An urgent letter to those who plan to marry outside the church from one who did.

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The late Prof. J Geertsema once published the following heartrending letter from a young woman who had married outside the church. She had written it to her minister in response to a sermon on Judges 3, where the children of Israel are warned not to marry partners from heathen nations. Her minister passed it on the Prof. J. Geertsema, suggesting it be published in Clarion. Prof. Geertsema gladly did this in the hope that “it may serve to open the eyes of someone who is on the way to sinning here against God’s will” and might help “to prevent such sin and a world of misery, possibly even eternal perdition”.[i] Although written some years ago, it remains highly relevant and I publish it here with the same purpose. Here is the young woman’s letter:

An urgent letter

Dear Unmarried, seeking a partner outside the faith:

If you will not heed the commands of God in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, not the warnings given by faithful ministers and parents, take a few minutes to read what I live by bitter experience. The same may easily happen to you, even though at the outset you may believe as I did, “I know we can work it out.” Or “We’re mature enough to handle whatever problems arise.”

Religious differences permeate every conceivable aspect of married life. They show in family gatherings, recreational preferences, educational understanding, friends you choose and keep, materials and literature you buy, the way you look at or handle job responsibility, conduct towards strangers, neighbours, your spouse, and most important, your attitude towards God.

We have a lovely home with a beautiful lawn, flowers and a vegetable garden. Inside the house the rooms are furnished handsomely and I have every convenience to make life easy and happy. So, what more could my heart desire?

Simply, the presence of the Lord. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). I have a handsome and well-educated husband and a healthy and happy son, a bit demanding, but the joy of my life.

What more could natural man wish for? But God has come to me in baptism and separated me outwardly to Himself. Why did Seth’s seed prosper until the sons of God married the daughters of men? Why did Abraham send his servant to choose a wife for Isaac from Abraham’s own relatives?

Consider the loneliness and painfulness when you give an answer to the following questions:

  1. Can you go to one or both church services, or do you go alone, sing the songs of Zion alone, hear God’s commands to joy in the Lord, see husbands and wives worship together with envy welling up in yourself?
  2. Can you belong to the choir, attend Bible studies and other church-related functions without being questioned, “Why do you want to go there? Your place is at home.”?
  3. Are you able to pray freely and aloud at mealtime, read the Bible without your spouse disagreeing with this?
  4. Can you face the fact that your mate does not believe God created heaven and earth, as Genesis teaches? He believes in the evolutionary process.
  5. When your first child is born, can you bear to have your spouse say, “He’s not going to be baptised in your church if it means he’s going to be brought up strict like your family.”?
  6. When you want to take your child to church, can you bear to have your spouse say, “Why do you want to go there? You’re not taking my son to that church.”?

You promised to love, honour, and obey; to be submissive and obedient; to do your duty in sickness and health, for richer and poorer – with love in your heart toward your spouse. Where is that love now? Memories of how things used to be cut you to the heart. What will you do? Leave for a separation? You vowed not to do that, but to love, honour and obey till death parts the two of you. But you also know God commands: “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together…” And you do not want to do that either. You are caught in a net. What will you do?

If, by grace, the Lord convinces you of your sin, and if, by His goodness, He sends tokens of His favour through your Bible reading, outpouring in prayer, and sermon-hearing by tapes, perhaps you will be constrained to plead: “Please let me go to church on Sunday morning.” Then the going doesn’t become any easier.

How do you answer your mother-in-law’s queries about why you don’t go along with the family’s Sunday parties? “Families should be together. Why, so-and-so would do anything for her husband; why not you? We gave you more than we gave to anybody else. Where’s your gratitude? Now I know why my son is so nervous, you made him that way.” “No, if you’re a good person, you’ll go to heaven.” “A new car? O, a new heart! What’s that?” And so it goes.

When you take a stand to attend both church services on a Sunday, can you listen without pain when your mate tells you: “You’re crazy, selfish… You’re just like the rest of the hypocrites in your church?”

Your only hope then is that God, Who made Saul into Paul will still save to the utmost – your spouse. You become increasingly aware of how you caused the Lord’s Holy Name to be blasphemed, instead of being honoured.

Dear reader, don’t tempt God. If there is the least hesitation whether it’s right, don’t marry! Speak to your minister.

Choosing to defy God’s command regarding marriage, you will one day look at your partner and ask: “Who is the stranger?” You will no longer speak the same language, for he will have nothing to do with God’s dealings; he sees no beauty in the Lord; He finds no awe in the word “Grace”, no humbling desire in the words, “Come unto Me…”

You look around your home and ask, “What is there in it that encourages the fear of the Lord?” Your answer will have to be “Nothing”. Yes, you do have a Bible and some devotional books, but there is no family altar at which you all meet at night for a Bible story or a lesson from Scripture, no place where your husband leads in prayer and speaks about the things of the Lord. There is no continuity of lifestyle of parents for the child to follow. Mommy goes to church, prays, reads the Bible, tells Bible stories, speaks of the Lord, but Daddy doesn’t go to church. He doesn’t pray or read the Bible; rather he watches TV and falls asleep, speaks of the unfairness of his boss, and certainly won’t give any money to Christian schools or for the support of the church.

As you look at your little child, you say, “I’d give my life if you could be brought up in the truth.” You remember how you used to spend Sundays going to church twice, and having like-minded people over for coffee and dinner. You rested, read good books, played the organ or piano, sang psalms and hymns and sometimes you visited with others of the church.

But now you come home from the service and find grease on your child’s clothes, toys strewn around the yard, the lawn freshly mowed. In the afternoon you find your reading interrupted by the Sunday Baseball game. When you call that supper is ready, your spouse is in the middle of changing the oil of the car, or finding a squeaky sound under the hood. Can you attend the evening worship service? Will his Daddy care for your child, or will he turn on the TV to keep him quiet? This Sunday, the Lord’s Day?

It all seemed so easy before you were married. Your hopes were high. You were going to bring your spouse to know the Truth. But what has happened? All your good intentions have resulted in hardening your husband, instead of causing him to see the God of the Bible.

In every aspect of life you are living with your faces pointed in a different direction. Where does this leave your little ones? You shudder to think of the future.

Are you still not convinced to reconsider and end your plans to marry into the world? Are you still desirous of tempting the Lord? Do not think there are guarantees of success for your marriage if one of you attends church or reads the Bible and prays. You are tempting God Who came to you in infancy and placed a seal on your forehead, drawing you into His covenant. And will you now discard that as if it were worthless?

When the day comes that you cannot but serve the Lord, it may mean that anger comes into your home and marriage relationship. Your spouse says, “You’ve changed: I haven’t,” as he puts the blame for your marital problems squarely on your shoulders. And you know you have been changed. Amazing grace! As much as you look for words to explain what has gone on in your heart, you cannot find the words that he can understand. Your only interpreter is the Holy Spirit who changed Saul, who opened Lydia’s heart, and who speedily answered the jailer’s cry.

I could write much more. Let me close by urging you to seek wisdom from the Lord. May you have no rest until you are pleading at the foot of the cross for your own salvation and the glory of the Lord displayed in your life. Then you will ask for a marriage partner with whom you can live to the honour and glory of your Maker and your Lord.

With warmest regards from,
Someone who learned from bitter experience.

 

 

[i] Clarion: The Canadian Reformed Magazine, Vol. 33, No. 13, June 29, 1984, pp.300-301.