Uniting the Divided Household
“Wife, how do you know but that you will save your husband? Or, husband, how do you know but that you will save your wife?”—1 Cor. 7:16.
1. What did Jesus Christ foretell with regard to households, and why?
DIVIDED households—how could such a thing come about? By one or more members of a household learning God’s truth, the truth concerning God’s purposes, as revealed in the Holy Bible. Yes, this is what Jesus Christ foretold at Luke 12:51-53: “Do you imagine I came to give peace on the earth? No, indeed, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on there will be five in one house divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Not all persons in a family, Jesus shows, will readily recognize or appreciate the truth that comes from God.
2, 3. Since Jesus is no marriage wrecker, what is the wise way to handle a divided household?
2 Since God’s truth is not popular with this world, many persons oppose it and especially resent it when members of their own household take a stand for God and his kingdom. Divided households, as Jesus’ prophecy indicates, were certain to occur. But does this mean that the situation in a divided household is hopeless? that nothing can be done to help the situation? No! Improvement is possible. Jesus is no marriage wrecker, so one’s learning God’s truth does not mean breaking up the marriage. The wise and optimistic way to handle a divided household is set out by the apostle Paul at 1 Corinthians 7:12-16:
3 “If any brother has an unbelieving wife, and yet she is agreeable to dwelling with him, let him not leave her; and a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and yet he is agreeable to dwelling with her, let her not leave her husband. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in relation to his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in relation to the brother; otherwise, your children would really be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbelieving one proceeds to depart, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not in servitude under such circumstances, but God has called you to peace. For, wife, how do you know but that you will save your husband? Or, husband, how do you know but that you will save your wife?”
4. In what sense can a believing wife “save” her unbelieving husband?
4 Can the believing wife, then, “save” her unbelieving husband by staying with him? Yes, this might be possible. If she does in time “save” her husband, it is, of course, salvation in a relative sense, since salvation is from Jehovah. (Rev. 7:10) But a wife can in a relative measure save her husband, just as a person can use a company’s facilities for lifesaving to save a drowning man. The company may have a boat with rescue equipment. And when the rescuers see a person floundering in the sea, they throw out equipment to save him. The one hauling the person in from the raging sea is the one most active in the salvation, yet the company, too, must be considered, since it provided the facilities for lifesaving. Jehovah makes the arrangements for salvation, but he uses individuals to have a part in this lifesaving work.
5, 6. What, then, is the proper attitude for a believer with an unbelieving mate?
5 So the believing wife can “save” her unbelieving husband. She can help him to salvation. How encouraging that is! To do this, the apostle Paul says, let the wife stay with her unbelieving husband. A Christian wife preaches the Kingdom good news to outsiders, so why not try to help members of her own household, especially that one with whom she is one flesh? Thus Christian women with unbelieving husbands should never lose hope that their divided household can be united!
6 Consider, for example, the mother of three children in Spain. She was cruelly opposed when she learned the Bible truth. Her husband even applied in a Catholic court for separation, charging that his wife was poisoning the children’s minds. The court awarded custody of two children to the father. All seemed lost. But she appealed to God. Later, by chance, the husband happened to meet an old friend. How surprised he was to learn that his friend was now one of Jehovah’s witnesses! After a two-hour discussion, a Bible study was started with the husband. He changed, and now his family is “more united than ever before.” So Christian wives need never lose hope.
7. What factors may account for a husband’s remaining an unbeliever, and so what should Christian ministers do?
7 Also it is well to remember that it is not always a case of the unbeliever outrightly hating God’s truth. Why, it may be that he simply was not introduced to Bible truth at the same time, and so he resents his mate’s being ahead of him. Also perhaps no effort was made to hold a Bible study with the entire family. As a result the unbelieving member may not understand what Jehovah’s witnesses really teach and what they are really like. Or could it be that the husband does not want to be taught religion by his wife? There is need for Christian ministers to analyze a situation in which the husband remains an unbeliever. What is the root of the problem?
8. How do unbelievers differ as to degree, and how can progress be made in helping any unbeliever?
8 Remember, unbelievers differ as to degree. Some bitterly persecute the believer. Some constantly nag the believer, trying to break down integrity. Some subtly discourage the believer. Others show indifference toward true worship. Other unbelieving mates are favorable to God’s truth but do little to make spiritual progress. Gradual progress can be made in helping the unbeliever in any of these categories. Showing the proper Christian qualities results in breaking down opposition or in stirring up interest. If the unbeliever is favorable, the believer, with the aid of the Christian congregation, should work toward the goal of uniting the family by means of a home Bible study. If the unbeliever is opposed, the believer needs to endure even under abuse and persecution.
KEEPING INTEGRITY—THE FIRST GOAL
9. (a) What is the Christian’s foremost goal in a divided household? Why? (b) If the unbeliever presses the matter to a showdown, then what?
9 This brings us to the first goal in a divided household. What is that? The believer needs to keep integrity to God and to obey the one through whom God speaks today—his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. To yield integrity is to yield life itself. (Heb. 1:1, 2; 2:3; Matt. 10:32-35) When discussing divided households, Jesus said: “Indeed, a man’s enemies will be persons of his own household,” and then Jesus explained: “He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me; and he that has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10:36, 37) If it must come to a showdown, then what? The believer must “obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) True, it may be a long war of nerves, but keep the goal of integrity foremost. The believer should refuse to become provoked or loud, when the going gets difficult. Realize that it is better to take abuse than to give it. (Eph. 4:26, 29, 31) And all who are members of the Christian congregation can help these persons who are fighting the battle of integrity on the home front. Encourage them to endure, to keep integrity to Almighty God.
10, 11. Why is keeping integrity to God vital in helping the unbeliever?
10 Always remember this: The integrity of the believer is a must to enable the unbeliever to see the importance of loving God’s truth. Consider what might happen if a wife fails to keep integrity by agreeing not to go to meetings of the Christian congregation. May not the husband feel that these meetings could not be so important after all or she would never give them up? May he not feel that her interest in the Bible is merely a passing fancy and nothing of any consequence? If so, how can the believer expect the unbeliever to take an interest in God’s Word?
11 On the other hand, if the wife keeps on going to meetings of the Christian congregation, explaining to her unbelieving husband why they are so important to her, he might in time be impressed. May not the unbeliever eventually accept an invitation to attend one of these meetings and thus see for himself their beneficial nature? So the believing mate must always remember that keeping integrity works for the benefit not only of the believer, but also of the unbeliever.
HELPING THE UNBELIEVING MATE—THE SECOND GOAL
12. (a) If the second goal in a divided household is to be realized, what should the believer try to do? (b) If staying with an unbelieving mate results in domestic persecution, how should this be viewed?
12 The believer’s keeping integrity is a must if the second goal is ever to be realized—and that is to help the unbelieving mate to learn God’s truth. To do this the believing mate tries to stay with the unbelieving mate. By living together, the unbeliever is in constant touch with true worship, and this is most beneficial for the unbelieving mate and for the children. Timothy’s mother, a Jewess, evidently remained with her unbelieving Greek husband, all the while imparting Scriptural instruction to her son Timothy. (Acts 16:1; 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14, 15) This home religious education of Timothy prevailed over any pagan influence of his Greek father. So when the apostle Paul came to town the first time, Timothy joined his Jewish mother and his grandmother in becoming a Christian. (1 Tim. 1:1, 2; 2 Tim. 1:1, 2) Continuing to live with an unbelieving mate may subject the believing one to some form of domestic persecution. But, rather than separate, the believer can accept this as suffering for Christ’s sake and can strive to show the unbelieving mate good Christian endurance. “If, when you are doing good and you suffer, you endure it, this is a thing agreeable with God.”—1 Pet. 2:20.
13. Why should the believer never give up hope that the unbelieving mate will respond to the Bible’s message?
13 If your marriage mate is opposed to God’s truth, tactfully try to help the unbeliever. Gradually endeavor to reduce the opposition. If the unbeliever is not opposed, but simply is indifferent, try to stir up interest gradually. Never give up in your determination to help the unbelieving mate to learn God’s truth. As trouble and violence increase throughout the earth, some unbelievers may be jarred into examining the Bible’s explanation of present-day events. Also circumstances change. One husband who was unfavorable to the message of Jehovah’s witnesses had an auto accident and narrowly escaped death. The next day he asked his wife to call a Witness, and a home Bible study was started with him. There is always hope that a divided household can be united. But to unite such a household, it is absolutely vital that the believing mate live up to the twofold goal: Keep integrity and try to help the unbeliever to learn God’s truth. Always work toward the goal of a united household, praying God’s blessing upon your loving efforts.
THE CHRISTIAN HUSBAND IN A DIVIDED HOME
14. Why is one’s being a Christian husband in a divided house a more favorable situation, and what is the husband’s responsibility?
14 Not always, of course, does a divided household have an unbelieving husband; the unbeliever may be the wife. If so, what is the Christian husband’s responsibility? A dedicated, baptized worshiper of Jehovah God should give his unbelieving wife no occasion for wanting to depart from him. Because of the bettering effect of her husband’s belief upon him, she should see all the more reason for being agreeable to dwelling with him the same as before he became a Christian witness of Jehovah. One’s being a Christian husband in a divided home is a more favorable situation than a wife’s having an unbelieving husband. This is because here the believer is the head of his household. Though head of the house, the Christian husband still needs to use tact and kindness when speaking about God’s truth to his unbelieving mate. Properly the believing husband will kindly invite his wife to accompany him to meetings of the Christian congregation; but, if she refuses to respond to the invitation, he will not become angry with her, nor will he allow any wifely opposition to cause him to neglect associating with God’s people.—Heb. 10:24, 25.
15-18. What are three possibilities to consider when the wife remains an unbeliever?
15 Why, then, does a wife sometimes appear opposed to God’s truth? Although there are many reasons, there are three that the believer does well to consider:
16 (1) Is it possible that he seems to be forcing Bible truth on her? If so, remember that it is vital to present the truth tactfully at the right time to unbelieving loved ones. A fine thing along this line would be for mature Christian women to call upon the unbelieving wife to try to kindle her interest and endeavor to start a home Bible study with her.
17 (2) Is the believer insisting on his personal desires that are not related to God’s requirements and that seem to slight her interests? How good it would be for him to put aside a few desires to spend some time doing what she wants!
18 (3) It may be that the unbelieving wife is mainly opposed to her husband’s being away from home so much, rather than the Bible truth itself. So he must realize that she needs companionship and recreation provided by him. True, he cannot compromise Christian duties just to please her, but he may have to adjust his schedule to be with her more. His applying these principles may cause her to look into the faith that produced such loving consideration from him.
19. Like the apostle Paul, what principle should the believing husband follow when trying to save another?
19 To help win his unbelieving wife to God’s truth, the believing husband does well to pay heed to the principle followed by the apostle Paul toward those he was trying to save. Said the apostle: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews . . . To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to people of all sorts, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Cor. 9:20, 22) The apostle Paul sympathetically considered the problems of the Jews. He respected their convictions, though he knew them to be wrong. He did not mock, despise or act intolerantly toward the Jews he was endeavoring to save. Likewise Christian husbands do well not to mock, be intolerant or ridicule their unbelieving wives. If they do, they will drive their wives farther away. Instead, show empathy and love. Ask yourself: “How would I like to be dealt with if I were in the same situation?” Love endures all things.—1 Cor. 13:4-8.
20. When there are children in a divided household, what is the Christian father’s responsibility?
20 What if there are children in such a divided household? The apostle Paul indicates what the Christian father’s duty is: “You, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) Note that the Christian father has the obligation from Jehovah as the head of the house to insist on rearing his children as true Christians. So as not to fail as the spiritual provider of his family, it thus becomes mandatory for him to lead the children in attendance at meetings of the Christian congregation, in the public sharing of the good news of God’s kingdom and in having a home Bible study with them. This is the wise course and may have the same gratifying results that came to a Witness in Panama who started a home Bible study with his children. Imagine his joy when his opposed wife began to listen and take part in the study and eventually came to accept God’s truth!
21. Why is balance with regard to Christian privileges and responsibilities important?
21 Taking the lead with the children also requires balance. It would not be wise for him and the children to leave his wife home alone all day, as she would quite naturally resent it. How fine it would be for him considerately to arrange his schedule perhaps to engage in the field ministry on Saturdays and attend the meetings on Sundays, thereby providing part of these days for the whole family to be together. This loving course will likely unite his children with him in the Bible’s truth and may bring the blessing of the wife’s accepting it.
22, 23. When a wife abusively opposes her husband’s love and zeal for God, what should be his course of conduct?
22 Suppose, now, that the situation is that the wife really is opposed to true Christianity. What if she openly expresses herself as being against it and even speaks against her husband because of his love and zeal for God? Then the husband must endure under abuse and keep integrity. David’s wife Michal spoke very belittlingly of his worship of Jehovah, even to the point of despising her husband in her heart. David did not let her displeasure dampen his zeal and enthusiasm and love for God, did he? Not at all! Nor did faithful Job weaken in integrity when his wife and others of his companions spoke against him. What fine examples for believing husbands with unbelieving mates!—2 Sam. 6:14-23; Job 2:9, 10; 16:19-21; 42:10, 11.
23 How should the husband react to his wife’s unkind words? Romans 12:21 very clearly answers: “Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.” So it is evident that his answers must be mild, not in anger, which only makes matters worse. Women respond to kindness and love, not to a hard pressing of matters. Love and long-suffering wear down opposition and may cause the opposer to respect one’s faithful stand. This is the good advice given at Colossians 3:19: “You husbands, keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them.” The point is this: Be a better husband—more considerate, kind and understanding. The apostle Peter encourages the Christian husband to have the proper view of his wife, saying: “You husbands, continue dwelling in like manner with them according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.”—1 Pet. 3:7.
24, 25. How can a believing husband show his unbelieving wife Christian consideration?
24 So win her to God’s truth as you won her to yourself when courting her. Do not be dictatorial and harsh as so many worldly husbands are. In many ways you can show her Christian consideration. Get her thoughts before making final decisions. Show concern for her. Give as much time as possible to the one with whom you chose to share your life. Often reassure her of your continuing love.
25 Remember, it is easy to lose your temper and speak in anger. But such talk betrays a lack of self-control, a lack of one of the fruits of God’s spirit. (Gal. 5:22, 23) It takes a real man, a real Christian man, to practice the fine conduct and tactful speaking of the truth that the Bible outlines. So why lose self-control and be unhappy when you can bring forth the Christian fruitage of God’s spirit that brings true peace and happiness to you?
26. What can often be done to help opposing wives, as illustrated by the success of a circuit servant in Malawi?
26 Even though a wife may seem to oppose Bible truth, it has been found time and time again that when she is approached tactfully, often a Bible study can be started. In Malawi a circuit supervisor of Jehovah’s witnesses started home Bible studies with five opposing wives by calling on their husbands and tactfully asking the wives to join in. Shortly thereafter, the wives said that they really appreciated the Bible study that was started in their homes and that it was sufficient for them to see that this was the truth. They even expressed their desire to share in the Kingdom ministry.
27, 28. (a) What has been of great help in uniting divided households, as illustrated by an experience in the Philippine Islands? (b) So what is the Christian course in a divided household?
27 Thus friendly visits by mature Christians have often been of great help in uniting divided households. In the Philippine Islands, for example, the wife of one Witness was so opposed that she would dampen his clothing on days that she knew he might go out in the field ministry, and she burned his Bible and Bible literature. However, a mature Witness made friendly calls on the family and was gradually able to overcome the prejudice of the wife. Finally a Bible study was started with the entire family. The study progressed well for several months, and the wife reached the point of dedicating her life to God. Imagine the joy of the husband as he himself baptized his wife in a nearby river! When they came out of the water they embraced each other with tears in their eyes, thanking Jehovah that their long-divided family was at last united in true worship through the help of a loving Christian brother.
28 Never become discouraged, then, or give up in your fine efforts to unite your household in true worship. Apply the good counsel of God’s Word to your family and be assured that Jehovah’s blessing will be upon your household.—Gal. 6:9.