As you observe people in the course of life, and especially when it comes to making a choice for Christ, you discover that there are times and seasons when people are more or less ready to receive the Gospel. There are some who believe that every choice made by a human being is qualitatively the same irrespective of their situation, so that should you, for example, preach the Gospel to an unbeliever and he rejects it, such a decision amounts to a final decision. There are others like myself, and, I suspect, the majority of us, who believe that so long as one is alive, there is always another chance to hear, accept, repent and receive Christ.
It's a fact that none of us knows the nature and extent of the inner man of any other living human being, except, perhaps our spouse(s) and children, or at any rate those whom we live around day after day, year after year with whom we have a close connection. My own belief, from observation of people, is that there is always at least ONE opportunity in a lifetime when a soul is ready and prepared to make a decision for Christ and to work out his/her salvation to completion of this mortal span. A minister sensitive to the Spirit will know when to make this appeal and when not to. He will be especially aware that an appeal made at the WRONG time can entrench a soul's hostility and achieve the opposite end he intended.
There are many, many reasons why a soul may say "no" at those times when he is not ready, and we may never know the smallest fraction of the reasons. As Christ extends grace to us, so must we extend grace to them. To try and force the Gospel down anyone's throat in any way is contrary to the Spirit of Christ which brings souls to the cross by attraction, not compulsion. The number of souls who have been lost by careless and even callous ministers who lack the true love of Christ is too shocking to contemplate. Invariably, such ministers are self-appointed and utterly unsuited to the ministry in the first place. Ministers of the Gospel must all be called, as was Aaron, and not appoint themselves.
These truths ought to be self-evident to any soul who knows Christ and has been truly born-again. And yet it is astonishing - even horrifying - to discover that these selfsame men apply a totally different set of standards and rules when it comes to converting a wife brought up in the monogamy-only mindframe to practical polygamy.
To make the change from monogamy-only to polygamy for a woman on an emotional level requires an ENORMOUS leap of faith. It is not just a question of convincing her of what the Bible teaches about something - to convert someone mentally (assuming you even get that far) is not nearly as difficult as converting her emotionally. What men often fail to realise is that whilst women are every bit as capable of attaining the same levels of competence as men, their 'soul-matrix' is much more feeling-based than theirs. Women were designed by Yahweh to predominate in the emotions and have as one of their chief commissions, in the Spirit of Christ, to immerse their husbands, children, and those they minister to in the pure spiritual waters of love. And whilst those who have the gift are every bit as capable of being teachers as the men, and whilst men are every bit as capable of being warm and loving as the women are called to be, it is nevertheless an observable fact that men and women, respectively, invariably struggle in different mental and emotional domains. We are just not built the same way.
A man may be persuaded of something intellectually and without a great deal of further ado, launch himself into something he is mentally convinced of. The emotional side often follows afterwards, after the decision to act has been made. And whilst this may often lead him into trouble, it is his natural tendency. Thus in the arena of polygamy, a man may be mentally persuaded that the principle, or an additional woman, is right for him, without ever giving himself time to weigh his heart thoroughly. It is a male weakness to act in such a fashion - immeasurably beneficial in other spheres of activity (like having to make a cold decision about a military action on the battlefield) but decidedly dangerous in the marital sphere. Hence one finds all too often men making marriage proposals to women whom they may only have known an hour or two and without even having really made deep soul contact. Others think that one meeting is enough. They think mathematically and linearly - "I believe in polygamy, woman here is available, woman needs protecting and taking care of, looks OK, therefore I will propose ... and first wife had better agree."
The fault of the men here is not so much their gender but poor raising and bad discipleship. Men have been destroyed within by the crass and shallow culture in which they have been raised. And whilst they may know all the Biblical THEORY about love, their utter lack of experience of it simply means that they have no idea what it is PRACTICALLY. They are quite simply BLIND.
Women are very different creatures. Unlike men, whose first line of reaction to anything new, unknown, and potentially threatening, is usually intellectual, a woman's first reaction is invariably emotional. This is not her fault - it is the way she was built. As a mother, her instincts are many, including the protection of her young. If her children are threatened, she doesn't usually sit around rationalising - she acts quickly to save them. This is a divinely implanted defence mechanism. And, if she is a believer, she will likewise defend anything which she believes is godly and true in such a reflexive manner. She is by nature a protector and a comforter, and like the Holy Spirit, is easily grieved (Ephesians 4:30).
The education of a woman is the responsibility of her father when she is single and of her husband when she is married. The Bible very clearly teaches that a husband should teach his wife at home if she is wont to be contentious in assemblies or church meetings (1 Corinthians 14:35). The divine order is that pastors should educate teachers (men and women), teachers (men and women) educate the members (men and women), husbands teach their wives and children, and wives teach their children. Notice the uniplural nature of the commission - it is not just a single chain of education, but a multifaceted one. Whereas we EACH have the responsibility to find out what Yahweh wants of us through a careful and regular study of His Word and through meditation and prayer, there are also those set above us who have a responsibility to ensure that we are taught right too, remembering that we are a part of a body with mutually-dependent parts which call upon the gifts of others to minister to us. Thus throughout my life I have been taught by many and have had to carefully weigh all these teachings up. As a Pastor and Teacher my responsibility has been to educate and then leave the saints to have the Word and the Ruach (Spirit) confirm it for themselves.
A husband very definitely has the responsibility to teach his wife/wives and children. It is his sacred stewardship. They, in their turn, have the responsibility to find out the truth for themselves. If he has been a diligent father and husband, and if his children and wife/wives are able to see that his teaching is reliable and soundly Bible-based, their trust in him will grow and they will rest more comfortably in his teaching. Whilst there is always a danger of idolatry and laziness on the part of wives and children, for which there must be checks and balances which are carefully ensured by the father/husband, this does not change the responsibility of the husband/father to teach the wife/children to demonstrate faith - a faith which will grow as the husband/father demonstrates that his teachings are in accordance with Yahweh's plain will.
To be able to teach something like polygamy convincingly to his wife/children which he has probably never taught before if he has come out of a monogamy-only background and is newly converted will depend on many factors. Firstly, on the harmony and consistency of his previous teachings. Has he been a good teacher or one who has chopped and changed his position with every new fangled teaching coming out of the churches? How dependable have his teachings been in the past? Has he held tenaciously on to various pet doctrinal hobbies in spite of all the evidence that he has been wrong, and have his children and wife observed this and lost a degree of confidence in him? If he has been unstable in the past and suddenly pops the 'polygamy question', then quite frankly I wouldn't blame his wife for reacting negatively. And if his Christian/Messianic conduct has been less than what it should have been in the past, and he suddenly started talking 'polygamy', I, putting myself in the woman's position, would feel - with ample justification - VERY wary and disbelieving. For a man to be able to teach successfully polygamy out of the blue, never having taught it to his wife or family before, would require that he have an impeccable track record of integrity, honesty, chastity, and marital stability, for if he does not have this background, HE IS DISQUALIFIED FROM THE START.
I recently saw a film about the Second World War. It was about a highly decorated German corporal and a Captain who had no decorations and experience at all. The 'rules' required that the soldiers obey the Captain, but guess who they trusted? They trusted the Corporal who had saved their lives so many times before. The Captain revealed himself to be the scoundrel that he was by trying to cheat his way to military honours and he was happy to walk over the honour and reputation of others to get it.
A man who is not an honourable believer with a proven track record has no business teaching polygamy with a view to implementing it himself. Until he has established himself in the eyes of his family as such a man, who would have no ulterior motives for entering the principle other than to bring glory to Yahweh, he should leave the doctrine as no more than incidental. Men who have strings of divorces, broken romantic relationships, fornication, doctrinal instability, major mental and emotional weaknesses, testosterone problems, etc., are hardly likely to be called by Yahweh to enter polygamy. And if they convince themselves that they have thus been called, without first a decently long period period (i.e. many years) of exemplary monogamy, any attempt to force through polygamy on a hapless wife who is looking at her man and wondering how on earth Elohim (God) could be calling such a rogue to such a principle, then frankly I would not blame the wife for reacting in a hostile manner.
Though a husband is not supposed to be an idolatrous substitute for Christ in a woman's marriage (something which alas does happen), he is supposed to be a MODEL or IMITATOR or Christ to whom a wife can look up to and feel spiritually safe. Most of the men who claim to be called into polygamy are listening to a combination of Bible teaching and lusty hormones but not to the Spirit. They are failing to cultivate the kind of high-callibre spiritual life which would qualify them for polygamy in the first place. And when their wives rightly rebuff them for the spiritual hooligans that they are (for their wives ought to know them well enough), their invariable resort is whipping-boy threats and accusations of 'rebellion' and 'Jezebel'. It never seems to occur to them that maybe they have a big dose of AHAB in themselves. And if they truly do have a Jezebel-wife, it may well be because that's exactly what they deserve until both repent.
Christ was only able to attract souls to Him because of His impeccable life and teachings. The teachings on their own were not enough. His manner, His consistency, His radiant goodness, and His utter dedication to Yahweh were the principle ingredients that qualified - and still qualify - Him to be the allegorical Bridegroom of that polygamous Bride which we call the assembly of Believers or Church (Messianic Community). An army man who has undoubted leadership qualities is assigned more and more men under his watchcare, and a follower of Yah'shua (Jesus) who likewise demonstrates the true leadership skills of an Elder may similarly be given the stewardship by Yahweh of more than wife. It is therefore interesting that those men who manifestly lack leadership skills, and who admit they are not called to positions of responsibility in the local assembly/church, make considerable efforts to support the monogamy-only people in their declared dogma that Elders and Deacons are only to have one wife whereas polygamy is for the rest, ignoring the contradictions and practical tangles of such a position, and join with them in attacking Pastors and Elders (like myself) who are polygamists. This act of self-justification becomes all the more glaring when their behaviour and relationship failure-rates loudly trumpet to the world how utterly unequipped personally they are for polygamy and how so much better prepared men of leadership potential generally (but not always) are. Their argument that Pastors and Elders cannot possibly have enough time for more than one wife with the responsibility of a congregation wears thin when you consider how wonderfully supportive multiple-wives have been to be in my ministry as a Pastor, allowing me to do much more to help the people under my watch care! And a friend of mine in the polygamy movement in Asia has one of his wives as a co-pastor. But if you want to find a justification for a false belief, you will always find one if you try hard enough.
I realise that these matters do raise other doctrinal issues such as women in the ministry (which I absolutely believe in) and a female Ruach haQodesh/Holy Spirit which have been dealt with elsewhere. Inevitably, when you start discussing the minutiae of polygamy you are forced to bring in every other aspect of the Gospel, as is right, since one would expect a divine harmony. Therefore, with other believers having differences in doctrinal opinion, one must realistically expect not to have complete harmony in matters polygamous all in one go. Here, then, patience and long suffering is enjoined upon all, especially in those areas of doctrinal dispute where other interpretations are legitimate (at least in the sphere of human logic).
Now the point of this essay has been to spotlight for the men the total unreasonableness on their part of expecting their wives, who are likely under monogamy-only vows which they cannot unilaterally break in any case, to embrace polygamy mentally and emotionally when their personal conduct has been such as not to inspire much confidence even monogamously. Without a complete repentance from past immoral conduct (and here he had better be sure that he is not repenting BECAUSE he wants to impress his wife enough to persuade her to enter polygamy, instead of repenting to please Yahweh without expectations of a polygamous reward) over a respectable period of time (at least seven years in my book), then all thoughts of entering polygamy ought to be banished from a man's thoughts for a very, very long time, if not for good. The polygamous equivalent of the 'deathbed repentance' just doesn't wash and no amount of subsequent Bible-bashing on polygamy is going to make much of an impact on a godly woman. A man's deeds must speak louder than the eloquence of his theology. (Interestingly, those who wax eloquent on polygamy doctrine because that is their prime agenda, are often extraordinarily weak in many if not all the other departments of Christian theology).
If a man has, or has developed over a good long period of time, an excellent track record as a man of Yahweh, demonstrating stability, consistency, a loving disposition, sexual self-control, absence of mental, emotional, and spiritual manipulation of his wife to get his own way, convinces by example and attraction, firmness in the truth, renounces force as a means to his own ends, demonstrates sound leadership ability which is recognised and extended by his local assembly/church, and is otherwise walking the way Christ walked, then MAYBE he has been called to into polygamy ... but then again maybe not. Just because you are a leader does not mean you are automatically called to be a polygamist! That is Yahweh's sovereign choice.
But let us assume that he has been called, as some are. What if his wife continues to say "no"? Then maybe the fault is with her. But even if it is, is it the 'time and season' for her to accept polygamy? Just because the man may think he has his act in order, it does not automatically follow that he can start turning the pressure on. One of the signs of spiritual maturity in a man, and one of the qualifying factors for him being a polygamist in the first place, is that he will recognise the spiritual symptoms and discern Yahweh's timetable. She may have a number of personal problems that need working our beforehand, and preferably independently of the polygamy issue. Remember that the vast majority of people coming out of our neo-pagan Western culture are seriously damaged inside. And entering polygamy when you are messed up inside is probably the worst thing imaginable for a woman. This is not to justify her attempts to flee from the problem because polygamy may be waiting for her once she gets them sorted out (another sinful form of self-justification), but to recognise that so long as such problems are allowed to continue and sabotage one's spiritual life, we are actually harming ourselves and our families, and jeopardising our salvation. There are no excuses for not repenting from dead works, seeking healing for inner spiritual damage, and striving for the perfection demanded of us by Yah'shua (Jesus). There may be a Jezebel spirit that needs rooting out, but until the husband has dealt with his Ahab spirit (if he has one), he will have no moral authority in accusing his wife. The finger of hypocrisy will point back at him.
Wives, aware that husbands have this responsibility to take the initiative in setting such an example, must nevertheless not use this as an excuse to sit passively and do nothing on the spiritual front. They are still accountable to Yahweh, our Father in Heaven. And they must realise that they may actually be retarding their husband's spiritual growth and calling if they so behave. And if they behave in this way, they will likely find themselves opposed by Yahweh Himself in a way they never dreamed. A man who is being true and faithful to his call, and who is opposed by his wife, may well have his wife unpleasantly buffeted by a displeased Elohim (God). Yahweh is no respector of persons, and certainly no respector of genders. Whilst our callings and responsibilities may be different, the mandate to repent and strive for perfection is the same for all. There are no exceptions.
A man walking in the Ruach (Spirit) will recognise when an unbeliever is ready to hear the Gospel and respond with genuine free agency, and the husband walking likewise, who is thinking of his wife's salvation before his own desire to enter polygamy, will know the right time to push the polygamy issue in a way that is non-invasive. Only when these criteria have been met (and he had better be pretty sure that they have for fear of the judgement on his own soul if they have not) dare he start applying some very, very gentle pressure. The dangers of a fall at this stage are great and terrible, so he must walk circumspectly and carefully, never rushing. Thoughts of the 'suffering' of another woman waiting to enter his marriage should not intrude - if she has been genuinely called, she too must walk in patience, love and grace. She may have to wait a long time. And she must expect that. If she won't - if romance and not Yahweh's will is her leading spirit - then she will not possess the right qualities of a godly polygamist in the first place. But it is true Yahweh will not expect her to wait for ever. Then there is the possibility that a husband will show a weakness in the opposite direction, not wishing to antagonise a wife in a genuine Jezebellic spirit, and offer the woman waiting in the wings on the altar of sacrifice. This was a terrible mistake I once made.
So long as a man is walking in the holiness of Yahweh, responding to the Ruach (Spirit) every day, Yahweh will do the rest. It may take many years, or it may not. That must be his act of faith, as well as the act of faith of any woman waiting to enter such a marriage. If such a man truly walks as Yahweh intends, he will automatically be a true leader-type, and qualified in at least that respect to be a polygamist man. But if he will not wait, or if he tries to force the issue, and acts like a tyrant, he will destroy both his own soul and that of the wife of his youth, and maybe his family as a whole, and for that he will be held accountable.
If a wife says "no" it may well be Yahweh saying "no" too. Or it may be her own carnal spirit. It may, unbeknown to her, be "no" to the husband at that time because either he or she - or both - aren't ready. There are many possible answers and usually only time will reveal what the correct answer is.
Too many men nowadays are still impetuous and ungovernable youths in their hearts, who despise authority (2 Peter 2:10) and want to live the gospel life alone and without accountability to others. Such invariably make the worst possible kind of polygamous husband, and the totalitarian temptation is great. But for both men and women the main problem, as I see it, is still egotism and shallowness. And unless you are willing to dispense with both, polygamy can never be more than a spiritually bloody and destructive battleground. Men and women who know how to cultivate sensitivity, and deep quality human relationships built on the principles of godliness taught and exemplified by Christ, are those who are best suited for this lifestyle. And what this means in practice is an active, dynamic, participating life in Kingdom-building in a local assembly or church. Polygamy which meditates on its own navel just becomes another fad and ultimately a form of idolatry and a spiritual deep-freeze.
Therefore the challenge first of all is not only for men and women to get their own personal spiritual acts together but to get the corporate acts right in fellowship with other believers. A polygamous family must have channels to actively serve others than their own family members. If they don't, their family will itself become a massive ego of presumptuous self-importance, quenching the Spirit and the blessings which come only through serving other's needs. And I speak here not of private family projects which they themselves can choose (or dismiss) at will (for good or evil), but the life and service of an assembly of believers reaching out into the world with the Gospel of Salvation. Ultimately polygamy does not exist for itself - it is not there to fulfil selfish wants - but it is an instrument of the Kingdom mandate, a model for the local assembly/church in its quest to become part of an even greater Bride.
Has your wife said "no"? Then consider soberly all that I have said.