II CORINTHIANS 6:14-16: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What harmony does Messiah have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement does God’s Temple have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God—just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” TLV
OBSERVATION: Am I unequally yoked? This seems like a strange question to ask myself. I have been married for 42 years to a wonderful Christian woman who shares my values and faith. I learned early on in my life that God did not bless missionary dating. So how can this Scripture apply to me? Does it have any relevance to my daily life?
So many times we misunderstand Paul’s statement and the conclusion that he quotes from Scripture at the end of this chapter:
- “Therefore, come out from among them, and be separate, says ADONAI. Touch no unclean thing. Then I will take you in. I will be a father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says ADONAI -Tzva’ot (Lord of Hosts).” 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 TLV
I hear many believers say, “If only I could work for a Christian company, then I would not have to put up with all of these negative and unbelieving people!” They misunderstand the Lord’s call to come out from among them. It is not a call to retreat to a safe bubble from the world and those who are unbelievers. It is a call to walk in sincerity of faith and holiness before the Lord. It is a call to go into the world as His light, shining brightly, refusing to put a bushel over our testimony and our convictions.
Paul corrected the Corinthians misconception of this teaching when he wrote:
- “I wrote to you in my letter not to mix together with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral people of this world or the greedy or swindlers or idolaters, for then you would have to exit the world.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 TLV
Paul was called to win the lost to Christ. We are called to win the lost to Christ. We cannot do that if we are hiding from the lost, if we build a subculture that never allows us to interact with the lost. This is not what Paul is intending when he writes – “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers…”. It is not the matter of association he is addressing, it is the matter of partnership, participation, and pattern.
There is a definite distinction between the posture I take when my life if directed at winning the lost to Christ verses sharing in partnership with the lost. The one involves a posture of serving, the other a posture of approval and participation. Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors. Yet, Jesus never participated or approved of their sin. Jesus simply came to serve them, love them, and be God’s light in the midst of their darkness. If they chose to associate with Jesus they were ultimately faced with a decision. They would either have to embrace His light, or they would retreat to their darkness.
The problem that I am confronted with daily is where to draw the line. When am I serving, loving, and letting my light shine, and when am I crossing the line and becoming unequally yoked? I believe the key to answering this question is found in understanding the concept of a yoke.
A yoke was used to harness two animals to fulfill a job. It could be to plow a field, or pull a cart. The Scriptures warned about yoking an oxen with a donkey. The two would end up working against each other, not with each other. The task would not be accomplished, and one of the animals would get injured. So the yoke speaks of a like mindedness, an agreement, an approval. When my actions and interactions cease from being expressions of selfless love to win someone to Christ, and become approval of their brokenness and sin, I have become unequally yoked.
How can I test my relationship to see if I have crossed the line? Paul uses three words in these verses – partnership, fellowship, and harmony. When I begin to give approval, either by my actions, or by my silence, to something that I now is wrong, I have entered into partnership. Jesus always loved the sinner, but He never approved of the sin. Partnership is approval. Approval leads us into the pathway of temptation as we are enticed to dabble in the very thing that we know is wrong. If unchecked, we find ourselves actually having fellowship with the very sin that we originally were hoping to help this person with. And when partnership become fellowship, its ultimate destination is harmony. Harmony is when we begin to look like, act like, and sound like the sin, and we have ceased in our effectiveness to help the sinner. In fact, we now have become the sinner.
There is a great pressure today to lower our standards of truth in the guise of tolerance. The world is calling us to offer our approval for beliefs and practices that God’s Word condemns as both harmful and ultimately damning. To give a pass to such sin is to encourage others to continue on the pathway that leads to eternal separation from God. And, to be pulled into the fray threatens our very fruitfulness and is targeted at stealing our eternal reward. It is a deadly scheme of the enemy of our souls and one that we must resist, steadfast in the faith. It is a call to true humility, brokenness, and love.
Humility, knowing that but by the grace of God, so go I. Brokenness, knowing that my strength is only in Christ alone. And love, realizing that His call to come out from among them is so that I truly can go to them. I will never be effective in helping someone who is lost and needs Christ, unless I am growing in the love of Christ and walking in His light. When I allow myself to fall into the trap of being unequally yoked, I put a bushel over my light. I begin to stumble, and I am totally ineffective in leading others to the Lord.
Lord, forgive me for the times when I have given approval to sin in any way. Also, forgive me when I have walked in self righteousness and condemned others rather than lovingly serving them and sharing the Good New of Jesus Christ with them. Help me to love and walk as Jesus did. Help me to walk in His love and light. Help me not to become unequally yoked.
In Jesus Name!