Help For Those Unequally Yoked Together
Relationships That Thrive: The Meaning of Equally or Unequally Yoked
Relationships cover a broad range of human experiences. We relate to our parents, our siblings, our friends, our mate, our employers, business associates and the public in general.
Among all these groups, we find we are most happy and at peace when we mostly agree with one another on big issues. Problems arise when we are not in agreement.
In fact, God tells us that two people can’t even walk together unless they agree (Amos 3:3).
However, you and I would agree with one not-so-startling fact—not everyone agrees with everyone else on everything! That’s to be expected, and we bear with one another, most of the time, because we are friends and we do agree on many important things. We even use expressions that commend others for agreeing with us, such as, “we’re on the same page,” “I know I’m preaching to the choir,” “we’re in the same ballpark,” “great minds think a …” and, jokingly, “so do weak ones.”
The bottom line is that when we believe the same way on the important spiritual things, relationships can thrive. When we don’t believe the same, relationships can suffer or, worse, can negatively influence our character.
The apostle Paul used an interesting analogy to address this issue: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
We rarely use the term yoke today. We simply spend time together or hang out together.
God is telling us that we should have important relationships that pull or yoke us together with those who believe as we do. The word yoke was everyday language when oxen were used to plow a field.Often two oxen with equal strength were “yoked” together to allow each to pull its fair share. The yoke was a wooden structure for joining the two animals together.
Once the yoke connected the animals, they were together until they finished plowing.
Paul was saying we should establish relationships with those of minds, but we should refrain from creating close friendships that adversely affect us. “Yoking” with such individuals generally creates complications and even caustic conditions.
Oxen and donkeys
The apostle Paul probably wrote the “yoked” passage above Deuteronomy 22:10, where the Bible prohibited yoking an ox with a donkey. Why? Because they were so different, they wouldn’t be able to work together in a way that was safe and good for both animals.
Trained oxen follow commands and can be gentle, gregarious, content, large, strong and patient. Donkeys are much different. They don’t trust their owners quickly; are stubborn, independent and faster, but also weaker; and have a different diet than oxen.
Yoking an ox with a donkey certainly isn’t a good match. But what are some lessons we can learn about relationships with those who have mostly different beliefs than ours?
- We should definitely not develop close relationships with immoral “friends,” since our own behavior will be damaged—“Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). There can be people whose personalities we love, but we come to realize there are virtually no socially redeeming values stemming from their questionable character.
- We should honor and communicate with family members. We are commanded to honor our parents (Exodus 20:12). Normally we interact with family unless their past wrong behavior (such as abuse) justifies avoiding them. Otherwise, we can have close relationships with family since blood yokes us together even though beliefs may not be the same.
- There are temporary periods of time when we have no choice but to spend more time with those who don’t believe as we do (such as in school or on the job). In those situations, we bear with others yet don’t fully agree with them. We will not be “yoked” with them, but we can learn from instructors, for example, by filtering out the bad and retaining the good.
- We must never compromise our godly values. We have to be our own person, only allowing godly men and women to influence us. Develop friendships slowly. Time is needed to know what a person is really . “Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later” (1 Timothy 5:24).
- We should nurture good relationships. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). No man is an island. We are commanded to fellowship with and build up others of minds who believe the teachings of God. The apostle John tells us, “Have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
What was Paul addressing?
Paul’s reason for not yoking with unbelievers is:
“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? … Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you’” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17).
Paul is addressing the subject of having different religious beliefs.Paul is addressing the subject of having different religious beliefs. Looking at the background can help enlighten us concerning Paul’s statement.
Paul wrote this letter to the Church of God in Corinth. The city was large, but the church was small, meeting with an ordained minister of God (Acts 14:23) in a member’s home (1 Corinthians 16:19).
The religious beliefs of the citizens of Corinth presented a problem to this small group of believers. Above the city stood “the great temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
” Corinth “had a reputation for commercial prosperity, but she was also a byword for evil living.
The very word korinthiazesthai, to live a Corinthian, had become a part of the Greek language, and meant to live with drunken and immoral debauchery” (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: The Letters to the Corinthians, 1975, pp. 2-3).
Corinth was an immoral city!
True Christians were called believers. Virtually the entire population of the city of Corinth consisted of unbelievers. Unbelievers were not simply those who didn’t believe God existed.
Citizens in Corinth believed the doctrines of pagan gods and accepted immoral sexual practices.Their beliefs and lifestyles were diametrically opposite to those of the Christians who worshipped God not only in Spirit, but also in truth.
What kind of relationship were Christians to have with those Corinthians?
They could do business with immoral unbelievers (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). But Paul commanded Christians not to yoke themselves with these unbelievers because they represented disobedience to God’s law, darkness, Belial (Satan), idolatry and uncleanness (2 Corinthians 6:14-15, 16-17).
What does all this mean spiritually to you and me?
Most of us don’t live in the city of Corinth, but we live in societies, in every part of this earth, that have been influenced by pagan beliefs.
Jesus warned: “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).
Today nonbiblical teachings include holidays of pagan origin, such as Halloween and Christmas, and pagan doctrines, such as worshipping God on Sunday rather than on the special day created to be His seventh-day Sabbath (Genesis 2:2-3).
History shows that in the first few centuries after Christ’s ascension to heaven, Christians began to be guilty of syncretism—combining beliefs of the only God with those of the pagan world. As a result, we have a world in which nominal Christians unwittingly celebrate pagan holidays.
If you are serious about being a disciple of Christ, you will want to prove which beliefs are true and which are false. Following the false pagan beliefs results in death. God tells us that He has set before us “life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Christians are a little flock (Luke 12:32). If you follow God’s way, the path will be difficult and narrow, entered by only a few (Matthew 7:13-14). But your lasting, close-knit relationships with the true believers of God will thrive, and you will have peace and happiness.
Why Being Unequally Yoked Is More Dangerous Than You Think
Is dating someone who doesn’t share your beliefs really such a big deal?
2 Corinthians 6:14 is the oft-cited verse calling believers to be “equally yoked”. But many believers fail to see why this command from the Apostle Paul is so important. Others disregard it completely.
Being equally yoked is not meant to inhibit our dating lives. Rather, it is a command designed for protection and honor. Being unequally yoked is more dangerous than you think – and waiting for someone with whom you share the same spiritual heritage is far more rewarding than many believe.
Dating an Unbeliever is Disobedience
I once received an email from a reader. In it, she said she didn’t think God cared about who she dated or married – He had bigger things to worry about. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. God has always cared about the unions His people make – as evidenced by His relationship with Israel.
In Deuteronomy 7, Moses is instructing the Israelites in their responsibilities as the people of God. They have been freed from slavery and are now free men, about to enter the Promised Land. But Moses gives a warning:
“You shall make no covenant with [the people of the land] and show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them… for they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods…” (Deut. 7:3-4)
Fast forward several hundred years, and we find Israel in direct rebellion against God’s command:
“The sons of Israel lived among the Canaanites…; and they took their daughters for themselves as wives, and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.” (Judges 3:5-6)It probably didn’t seem so harmful at first. Perhaps the Israelites felt there weren’t enough women, or there weren’t enough men to go around. However they rationalized it, the Israelites formed covenants between themselves and people who neither knew nor served God. In so doing, they were led astray.
Over and over in Scripture, we see this theme repeated. Two are Samson, who repeatedly sought out unbelieving women, a choice which in the end destroyed him (Judges 14), and Solomon, the wisest man in the world – until his many wives led him to worship other gods (1 Kings 11).
Uniting ourselves to people who do not love, follow, or submit to Christ is direct disobedience.
Intimacy is Impossible Without Spiritual Unity
If Christ is truly King of our lives, our most intimate selves should be submitted to His influence. How then can we unite a Spirit-led soul to one in rebellion against God?
This rubs people the wrong way, because no matter how respectful, sweet, or “loving” an unbelieving partner is, he is at odds with Christ – he is in rebellion. But if we call ourselves Christians, we’re saying we believe the Bible is our final authority.
The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that without Christ we are “[unresponsive] in our transgressions”, conformed to the world, “living by the cravings of our flesh” and “by nature, children of wrath”. (Eph. 2:1-3) This is who we are without Jesus.
This is who everyone is apart from Christ.
Therefore, those of us in Christ cannot be in a harmonious, God-pleasing relationship with an unbeliever. There is no fellowship between light and darkness (2 Cor. 7:14)! The Greek word for “fellowship” in this passage literally means contact or intimacy. Through Paul’s inspired words, we learn that intimacy with unbelievers is not just discouraged – it’s impossible.
God knows this. It’s why he commanded the Israelites to marry within the household of faith, and it’s why He inspired Paul to issue the same command. This is for our spiritual protection! Righteousness has nothing in common with a person who believes they are good enough apart from God:
“For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Cor. 6:14-15)
No relationship apart from Christ can be truly “good” (Mark 10:18). No “love” apart from Christ is true love (1 John 4:16-17). It may look these things from the outside, but will never be unified within.
Your Body is a Sanctuary of Worship
Paul’s mandate to be “equally yoked” isn’t found in a list of commandments; it was written to the struggling church at Corinth, a group of people confused about how to live for Christ in a corrupt world. That’s why he took the time to explain why equal yoking is essential to the Christian walk:
“What agreement can exist between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be My people.”
“Therefore come out from among them
and be separate, says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.” (2 Cor. 6:16-17)
Your body is the new Temple. As a follower of Christ, the Spirit of God dwells in you. This is why God calls us to “come out from among them, and separate.” He’s not telling us to be unloving – we are called to love unbelievers (1 Pet. 2:12). God is calling us to love Him more than we love our own desire for a relationship. He’s calling us to be a place of worship.
This is a call to reconsider your view of God and dating. God cares about our relationships because He cares about us. He cares about our purity because that is what keeps us in a relationship with Him! Our holiness preaches the gospel louder than our words. Unequal yoking hinders our walk with God – the one thing we need more than anything else.If you are already married to an unbeliever, the Bible speaks to your next steps. Start by reading 1 Corinthians 7. Questions? Email Phylicia at firstname.lastname@example.org
Phylicia Masonheimer blogs at Phylicia Delta, where she teaches women how to preach the gospel with their lives: proclaiming Jesus in work, love, and home. Her eBook Christian Cosmo launches March 1st, 2017.
Image courtesy: Pexels.com
Publication date: February 22, 2017
When You Are Unequally Yoked
The phrase “unequally yoked” comes from 2 Corinthians 6:14 in the King James Version: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
The New American Standard Version says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
A yoke is a wooden bar that joins two oxen to each other and to the burden they pull. An “unequally yoked” team has one stronger ox and one weaker, or one taller and one shorter.
The weaker or shorter ox would walk more slowly than the taller, stronger one, causing the load to go around in circles. When oxen are unequally yoked, they cannot perform the task set before them.
Instead of working together, they are at odds with one another.
Paul’s admonition in 2 Corinthians 6:14 is part of a larger discourse to the church at Corinth on the Christian life. He discouraged them from being in an unequal partnership with unbelievers because believers and unbelievers are opposites, just as light and darkness are opposites.
Attempting to live a Christian life with a non-Christian for our close friend and ally will only cause us to go around in circles
The “unequal yoke” is often applied to business relationships. For a Christian to enter into a partnership with an unbeliever is to court disaster.
Unbelievers have opposite worldviews and morals, and business decisions made daily will reflect the worldview of one partner or the other.
For the relationship to work, one or the other must abandon his moral center and move toward that of the other.
More often than not, it is the believer who finds himself pressured to leave his Christian principles behind for the sake of profit and the growth of the business.
Of course, the closest alliance one person can have with another is found in marriage, and this is how the passage is usually interpreted.
God’s plan is for a man and a woman to become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), a relationship so intimate that one literally and figuratively becomes part of the other
Uniting a believer with an unbeliever is essentially uniting opposites, which makes for a very difficult marriage relationship.
Whether in business or relationships Christians are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Starting a business with an unbeliever can put Christians in a terrible situation.
It can cause Christians to compromise their relationship with Christ, there will be disagreements, etc.Don’t think that you will get married and you will change them because that rarely happens and it will most ly cause more problems.
We must deny ourselves and take up the cross daily. Sometimes you have to drop relationships for Christ.
Don’t think you know what’s best. Trust in God alone not yourself. There are so many reasons not to marry an unbeliever. Wait on God’s timing and trust in His ways.
What does the Bible say about being unequally yoked?
Here are 15 helpful Bible Scriptures…
1. Amos 3:3 Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?
2. 2 Corinthians 6:14 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?
3. Ephesians 5:7 Therefore do not become partners with them.
4. 2 Corinthians 6:15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
5. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
6. 2 Corinthians 6:17 Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
7. Isaiah 52:11 Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the articles of the LORD’s house.
8. 2 Corinthians 6:16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
9. 1 Corinthians 6:16-17 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
10. Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
If you were already married before getting saved.
11. 1 Corinthians 7:12-13 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.
12. 1 Corinthians 7:17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.
13. Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
14. Proverbs 6:27 Can a man take fire in his bosom And his clothes not be burned?
15. Proverbs 6:28 Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?
Unequally Yoked? Meaning, Scriptures and Lesson
What does the Bible mean by saying we are not to be unequally yoked? What do the Scriptures say this means and why are we commanded to not be unequally yoked.
What is a yoke? A yoke is an implement that is used to harness animals together to pull a load or a plow. The yoke is a familiar and useful tool to agrarian (farming) societies. This device is used to join a pair of animals, oxen, to work together, simultaneously.
They can be used to pull out tree trunks, move boulders, pull logs, to plow fields, or pull a loaded cart. The yoke is often used in the Bible to express the symbolism of having two that are similar in capacity so that they can both work together.Jesus referred to a yoke once when He told His followers to, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
When we are walking with Christ and are in Christ, we can share the load of our life with Him and the walk, although not easy, will be more bearable.
A yoke is an implement that is used to harness animals together to pull a load or a plow.
What did Paul mean when he said to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14)? Does he mean with friends or with those we are dating or considering marriage with? I believe it is all of these that Paul was addressing but he may be emphasizing marriage in these texts. In the context we can see that Paul was writing about unbelievers (including friends), those we might consider dating, and those whom we might want to marry. When we read the entire context of 2 Corinthians chapter six, I believe we can see the answer clearly as with any Scriptures. Context is always important. As a rule, I do not to read just one verse and quote it without reading the entire chapter and possibly the entire book. So let’s see what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.
For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial, Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.
As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
In verses 14-16 Paul contrasts light and darkness and righteousness with wickedness. These have nothing in common. Jesus said that “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:16) “but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19a). No one who believes in Christ “should stay in darkness” (John 12:46c).
Also consider, “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial” (2 Corinthians 6:15)? The answer is there is no agreement between the two! Belial is a symbol of a demon or the Devil himself.
Belial also means someone who is self-sufficient, truly independent, and has no master. It is no wonder that Belial is a Hebrew adjective meaning “worthless.” We must not be self-sufficient but worship and depend upon our Master…that is Jesus Christ.
These two are diametrically opposed and opposites of each other.We are told that we are the temple of God because God the Holy Spirit dwells in us, therefore there is no place for idols. God must be first and foremost in our lives (Matthew 6:33) but this would be difficult if we marry or have as best friends those who do not believe in God.
Just as God told Israel, “Come out from them and be separate” (Isaiah 52:11) so we too must be separate from unbelievers in close friendships and in marriage (which includes dating non-believers). God is our Father (2 Corinthians 6:18) but the unbelievers have Satan as their father (John 8:44). I know that sounds harsh, but those are not my words, rather, that is Jesus speaking.
Imagine you see a farmer getting ready to plow his or her field. They hook up a powerful ox to one side and on the other side, they hook up a tiny little Chihuahua.
Which side is going to work the hardest? Will they plow together in an equal fashion? Can they walk along and carry the load on an equal basis? Of course not! One will ly be dragged along and impede the progress of the other. One may pull to the left and one may pull to the right.
The one that is the primary worker will be pulling more than their fair share. The ox will strain because the Chihuahua will want to run away or go the other direction. They can not work together because they are unequally yoked together.
They will have little success and the work will either not get done or it will be exponentially more difficult. It is not fair to the Chihuahua or to the ox. This will simply not work. They will eventually have to be unyoked. For some that are unequally yoked, this means divorce. How tragic and how unnecessary; it could have been prevented.
The same principle applies to dating or considering an unbeliever as a marriage partner. Their morals will not be the same, they may have differing principles in child rearing, their television or movie taste will be not be the same, their language, work ethic, just about everything will be different.
They will struggle at almost ever thing they do. God commands Christians to not marry unbelievers because it is in their best interests. No marriage is always better than a bad marriage, especially since marriage is intended to last until “death do us part.
” Don’t be fooled by thinking that you can convert them after you marry them because it is God who draws people to Christ (John 6:44). Just because they say they believe in God does not mean they believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord for He is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.Even the Devil and his demons believe in God but that doesn’t make them Christians (James 2:19). You will know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:16, 20) and not by what they say. Time will tell.
Jesus meant this when He said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:18) and “wise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7:17).
When Jesus said to “Take my yoke upon you,” there is the idea that we can put our heavy loads on His shoulders (which is where the yoke goes on the team of oxen). We must be walking along side of Christ to have the yoke be useful to us.
If we walk ahead of Christ, the load will be on us…if we walk behind, we will get no help with our heavy burdens…but if we walk with Christ, we have access to Christ and we can have Him share the load. That is how we can find “rest for [our] souls” for His “yoke is easy and His burden is light.
” The same principle applies to those who marry believers. They walk together in agreement. They can share life’s heavy loads together for “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work” (Ecclesiastes 4:9) and “If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up” (Ecclesiastes4:10)! Amos 3:3 puts it this way, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?”
Being married to believers is a three-fold cord because, “one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
Two are able to stand stronger than one against the Enemy but when Christ is in the marriage, it becomes a strong “cord of three strands” which is “not quickly broken.
” The idea is that when Christ is at the center of the marriage, the two become stronger because of Christ’s presence and His strength.
I have married many couples who were both believers and I have married couples who were non-believers but I refuse to marry couples where one is a believer and the other is a non-believer. Believe me when I say this that I am trying to spare them much grief and heartache and perhaps prevent a needless divorce.
If You’re Married to an Unbeliever
What happens if you are presently married to an unbeliever? My own opinion is worthless compared to what the Bible teaches. Paul wrote that “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.
And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband” (1 Corinthians 7:12-14).It is crystal clear that Paul says not to divorce someone if they are not a believer because you may be an agent used by God to bring that person to saving faith.
Paul concludes this thought by writing that such a “person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them” (1 Corinthians 7:17).
There is no doubt that a Christian should not date, become engaged, or marry an unbeliever.
They will have trouble in their marriage to be sure, they will be unequally yoked throughout their lives, they will have many disagreements, they will struggle over ethical and moral decisions, they will differ in their child rearing philosophies, but above all God commands believers to “not be yoked together with unbelievers “ because “what fellowship can light have with darkness?“ It is for our own good and God always knows what best for us…more so than we do for He is God and we are not.
Read more about a model for the Christian marriage here:
Cord of Three Strands
Resources – New International Version Bible (NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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