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The Dangers Of Being Unequally Yoked

Unequally yoked.  We hear of it in church and we’ve probably read about it online or in Bible Studies, but what does it actually mean?  Before we take a look at the verse that this phrase comes from, let’s first look at the phrase itself.

I loved this simple explanation from Got  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.

What does Unequally Yoked mean?

Is dating someone who doesn’t share your beliefs really such a big deal?

Actually, yes.

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.

Unbelievers tend to have different worldviews than those of believers.  Those views include things on sin (premarital sex, morals, values, etc.)  While, I don’t believe that it is a sin to marry an unbeliever, it would, however, be unhealthy to the marriage in the long run and the faith of the believer.

Let’s look at few issues that may come up when a believer marries an unbeliever

Dating an Unbeliever is Disobedience

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 like 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 like 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.

Children – how would they be raised? To believe that Jesus was the son of God?  Would that result in confusion that one parent believes that and the other doesn’t?

Tithing – how would the unbeliever react to the believer giving the first 10% of his or her earnings to God? Would they resent it? Find it silly?  What problems could arise?

Church attendance and ministry involvement – would the unbeliever resent the amount of time that the other is spending at church or in ministry?  What issues could this situation present?

Social Life – while this may not be true for all, the unbelieving spouse may want to do things, socially, that are out of alignment with the values of the believer. Things that may involve immorality, excessive drinking or even drugs or other activities.  Not necessarily illegal, but uncomfortable for the believer.

So what do you do if you are married to an unbeliever?  The most important two things are:

1) Pray for their salvation
2) Model Christian behavior.
God is working on turning your spouse’s heart and will use you and your actions to do so.  This is not to say that you have failed God if your spouse doesn’t believe.  You cannot force someone to love Jesus, but you can show them what God’s love looks like through your own words and actions.

The Bible speaks to your next steps. Start by reading 1 Corinthians 7.

Are you or were you married to an unequally yoked spouse?  What struggles did you or do you face?

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