This topic is very near and dear to my heart, since my wife is Jewish, and I am not. It is also a very complicated topic. When you and your spouse first came together, the differences probably did not seem important. But as time went on, pressures from family grew, children came along, and discussions ensued on how to raise the children. As we get older, we tend to value culture and tradition more. We begin our lives together believing that love will conquer all! Yet, sometimes what did not seem to be an issue ends up becoming one of the greatest causes of tension in the relationship. What can God do to help? How do we deal with these tensions? Here are three Scriptural and foundational issues to help us deal with the difficulties of intermarriage.
First, build upon the foundation of love and mutual commitment you had when you first married. The Bible refers to God as a covenant-keeping God (Deuteronomy 7:9; Nehemiah 9:32). This means that God continues to be faithful, even when his people turn their backs on him. God wants us to reflect His faithfulness and covenant-keeping nature. Often in marriage, both spouses fall short, and there are tensions and disagreements. But if we remain faithful to the love and commitment we expressed when we first started, we can work through almost anything.
Second, build on common ground while exploring differences that do not compromise your personal principles. We live in a society and culture that tends to focus on differences rather than on similarities. When we do this, we end up causing increased tensions and conflict. Of course, some tensions and disagreements are significant, but we need to be willing to seek common ground to build upon as we discuss differences.
If we are seeking God’s input in the situation, then we must value the Scriptures and what they say. We can look to the teachings of Scripture for answers to resolve areas of friction. Often multiple traditions and cultures can be practiced within the home without sacrificing personal principles and without compromise.
The Scriptures say “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) God wants us to walk in unity. This does not mean we will always agree on everything, but by building on our mutual commitment, love, and the life commitments we hold in common, we can continue to live in peace. Also, we must ask ourselves if are we reacting to something just because it is different, or because it actually stands in conflict with our beliefs.
My wife and I both value both our Jewish and Christian traditions. We celebrate Passover and Easter; we value Hanukkah and Christmas and the strong faith traditions they represent. As we study the Scriptures, we see more of what unites Jews and Christians than what divides us! We understand that Jesus was Jewish and followed Jewish traditions. He fulfilled the Torah and the Prophets. We see his early followers maintaining their Jewish identity, and that Gentile followers of Jesus were taught to appreciate the Jewish roots of their new faith. The apostle Paul (who maintained his Jewish identity and love for his people) saw Jesus as the one who ultimately unites Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:11–22). For reasons like these, we find our Jewish and Christian backgrounds as complementary, and not in conflict.
Third, build upon your commitment to seek God and His truth. As stated earlier, today’s culture tends to focus on what divides us rather than on what unites us. In contrast, the ultimate goal for a couple should be to discuss their differences with an attitude of love and mutual respect. When culture and tradition and even religion cause conflict, we should search the Scriptures to see what God has to say. Try praying together as a couple and asking him for wisdom. These spiritual exercises will help you resolve conflicts and become more united.