A husband and a wife attending separate churches is a situation that is more common than one might think. It’s also common for the children of such a couple to be divided between the two churches, thereby creating a rift in the family that is never healthy. In order to determine whether or not it is “wrong” for a husband and wife to attend separate churches, we must first look at marriage as a relationship instituted by God.

Genesis 2:24 tells us God created man and woman to become “one flesh” when they marry, not two separate beings who go their own separate ways. There is a unity in marriage which is unique and holy. Moreover, marriage is the picture of Christ and His church (believers) as described in Ephesians 5:31-32. The marriage covenant between a man and a woman is symbolic of the covenant between Christ and those for whom He died. His is an everlasting covenant and one that is holy and sacred, just as marriage is to be holy, sacred and unbroken. This unity of two people into one reaches its most sacred in the spiritual realm, where the two are to be of one mind regarding the basic doctrines of Christianity – God, Christ, sin, salvation, heaven/hell, etc. This unity of understanding through the ministry of the Holy Spirit unites a husband and wife in a bond unlike any other on earth.

While it’s possible for a husband and wife to have differing tastes as far as music, preaching or worship styles, children’s programs, etc., none of these things are significant enough to break up the family into two parts so they can attend different churches based on tastes. It is clear that if both churches are Bible-based and Christ-honoring, there is no reason why one spouse can’t bend a little and put his/her personal preferences aside. An even better alternative is for the couple to join together to seek a church where the Word of God is preached as the only guide for faith and practice, where the entire family can learn the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and where the family can fellowship with like-minded believers. In this, the husband, as the spiritual head of the family, should take the lead and make the final decision, lovingly taking his wife’s input into consideration.

Sadly, the two-church family most often crops up in marriages where one spouse was raised Roman Catholic and the other was raised in a Protestant denomination. In situations such as these, it would have been wise for the couple not to marry. Please read the following article: Should Christians of different denominations date or marry? If a marriage has already taken place, the couple should strive for spiritual unity. Two people entrenched in their different doctrinal positions often find it very difficult to compromise and reconcile, but with God, all things are possible. A couple in such a situation may be forced to attend different churches, especially if one or both spouses consider the other spouse’s beliefs to be unbiblical. In such a situation, both spouses should commit to praying that truth be revealed and spiritual unity be achieved.

These doctrinal conflicts must be resolved in a family before true unity can be achieved. A couple attending different churches must be willing to hold everything they are taught up to the light of Scripture and be ready to discard anything that is contradicted by the Bible. They must “test all things and hold fast to that which is true” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Prophet Nathan Emol

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One thing we know for sure: being in an unhappy marriage is not biblical grounds for divorce. In Mark 10:11–12 Jesus said, “A man who divorces his wife so he can marry someone else commits adultery against her. And a woman who divorces her husband so she can marry someone else commits adultery.” Based on the Bible, we see that people don’t have the right to dissolve an unhappy marriage. God intended that marriage be for a lifetime.

Ephesians 5 presents marriage as a picture of the relationship God has with us. This is one reason why God has such an interest in keeping marriages intact. Failed marriages and broken homes are devastating to the husband and wife, not to mention the children involved. Financial ruin is only one of the unhappy results of divorce. The family unit is the basic building block of any society, and rampant divorce has a tragic impact on all of the culture.

This is not to say that God wants to force us to remain forever in an unhappy marriage. He doesn’t ask us to just grit our teeth and suffer through it. When God approaches marital problems, He does so from the perspective of how to fix them, not how to dissolve the marriage. For example, Paul writes of demonic impact in marriages (1 Corinthians 7:5). He states that the couple should be active in the sexual relationship so that Satan cannot tempt them. Peter encourages husbands to treat their wives with understanding so that their prayers will not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7). From these passages we can see that marriage is a spiritual battlefield. It takes work to fight for the relationship, not to fight in the relationship.

God encourages us toward reconciliation. Matthew 18:15–16 demands open, honest communication that deals with hurts and frustrations caused by sin. It even encourages us to get help to resolve problems. God also calls us to find our joy or happiness in Him (Philippians 4:4). The joy of the Lord is something you can have regardless of conditions. In all of God’s guidelines for experiencing joy, none of them require a spouse to cooperate. A spouse does not control our capacity to have joy or peace. James 1:3–4 tells us that deep, abiding joy comes as we persevere through trials, with God’s help, and as our faith matures and strengthens.

The book of Philippians is a great study in the difference between joy and happiness. Written by the apostle Paul while imprisoned in Rome, this book uses the words joy, rejoice, and joyful 16 times and teaches us how to have true contentment in Jesus Christ, despite our circumstances. In chains, Paul talks about his faith and trust in Christ and how it had changed his whole perspective on suffering.

God has given husbands clear-cut instructions in Ephesians 5:25–28: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. . . . So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself.” To wives, God’s instruction is to submit to their husbands’ leadership (verse 22) and to respect their husbands (verse 33). In a Christ-like spirit, both are to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). If both spouses are living up to their biblical responsibilities, there will be joy and happiness in the marriage. What woman wouldn’t respect and submit to a man who loves her the way Christ loves His church? And what man wouldn’t love a woman who respects and submits to him? The unhappiness that is present in too many marriages is often a result of one or both parties refusing to submit to God and obey His revealed will for marriage. Sometimes the unhappiness is exacerbated by unresolved issues of one party that have leaked into the marriage. In those cases, individual counseling may be helpful in addition to marriage counseling.

Even if an unhappy marriage results from a believer being married to an unbeliever, there is always the possibility the believing spouse can lead the unbelieving spouse to the Lord by his or her chaste conduct and kind demeanor. “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives when they see the purity and reverence of your lives” (1 Peter 3:1). The Bible specifically addresses those who are married to unbelievers in 1 Corinthians 7:12–14: “… If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband.”

In the end, we must remember that “the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (1 Peter 3:12). God knows the pain of an unhappy marriage, and He understands fleshly desires, but He has given His Word to us on this matter and He does ask for obedience. Obedience to God always brings joy (Romans 16:19).

Prophet Nathan Emol

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The primary difference between a Christian marriage and a non-Christian marriage is that Christ is the center of the marriage. When two people are united in Christ, their goal is to grow in Christlikeness throughout the life of the marriage. Non-Christians may have many goals for their marriage, but Christlikeness is not one of them. This is not to say that all Christians, when they marry, immediately begin to work toward this goal. Many young Christians don’t even realize this actually is the goal, but the presence of the Holy Spirit within each of them works with them, maturing each one so that the goal of Christlikeness becomes increasingly clear to them. When both partners make becoming more like Christ their individual goal, a strong, vibrant Christian marriage begins to take shape.

A Christian marriage begins with the understanding that the Bible gives a clear description of the roles of husband and wife—found primarily in Ephesians 5—and a commitment to fulfilling those roles. The husband is to assume leadership in the home (Ephesians 5:23-26). This leadership should not be dictatorial, condescending, or patronizing to the wife, but should be in accordance with the example of Christ leading the church. Christ loved the church (His people) with compassion, mercy, forgiveness, respect, and selflessness. In this same way husbands are to love their wives.

Wives are to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22), not because they are to be subservient to them, but because both husband and wife are to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21) and because there is to be an authority structure within the home, with Christ at the head (Ephesians 5:23-24). Respect is a key element of the desire to submit; wives must respect their husbands as husbands are to love their wives (Ephesians 5:33). Mutual love, respect, and submission are the cornerstone of a Christian marriage. Built upon these three principles, both husband and wife will grow in Christlikeness, growing together, not apart, as each matures in godliness.

Another key component in a Christian marriage is selflessness, as described in Philippians 2:3-4. The principle of humility outlined in these verses is crucial to a strong Christian marriage. Both husband and wife must consider their partner’s needs before their own, which requires a selflessness that is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells them. Humility and selflessness do not come naturally to the fallen human nature. They are traits only the Spirit of God can produce, nurture, and perfect in us. That’s why strong Christian marriages are characterized by the spiritual disciplines—Bible study, Scripture memory, prayer, and meditation on the things of God. When both partners practice these disciplines, each is strengthened and matured, which naturally strengthens and matures the marriage.

Prophet Nathan Emol

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 An emotional affair occurs when a married person shares emotional intimacy and support with an individual other than his/her spouse. Becoming emotionally intimate with someone other than one’s spouse can have a chilling effect on the marriage relationship; plus, emotional intimacy often progresses to physical intimacy, bringing devastation. Many people deny the seriousness of emotional affairs, but such affairs are not harmless and can destroy marriages and families.

Marital partners should share problems, feelings, and needs with one another and determine the boundaries of what can be shared outside the marriage and to whom. Having friendships outside of the marriage is a healthy thing, but a reliance on outsiders to meet emotional needs can become a temptation, especially when spouses spend much time apart. Co-workers and others with whom we spend large blocks of time can become a substitute for the emotional support of a spouse. Work relations and friendships need to have proper boundaries to ensure they do not become inappropriate.

There are warning signs that an innocent friendship could be leading to an emotional affair. When we start to feel a need to hide aspects of a relationship, we are crossing a line into inappropriate territory. Emotional distance between spouses or an increase in the number of arguments may indicate one spouse is turning to another person for closeness. Intimacy requires closeness, and that cannot happen if a spouse gives his/her closeness to someone outside the marriage.

Christians should guard against the temptation to lean on someone other than the spouse God has given to them. Here are some wise choices:

1. Do not spend time alone with anyone of the opposite gender, especially someone you are attracted to.
2. Do not spend more time with another person than you do with your spouse.
3. Do not share intimate details of your life with anyone before sharing it with your spouse.
4. Live transparently. Do everything as if your spouse were present.
5. Devote personal time to prayer and Bible study. Ask God to put a hedge around your marriage (Job 1:10).
6. Maintain a pure thought life. Do not entertain fantasies about other people.
7. Plan time with your spouse on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis and use those times to build emotional closeness.

All of these choices will help Christians to identify weak areas and avoid the temptation of emotional affairs.

Christian priorities put marriage and family second only to the Lord. God is the only one who can fully meet our needs, and He is the first priority. God designed marriage to unite two people into one (Genesis 2:24). He wants them to grow together and let nothing separate them (Matthew 19:6). Married partners must value their relationship the way the Lord does and work on ways to strengthen it and build closeness. The Lord also forbids adultery or lusting for a person outside of marriage (Proverbs 6:25Exodus 20:14Matthew 5:28). People who go outside the Lord’s design to meet their needs sin against God and potentially ruin their relationships (Proverbs 6:321 Corinthians 6:9–20).

Many in the world believe that married partners need “space” to the point of leading separate lives to have a healthy relationship. In no way does the Bible advocate codependency. However, a marriage is by definition a life lived and planned together; it is interdependency. Those who do not understand God’s plan for marriage may think it is unhealthy to share everything with one person, but that is what makes marriage different from any other relationship. It is a blessed union between two people and mirrors that of Christ and His church.

Sharing intimacy with someone other than a spouse, whether the intimacy is physical or emotional, is sin and a violation of trust.

Prophet Nathan Emol

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The phrase “unequally yoked” comes from 2 Corinthians 6:14 in the King James Version: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” The New American Standard Version says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

A yoke is a wooden bar that joins two oxen to each other and to the burden they pull. An “unequally yoked” team has one stronger ox and one weaker, or one taller and one shorter. The weaker or shorter ox would walk more slowly than the taller, stronger one, causing the load to go around in circles. When oxen are unequally yoked, they cannot perform the task set before them. Instead of working together, they are at odds with one another.

Paul’s admonition in 2 Corinthians 6:14 is part of a larger discourse to the church at Corinth on the Christian life. He discouraged them from being in an unequal partnership with unbelievers because believers and unbelievers are opposites, just as light and darkness are opposites. They simply have nothing in common, just as Christ has nothing in common with “Belial,” a Hebrew word meaning “worthlessness” (verse 15). Here Paul uses it to refer to Satan. The idea is that the pagan, wicked, unbelieving world is governed by the principles of Satan and that Christians should be separate from that wicked world, just as Christ was separate from all the methods, purposes, and plans of Satan. He had no participation in them; He formed no union with them, and so it should be with the followers of the one in relation to the followers of the other. Attempting to live a Christian life with a non-Christian for our close friend and ally will only cause us to go around in circles.

The “unequal yoke” is often applied to business relationships. For a Christian to enter into a partnership with an unbeliever is to court disaster. Unbelievers have opposite worldviews and morals, and business decisions made daily will reflect the worldview of one partner or the other. For the relationship to work, one or the other must abandon his moral center and move toward that of the other. More often than not, it is the believer who finds himself pressured to leave his Christian principles behind for the sake of profit and the growth of the business.

Of course, the closest alliance one person can have with another is found in marriage, and this is how the passage is usually interpreted. God’s plan is for a man and a woman to become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), a relationship so intimate that one literally and figuratively becomes part of the other. Uniting a believer with an unbeliever is essentially uniting opposites, which makes for a very difficult marriage relationship.

Prophet Nathan Emol

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