Beloved Unbeliever - Part 2 (Transcript)

Dr. James Dobson: Well, hello everyone. I'm Dr. James Dobson and you're listening to Family Talk. Now, today's broadcast is the second installment of a two part conversation that I had with the late author, Jo Berry, more 40 years ago when I was with the organization I founded, Focus on the Family. We want to share this recording with you because the topic is still highly relevant. Jo and I were discussing her book, Beloved Unbeliever: Loving Your Husband into the Faith. This book is about marriages that are unequally yoked. That means where one spouse is a practicing Christian and the other is not.

We spoke specifically that day to Christian wives with unbelieving husbands. On yesterday's program, Jo and I talked about the specific challenges that are common among women who are married to non-Christian husbands. Jo offered some practical and encouraging advice that I'm sure listeners found helpful. If you missed the program yesterday, you can hear it by going to Jo was a regular in studio guest with me during the 1980s. She wrote several books on topics related to Christian living, and she was a popular seminar speaker. Unfortunately, for the rest of us, Jo passed away in 1988 from cancer. She's rejoicing with Jesus now. Her Lord was the primary focus of her life here on earth. Well, here now is part two of this conversation between Jo Berry and myself on the subject of her book, Beloved Unbeliever.

Let's really get tough now, Jo. I am your husband. You're a Christian, I'm not, and I'm mad about it. And I say, now look, I've had enough of this Jesus stuff, especially with my kids. I don't want them distorted. I don't want them going up with all that guilt hanging on them. And I don't want to hear you mention his name in the family, and I don't want you praying with those kids, and I don't want you taking them to church and I'm telling you, don't do it. Now, what?

Jo Berry: Well, that's like answering, how do I solve a universal problem? Each situation is different. A lot of it depends on the personality of the wife involved actually. But, again, all I can tell you is what I would do and what other women have told me they have done in the same situation, and that is, I would say, "All right, when you are around, we will try not to talk about the Lord in front of you." And as far as the church thing, some women have shared that they have gone as far as to send their children to church and spend time with their husbands, if that will help appease.

I would, probably knowing my personality, go ahead and take the children to Sunday school, at least quite frequently, because I think, again, we have the charge, in Acts, that we must serve God rather than man. So if there is a choice to be made, even if that man is your husband, you have to obey God. And we do have commandments as parents to raise our children in the Lord.

Dr. James Dobson: So, I'm really glad to hear you say what you just said because I agree absolutely with it. There are Christian leaders who don't... There are Christian leaders who would identify the term submission as being, as putting the obligation on the wife to wait for her husband to suddenly wake up spiritually. By the time he does that, the kids may be on their way to Hell.

Jo Berry: He may never do that. You see, you can't assume that he's ever going to become a Christian. These wives can't live. They can live with that hope, but they cannot live with that as a fact day to day.

Dr. James Dobson: And in the absence of that, somebody has got to teach those kids.

Jo Berry: That's absolutely…

Dr. James Dobson: And I feel so strongly that they should not antagonize him, they should not throw Christ in his face.

Jo Berry: No.

Dr. James Dobson: They shouldn't be pious. They shouldn't flaunt their prayer and all the rest of it. But somebody has to take those kids to church, and somebody has got to pray with them and teach them and train them and guide them. And if the father isn't going to do it, the mother has to do it. And I feel very strongly about that issue.

Jo Berry: I know of one instance where a man who was taken the stance that you just hypothetically put to me. And one night, he was listening his little three year old; a three year old was praying a very precious prayer about "Bless my daddy and let him know how much we love him and let him know how much Jesus loves him, and please make him to be a Christian, so that we can all be a happy family." And this man was so touched that he started weeping and he started going to church and listening. And it was, I think it was probably a two year period before he actually committed to Christ. But that child was a turning point. And that's Scriptural too, isn't it? The little children. I know of instances where these little children, I mean little ones who have been nurtured by Christian mothers in a non-believing situation.

Dr. James Dobson: You make a point in your book about the difference between passivity and submission.

Jo Berry: Yes.

Dr. James Dobson: Describe that for me.

Jo Berry: Well, passivity is just, as you stated before, just saying, well, this is the way it is and I'm going to accept it and I just have to live with it and I'll do anything to keep the peace and so on and so forth. Submission is actually choice. You choose to put yourself under something. The whole idea of submission for a woman to her husband is that she sees herself as under his authority in a general way. But when that conflicts with her submission to God, and we're also told to submit to God, then the submission first has to be to God and not to the husband.

Dr. James Dobson: Jo, if we're talking to a half million women at this moment who are Christians and their husbands aren't, we must be talking to two million women or five or six times as many whose husbands are Christians, but won't assume spiritual leadership.

Jo Berry: Yes.

Dr. James Dobson: Boy, I hear that. I hear that all the time. How can a woman set an atmosphere in the home that will make a man want to assume that spiritual leadership, call a family to prayer, read the Bible with the family, get them to church on Sunday and be a model for the kids in the family?

Jo Berry: Well, this is like going through Robert's back door, but the most important thing that any wife needs to know is her own role as a Christian wife. There's a lot in Scripture. You have the Proverbs 31 woman who is really a fantastic lady.

Dr. James Dobson: Yeah.

Jo Berry: You have the concept of being a help meet, which involves more than doing dishes, cleaning house and taking care of children. It involves the idea of being a kind of helper to your husband that God is to His people. It involves the idea of counseling and sharing ideas and opinions and thoughts. We touched before on the idea of communication and the only area where this communication shouldn't take place, where total communication shouldn't take place is in trying to talk your husband to Christ. But in all other areas, communication has to be open and honest just as in any marriage. So-

Dr. James Dobson: Even there, it can be open and honest, but you just don't nag him to death.

Jo Berry: Nag him. You just don't nag him to death. You aren't always quoting Scripture. He comes home and takes a beer and you don't say, do not be drunk with wine, whereas in excess. There are women who are prone to do that and God knows that. And so, He's laid down that stipulation. You just can't nag your husband to Christ. Neither can you be responsible if your husband is a Christian for his spiritual condition. Again, that takes humility, and that seems to be one of the things that's hardest for all of us to come by as Christians, isn't it?

Dr. James Dobson: Jo, in a day of women's liberation and changing self-concept of women and so on, what does the Bible mean by help meet relationship? What is a help meet? And does a woman have to subvert all her own desires for creativity and productivity in order to fit into her husband's plans and be a "help meet"?

Jo Berry: No, I don't think that's what that means at all. I can't come up with chapter and verse, but in Proverbs it says, as iron sharpens, iron so man sharpens man, and I think that's definitely a good description of the basis of the help meet relationship. It really means that she is a helper who meets the needs of her companion. It's almost a compensation type thing where he's strong, she might have some weaknesses. Where he's weak, she has some strengths and they compensate each other. It's a honing type process. It involves, first of all, involves companionship; being a companion and a friend to your husband.

It involves the idea of counseling of literally helping advise your husband of saying, I don't really agree with that, or yes, I think that's a good idea and talking those kinds of things through. It's a very big scope of thing than elsewhere in Scripture, as you see, if you study women in Scripture and what they did and study Proverbs 31. You definitely see that a woman who is a help meet is an addendum to her husband. The Proverbs 31 woman was such a great source of pleasure and joy and so industrious and competent at what she did that her husband sat around with all the elders and bragged about her. He was sitting there in the gates talking about what a great wife she was.

Dr. James Dobson: And the children rose up and called her blessed.

Jo Berry: Called her blessed. And she didn't get that way by sitting around and complaining and worrying about whether she was being terribly submissive. She got that way by being actively involved in her husbands and her children's lives and contributing to them.

Dr. James Dobson: I like that, and it's related to a Scripture you've referred to indirectly two or three times. 1 Peter 3:1-4. Let me read this and then ask you to comment on certain words that are in it.

Jo Berry: All right.

Dr. James Dobson: It says you wives be submissive to your own husbands, so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be one without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior and let not your adornment be external only, braiding the hair and wearing gold jewelry, putting on dresses, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. All right. Three separate things I want you to refer to here or react to. One you've already mentioned and that's the word submissive. How does Peter use that word? You wives be submissive to your own husbands.

Jo Berry: Well, you understand that in God's structure, he is in authority over you. And authority, not in a bossy sense, but in authority like Christ is your Lord. It's a protective thing. You're the help meet. He's in the authority position. It means that he is the head of his family. And that's true, whether he is a believer or a non-believer. God has ordained that position for him as husband. And it means then to respect that position. Even you can disagree with certain stands that he takes in that and work that through, but you recognize his position in your life just as you recognize Christ position in your life.

Dr. James Dobson: Even if he's a non-believer?

Jo Berry: Even if he's a non-believer. Doesn't qualify it in Scripture that it's only Christian husbands.

Dr. James Dobson: Even if he's a beloved unbeliever?

Jo Berry: That's right. A beloved unbeliever.

Dr. James Dobson: Okay. How about the word respectful, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.

Jo Berry: All right. Chaste has to do with the idea of being pure and being faithful to your husband. A lot of unbelieving husbands have legitimate complaints and some of them told me that they know their wives say things about them, sometimes even in prayer groups. "Would you please pray for Harry? He has been on a tirade lately about my going to Sunday school" and so and so forth. This is being unfaithful with words. It's painting portraits of your husband that are very unbecoming to other people. And part of being faithful to him is to be faithful to his image as a husband.

Dr. James Dobson: You gave an example of Diane in your book. Describe that for me here.

Jo Berry: Diane was a lady who when she came to Christ, got a bad case of what she called later, spiritual superiority. She was a Christian and her husband wasn't. And so she wasn't respecting him. She was actually being disrespectful to him just because he wasn't a Christian. She said that one day she went to his office and she was just taken back because she saw how everyone in office treated him with such high esteem. He was a relatively young man and his secretary would say, may I get you this, or may I do this? And she was actually just really open to serving him and other people in the office were... Yes, sir, and no, sir.

And she said she was so convicted because she realized that she had been treating him so shabbily and when she saw what a nice person he is and how much respect other people gave him, she realized that she had been falling down in that particular part of her ministry to her husband. She had not been being respectful to him. And the only reason she was not respecting him is because she was a Christian and he wasn't.

Dr. James Dobson: If I can add to that from a psychological point of view, we are told in Ephesians, for husbands to love their wives and for wives to respect their husbands, and men need to be respected.

Jo Berry: Yes.

Dr. James Dobson: Even more than they need to be loved. They need to be respected.

Jo Berry: That is really true.

Dr. James Dobson: You want to destroy a marriage, start attacking the man's ego.

Jo Berry: Yes.

Dr. James Dobson: Start undermining. Start treating him like you think he's really dumb. He's really not worthy of leadership in the family. First of all, it'll start acting that way because you act the way you're seen and secondly, he'll start resenting it.

Jo Berry: And you can see how this is easy to do in a situation where the woman does have all the "spiritual knowledge" and the husband has none.

Dr. James Dobson: Yes. And she knows more about how he's supposed to act from a Christian point of view than he does.

Jo Berry: Yes.

Dr. James Dobson: All right. The third phrase has to do with the gentle and quiet spirit; to be silent. What do you say to a woman whose temperament is not gentle and quiet?

Jo Berry: I'm flamboyant, I think is the term that my husband has applied to me. But the idea of gentle and quiet spirit doesn't have so much to do with personality traits. Thank Heaven. Thank you, Lord. It has to do with a settled calmness inside that God is alive and well and operational in your life and in the life of your unbelieving husband and in the life of your marriage. And so you don't have to rail about situations that happened. If you were a Christian, this wouldn't have happened or you shouldn't be doing this or so on and so forth. You can sit with a gentle, quiet peace inside of you; the peace of God, knowing that God is going to work this situation through, if you do what He's called you to do.

Dr. James Dobson: Jo, you have a quote in your book that deals with this. You said, while this imposition of silence is difficult, St. Gregory wisely observed "it is needful that we saw sometimes endure keeping to ourselves what evil men are in order that they may learn in us by our good living what they are not". That is the perfect description of the responsibility of the unequally yoked wife.

Jo Berry: Perfect description. Yes.

Dr. James Dobson: Jo, let's talk about the really tough situations now, where it's not just a difference of opinion about spiritual matters, but where the husband is beating the wife, we'll say. How do you counsel the women who come to you with regard to wife beating, we'll say?

Jo Berry: Get out. A long time ago, I decided that one of the ways I was going to work out my theology is that everything that I was going to believe and that I was going to teach, and I was going to pass onto others and incorporate into my life, I was going to try to base on the character of God. When I say get out, I'm doing that based on what I believe God wants for people as individuals. And he sees us as individuals. He doesn't look down and say, oh, there's a lump of Christians. He really sees us as individuals. And so this isn't something that I've lightly taken.

I believe that God would never expect a woman who is in a marriage to live in a situation where she had to be consistently physically abused, where her life was in danger, where her children are in danger. You know the terrible residual effects of children who live in abusive situations. Most men who abuse their wives have been abused as children themselves, or have seen their mothers abused. So there's a pattern there. We see this with alcoholics and so on and so forth, so-

Dr. James Dobson: Are you talking about separation or divorce?

Jo Berry: I'm talking about basically, to start with separation, I would never ever counsel any Christian woman to get a divorce, but there are instances when a divorce occurs.

Dr. James Dobson: Jo, your book, Beloved Unbeliever is an optimistic book. It's not a pessimistic book. We've been talking about some pretty heavy things. Let's look at the end of the book where you talk about the fact that an unequally yoked person can be happy. How can that be accomplished?

Jo Berry: I'm going to, at the chance of sounding terribly boring, first of all, the unequally yoked wife has to realize her marriage is not that much different than any other marriage. I had a pastor friend of mine one time in a sermon said that if you take a person who is an unbeliever and they come to Christ and that person had a nasty temper and a bad disposition and didn't manage money well and was hard to live with, for several years, you may have a Christian who has a nasty disposition, doesn't manage money very well, and is hard to live with. These women need to realize that of course that tremendous spiritual burden of worrying about their husbands being condemned to Hell is going to be gone once they accept Christ. But beyond that, change takes time. Growth takes time. And there aren't going to be just instantaneous changes in that marriage, there'll be other problems.

The wife may be spiritually ahead of her husband because she is much more knowledgeable than he is, especially the longer she's been a Christian. So there are other things. But some of the things that I share in the book that I think are positives are some dos for marital happiness that even had some don'ts in there. One of them is that the unequally yoked wife should expect to be happy in her marriage. Usually we get what we expect. And I could sit around when I teach women's Bible studies. I tell the gals, now, if I ask all of you, regardless of how happy your marriages are, to sit down and make a list of grievances that you have against your husbands; pet peeves, things that you really dislike about him or things he does that get on your nerves. I said in an hour, you could be so agitated at your husbands that you'd want to kick him out the door.

Dr. James Dobson: That really is true. It's where you want to put the emphasis.

Jo Berry: That's right. So if you're unequally yoked, and you're married to a man who isn't a believer, you expect to be happy in your marriage. You approach your marriage from a positive aspect like all of us have to, or our marriages aren't going to work. Secondly, one of the things I suggest is expect your husband to be unreasonable about spiritual things, because he isn't spiritually appraised. It's just like many times when we're raising children, we expect them to be so mature about everything. My son had a teacher in second grade. One of the things she wrote on his report card was he acted immature.

I thought, well, what do you expect of a seven year old? And it's the same thing with a husband who is not spiritually appraised. He's not going to understand spiritual things. He's going to be unreasonable about some of them. That's normal. Also, you have to expect problems to be a part of life and a part of your marriage. That's true of mine. Gee, I am married 27 years to a wonderful Christian man. He is a delight. He understands me, but I still have problems in my life and sometimes we have problems in our marriage.

Dr. James Dobson: No kidding.

Jo Berry: Also to look for positives in the person of your husband. Probably a lot of the basic reasons that you were attracted to him, that you were drawn to him when you first got married are still there. Don't obscure him but the fact that he isn't a Christian. Look at those positive things, and concentrate on those. Ignore more or less the negatives. That's what we all have to do in our human relationships. See, it isn't that much different when you're unequally yoked. Being loyal. I talked about that before. And then rely on the character of God. When your husband fails you, God isn't going to. You're the bride of Christ, and Christ is going to be there as your bride groom. That's a tremendous concept in Scripture, that Christ is your bride groom, and He'll be there to help when the husband isn't.

Dr. James Dobson: All right, you're turning through your... the last pages of your book there and giving us some of the headings of the dos. How about the don'ts that turn out to be positives?

Jo Berry: All right. One of the don'ts, we touched on it before, but I think it needs to be stressed is don't put up communication barriers. Well, my husband isn't a Christian, so I'm not going to tell him this, or I'm going to withhold that. That folds the honesty of a relationship. So you need to communicate. You don't keep things back from your husband just because he isn't a Christian. Secondly, don't flaunt your spirituality. You have to be very, very careful. Again, I have in the book, situation about a gal that was talking about... She had a friend come over and she had fallen into a habit and she didn't even know it.

If she would put her husband down on things that related to Scripture, but he didn't know why. And one of them was, she was so sure that she understood end time's theology, that when she and some friends and her husband were having a discussion about what should happen in Israel over a current political situation, everything her husband said, "Well, that is ridiculous, or that's not right, or that can't happen." And he didn't understand where she was coming from. So, when her husband left the room, her friend, who also was a Christian, said to her, "What are you doing to Roger? Why are you on his case? Everything he says, you take the exception to." She said, it was just like someone hit her over the head with a hammer. I'm doing that because I think I understand what's going to happen and he doesn't know. And-

Dr. James Dobson: Again, you got to be respectful in this relationship.

Jo Berry: You've got to be respectful. And she said, well, fortunately my husband didn't know why I'd been on his case, and so I was able to pull back, but he did notice a change in me because I had been doing this as a habit pattern. I was flaunting my spirituality in that way. Also, don't be dogmatic. Dogmatism is deadly. It is, this is the way to do it and this is the way you're going to become a Christian, and this is how we're going to live our lives regardless. And one lady that I talked about in the book said that she had been going to a church for a number of years and of course she had been praying and praying that her husband would start going to church with her. And so one Sunday, he said, I want to go to church with you. And of course she was so excited in the Lord and everything.

And they went to church and it happened to be that for the first time in many, many months or years or whatever, that the pastor preached a sermon on money giving. And of course this turned her husband off like nothing else in the world would. And so her husband next week says, I don't want to go back to church with you. Let's go somewhere else. And the wife says, but that's my church. That's where all my friends are and everything. And she started arguing with him after she'd been praying for months and years that he would go to church with her. And suddenly-

Dr. James Dobson: That's not flexible-

Jo Berry: Yeah. She said she had to change her thinking on that obviously. Also, another don't is don't try to second. guess God. You cannot live your marriage in anticipation of when your husband comes to Christ.

Dr. James Dobson: Yeah. Yeah, I hear that a lot from women where they've prayed. I've prayed for him for two years and the Lord still hasn't done it. He doesn't work on that kind of timetable. He sometimes has to take years to bring him to the Lord.

Jo Berry: That's right. That's right.

Dr. James Dobson: Jo, you and I both could tell people a lot of war stories, where things went from bad to worse. Have you seen some peace stories? Have you seen examples where a woman came to the Lord and she loved the Lord and she prayed for her husband and he did become a beloved believer.

Jo Berry: More peace stories than war stories. Very definitely. That's where the hope comes in. Also, I've seen a lot of situations where the woman came to the Lord and the husband didn't and they had happy fulfilled lives together.

Dr. James Dobson: Yeah.

Jo Berry: And although it's a harder situation and the wife bears that terrible burden of knowing that her husband is separated from her in eternity, she knows that she's done everything she can as a wife for him, and that's her role.

Dr. James Dobson: And hope brings eternal.

Jo Berry: And hope brings eternal. And you never know. You never know. You can't second guess God.

Dr. James Dobson: Jo, this has been a very, very practical discussion. Sometimes my guests and I get into philosophical kinds of things, but this has been right where people live and I'm sure that many people will relate to what you've had to say today. Bless you for being with us today.

Jo Berry: Thank you.

Roger Marsh: We've been listening to an encouraging as well as practical conversation with Mrs. Jo Berry on today's edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. We really dug back into the archives for this discussion. And it wasn't too long after this recording that both Jo, as well as her husband, George, went home to be with the Lord. But how grateful we are to have this reminder of what Jo experienced in loving her beloved unbeliever in marriage. And it was hopeful to hear that she was able to report more peace stories than war stories from women who had been in contact with her because of her book on this subject.

By the way, Mrs. Jo Berry's book is called Beloved Unbeliever and it's still available, even though it was first published in 1981. You'll find the principles that this resource contains to be of great benefit to you if you are married to an unbeliever. We have a link for this book on our broadcast page at, along with a link for Dr. Dobson's book, Love Must Be Tough. Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk is completely listener supported, and we rely on God through your tax deductible, financial contributions to help us continue in the work to which he has called us.

Give a gift online when you go to, or you can make your contribution over the phone when you call toll free; (877) 732-6825. I'm Roger Marsh. Thanks so much for listening today. Be sure to join us again next time for another edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.

Announcer: This has been a presentation of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.
Group Created with Sketch.