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Can a Couple Show Unconditional Love and Respect Despite Differing Faith Convictions?

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John and Charles Wesley, who founded the Methodist Church, almost weren’t born! 

Their parents, Samuel and Susanna, had differing convictions that divided them. Due to their faith, a disagreement arose about who should be their king in England. Both were of the same political party, the Tories, but Samuel favored King William III, whereas Susanna favored James II who had been exiled to France. 

When they prayed together, Samuel prayed for William. But Susanna secretly replaced his name with James. When James died, Susanna stopped saying “Amen” to Samuel’s prayers for William. When Samuel learned her reason, he said, “You and I must part: for if we have two kings, we must have two beds.” He slept in a different room and eventually left the home, moving to London.

When William III died, Queen Anne reigned, and both the Wesleys favored her. Samuel moved home but slept in a separate room. Then a fire burned most of their home, and this brought them back together, from which both John and Charles resulted!

Though it is unlikely you and your spouse will ever argue about which king or queen to honor, you will still have differing faith convictions of other kinds that arise. 

Just to be clear, a conviction is more than a personal preference. A personal preference is preferring a white couch above your spouse’s preference for a brown couch. 

The color of a couch is not a spiritual conviction. You are not compromising any strongly held beliefs when you give into your spouse’s desire for a different color couch. There is no biblical text dealing with preferences concerning carpet. 

A faith conviction, on the other hand, deals more closely with one’s conscience before God. Paul teaches, “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God” (Romans 14:22). In the first century some could eat meat and some could not. Some worshiped on one day, the Jewish Christians on the Sabbath, and the Gentile Christians on the Lord’s Day (Romans 14:1–6). Differing convictions arose, and Paul instructed the believers to hold true to those convictions yet make allowances without contemptuous judging.

For instance, both the Wesleys had a conviction about praying for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1–2). Authorities are from God. Both agreed on that. Unfortunately, there was a further conviction about who was the rightful authority. Samuel believed William was the rightful king and Susanna felt James was. Their convictions differed with the result that both judged the other with an element of contempt.

Today similar issues arise. A wife has a conviction the children should be homeschooled, whereas her husband believes private Christian education is the most proper means. Because parents are called in Scripture to bring their children up in the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), convictions arise when seeking to carry out that command. Both can have the same conviction about bringing children up in the Lord but allow a contemptuous and judgmental spirit to evolve when differing on the best method of instruction.

In marriage, unfortunately, a husband can hold so tightly to his conviction that he comes across as judging and unloving to his wife. Samuel left his wife! In following his conviction, he disobeyed a clear command of Scripture: love your wife (Ephesians 5:33a).

Or, a wife can campaign for her conviction but do so disrespectfully. She can disobey the command to come across in a respectful manner toward her husband (Ephesians 5:33b).

When differing convictions exist, Paul warned, “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10). Paul is clear. Convictions can vary, and that can be stressful but contempt and judging are unjustified.

Scripture’s command regarding love and respect allows no wiggle room in situations where the two have differing convictions on schooling, politics, or any other area that oftentimes drives wedges between husbands and wives. Those convictions are allowed, and there will certainly be several that arise during the marriage, but love and respect for each other are not dependent on agreement in these areas. They are to be unconditional (1, 2, 3)—a separate matter from these differing convictions. 

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. What is an area in which you and your spouse have had or continue to have differing convictions? How have you worked through it? Have you been able to maintain unconditional love and respect through the disagreement, or has contempt and judging reared its ugly head?
  2. Clearly there are times when a spouse could have a differing conviction from their spouse that is not biblical, such as a conviction to not raise their kids in the things of Christ. But can there be situations as well when neither of the two differing convictions are “wrong,” biblically speaking? List some.
  3. Romans 14:22 says, “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.” But how can a husband and wife maneuver successfully through a situation in which they each have their differing “own convictions before God”? 
  4. Can you think of a time when your spouse chose unconditional love and respect for you over his or her insistence of “winning” a disagreement in which the two of you had differing convictions? If so, how did that make you feel? Did you share that with him or her? If not, would you do that now?