The Christian Wife and Children in a Divided Household
“You wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives.”—1 Pet. 3:1.
1-3. Why is spiritual rescue work now urgent? How can neglect be a factor in a divided household?
WHEN the lives of people are endangered, such as in fires, floods, and so forth, rescue work is urgent. At times, however, on account of thoughtlessness or carelessness lives are lost. In this there is a lesson for Jehovah’s witnesses. How so? Because they realize that this system of things and all who are a part of it will be destroyed in the not-so-distant future. But before that happens they must continue to aid people to come out of this doomed system and to enter the “narrow gate” that leads to everlasting life in God’s new system of things.—Matt. 7:13, 14.
2 Certainly Jehovah’s witnesses do not want to neglect anyone or make it more difficult for others to learn God’s truth because of thoughtless words or actions on their part. This would also be true in a divided household. There are times when husbands are not actually opposed, but have been neglected. For example, one wife in talking to her husband about the meetings of the Christian congregation was told, “But you’ve never invited me.” So a tactful invitation to the congregation’s meeting is not to be neglected at the opportune time.
3 Wives and children in families where the husband and father is not a believer would surely want to do everything they can to aid him to take his stand for Jehovah and His kingdom. However, in presenting the Bible truth to the unbelieving family head there are certain things that believing wives and children can do and certain things they should avoid.
“ALWAYS WITH GRACIOUSNESS”
4. In view of Colossians 4:6, what will Christian wives avoid when trying to help their unbelieving husbands to see God’s truth?
4 In helping others in this manner, it is important to try to place ourselves in the position of the other person. By doing so, we can see how unwise it would be to bring up Bible truth continually. Personally we would not enjoy repeatedly hearing a subject discussed that did not interest us. Even if we had some interest in it, too many words could easily turn us against the whole thing. Hence, in presenting the truth from the Bible to an unbelieving husband, how inappropriate it would be for a wife to try to force the truth on him, to call him stubborn or to make uncomplimentary remarks about his not seeing the truth. Doing so would not be in harmony with the apostle Paul’s counsel at Colossians 4:6: “Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.”
5, 6. (a) What does it mean to speak God’s message “always with graciousness,” and why is this so important? (b) So how will a Christian wife not react when her husband shows no interest in Bible truth?
5 Here the apostle Paul is telling Christians that it is not only what you say that matters, but equally as vital is how you say it! The apostle is talking about how you speak Bible truth to others. We need to remember that there is an art of presenting information. The Christian message can lose its force if the way we say it is not “always with graciousness.” This does not require flattery, but it means speaking God’s truth in a way that is profitable to one and upbuilding. And “always” means not only when the Christian minister is preaching from house to house but also at home! So, when opportunities arise to present a knowledge of God’s truth to an unbelieving husband, the believing wife would want to make the best of them, doing so “always with graciousness.” She does this by being tactful and kind.
6 When a wife presents Bible truth kindly to her husband and there is no response, then what? Should she act terribly disappointed? Should she then become angry? No! Instead of showing open disappointment or becoming angry with her husband, the Christian wife does well to close the matter when it is appropriate. She does not press matters too far, nor does she become overanxious.
7. When an unbeliever treats his believing wife abusively, is she ever justified in using the truth to threaten him? Explain.
7 Showing respect toward her husbandly head, the Christian wife would not use God’s truth to threaten him. (Eph. 5:33) Even if he rejects the truth, does not want to hear about it, or even treats his wife abusively, reviling her, she would not be justified in using the truth to threaten him. When her gracious words are rejected or she is treated abusively, the Christian wife does well to remember Jesus’ example. Concerning this, the apostle Peter wrote: “In fact, to this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely. He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth. When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.” (1 Pet. 2:21-23) That is the wise course for Christian wives.
THE “QUIET AND MILD SPIRIT”
8. In what powerful way can a Christian wife witness to her unbelieving husband, as stated by the apostle Peter?
8 There is another way in which a wife can witness to her husband, regardless of how opposed he might be to Bible truth. That is by her fine conduct. The apostle Peter stresses the value of this fine conduct. He writes: “In like manner, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect. And do not let your adornment be that of the external braiding of the hair and of the putting on of gold ornaments or the wearing of outer garments, but let it be the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God.”—1 Pet. 3:1-4.
9. What quality should distinguish one’s Christian conduct, as illustrated by Jesus and as recommended by Peter? Why?
9 The apostle Peter emphasizes the value of fine conduct and the “quiet and mild spirit.” From the context we learn that the apostle is discussing the Lord Jesus Christ and how mildness distinguished him. When he was undergoing injustices, he refused to make vehement protest. He went like a lamb to the slaughter, knowing it was God’s will for him. There was no loud, strong protest, no departing from mildness. And so Peter, talking to married women, stresses that mildness has great value in the eyes of God. He contrasts mildness with the outward adornment by which some women largely try to capture the attention and affection of their husbands, that is, by the garments of outward apparel. But unlike cloth garments that get old and wear out, the apostle Peter calls mildness something that is “incorruptible.” It is incorruptible apparel.
10. (a) Why does mildness betoken, not weakness, but strength? (b) Why must the strong-willed wife be especially careful to show mildness?
10 Though not pretentious, mildness works; it brings good results. “An answer, when mild, turns away rage.” And “a mild tongue itself can break a bone.” (Prov. 15:1; 25:15) Mildness thus betokens not weakness but strength. One must develop spiritual inward strength in order to show mildness and quietness. Thus if a Christian woman is married to an unbelieving husband, she is not to rise up in indignation and anger and engage in an altercation or argument with her husband. A strong-willed wife may actually hinder her mate in learning God’s truth. But mildness, when coupled with quietness, is effective, for it is God’s way.
11, 12. Illustrate that mildness and fine Christian conduct can win unbelievers to God’s truth.
11 Many are the examples of how the “quiet and mild spirit” has helped unbelieving husbands. In one case a wife began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses. After a few weeks she began to change her personality. Previously she had a violent temper and used profane language. Her husband had threatened to leave home because of the cursing and the way she was treating the children. After this wife had studied the Bible for some weeks with Jehovah’s witnesses, her husband came to the Witness conducting the study and asked what was causing his wife to change so much. She was now beginning to control her spirit, to use better language and to treat her children much better. Upon learning that it was Bible truth, the husband also began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses, and soon made progress to the extent that now he wanted to share the good news with his friends and neighbors. Here was a home in which the husband was ready to leave, but the change in his wife’s conduct due to studying the Bible united what was rapidly becoming a divided home.
12 Illustrating that an unbelieving husband can be won to God’s truth by the fine conduct of his wife is an experience in Hungary. An unbelieving husband treated his Christian wife cruelly, often beating her until she was unconscious. But she kept integrity to God, and always dealt with her husband patiently and with love, and this over a period of years. On one occasion she told her husband kindly but firmly: “Here I am and you can kill me, but even so I shall trust in Jehovah!” This man had a friendship with a local priest, who had full confidence in the husband because he was fighting against Jehovah’s witnesses, not even sparing his own wife. One day the priest told this man that he should not even take a Bible into his hand. Shocked, the husband asked, “Well, is it a sin to read the Bible?” The priest replied that it was not but if he did, he might one day nourish beliefs the same as his wife. The man then admitted how loving and patient his wife was despite his hard dealings with her. He told the priest that if Bible reading produces such results, it seemed worth while to read God’s Word. He began attending meetings of the Christian congregation with his wife and took up preaching the very truth he had formerly opposed.
13. (a) So because of his wife’s fine conduct, what may an unbelieving husband eventually realize? (b) Why is the Christian wife never the loser for applying Peter’s inspired counsel?
13 When an unbelieving husband observes the fine conduct of his believing wife, he may come to appreciate that she has something that he does not have. And he may want to be like her. However, even if the unbeliever does not accept God’s truth, the wife certainly is not the loser for having applied the inspired counsel given by the apostle Peter. Mildness, we need to remember, is also of “great value in the eyes of God.” Hence the believing wife can rest assured of Jehovah’s tender care.
14, 15. (a) What incentives does a believing wife have for being submissive to her unbelieving husband? (b) Is her submissiveness absolute?
14 As the apostle Peter indicates, the “quiet and mild spirit” displayed by the Christian wife will cause her to be submissive to her husband. This is Jehovah’s will for Christian wives, just as much as it is his will for them to have a part in preaching the Kingdom good news. (Titus 2:4, 5) And a wife with an unbelieving mate has the added incentive to be submissive in compliance with the divine will so that in this way she might help a loved one to learn God’s truth.—Eph. 5:21, 22.
15 A wife’s submissiveness, of course, is not absolute but relative. If her husband tries to cause her to violate God’s law, she follows the example of the apostles, who said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
16. In striving to be a model Christian wife, what will the believer do? And what may be the result?
16 At all times, though, the believing wife should strive to be a model Christian wife, carrying out all wifely duties to the best of her ability. Never should she give her husband reason to complain that she is neglecting to care for the home and children properly. At no time will she view herself as the one who should make the family decisions because of her knowing Bible truth. So, she will respect her husband, and her good example will help him to appreciate the value of Bible truth. Her chaste conduct with deep respect may open his eyes to see what a fine wife he has and lead him to accept God’s truth. What a blessing that would prove to be for him and for her!—Eph. 5:33.
17, 18. Explain why good planning is also important in helping the unbelieving husband.
17 Besides speaking with graciousness and showing the “quiet and mild spirit,” what else may a Christian wife do to help her husband see God’s truth? Good planning is important so that she will be well balanced in her activities, not neglecting her children nor her husband nor her Christian privileges.
18 Good planning will help the Christian wife to refrain from doing anything that might contribute to her husband’s building up resentment for God’s truth. To illustrate, the unbelieving husband may wish to be with his wife for the weekend. However, because his wife shares in the field ministry and goes to the meetings of the Christian congregation, he may begin to feel that his wife’s religion is taking her away from him. While he may not object to her being gone for a few hours to a meeting, he may very much dislike his wife’s being away for prolonged periods. In this case good planning on the part of the wife is necessary. She might arrange to share in the ministry on the weekdays when her husband is away. Perhaps this will require curtailing her Christian ministerial activity to some extent, but still not forsaking the Christian obligation to share the good news and to assemble regularly with fellow believers.
19. How might a Christian wife help her husband spiritually in an indirect manner?
19 There are also other ways in which Christian wives can help their unbelieving husbands, but in a somewhat indirect manner. For example, a Christian wife might ask her husband for suggestions in preparing a talk for the Theocratic Ministry School. This was recommended to a believing wife in Bolivia. Her husband had threatened her with violence if she ever were to participate in the door-to-door preaching work. However, she enlisted her husband’s aid in preparing talks for the Theocratic Ministry School. In time, this man’s attitude improved. He eventually became the Bible study servant in the Christian congregation!
20, 21. (a) What else can a Christian wife do to help her unbelieving husband? (b) What publications of the Society have especially helped unbelieving husbands?
20 Another thing a wife can do to interest her husband indirectly in God’s Word is to leave some Bible literature in an appropriate place in the home. It may be an article on some subject in which her husband has a particular interest. At some time when the wife is busy or away, her husband may be in search of good reading matter and may richly benefit from the material that the wife has made available. Of course, should a husband resent having Bible literature out in the open, then it would be best to keep such publications in a private place.
21 Certain publications of the Watch Tower Society have been particularly effective in helping unbelievers, even those who seem opposed, to appreciate the reasonableness of Bible truth. Some opposed mates, although accepting little or nothing else, have accepted and enjoyed reading the Watch Tower Society’s book Did Man Get Here by Evolution or by Creation? Speaking of this publication, one circuit supervisor of Jehovah’s witnesses observed: “Quite a number of men in this circuit, mostly husbands of believing women in the congregations, have come to appreciate the clear, logical arguments presented in this publication. This has helped some to be more tolerant of their wives’ Christian activities.” The book Is the Bible Really the Word of God? is another fine publication for helping unbelieving husbands.
FRIENDLY CALLS ON THE UNBELIEVER
22-24. (a) How can the wrong impressions of an unbelieving husband often be corrected? (b) What opportunities are there for mature Christians to get acquainted with an unbelieving husband?
22 Often it is possible for mature Christians to make friendly calls on the unbelieving husband. He may have a wrong impression of Jehovah’s people and this can eventually be corrected. The purpose of such calls is to get to know him, to befriend him. It will be helpful to find out what his interests are, because people enjoy talking about what they really like. So it would be good for the believing wife to enlist the aid of a mature Christian brother, perhaps one who has some interest along the line of the unbeliever’s likes, such as fishing, farming, a knowledge of sports, and so forth. A few friendly visits will often break down prejudice and enable the minister to correct any false impressions.
23 Some mature Christians have found it helpful to invite the unbelieving husband and his Christian wife to come to dinner, with a view to getting acquainted and to breaking down prejudice that may exist. Some have found that when an unbelieving husband has a business, by patronizing that business they have been able to get better acquainted with him.
24 Should the unbeliever become sick or be confined to a hospital, friendly visits by dedicated Christians may encourage him in many ways. Consider this example of an unbelieving husband in Luxembourg. He became very ill and had to go to the hospital. During this time he was afraid of dying, and he began to read Bible literature. Not one of his fellow employees visited him in the hospital, but Jehovah’s witnesses did. This made such an impression upon him that he started to attend the congregation meetings after his recovery. In this way he learned God’s truth, and he became a dedicated, baptized Christian.
STARTING A HOME BIBLE STUDY
25. (a) What should be the objective in making friendly calls on the unbelieving husband? (b) If the wife is advanced in Bible truth, what course may be advisable?
25 In making friendly calls on the unbelieving husband, Christians want to work toward the objective of starting a Bible study with him. Frequently, husbands do not like to have wives teach them religion, but prefer to be taught by other men. If the believing wife is not too far advanced in Bible knowledge, it may be possible for a Witness to invite the unbelieving husband to study along with his wife. However, when the wife is advanced in Bible truth, the husband’s pride is a factor that may have to be taken into consideration. Should a Witness succeed in starting a study with the man, it may be advisable for the wife to leave the room during the study. The husband may then relax more and speak more freely.
26, 27. (a) Who can be of great help to believing wives with unbelieving husbands, and what did one overseer say in this regard? (b) If an unbelieving husband is reluctant to participate in a Bible study, how may he be helped to sit in on it?
26 Servants in the Christian congregation will especially want to be of help to believing wives with unbelieving husbands, to help to unite the divided household. One overseer who put forth special efforts in this regard was greatly blessed. Over a period of about two years he had Bible studies with eight husbands, three of whom are making good progress. “I find,” he reports, “that these unbelieving husbands will respond when called on by men, especially by the overseer.”
27 If an unbelieving husband is reluctant to join the Bible study, it may still be possible to help him to sit in on it, not with the idea that he would have an active part in the study, but merely to be there to check the things being taught his wife to see whether they are true. This opportunity for him to hear the kind of information that his wife is receiving may favorably influence him in a very short time. A wife who tactfully asks her husband to sit in on the Bible study to make certain that what she is being taught is all truth from the Bible may find her husband responding to the authority and logic of God’s Word.
FINE CONDUCT OF THE CHILDREN
28. In order for children to help their unbelieving fathers to learn God’s truth, how must they be trained?
28 Frequently, there is another avenue by which the unbelieving husband can be assisted, and that is through his children. The mother can in many cases tactfully arrange to have the children go with her to the meetings of the Christian congregation and share in the field ministry. Should the husband object, the wife may accede to her husband’s wishes. Nevertheless, at home the mother can teach the children Bible principles as to how they should conduct themselves. Children so trained can do much to encourage an unbelieving parent to look into the Bible.
29, 30. (a) Why is respect for the unbelieving parent important? (b) When an unbeliever observes the fine conduct of his children, what may result?
29 When believing children show obedience and respect to their unbelieving parent, they are doing the will of God. Showing respect toward the unbeliever is very important. If the unbeliever saw his children studying the Bible with their mother and yet noted that they were becoming hostile toward him, would this cause him to view the Bible favorably? The answer is obvious. How important it is therefore for children to heed the Bible’s counsel: “Be obedient to your parents in everything,” that is, everything not contrary to God’s will. (Col. 3:20) Believing children should respond eagerly and willingly to requests to do something, whether it be to wash or dry dishes, set the table, mow the lawn or do something else.
30 When the unbeliever observes the fine spirit of his children, which is so unlike that of great numbers of disrespectful youths of the world, it may move him to investigate their faith. When he sees that they do not steal, tell lies or get into trouble, he may see the contrast between his children and worldly ones, causing him to think or say, “My children don’t do that.” This may be just the thing to aid the unbeliever in opening his eyes to see that Bible truth is worth investigating. What a blessing this would be for God-fearing children!
31. Summarize some of the things that can be done to help unite a divided household.
31 Really, much can be done to work toward uniting a divided household. Keep the two goals (maintaining integrity and being alert to help the unbeliever) foremost in mind. Speak about God’s truth “always with graciousness,” remembering that mildness breaks down opposition. Fine conduct works in a powerful way, enabling the Christian wife in many cases to win her husband to God’s truth “without a word.” Good planning will aid the believer to be well-balanced in all activities. Use the various means of indirect aid. Arrange for friendly calls on the unbeliever, with the goal of starting a Bible study to unite the family. Do not give up hope. Be encouraged by God’s Word and what it records at 1 Corinthians 7:16 and; 1 Peter 3:1. Do your best under the circumstances, and be assured of the blessing of “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort.”—2 Cor. 1:3.
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If the unbeliever in a divided household becomes sick or is confined to a hospital, friendly calls by Christians are encouraging