Marriage and religion - help!

I am Greek Orthodox and I have grown up my whole life in religious home. Now that I live in USA , I attend Roman Catholic Church as well. I usually celebrate both holidays by Gregorian and Julian calendar and I am unsure which one is right and am just confused which is right. But the problem is not in that, I am engaged to a man who grew up in a home without religion , he’s not an atheist but he is also not a believer . Now more then ever I am confused. Will I be able to have the life I want if our religious views are different? With the quarantine I have a lot of tine to read the Bible and just educate myself and I know he is not interested in that stuff so I don’t know what to do. He says I can teach our kids whatever I want, but will I be fully satisfied my whole life with not being able to share Jesus in the capacity that I want with my husband? Or did God send me his way to make him believe?

If anyone has any guidance on this list and confused soul , I’d greatly appreciate

Thank you

Hello Olgaa, and welcome to our forum … and this part of the world!

What a time this is to face such big decisions - you certainly shall find prayer support here - you already have mine. Without knowing you, (not to mention your fiance and families) better, it is hard to provide wise counseling - which we’re not trained to do here in any case. But we do talk a lot and spill a lot of ink giving our best answers to questions whether they are good answers or not! It sounds like you are facing some huge decisions in a time when making plans is difficult. When you refer to “kids” … are these future kids you anticipate having? Or are there kids already in the picture? That makes a big difference in what sorts of advice people may feel free to share. No need to answer that if you feel it is too personal a question (and your anonymity behind a screen name is safe in any case).

Also keep in mind that in our public forum here, all are welcome whether you self identify as Christian or not. And we are delighted to have people from a wide variety of cultures, east and west join in the conversation. We are all the richer here for it. And I hope and pray your life too can be enriched by community around you, such as that can be right now - and by virtual community here. Blessings and God’s wisdom to you as you pray and think this through.

-Merv

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Dear Olga. Welcome.

These are hard issue you are grappling with; you have my prayers. Ultimately, only you can decide what relationship choice you believe will be most honouring to the lord. We can only advise.

In that spirit, I wrote an article for Valentine’s Day that you might find useful. The first question asks about whether or not to date someone who holds a different view on evolution. Now that is not your situation obviously, however, you may find that many of the principles I discuss can be applied (to one degree or another) to your current circumstances. You can read the article here, I hope you find it helpful.

No doubt in time many more from this supportive community will chip in with more advice too.

In the meantime, I’ve no doubt the Holy Spirit will guide you in these matters:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” ~ James‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭(NIV‬2011)

Every blessing, Liam

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@OlgaUkraine

I have often been surprised by how well the Orthodox church handles the minds and hearts of those who struggle with their faith. One might say that “struggle with faith” is embraced there.

Not all Orthodox communities and churches are the same. Maybe a Greek or Armenian Orthodox community would be interesting to both of you … in their “difference” from what either of you are used to.

If you two contemplate children, you will naturally have problems if he doesn’t want to share or help in raising your children with religion.

Why not seek guidance from your Orthodox priest(s) on the matter? First you could go alone and get his input, and maybe later have a joint counseling session. Would you even be allowed to marry this guy in your Orthodox church?

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Aren’t we all! I think the point I came to making peace with the different viewpoints, was when I realized it was OK to not know which is “right” and to even consider that both may hold a faithful position in their differences, and both may be right, even in their differences in theology.

Similarly, with your fiancé, that is something only you can answer. If you can respect his position and he can respect yours, perhaps love will find a way. I know many marriages where the couples have different views and have loving vibrant marriages,but also see many that either are joyless or do not survive their differences. You are in my prayers for wisdom and understanding.

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I really liked this girl a few years back. She was gorgeous, smart, and we just clicked super well. I’ve not clicked as well with anyone ever. Had everything in common basically with one exception. She is Muslim and I am Christian. We never intend to develop romantic feelings but it happened. I studied through 1 for 7 repeatedly and other verses and tried to come up with loopholes and she did too.

We even got down to where part of our discussion was that on her end the law teaches that a Muslim man can marry women of any faith, and that there was some disputes over it a Muslim woman could marry a man of another faith or not and I thought about how scripture says if a person is married to a unbeliever they should not divorce unless the unbeliever leaves them. So I thought well even though we are not supposed to be unequally yoked, if I do just go ahead and do it then I’m locked into it. But that would clearly mean I placed her over God.

Ultimately, because she’s not a believe according to my faith, and I’m not a believer according to her faith, we ended the relationship. It sucked. It sucked so bad she left America and entered into a arranged marriage and I a few weeks after that entered into an arranged engagement with a woman I never met before and did not even know what she looked like or anything. We got engaged, and in my faith a engagement is not merely dating level 2 but similar to marriage in commitment without the consummation. The elders who set it up did not know us. Or rather my elder reached out to another elder and he knew a woman. They knew our outlook on marriage. Connected us. I was expecting something kind of bad but it turned out great. We’ve been engaged for 3 years, and have spent some time together on vacation. I was a bit shocked to find out she’s not a american. She never expected to come here. We are getting married next year. Within the first 4 minutes of talking over the phone, and quickly mentioning our convictions on marriage I basically told her as long as she stays faithful I will always have her back. Even if I think she ugly and I can’t stand her personality I will be faithful and do everything I can to make her happy. We both had quite a bit to risk. But it worked out. Luckily we get along great.

I am telling that to showcase that I believe marriage is covenant between a husband and a wife and their god. It’s not just dating. I would be less worried about doctrinal views ( though it can obviously be concerning) and more worried about someone who is not actually a believer. Scripture definitely teaches marriage should be between two believers and not unequally yoked.

But in the end it’s your choice. Study the scriptures. Prayer can’t reshape righteousness or doctrine. We all have different crosses to pick up and bear.

I will definitely pray that you’re able to study the word out and make a informed decision.

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The religious views of people change. You could marry someone with the same religion as yours, and his view may change to another religion or even to atheism. That is what happened in my marriage and our marriage has endured. Or… marrying your fiancee, it is even possible that his views will change to agree with yours, at least to the degree of joining the same church. I know many couples this has happened with. Though… even when people are in the same church they quite often have rather significantly difference on many religious issues. I think the point is that your relationship has to be stronger than such differences of opinion… because they are after all opinions… and even in a relationship with God… with Christ… love should be greater than such opinions. And I believe that is especially true with the orthodox faith. Now… if you were a fundamentalist protestant Xtian instead, then it might be a bigger problem. LOL

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Olga, others on this Forum have given you the most important advice: Pray to the Good Lord for guidance. However, I can relate an example from my family which illustrate different ways such a problem might be ‘resolved’, but every instance is, in many ways, unique.

My mother was a devout Roman Catholic when she met my father, who was a rather free thinking Protestant. He agreed to take instructions in the Catholic Faith so they could be married 'in the Church’. In 1913 the rural pastor, who was giving the instructions, taught that only Roman Catholics could be saved, a dogma that was totally repugnant to my father. He maintained that the ‘need’ to be married in the church building would be hypocrisy, since he could not embrace the Faith as it was being presented to him. So they were married in the rectory–somewhat of a sacrifice for my Mom who wanted her close friends in attendance. Eventually my Dad realized that the rural pastor was an anachronism. Although my Dad never formally professed the Catholic Faith, a bishop and six priests presided at his funeral. So be careful in embracing the thought that God may be using you to "make him believe" something he is not quite ready to embrace fully.

[I am the youngest of their four kids, all of whom have been given a Catholic education and remained faithful. Following a career in science, especially when facing the ‘conflict’ between evolution and my Faith, I nearly lost the latter. Fortunately, enough wisdom penetrated my thick skull to realize that resolving doubts is the surest path to strengthen one’s Faith. Subtly steering your finance toward the works of Drs. Francis Collins and the Haraasma might be a good idea.]

I hope you will keep in touch thru this Forum. We will all be praying for you.
Al Leo

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While I don’t believe it’s a sin to marry an unbeliever, I do think it’s a bad idea in general. Acknowledging that yes, people can change either direction (me!), a Christian marriage works best when both parties are on the same page.

When my husband and I started dating, we hit it off pretty quickly, and I did start going to his church (I had not been going to my own in a few years - I was not really practicing faith). We studied with a group of young adults for a while, and I eventually chose to be baptized (immersed), which I’d previously not done. A month later, my then boyfriend proposed. He’d been waiting until I had made that faith choice. It was important to him to marry a Christian who believed as he did.

We committed ourselves to marriage. We don’t believe in divorce or remarriage after divorce (except for the case of adultery), so that has helped us weather the storms of marriage. In fact, even when I fell away and became an atheist, my husband’s commitment to the marriage was incredibly important. I am back in the church now, and we are united in how we teach our children. Let me tell you, it’s so much easier to raise faithful children when both parents are on the same page. We also have dealt with marital difficulties by going to the Bible. If we didn’t have that as a shared resource, some of those situations would have been more difficult to navigate.

Our faith is a major part of our daily lives. Not sharing that faith did immense damage to our marriage and our family life. When we were on the same page again, things in both realms improved greatly. We are not Sunday-only Christians (or even worse, Christmas and Easter-only Christians!). Our faith is tightly integrated into everything we do. Therefore, it’s vitally important that we believe in the same God and believe in the same methods of worship.

On the topic of this forum, my husband is undecided about old earth and evolution, and he chooses not to worry about it. He is fine with me teaching the kids mainstream science (our church teaches YEC). His opinion is basically that it doesn’t matter and is something he can’t know, so he won’t worry about it. I have to make a decision though, since we homeschool and I teach the kids science. I want to always pursue truth, and YEC is not truth. I’m thankful that my husband supports me in this endeavor.

At my church, there are a couple women whose husbands are not believers. My own husband’s father is not a believer. The heartache I’ve heard from all of these women about not sharing faith with their husband is enough for me to generally counsel young people to not marry a non- Christian. Again, I don’t think it’s a sin (if it were, Paul would not have told people to stay married to an unbeliever in 1 Corinthians), but I don’t think it’s a good idea either. That’s something I have drilled into my kids… find a spouse that shares your faith.

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I have seen similar things and would tend to agree with you. Sometimes I hear people discuss religion as if it were just something you sign up for… kind of like a hobby. Since I view it as much more encompassing than that, I couldn’t imagine having a healthy marriage with someone who didn’t at least share that very important framework for understanding many things about the world, even if we did not agree 100 percent on every detail. When it comes to teaching children, they will certainly pick up on the fact that one spouse is indifferent to religion, and that will affect their viewpoints in one way or another.

My husband is also YEC and it sounds like we have a similar understanding as you. He believes YEC is correct, but doesn’t like the way that many people and organizations hammer on it as if it were the foundation of the faith, so he doesn’t have a problem with me teaching our kids mainstream science.

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future kids.

thank you so much for such kind words and support

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He says that now but what will his conversation with them be when they want to understand him better? Does he mean you can teach them whatever you like and he’ll back you up -or- you go ahead and you are on your own? He may not know or be able to predict how he’ll respond later.

Never assume you can change someone else. If it doesn’t happen would you be fine with the relationship? If not perhaps you don’t really want to commit to him. Whatever change you require, try to get it before you commit and try to judge if it looks sustainable for him. In the early stages of a relationship, no mountain looks too high. Later, he might begin to wonder why he has chosen such a difficult path.

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This is very good advice. “Anne of Green Gables” muses that “when a man is courting, he always has to agree with the girl’s mother in religion and her father in politics.” Both are very important areas!

In some important things, like religion, daily lifestyle, and even alcohol drinking, a strong difference of opinion can result in rather difficult years (and suffering for the kids as they see their parents bicker, and perhaps even divorce). In 2 Cor 6: 14, Paul recommends against being yoked with someone who doesn’t have the same religion. I take that to mean that this can be a source of disagreement. Like Boscopup says, we should not split up with someone that we disagree with, if we’re already married. It’s just that we are to be careful before making that decision.

Best wishes in a wise choice!

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You know @Randy even if we could change someone, I always think we probably shouldn’t do it. Love or even just respect for others demands we acknowledge the other person’s autonomy. That is basic.

Anne of GG is a great source for this sort of thing. I doubt she would approve of sculpting another person to be ones kindred spirit.

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Ooh that’s even better advice. Thanks! One of the great lessons in marriage is learning to adapt. You’re right!
Having said that, there can be some abusive situations in which one needs to flee; or very uncomfortable situations in which counseling helps with communication.
However, my dad frequently said that one of the attractions to my mom was that she was a mystery–even after 43 years, he was finding new things out about her when he died 8 years ago. It was a great marriage, and a good example for us children.

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Hi Olgaa. As a new Christian, I was in a relationship with a girl who wasn’t a Christian. We talked about our desires for the future and decided that it wouldn’t work so we separated. It might be difficult to stop your relationship now but it might be better now then in the future. I totally agree with the advice about not going into a relationship thinking you can change the other person. I’ve met a few people who have tried to do this and it doesn’t work. Either it turns into a controlling abusive relationship and/or a very unhappy/unsatisfying one. Even when a couple’s ideas about something as intrinsic as faith are similar, there always needs to be a lot of give and take. This isn’t just at the beginning. Even after 30+ years of marriage, my wife and I are changing in ourselves and so are constantly making adjustments in our relationship. I have learnt a lot about sacrifice and what it means to follow Jesus through being married and parenthood. Marriage isn’t easy and you want the broadest base possible to give it the best chance you can. Our church ran a pre-marriage course which was really useful. It helped us consider our expectations and got us talking about issues even as humdrum as putting the rubbish out at night. Of course, it might be you who is willing to change as you may believe that your relationship with your partner is more important than your relationship with God. That is your choice. As a Christian, I pray and hope that you will put God first but it is your life and your future. Keep praying, reading your Bible and seeking advice!

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Sage advice @MarkD. Someone once put it to me like this:

Choose the one you love and love the one you choose

That simple but profound wisdom has lodged so deep in my head and heart over the years. And no doubt my own kids will be sick of hearing me say by the time they marry (and probably a few times afterward too!).

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Hi Olga,
The answer to the question “should a believer marry an unbeliever” is simple and straight forward. NO! The working it out in the thoughts and affections may not be so simple.

2 Cor 6:14-18
14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

17 "Therefore come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.

Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you."
18 “I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”

Since you are thinking about marrying him then it will most likely be hard on your emotions but that is where the grace (favor) of God comes in to play, " All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved". Call out to Jesus for his favor to help you overcome this temptation. If you are a follower of Jesus than the Spirit of Christ is in you and will give you power over the temptations that will rise up in you.

Matt 16:24-27
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.

Prov 3:5-7
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.

Trust in and obedience to Jesus will bring you salvation in your trial.
May God strengthen and encourage you through his Spirit.

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