This is a guest post by a VERY special guest contributor – my brother!!! Nathan Trevett is such a godly man, husband and father. I appreciate his sound biblical theology and Christ-centered approach. He lives out being a Christlike husband and father. He doesn’t choose the passive route, or the tyrant route. He is very plugged in and involved.
There is one major point that can lead this question down one of two paths. Has the spouse been redeemed by the atoning work of Christ on the cross? This point needs to be extremely explicit. This does not mean church attendance or a life devoted to religious church culture. It does not mean trying to do the right thing. It means understanding how big God is and how fallen we are and that only by Christ being crushed on the cross can He redeem our life. 2 Peter 1 gives a great list of fruit of the spirit then in verses 8-9 it shows that if you are not increasing in the spirit then you either do not have the spirit in you or you have become so nearsighted that you have forgotten that you have been forgiven.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of of our lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is near-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. II Peter 1:3-9
We can not expect non-believers to follow God’s word…it is foolishness to them. If a couple is unequally yoked, they are in for hard times. The burden is completely on the believer to live a life of love in patience regardless of the spouses actions. 1 Cor 7:13-16 is where Paul gives instructions for Christians with unbelieving spouses.
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 husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? I Corinthians 7:13-16
1 Cor 5:9-13 tells us not to judge unbelievers but that we do have a role to play in holding believers accountable. Now, the primary role of the spouse is to be love to them, to extend limitless grace and to endure all things. But, when a believing spouse is constantly going against a principle of God’s word it can fall to their spouse to point it out clearly and concisely in love. This cannot look like nagging and cannot be in response to an offense. This should probably be coordinated with a date and lovingly present the pattern that is in offense to God’s word. Once it has been brought up, that needs to be the last time it’s said. Both spouses need to be surrounding themselves with mentors and same sex accountability where these things are discussed.
Other than that, it is the responsibility of the husband to love his wife as Christ loves the church. Just like Christ’s love is unwavering in our unfaithfulness, we are called to the same love. I would not advise confrontation on any of the issues you mentioned (specific disrespect of a wife or refusal to cooperate with her husband’s leadership) until they become more than isolated events. As we are all married to sinners, the burden is on us to overlook individual offenses and constantly extend overwhelming grace.