Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. 2 Corinthians 6:14-16
The subject of being ‘unequally yoked’ for a Christian continues to be a bone of contention. It really shouldn’t; but often we want the Bible to fit in with our lives and seem only able to accept Christ on our terms. The Bible however will not change, we cannot add or take anything away from it, and if we don’t agree with it there is precious little we can do. So, as usual I like to keep things simple.
Firstly, God always gives us a choice. There are some requirements for holy living where God says we categorically must not do something and must live a certain way, or we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. And there are other requirements where God says, we should not do something because if we do it we will have problems which will make it difficult for us to maintain a righteous life in Him. As a result we will struggle unnecessarily and could fall away from Him. The subject of being unequally yoked falls in the latter category.
To be ‘yoked’ is to be joined together in a close relationship, any relationship; not just marriage. As Christians we usually think of this term in regards to a Christian marrying a non-Christian, but it is far more than that. The Apostle Paul addresses the Corinthians, who at the time were not living a righteous life, they were making all sorts of mistakes. They had close relationships with idol worshippers and false prophets, the lines were blurred with believers and unbelievers fellowshipping together. As a result of this, they did not recognise Paul as the true follower of Christ and was rejecting him.
The world today is a difficult, complicated, melting pot of evil, hate and pain; masking itself with the sole intent to deceive and destroy the innocent. God has opened the eyes of His believers so they will see it for what it is and live accordingly, avoiding the unholiness of the world. Living a righteous and holy life in this world, is difficult enough even when you are equally ‘yoked,’ believing in the same doctrine of Christ and living according to the same principles.
Paul challenges this situation, be it friendships or relationships; of which marriage is the closest. For when we are married to someone who is an unbeliever; we know Christ; while they do not. We worship while they do not. They still enjoy the worldly living while we do not or should not. Our lifestyle and choices will be different which will inevitably cause problems and divisions in the relationship.
Paul is not saying here that this is a ‘deal breaker’ or that you will lose your Salvation, although as a Christian, worldly influences could pull you away from Christ which could result in you losing your salvation if not recognised and acted upon. He is saying that the two are not equally matched. To be yoked with others who preach completely different doctrines that goes against the Bible, to be yoked with idol worshippers; those who live a riotous life which you are trying to live a righteous life is counter productive to the Christian walk.
God gives us the freedom to make our own choices, but tells us very clearly in the Bible that certain choices will make our lives difficult.
Whilst there are many marriages and close relationships joining believers to non-believers; how many can say they can sit down and pray together, discuss God together, read and understand the Bible together or both look forward to the day when they meet our Saviour in heaven? For such a relationship to work, there has to be a lot of compromise so one will not offend the other, boundaries which cannot be crossed, a dividing line to allow each to ‘do their thing’ whilst coming together to fellowship. It is difficult at best!
When believers are yoked with unbelievers; we will not be able to share or exchange intimate thoughts and feelings, especially on a mental or spiritual level; but the Lord still allows us to chose the people in our lives.
It should also be noted here that Christians can be unequally yoked to other Christians. How is this possible you ask? Well, Paul actually speaks of believers and unbelievers, which we often refer to as Christians and non-Christians. With over 2 billion Christians in the world today, it is safe to say that there are varying degrees of belief in the true Gospel of Christ. There are some Christians who do not believe in Jesus Christ and His teachings. Many have taken what pleases them and mixed it with a little of this and a little of that and created their own hybrid ‘religion’ still referring to it as Christianity. To be yoked to someone claiming to be a Christian but not truly believing in Jesus Christ and His teachings… the fullness of the Word of God; is to be unequally yoked.
God is merciful and loves us so much that as long as there is a Christian in the household that household will be blessed. On the topic of marriage the Lord is not saying that if your partner is a non-believer you should be parted from them; on the contrary. God loves marriage, it was ordained by Him. So an unbelieving husband or wife is sanctified through the husband or wife who believes in Christ and is living a righteous life. That union is blessed, it is not any less of a marriage than the marriage of two believers. But we need to know that there will be struggles because fundamentally both parties still have different beliefs.