Unequal Yoking is About More Than Marriage

Do not be unequally yoked. When Christians today hear those words, we immediately take a mental leap to the issue of marriage. The Bible has been clear, from Old Testament to New, that it is against the command of God for a follower of the Lord to unite in marriage to someone who is not a follower of the Lord. This was partly why God told Israel not to intermarry with the nations around them (preserving the line of Messiah also was involved here). And it is why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7 that a widow is free to marry whom she wishes, but only in the Lord (1 Cor. 7:39). And this is certainly a fair application of 2 Corinthians 6:14, that a believer must not yoke himself in marriage to a non-believer.

But the context of 2 Corinthians 6 is not matrimonial at its heart. Rather, the context is one of deep and treasured relationships. Early in the chapter, Paul talked about how he and his fellow servants of the Lord were commending themselves to the Corinthians through suffering, godly character, and the faithful proclamation of the word. This would be in comparison to the false teachers who were attempting to lead the Corinthian church away from being faithful followers of the Lord.

2 Corinthians 6:11-13 – 11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

Paul is clearly saddened by the fact that, though he and his ministry cohorts love the church in Corinth, the Corinthians have been reserved in returning that love. The Corinthians have been divided in their affection between those who love the Lord and those who are preaching something other than the gospel.

Now, read the 2 Corinthians passage with more than marriage in mind. Read it with friendship and other bonds of relationship in mind as well.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 – 14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”

I believe that God is wanting us to think about more than marriage here. Our chief relationships, our most valued and treasured friendships, are to be with those who follow the Lord. Yes, this has to apply to marriage. But it also must apply in all sorts of human affection. It applies to who are your friends. It applies to who are your business partners. It applies to in whom you delight.

I am reminded of David’s words on this subject.

Psalm 16:3-4

3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.

David said that the saints, those who follow the Lord, have his delight. David will not delight in those who oppose the Lord.

Now, Christian, ask yourself if your delight is in the people of God. Be clear that I’m not merely talking about family and marriage. With whom would you most like to spend an afternoon? Whose life most interests you? Who would you most delight to meet? When you have free time, with whom do you want to just hang out? Are your answers people who are the saints of God, those who know and love the Lord?

It is wise that the people of God delight in the people of God. This is not to say that we do not develop kind relationships with those who do not know the Lord. But our delight, our soul-refreshing relationships, must be our relationships with people who are going the same direction we are. We must not be unequally yoked together with those who do not love our God. Ask yourself how this might impact your thinking and your actions regarding your local church. Pray that the Lord give you a primary delight in him and the people who love him.