What Does the Bible Say About Husband and Wife Going to Separate Churches?

The question of whether a husband and wife should attend separate churches is one that many Christian couples face. There are good arguments on both sides of this issue, and sincere believers can come to different conclusions. Ultimately, Scripture does not provide a definitive answer. However, by examining relevant biblical principles, we can gain wisdom to make a decision that honors God and strengthens our marriages. In this post, we will explore what the Bible says about unity in marriage, submitting to one another, discernment, and conscience.

Key Takeaways:

  • Scripture calls husbands and wives to pursue unity in marriage as a reflection of Christ and the church. Attending separate churches could hinder this.
  • Spouses are called to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. If one spouse’s conscience is violated by attending separate churches, the other should thoughtfully consider submitting.
  • Married couples should carefully weigh if attending separate churches will cause division or harm their marriage. Wise and humble counsel may help assess this.
  • According to principles of Christian freedom, a spouse is not in bondage if their conscience opposes attending separate churches. However, the other spouse’s conscience matters too.
  • If a couple attends separate churches, they should maintain spiritual intimacy through mutual prayer, Bible study, and discussing what they’re learning.
  • Loving one another in Christ should remain the priority over preferences about church attendance. A spirit of grace and flexibility can cover disagreements.
What Does the Bible Say About Husband and Wife Going to Separate Churches?

The Call to Unity

The most fundamental biblical principle applicable to this issue is the call for unity between husband and wife. Genesis 2:24 establishes that in marriage, “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Ephesians 5:31 echoes this, saying “‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’”

The oneness described here goes beyond just physical union – it entails deep spiritual and emotional intimacy. This unity between spouses is meant to reflect Christ’s spiritual union with the church, His bride (Ephesians 5:32). Therefore, whatever might divide husband and wife should be avoided.

Attendance at separate churches could potentially undermine the biblical unity of marriage. Different teaching, relationships and commitments at two churches can create gaps between spouses over time. Pursuing divergent paths of fellowship risks emotional separation and spiritual compartmentalization within the “one flesh” of marriage.

Of course, attending the same church does not guarantee unity. But it does provide a shared community and beliefs that can foster oneness. It allows husbands and wives to jointly worship, serve, learn and grow together with one church family. This is why attending the same church is the longstanding tradition in most Christian marriages.

Mutual Submission

In addition to unity, the New Testament also instructs spouses to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). Husbands must lovingly lead in sacrifice, and wives must respectfully yield, but all is to be done in mutual submission.

This principle has important implications for the question of attending separate churches. Even if one spouse feels personally at liberty to do so, they must thoughtfully consider the other’s conscience and preferences.

For example, if a wife’s conscience is strongly convicted that she should not attend a separate church from her husband, he must carefully weigh this. Out of Christlike sacrificial love, he should be willing to submit to her conscience for the sake of unity. The same would apply if the husband had a conviction against separate churches.

Both spouses should humbly examine their motives in order to serve the other and the Lord. Selfish insistence on personal rights over what’s best for the marriage is not mutual submission.

Assessing Division

In addition to principles of oneness and mutual submission, couples must evaluate whether attending separate churches will cause division in the specific context of their relationship. The New Testament warns against divisions among believers.

1 Corinthians 1:10 says, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” Other verses warn against allowing differences to disrupt spiritual fellowship and church community (Romans 16:17, Titus 3:9-11).

Therefore, Christian husbands and wives should carefully assess whether separate church attendance will introduce schism and disunity into their marriage. Wise, objective counsel from a pastor or mature couple may help in evaluating this.

If signs of division or relationship damage begin to emerge, it would be wise to reconsider separate attendance and re-unify. But if both spouses remain united in purpose and closely connected despite separate churches, division may not be an issue. Much depends on the unique dynamics of each marriage.

Christian Freedom and Conscience

The New Testament discusses Christian freedom and obedience to conscience in several places that are relevant to this issue. 1 Corinthians 8-10 and Romans 14 both address how believers should handle disagreement in non-essential matters of conscience.

A key principle drawn from these passages is that no Christian should violate their conscience, even if others feel complete freedom in an area. Their faith is crippled if they go against their convictions. So in attending different churches, neither spouse should feel pressured to violate their conscience.

However, these chapters also highlight the need to consider others and not cause them to stumble by an unwisely exercised freedom. So the spouse who feels free to attend a separate church must be sure it does not negatively impact their partner’s conscience or faith. Mutual concern for the other’s spiritual health should prevail over insistence on rights.

If a spouse is convinced in conscience that attending separate churches is wrong, the other should thoughtfully consider whether to sacrifice their freedom out of love. But the passages also teach that each believer must ultimately follow their own conscience under the Lordship of Christ.

Maintaining Spiritual Intimacy

If after careful consideration a couple does end up at separate churches, they should take active steps to maintain close spiritual intimacy.

They can hold one another accountable for regular personal and family Bible study and prayer. Couples should also make time to discuss what they are learning on Sundays so their spiritual lives stay intertwined. If major doctrinal differences arise, they should be worked through with wisdom and grace.

Most importantly, showing Christlike love to one another across church lines requires humility, patience and commitment to marital unity above all. A judgmental or defensive attitude will only breed disconnection. As Paul writes regarding disputable matters in Romans 14:19, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

The Primacy of Love

In assessing the counsel of Scripture on this issue, the overarching principle is clear – showing loving commitment to spouse and marriage takes priority over personal preferences regarding church attendance.

Paul writes in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” This sacrificial mindset should shape how husbands approach this decision rather than demanding their own way. Likewise, wives are called to respectfully honor their husbands in a way that reflects Christ’s care for the church (Ephesians 5:22-24, 33).

If husbands and wives prayerfully humble themselves and put the other first, they can come to a decision on church attendance that strengthens their bond. If they hold fast to Christian love, their witness will shine brightly regardless of where they worship.

By thoughtfully applying these biblical principles, couples can pursue God’s wisdom regarding whether to attend separate churches. They may arrive at different conclusions, but in Christ can do so in a way that upholds Gospel unity and deepens their marriage. With discernment, humility and grace, their differences can be covered by love.

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