
At the same time, avoid browbeating others with the gospel. Do not be preachy or judgmental. Do not force religious activities or conversations on the unwilling. Be sensitive to timing and check their receptiveness first. Share God’s truths with discernment, speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Maintain your spiritual health
Make your spiritual growth and health in Christ your first priority. Attend church consistently for worship, teaching, and fellowship (Hebrews 10:24-25). Join a small group Bible study for discipleship. Read Scripture and pray daily. Listen to praise music and sermons throughout your week.
Do not let opposition or apathy dampen your zeal. Set your mind on things above (Colossians 3:2). Find encouragement spending time with other believers. Remain faithful regardless of what others do. Let their questions or indifference drive you closer to God.
Trust God with results
Finally, recognize that you are responsible for your conduct but not for others’ choices. You cannot argue anyone into the kingdom. Salvation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 3:8). Share the gospel faithfully and live it genuinely, then trust God with the results.
Continue loving the unbelievers in your life. Be patient if they reject the message at first. Avoid anger or resentment towards them. Keep taking up your cross daily. Renew your devotion to Christ. Let your life shine before others that God may be glorified (Matthew 5:16). He promises your labor in the Lord is never in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Additional Practical Tips
Here are some additional practical tips for living with unbelieving family members:
- Be quick to apologize and seek forgiveness when you wrong someone.
- Focus conversations on your unbelieving loved one’s interests and allow them to talk about themselves.
- Avoid self-righteousness or condemnation about their beliefs and practices.
- Patiently explain when asked why you believe what you believe or act differently.
- Don’t argue but respectfully explain your perspective if asked.
- Offer to pray for unbelieving family members and their needs.
- Suggest attending church together but don’t force it if declined.
- Invite unbelieving loved ones to volunteer with you in serving others.
- Share your personal faith journey and changed life in Christ.
- Give books, articles, or media that explain the gospel message.
Responding When Mocked or Persecuted
Living out your faith may also invite ridicule or mild forms of persecution. When faced with mocking, mistreatment, or abuse from unbelieving family, respond as follows:
- Do not retaliate or seek revenge (Romans 12:17-21).
- Bless those who persecute you and pray for them (Luke 6:28).
- Entrust yourself to God who will judge justly (1 Peter 4:19).
- Rejoice that you share in Christ’s sufferings (1 Peter 4:12-16).
- Remain patient and kind in the face of anger or insults (Proverbs 15:1).
- Stay gentle and humble demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
- Keep doing what is right and model the love of Christ (1 Peter 3:13-17).
- Take refuge in Christ during times of mistreatment (Psalm 9:9-10).
As you continue reflecting Jesus, unbelieving family members may eventually come to respect and even inquire about your faith. But if not, rejoice that you are able to share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.
Maintaining a Godly Marriage
For those married to an unbelieving spouse, God calls you to remain committed to the marriage just as before. However, if the unbelieving spouse insists on separating, you are not bound in such cases (1 Corinthians 7:12-16). Yet even during separation, remain open to reconciliation.
Within marriage, relate to your unbelieving spouse as follows:
- Fulfill your marital responsibilities and meet their needs (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).
- Live in a caring, understanding way showing honor (1 Peter 3:7).
- Win them over by your pure and respectful conduct (1 Peter 3:1-2).
- Remain faithful to your marital vows rather than seeking divorce (Matthew 5:32).
- Pursue intimacy with wisdom, avoiding immorality (1 Corinthians 7:5).
- If abused, separate temporarily and seek help (Romans 13:4).
- Seek marital counseling if needed to improve the relationship.
- Pray earnestly for your spouse’s salvation (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Your devotion may inspire your unbelieving spouse to inquire about your faith. But even if they never believe, you can have a fulfilling Christ-centered marriage by extending selfless love.
Leading Children in Godly Ways
When raising children with an unbelieving spouse, take responsibility for your part:
- Instruct children in the Scripture and Christian faith (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
- Model an authentic walk with Jesus at home by your example (Philippians 4:9).
- Teach kids to follow Christ out of love not just rules (John 14:15).
- Explain your beliefs with grace when questions arise.
- Pray together regularly as a family and privately for your kids.
- Let pastors, teachers, and other believers help disciple your kids.
- Monitor outside influences that may hinder their faith.
- Lovingly discuss any concerns with your spouse.
Co-parent with an unbelieving spouse by making agreements about what each of you will take responsibility for in raising the children. Seek unity in aspects you agree on. While tensions may arise, approach issues with patience, wisdom, and care for what is best for the children.
Living with unbelieving family members or a spouse after coming to faith in Christ presents unique challenges. But God’s Word offers guidance to help us relate rightly. By continuing to fulfill our duties, reflecting the character of Jesus, looking for opportunities to share the gospel, and trusting God with results, we can live peacefully and influence unbelievers for Christ. While difficult at times, remembering God’s grace and relying on the Spirit empowers us to witness for Christ even in close quarters.