Today we’re answering a question from a listener, that we believe could be a relevant discussion for many of you! Join us as we discuss how to navigate an unequally yoked marriage.
Selena: All right friends, we are so excited to announce that we have our first ever Fierce Families conference. And it is October 20th through 21st in Tacoma, Washington. So if you’re here, sign up. If you’re not here and you want to be here, get here, sign up. We’d love to have you.
Ryan: We’ll be covering marriage and parenting in light of God’s design and the cultural context that seems to be completely opposed. Speakers include us, Ryan and Selena Frederick, but also John Lovell of Warrior Poet Society and-
Selena: His beautiful bride, Becca Lovell will also be there.
Ryan: Space is limited, so don’t delay. To learn more, go to fiercefamilies.com and sign up. That’s fiercefamilies.com. And if you sign up before August 1st, you will get the early bird rates. We hope to meet you there in Tacoma, Washington, October 20th and 21st. Until then, stay fierce.
Ryan: All right, today we are wrestling with what I think could be one of the most relevant topics for a lot of couples that realize, I believe one thing about who God is, but my spouse believes something else and it’s causing issues, what do we do? So today we’re going to answer that question. It’s in response to a question we got from a listener. We’ll do that on the other side.
Ryan: Greetings and welcome back to the Fierce Marriage Podcast. I’m Ryan. This is my lovely wife, Selena Amanda Frederick. We’re the Fredericks.
Selena: Middle name, huh? [laughs]
Ryan: The most beautiful name in all the universe. And this is our little baby Sunny. She’s with us today. She’s not feeling well. She may raise a fuss later. We will see.
Selena: Don’t worry. We’ll cut it out. [laughs]
Ryan: Yeah. In fact, she’s raised 17 fusses between now-
Selena: What is that? What is that terrible noise.
Ryan: Why just edit it so badly ?
Selena: Laughing children?
Ryan: So welcome to the podcast. This is what we do. We spend our days thinking about how we can help couples in their marriage, families in terms of parenting, discipling their children. And it occurred to me recently, this is actually the 323 episode.
Selena: Are you serious?
Ryan: I think it’s actually probably more like 340 or so.
Selena: Talked to you 340 times.
Ryan: [laughs] Yes. Ain’t that crazy?
Selena: Oh, that’s enough. [laughs]
Ryan: And you I think like, at what point… Actually, I was with our pastor, we had a meeting this week and he goes, How do you guys come up with your topics? And it occurred to me like we’re not trying to amass a suite of answers to the marital issues of the day. Honestly, we do this because showing up and just having these conversations, I think gives a lot of couples a way to have kind of almost a real time… It’s not a real relationship since we don’t get to know everyone. But we get to walk alongside a lot of people and just have this conversation. Just to be here so that we can help you process through things. So we’re thankful to be able to do that. It’s actually my joy. The highlight of my week is getting to do this-
Ryan: …with my wife, and do the parenting stuff. Because we do the parenting podcast on Thursdays. I love it. I love it. So we hope that it helps you veiwer, listener, and we pray that it blesses you. Some folks actually become partners with us, because I think it’s blessed to them. These are our new Patreon supporters.
Selena: New patreons.
Ryan: Micah, Mike, Briana and Terry, welcome to the Fierce force.
Selena: We’re gonna try that name for a bit. Let’s try that. [both laughs]
Ryan: I don’t know.
Selena: Fierce friends.
Ryan: Fierce friends sounds a little too… We need something between friends and force. We need something in the middle. [both laughs] So we’re happy to say we actually released last week… If you’ve been tuned in, we had our How a Husband Speaks, How a Wife Speaks book bundle. It finally released. Our team has been working feverishly.
Ryan: We have a team of about eight people packing boxes and packages nonstop during working hours. And they’re getting a lot of stuff done. I don’t want to lie. I want to say it’s around the clock.
Selena: Nonstop. During working hours.
Ryan: Eight hours a day.
Selena: Not even that.
Ryan: Because they work hard and they gotta get rest.
Selena: We’re so grateful.
Ryan: So if you haven’t heard about those books, if you haven’t checked those out, go to fiercemarriage.com/speak. We’re actually currently putting the finishing touches on our curriculum. It’s a-
Selena: Our online curriculum for-
Ryan: Yeah, online curriculum. It’s a communication culture masterclass. So what is the communication culture in your family like, your marriage like? We’re going to class. And if you preorder it, you get that for free? If not, you’re gonna have to find a way onto that some other way. I don’t know how yet we’re gonna do that. Anyway, thanks for joining us. That’s enough preamble.
So we have a question from one of our listeners. That’s from Heather. It’s a long question, but I want to read the whole thing because we’re gonna unpack it and give you the context as a listener. But essentially, the thrust of it is this. Heather feels like her and her husband both are professing Christians, but she has a less mature faith, a less mature understanding of the Bible, he has a higher understanding of the Bible, but yet they have a hard time finding agreements around things like church-
Selena: Well, you say mature. I’d say exposure because the way that… which we’ll read, I think the way that she’s painting his response to her-
Ryan: He’s knows a lot more.
Selena: …shows, yeah, he knows more.
Selena: But I mean, so does the enemy. Right? [chuckles] It’s not like he doesn’t know Scripture and uses it against us all the time. So is a head thing versus a head and a heart. A head thing. Anyways. You want me to read this from Heather.
Ryan: Yes, from Heather.
Selena: “I recently discovered your podcast and it’s so helpful and enlightening. Praise God. I would love for you to discuss different backgrounds and levels of faith in a marriage. I was raised to be a casual Christian where I went to church occasionally, but my mom wanted me to choose my religion and never baptize me due to trauma she has suffered from cult religions. My husband was raised and baptized as a Baptist and was even a bible trivia team on a Bible trivia team. So he knows a ton about scripture. I know very little, but have faith in God because He has always been there for me in times of uncertainty. When I’m lost, I’ll randomly open the Bible in the passage I land on, always gives me guidance. But my husband and I agree on Christianity-based values. I get a lot of anger, judgment, and resentment from my husband whenever we talk about certain topics. He will-
Ryan: He will head on tell me.
Selena: …head on tell me, sorry, I don’t know what I’m talking about because I’ve never quote-unquote, ‘been serious about the Bible’. It’s scripture or going to church, and he’s worried about our kids not having a deeper faith because of me. However, I’m the only one who has tried to read Bible stories with the children and talk about it despite my shortcomings. He has also never read the Bible in my presence and we have only attended church one time when engaged. I’m struggling because I can’t discuss faith without getting daggers thrown for my shortcomings, despite my husband’s lack of continued study. Can you use this as a discussion point in a future episode about navigating different levels and backgrounds of faith?”
Ryan: Here we are doing just that.
Selena: Here we are. Here we are.
Ryan: So that’s a lot. So as a quick summary, Heather’s feeling disconnected from her faith. In other words, she has a faith that she’s wanting to work out and she’s having a hard time finding a way to do that. She’s going to her husband for that and it’s causing more strife than agreement.
Ryan: So she wants to go deeper as a believer. She wants to go deeper with her husband, but it’s causing fights.
Selena: I think that it’s unfortunate, right? You have a wife going to a husband. The flip side of this could be a husband that is… he’s been praying for his wife. Right?
Selena: It could have been answered prayer. It could have been, wow, thank you Lord, that we can now understand scriptures together. But instead it feels like it’s almost this competitive, prideful, insecure sort of battle that he’s dealing with her as if he’s always kind of been the one on top of the whole scripture knowledge thing. Clearly there’s bits of self-righteousness in there, which we all deal with.
Ryan: Here’s the big caveat. We only have Heather’s take.
Ryan: Now, that’s not to discount what Heather has said, but we don’t get to let her husband weigh in. So I don’t want to throw him under the bus.
Ryan: But I also, you know, a wife… she’s intuiting things about their marriage and it’s coming she cared enough to go to our page and ask. By, by the way, if you go to fiercemarriage.com/ask, you can also submit a question, which Heather did. That’s the caveat here is we only have one side, and so we kind of have to take it all a grain of salt. I think wisdom would say that.
Based on how she’s characterized the situation, you nailed it. It seems like there’s some insecurity on part of her husband. So my first question is, how old are you? Because maturity levels don’t seem very high.
Selena: How old are you? How long have you been married? What is kind of your background and history together as well. Yeah, lots of question.
Ryan: Because that would give me the context then to now know, Okay, you have maybe some Bible knowledge, but how much wisdom do you have? And how much maturity do you have? If I’m just gonna be frank at this point, you’re functionally… I mean, based on what you described to me, you’re functionally indiscernible from a non-Christian couple.
Selena: Meaning that you seem like every other…
Ryan: I know a ton of atheists that I interact with online that know scriptures impeccably, they just don’t believe them. And they’ll-
Selena: And they don’t act on them and they don’t-
Ryan: It has no bearing on their life. [Selena laugh]. So if a nonbeliever… There’s no atheism without God, right? [both laugh]. That’s the whole thing. The irony of it. But yeah. Someone who’s a nonbeliever will do nothing the Bible recommends, the Bible says, the Bible commands. Not recommends, commands. Nothing God commands. They will put no weight in what it means to follow Christ. That’s what this feels like to me for her husband to be doing these things.
So here’s some big questions that we need to ask. We’re gonna spend a lot of time asking questions. We’re gonna answer some of them, but other ones, we just want to let them hang. Because if you’re a wife or you’re a husband and you’re in this position you need to be asking these questions. And frankly, us telling you the answers-
Selena: We’re not doing you any favors.
Ryan: You need to wrestle with this. You need to come to grips with these questions and you need to-
Selena: The truth.
Ryan: …go to your spouse and pray that they would want to also come to grips with these questions.
Ryan: So here’s the first question they need to be established. Okay, Heather, what does a Christian actually believe? Because that’s a term people will say America is a Christian nation. Well-
Selena: What does that mean? There’s a whole myriad of-
Ryan: Statistically maybe. Realistically, I doubt it.
Selena: But functionally… yeah.
Ryan: Because it’s really easy to check the box Christian when that’s how you grew up but yet you don’t go to church, you don’t actually read scriptures, you don’t actually live by it, you have a lifestyle that is completely different. But you grew up that way, so yeah, I’m a Christian. Because I’d rather check that than agnostic or atheist, or none. So that’s the big question is, what does a Christian believe?
We’re Protestant and most Christians in the US are gonna also be Protestant, which means that whether you’re reformed or not, you typically will hold to the reformed doctrines, the five solas. So by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Those are the first three solas. And it’s for God’s glory alone. And we live under the ultimate authority of scripture alone.
So what does that mean? Well, I’m gonna actually go to the Apostle’s creed, which I think creeds are underrated nowadays. Here’s what the Apostle’s Creed at least allows. It gives us a baseline to say, If you affirm what this says, you affirm Christian orthodoxy. These are beliefs that are within the scope of what it means to be a Christian. Do you affirm these wholeheartedly, you and your husband, or you and your wife?
“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit; Born of the Virgin Mary; who suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, died and was buried; He descended into Hell; rose again from the dead on the third day; ascended into heaven; and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, who will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit; the Holy catholic church… That’s catholic, as in the universal church.
Selena: The lower c catholic.
Ryan: Lower c catholic. the Communion of Saints; the forgiveness of sins; the Resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
So if you can affirm these things, Heather and husband, then you can say we have Christian beliefs. Then you ask your question, are you a Christian couple because of that? And this sounds silly cause these are really basic questions. But if you’re struggling on this level, you need to establish a baseline. You need to have conversations around these things.
Selena: Well, yeah. Because you essentially, you guys have assumed that you are Christians and you haven’t actually laid out the foundation and done the work of saying, well, this is what we believe and why. Being a Christian is not just going to church occasionally and then opening the Bible occasionally. Right? You’re just poured out for Christ [laugh].
Ryan: Right. And by having that conversation, you can at least say, this is what we’ve put out there.
Selena: Yeah. Here’s where we’re starting from.
Ryan: So when we say things, it binds us in a sense to what we say. Like, if I say, Selena, I’m gonna wash the car tonight, you believe I’m gonna wash the car tonight. Now, if I say that enough and I don’t do it enough, you stop believing the things I say. Meaning that I’m lying functionally to you. I’m lying. Even if I think I’m being genuine but I’m really good at procrastinating, I’m really good at finding excuses, I’m lying if I don’t follow through with washing the car. And I haven’t said such things. [Selena laugh].
Selena: Sorry, I’m not lying and I am not-
Ryan: This is all theoretical [both laugh]. But if you put it out there and say, yes wife, I believe that, husband, I believe that, okay, now it’s time to let the rubber meet the road. What now do Christians do? Christians have a confession of faith, but we also have a life that bears it out. If we have no life evidence, no fruit, then our root is probably dead. Healthy roots have healthy fruits. [laugh]. This is a lot of Christendom. [chuckles]
So what do Christians do? You need to wrestle with that. How does a Christian wife act? If you’re a Christian marriage, how does a Christian husband act? And for these answers, again, we think you should wrestle with this. Because this is how you get on the same page with one another. Now, if you say, well, Christian wife functionally acts the same as a non-Christian, I mean, I do kind of whatever I want, there’s no distinctives to the Christian wife life, there’s no distinctives to the Christian husband life… nothing rhymes with husband [laugh]. If my profession of faith in Christ has no bearing on how I treat you as my wife, then there’s something wrong.
Selena: Right. Missing some pieces.
Ryan: So if that’s the case, there’s a disconnect there, then you have to ask why is there a disconnect? I mean, what’s keeping you from acting like a Christian? [chuckles]
Selena: Your beliefs, right?
Ryan: I think on some level it’s gonna be either a core belief that is… like you say you believe it, but you don’t.
Selena: Your beliefs inform your behavior, which is a motto and theme here at Fierce Marriage. [chuckles]
Ryan: Always. Always. Or maybe you have a lack of knowledge. Now, he, in this case, appears to know a whole lot about scripture, but it’s one thing to have head knowledge and a heart that’s softened and transformed.
Selena: Right. And it sounds like she has the heart that is wanting to have the head knowledge because she has been… you know, God is calling her, God is drawing her in, and clearly she desires to know the Lord. So it’s kind of you have… Again, which I think can be complimentary to each other. You don’t want to marry somebody that is just like you. I think it’s just to give the husband some credit here that he has a lot of knowledge. And what a gift that could… how that if wielded could be a gift or it could be a weapon.
Ryan: He could use that to the edification and beautification of his bride and to helping disciple her while keeping his own heart soft and in turn being discipled by her, by her childlike faith. To not be so up in his head, but to say like, I need to have a sense of wonder about these things.
But if he’s puffed up by his own knowledge… Love builds up, knowledge puffs up. And he’s not building her up in this from what we can tell. So what would keep you from acting like a Christian in this case? You have a lack of knowledge, a lack of desire, competency, meaning that you either don’t want to do it or you’re unable to act like a Christian. Meaning that you don’t know.
So for Heather, I would say there are distinctives to the Christian life that have to do with what we call spiritual disciplines. Now, this is a very careful distinction. Legalism says that if I do the disciplines according to the quote-unquote law, then I will deserve to be saved and I will be saved by my own merit. That’s legalism.
Antinomianism is the opposite end, which is antinomians means law. In Greek antinomians, anti-law, meaning that I don’t… that’s cheap grace. Meaning that I don’t have to do anything. God is gracious. He’s loved me. Well, yes and amen, He is gracious and He has loved you. Does that mean the law bears no weight on our lives, that there’s nothing that we should do as a result of that love?
Selena: So good.
Ryan: So we’re not legalists, we’re not antinomians, but we are people who say, I’m saved by grace alone. And that grace, we’re moving toward the law side, that grace bears fruit. And in the Christian life, we… modern terms for that are spiritual disciplines. Things like being in the scriptures, not forsaking the gathering of the church. Prioritizing discipleship, prayer, even things like fasting, evangelism.
Donald Whitney, I think has a really good book on the spiritual disciplines, which it’s worth checking out if you want to honestly grow. It’s really good. So what’s keeping you from doing the things that a Christian does? The final one would be sin. Again, this is gonna… I’m take this conversation and moving it outside of Heather and her husband because we don’t know them and I don’t want to throw him under the bus.
Selena: No, the situation is allowing for these types of questions to be asked and for listeners to…
Ryan: Yeah. So if a husband who has a bunch of head knowledge is not living that out in his life, there’s gonna be a reason for it.
Ryan: Sin is a possible reason for that.
Selena: Yeah, unrepented sin.
Ryan: Unrepented sin. He could be beholden to some addiction. You know, typically it’s gonna be alcoholism, pornography, gaming and other addictions Could be gambling, drug use. If that addiction or that pattern of sin, that unrepentant sin is left to fester, it will sear the conscience and it will stop the flow of this type of righteousness. I can see how it makes it a lot harder for her husband to live out righteous living when there’s unrepentant sin that he’s convicted of. So those are reasons why you would not act like a Christian in that case.
So here’s the big question. If you find yourself in this place, what do you do? Where do you go? And here’s the first big one. This is the do section. So everybody’s gonna say, Oh, you’re a legalist. We already talked about that. This is not that. But this is, how do we actually move forward in our lives? We can’t just sit where we’re at. We’re called to work out our faith with fear and trembling. Notice the word “work” there. No one likes the word work, but there it is. [laugh]. We’re working out our faith with fear and trembling, also not popular words.
So here’s how we do it. How do we move forward? If I’m in a relationship where we have different beliefs, we’re unequally yoked, friends, turn to Christ. Repent. Believe the gospel.
Ryan: Look at yourself honestly. Look at Christ honestly. Sunny is yes and amen on this [laugh]. She’s off camera right now, but it’s hilarious. Turn to Christ, repent, believe the gospel. And how does that look tangibly, Selena?
Selena: I think just praying together as a couple, asking Christ for forgiveness together. Ask one another for forgiveness. You know, pray that the Holy Spirit would help you, that he would counsel you and guide you. Amen. [Ryan laughs] That He would soften your hearts towards one another and towards the things of Christ. [Ryan laugh]. Amen.
Ryan: She’s Very vocal right now. She always chooses to use all of her words when she sees mom and dad using all their words. So here we are. I love it. Pray together, ask God together. The beauty of that is, friends, is that when we go to Christ with our sin, does He ever just leave you in it? He never does. He always says yes, and He takes your sin and absolves you of it and removes it from you.
Scripture says, as far as the east is from the west, so has He removed my transgressions from me? There’s no limit to the distance between the east and the west. When you repent, you can stand as someone who has been called righteous at that point.
Selena: In John 8, we see a woman caught in the act of adultery. They bring her to Jesus. They say, what are you gonna do? And Jesus stood up and said to her, Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? She said, no one Lord. And Jesus said, neither do I condemn you. Go from now on sin no more. So go and sin no more.
Again, we see this extension of grace, this extension of forgiveness. Jesus has given Himself and saying, here. Here is what I bring to you. Now, we don’t just sit there and she doesn’t just stay there and then go and sin again and get caught in adultery again, right? He said, go and sin no more. And the weight, I think of that, of understanding… we are called to, I think, understand our sin and to mortify it, right? To understand it in terms of the light and the grace and the goodness that Christ is and He’s given us through His life, death and resurrection.
Ryan: And the key there is that she was at the brink of experiencing the ultimate price for her sin, which was death. They lifted up stones to stone her.
Selena: Which is what we are all-
Ryan: And Jesus says that he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Selena: Who was the only one there that could have cast the stone, right?
Ryan: Amen. And He says, Where are your… Yeah, what you just said. So what I’m trying to draw out here is that we need to see our sin for what it is, then we can see God’s forgiveness for what it is. And that then will naturally cause us to live out and do the go and sin no more-
Ryan: …part. So that’s what we’re getting to now, is, you want to move forward in the Christian life, repent of your sin together out loud, overtly, then live in light of the go and sin no more, which is the obey all that Christ commanded. There is a cost to discipleship.
Matthew 28, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, son and the Holy Spirit teaching them to obey all I’ve commanded, by teaching them to do My word. There’s that part that we always overlook. So what does that mean to obey all Christ commanded? I would say this. It means a lot of things. You need to wrestle with that question. But baseline stuff is learn to enjoy and internalize the, the word of God. How can you obey what you do not know?
Number two, love as Christ commanded. So loving God’s word, loving one another as Christ commanded. He says that’s the greatest commandment, to love one another as yourself. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love one another as yourself. So as a husband, how do you serve by leading, how do you love through service and leadership? As a wife, how do you submit in love, in obedience to Ephesians 5, what we see there, by following and helping?
Here’s a caveat for this specific question is, if your husband will not lead, here’s what I would say, follow Christ in what He commands. In other words, you go to church, you study God’s word, you seek godly relationships. Even if he… he cannot forbid you to obey your heavenly Father. No husband has the right to do that. That’s outside of his scope. So you obey God and then lovingly submit and still pray for your husband.
Selena: And you will know how to love your husband-
Selena: …by knowing God’s word. It’s the first thing you said. Learn to love and by God’s word so that you can’t obey. But I think that the loving comes from the knowing and the knowing comes from the loving. It’s just a beautiful cycle that the heart cannot love what the mind does not know.
Ryan: We’re talking as a couple now. So that was kind of like a little sidebar in terms of if you’re a spouse that’s fighting for your faith and your husband, your wife doesn’t support it. But together you’re gonna want to learn to love God’s word, learn to love one another. And then don’t forsake the gathering. It’s in Hebrews. That’s important that we don’t do that. And it’s at our own peril that we-
Selena: We need to be in church. We need to be in a church that teaches the Bible faithfully consistently. And we need to have Christian community. I mean, that was my first question when I heard this was like, where are their Christian friends? Where are their Christian community that they can go to and have face-to-face conversations about this? Who is drawing them in? Not to say that no one is. I believe there are believers around them. But there’s something to be said for Christian community.
Ryan: So all of this starts with that conversation of what do we actually believe and then living out honestly what the implications of what you believe are. Now, if you sit down and you say, I believe in Jesus Christ and your spouse says, I don’t, that’s a different conversation. That’s now a conversation of how do I pray that God would convert the soul of my spouse? That’s a different outworking.
Selena: It’s a whole nother out… Yeah.
Ryan: But hopefully this is helpful for you. If you’re living in maybe unequally yoked marriage where you both maybe are professing Christians, but you haven’t yet found how to live that out faithfully, we pray this helps you. If you’re not a Christian and you want to be one, we know Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. We love Him. We want you to know and love Him too. We want you to know His love for you.
The best way we can think for you to do that is to find a friend who knows what it means to be a Christian, who is a Christian who can read their Bible with you to show you where to go. I’d recommend starting in John, the Gospel of John. Find a church that, like Selena said, preaches outta the Bible. It’s crucial, crucial, crucial. If you can’t find either of those things, you don’t know where to start, we have a website, thenewsisgood.com. It should help you at least a little.
Let’s pray. Father God, thank you for your grace over our lives. Thank you that we can look at you and your full righteousness incarnates by Christ. He lived a life that we could never match and we could never satisfy the requirements of your law. Yet he did. And you’ve given His righteousness to us. Thank you for that. I pray that that truth would help Heather and her husband. It would bear its full weight on them, that they might realize the joy of what it means to be loved and forgiven in you, and then live out the fruit of that realization.
I pray for other couples who are struggling in this way, that you would give them wisdom, discernment, and grace and faith in their journey. In Jesus name. Amen.
Ryan: All right, thanks for listening. Thanks for watching. If you want to support us, go to fiercemarriage.com/partner. We would greatly appreciate that. But other than that, this episode of Fierce Marriage is—
Selena: In the can.
Ryan: We’ll see you again in seven days. Till next time—
Selena: Stay fierce.