Warning Against Marrying Unbelievers (From Bunyan)

This is going to be a pretty short post. I think most born again Christian women are well aware that it is wrong to marry unbelievers. We know the Bible says it’s a sin. And that ought to be enough. It truly should. But I think it is encouraging and edifying when under strong temptation to consider things more closely, and to humbly ask why at the mouth of the Lord that we might be strengthened. Because temptation can be very strong, especially for certain people at certain times. David knew his murder and adultery was wrong. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But had he meditated on why it was wrong and really taken a careful look at what the Word of God says, it might be that he had avoided that sin he fell into. (And not just that, but if he had avoided that wrong place at the wrong time, none of the other stuff would have followed.) That’s why God says in the Bible more than just no. He also tells us why, and he of his goodness, wisdom and kindness tells us why for an important reason. Nothing is in the Bible for just word count.

Especially when we are living in such perilous times as we are, I think it is important to take more than a passing glance at this issue. Society has shifted so men have more direct access to women through online avenues, cell phones, etc. Before it was tricky work to deliver a love letter unnoticed by parental figures. Add to that the whole dating culture and there is much more temptation in this area perhaps now more than ever before. And we are seeing it as a big problem even in churches among professing Christians. The repercussions are just as real as the transgressions. Preventative work is so much easier than trying to repair a huge ugly, sticky mess. We need to be diligent about areas of temptation to sin. It may not be hard to prove it is wrong or take many Scriptures to do so. But God is gracious and out of that graciousness gives us many sub-truths to cling to (which are all branches extending from that primary head; namely of the “thou shalt not” truth in regards to marrying unbelievers) that can help us overcome the battles we face against society, against the devil – and our own selves. They are weapons to help us conquer the giant of temptation. Truth brings freedom.

There are many reasons why a lady as a saved soul might marry an unbeliever. It could be that they might have been married together as unbeliever but she got converted later. If this is the case, there is only mercy there because you did it ignorantly in unbelief (1 Timothy 1:16). It could be they truly thought the person was saved at the time. It is not impossible for someone to fool everybody into thinking they are a godly person. We cannot see to the heart, so very diligent searching on the backend is critical to help detect a phony professor, though again it doesn’t guarantee it. Prayerfully seeking the will and blessing of God on the marriage from the beginning on the part of the parents involved is also essential. If you honestly do all you can to try to make sure you are marrying a true Christian and somehow you end up with a bad apple, God will not hold this as a sin because you cannot see the heart. Though this often arises through oversight, as we’ll see in the story later on.

But on the other hand, it could be fear from financial pressure, lack of fatherly protection, or lack of godly counsel. It could be (and often is) following the lusts of the deceitful, lost heart while backsliding in her walk with God. It could be loneliness or lack of available godly men at the time. These are all things that can contribute to us falling in this area – but none of them justify doing so.

Bunyan in his work The Life and Death of Mr. Badman relates his story of a truly godly lady (whose parents were dead) who was deceived by the falsely pious front put on by Mr. Badman, and through lack of good counsel married him – only to discover his true colors of an abusive evil man later. The story is relayed as a dialogue between two characters.

“And besides I verily think–since in the multitude of counsellors there is safety–that if she had acquainted the congregation with it [marrying Mr. Badman], and desired them to spend some time in prayer to God about it, and if she must have had him, to have received him as to his godliness upon the judgment of others, rather than her own–she knowing them to be godly and judicious and unbiased men–she had had more peace all her life after, than to trust to her own poor, raw, womanish judgment as she did. Love is blind, and will see nothing amiss where others may see a hundred faults. Therefore I say she should not have trusted to her own thoughts in the matter of his goodness.

As to his person, there she was fittest to judge, because she was to be the person pleased, but as to his godliness, there the Word was the fittest judge, and they that could best understand it, because God was therein to be pleased. I wish that all young maidens will take heed of being beguiled with flattering words, with feigning and lying speeches, and take the best way to preserve themselves from being bought and sold by wicked men as she was, lest they repent with her, when, as to this, repentance will do them no good, but for their unadvisedness go sorrowing to their graves.

… And ah! methinks, that they that yet are single persons, and that are tempted to marry to such as Mr. Badman, would to inform and warn themselves in this matter before they entangle themselves, but go to some that already are in the snare, and ask them how it is with them, as to the suitable or unsuitableness of their marriage, and desire their advice. Surely they would ring such a peal in their ears about the unequality, unsuitableness, disadvantages, and disquietments, and sins that attend such marriages, that would make them beware as long as they live. But the bird in the air knows not the notes of the bird in the snare until she comes thither herself. Besides, to make up such marriages, Satan and carnal reason, and lust, or at least inconsiderateness, has the chiefest hand; and where these things bear sway, designs, though never so destructive, will go headlong on; and therefore I fear that but little warning will be taken by young girls at Mr. Badman’s wife’s affliction.

… there is the law of God, that forbiddeth marriage with unbelievers. These kind of marriages are also condemned even by irrational creatures. 1. It is forbidden by the law of God, both in the Old Testament and in the New. 1. In the Old. Thou shalt not ‘make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son’ (Deut 7:3). 2. In the New Testament it is forbidden. ‘Be ye not unequally yolked together with unbelievers, ‘let them marry to whom they will, ‘only in the Lord’ (2 Cor 6:14-16; 1 Cor 7:39(.

Here now is a prohibition, plainly forbidding the believer to marry with the unbeliever, therefore they should not do it. Again, these unwarrantable marriages are, as I may so say, condemned by irrational creatures, who will not couple but with their own sort. Will the sheep couple with a dog, the partridge with a crow, or the pheasant with an owl? No, they will strictly tie up themselves to those of their own sort only. Yea, it sets all the world a wondering, when they see or hear the contrary. Man only is most subject to wink at, and allow these unlawful mixtures of men and women; because man only is a sinful beast, a sinful bird, therefore he, above all, will take upon him, by rebellious actions, to answer, or rather to oppose and violate the law of his God and creator; nor shall these or other interrogatories, What fellowship? what concord? what agreement? what communion can there be in such marriages? be counted of weight or thought worth the answering by him,

But further, the dangers that such do commonly run themselves into, should be to others a dissuasive argument to stop them from doing the lie: for besides the distress of Mr. Badman’s wife, many that have had very hopeful beginnings for heaven, have, by virtue of the mischiefs that have attended these unlawful marriages, miserably and fearfully miscarried. Soon after such marriages, conviction, the first step towards heaven, hath ceased; prayer, the next step towards heaven, hath ceased; hungerings and thirstings after salvation, another step towards the kingdom of heaven, hath ceased. In a word, such miscarriages have estranged them from the Word, from their godly and faithful friends, and have brought them again into carnal company, among carnal friends, and also into carnal delights, where, and with whom, they have in conclusion both sinfully abode, and miserably perished.

And this is one reason why God hath forbidden this kind of unequal marriages. ‘For they,’ saith he, meaning the ungodly, ‘will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods; so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly’ (Deut 7:4). Now mark, there were some in Israel, that would notwithstanding this prohibition, venture to marry to the heathens and unbelievers. But what followed ‘They served their idols, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils. They were defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions; therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance’ (Psalm 106:36-40).”

The story continues to give a full account of the many unexpected trials and ills that came to Mr. Badman’s wife, and the impact on their children, only one of which turned out to follow the Lord. I think it is easy to get caught up in our own emotions as women and what makes us happy at the time, in the moment, forgetting the repercussions it can have on the next generation. These are a grave lesson to us ladies.

Leave a Reply