How do I counsel a Reformed mother who is married to a Roman Catholic?
I live in that world a lot, because Southern California has so many Hispanic people there, and it’s very common. And even some people from Asia, who have been raised as Catholics, we see a spouse coming to Christ, and that is a very common kind of experience.
And it takes all kinds of forms. Sometimes they shut them out of the church. They won’t allow them to come. They won’t allow them to read the Bible in the house. They won’t allow them to communicate the gospel openly to the kids. In other cases, they’re indifferent, and that takes different form in just about every single case that you work with.
The balance is 1 Peter 3:1-2: you win your unbelieving husband by being a submissive wife. But at the same time you also have a higher standard than that, as the apostles said when they told them to stop preaching, “Who do we obey, you or God? We must obey God” (Acts 4:19-20).
But you’ve got to demonstrate as a spouse that your obedience to God makes you a better wife to him in every area and every way, and a better mother in every way. I think that’s what has to be demonstrated, not that you’re some kind of an antagonist in the family. And that’s the balance, and that takes some of the gentleness of the Holy Spirit to do.
At the same time that you give honor to the husband and teach your children to respect the husband—because that’s an ordered home, and that’s necessary if they’re going to have any place in life and the future that provides any kind of success for them—at the same time, behind that you’ve got to communicate the need to pray for this unconverted husband. Because the issue here is, “We love daddy, but he needs Jesus Christ.” And while he may resist the wife’s pleas, I think that the pleas of the children and the prayers of the children are pretty powerful influences.
So that’s the general instruction we would give to people in that situation, although they are very different in each case.
Lightly edited for readability, this is a transcript of John MacArthur’s answer given at our 2017 National Conference. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.