Thursday, February 23, 2012

The unequal yoke

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

TO CHEW ON: "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?" 2 Corinthians 6:14

What is an unequal yoke? [The "yoke" (n.) referred to here is a farming tool—a curved wooden contraption with attachments that coupled draft animals, such as oxen, so that they worked together. To "yoke" (v.) is to put a yoke upon, or to join with a yoke.]

To be unequally yoked is a coupling that is not compatible. It is rooted in the Old Testament law prohibition to yoke different kinds of animals together (Deuteronomy 22:10 and Leviticus 19:19). We can speculate on why God made this a no-no. Perhaps it was based on the physical differences of the animals. One was bigger and stronger, and thus could pull harder and move faster. Or worse, they might pull in opposite directions instead of working together.

In the spiritual sense this is often what happens in situations where people with different loyalties (one has Christ as Lord and Master, the other self or money or fame or success or status...) are linked in a covenant way (marriage, business partnership, even a close friendship).

A footnote in my Bible explains, "Unequally yoked refers to both Christians joining pagans (in idolatrous practice), and so closely yoking themselves (in any close relationship) with unbelievers that they compromise integrity of faith" - Arden Conrad Autrey, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1617.

In cases of unequal yokes so often the discussion in the church focuses on how to handle an unequal yoke situation after the union has been established. This is especially challenging when the covenant is marriage.

That is an understandable concern when one of the people in the covenant switches loyalties after the covenant was entered into. Paul addresses the situation of believing and non-believing marriage partners in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 where he says they should stay together if possible. Peter talks about believing wives winning their unbelieving husbands to faith by their winsome behaviour (1 Peter 3:1,2) .

But often we enter into unequal yokes with our eyes wide open, and so plunge ourselves into distress of our own making. How much better to take Paul's advice and not entangle ourselves in an unequal yoke in the first place. It would save us a lot of confusion, conflict, and regret.

PRAYER: Dear God, please check me with Your Spirit when I am on dangerous ground here. Help me not to be bound together with anyone who would influence me to compromise my allegiance to You. Amen.

MORE: The unequal yoke and marriage
"Many Christians have ignored that (2 Corinthians 6:14-16) to their own detriment by intermarrying with others of a different faith. They have thereby so undermined their own faith that evil in many ways has ultimately crept in and destroyed their marriages.

There is no guarantee that if you marry a Christian you are going to have a happy marriage, because there are other principles involved. But it is much more likely that two Christians will be happy together because there are principles and practices taught to us in the Word that make for happiness in marriage.

It is certain that if you disobey this command, however, you are opening the door to much heartache, struggle, and misery. There are passages designed to help people who have disobeyed this principle because God is very practical and merciful. He recognizes that for various reasons, intermarriage may occur. There are guidelines to help handle those situations. But by and large this is practical wisdom that needs to be adhered to today. Marry those who share the same faith you have, because faith is the basis for all of life" - Ray Stedman. (Read all of "The Unequal Yoke." - emphasis added.)

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