After being so busy with the most recent blog launch, I turned my phone off to recharge and have a phone-less birthday. No sooner had I turned it on again that a friend called. He was adamant that I was ‘The One’ for him and that he wanted to marry me. I politely pointed out that as much as he might think that was true from his perspective, I certainly didn’t agree due to a lack of spiritual compatibility (see Unequally Yoked). Undeterred by my attempts to rebuff his advances, he interjected with:
“You don’t know the kind of man I’d become for a woman like you.”
That statement is very problematic. I made it clear that I disagreed, but technically alternative responses could have been any of the below… each of which would have been just as problematic as his initial statement:
- Trusting that he’d change for me
- Believing that I could change him
- Overlooking any changes that need to take place
1. He changed for you
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12)
My immediate response to his statement was “why can’t you be that person for yourself, why does it have to be for me?” As he was someone very new in his Christian walk, I didn’t want to be the motivation for his spiritual growth. What happens if we breakup? Would that be the end of his relationship with Christ too? A younger version of me might have been flattered he was willing to go to such great lengths to change, but an older (and slightly wiser) me recognised it as an instant red flag.
Salvation is personal.
Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians reveals that they’re good at following instruction when they’re being watched; however, the true test is when they’re left alone. Paul couldn’t be there 24/7 to supervise them and ‘guarantee’ their entry into heaven. Therefore, his absence was an opportunity for both Paul and the Philippians to see whether they obeyed because of Paul, or because of personal conviction. If the person you intend to marry changed for you (i.e. for sole purpose of being with you), your marriage will expose the emptiness of their relationship with Christ.
You can convince, but only God can convict.
2. You think you can change him
“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)
One of the things I’m adamant about is the idea that if/when I say ‘I do’, I’m completely happy with who my husband is on that day. In other words, if he never changed I wouldn’t be mad that he’s the one I chose. Let’s assume I had agreed to be in a relationship with that guy and during the course of our relationship I see a genuine change in him spiritually (albeit for the wrong reasons), I’m fairly sure that that would lead me to believe I’m capable of inspiring any change I desire to see. Wrong.
God is perfectly able to do His job unaided.
I don’t deny that there are arbitrary changes that God probably doesn’t have a hand in e.g. hairstyle or dress sense. However, for character changes, it would be wrong for you to believe that you can change his temper as easily as you changed his ties. By assuming you can make these significant changes, you are elevating yourself to the place of God. The last thing you want to do is get married and wonder why you appear to have ‘lost your touch’ because he’s no longer acting in accordance with your wishes.
Communicate your boundaries and stick to them.
3. You don’t think your differences matter
“Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3)
Let’s assume that I’d been so swept away by who he was as a person that I chose to disregard our spiritual differences and then we courted and married. In doing so, I would have been increasing the likelihood of conflict in our marriage. It’s true that there are plenty of successful marriages between non-Christians, unequally yoked Christians, and also where one is of no faith or a different faith. However, I’m a firm believer that equal yoking matters.
Spiritual compatibility strengthens marriages.
Ultimately, as a wife, you’re called to obey your husband in the Lord (Ephesians 5:22). Marrying someone that isn’t in the Lord, or isn’t in the Lord ‘as much’ as you, could potentially cause problems. In theory (and hopefully in practice) equal yoking should mitigate the risk of unnecessary conflicts that would arise from two individuals that weren’t equally yoked. You can’t prepare yourself for everything you’ll face in marriage, but don’t overlook spiritual/character issues in courtship as that’ll most likely add to your marital woes.
Unity in marriage is essential in all areas… especially spirituality.
- Be honest – are you allowing other factors (e.g. loneliness, desire to have kids etc) to push you into marrying the wrong person? Or maybe you haven’t thought about the practical implications of unequal yoking – are you sure you’re ok with what that might entail? It’s important that you take time to reflect before you make a lifelong commitment.
- Be brave – if spiritual compatibility has always been a non-negotiable for you, please don’t ‘agree to disagree’ on this issue during the relationship simply because you’re so in love. If it’s one of your dealbreakers, be brave enough to end the courtship or engagement. If it isn’t one of your dealbreakers, be absolutely certain that you’ve reflected on how spiritual incompatibility will affect your marriage.
- Be patient – if you’ve decided to break up, remember that that doesn’t mean he can’t/won’t change when you aren’t the motive. Whilst that doesn’t mean you should put your life on hold until that happens, it does mean that in the future things might be different if you’re spiritually compatible. Continue to pray for him to draw closer to Christ.
At its core, spiritual compatibility is simply about unity. Jesus desires that we are one in Him (John 17:21). Two people that were one in Him separately coming together to be one in Him together is a beautiful thing. Marry someone who chose to be one with Christ before you and not because of you.