2 Corinthians 6:11-16a
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.
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…
I want to ask us to think about our affections. Whom do you love? Toward whom are your emotions stirred? Where are your loyalties? Do you realize that loyalty in one area can impact loyalties in a variety of areas in your life?
In 2 Corinthians 6, we see a verse and thought which are well-known by many Christians. This is the “unequally yoked” passage. Almost any faithful Christian reads this passage and knows that it tells us that Christians should not willingly and knowingly marry non-Christians. It is unwise for a Christian single to date someone who is not a believer. If our lives are going in different directions, we cannot pull the plow together.
For certain, I agree that not being unequally yoked together with unbelievers includes not dating or marrying someone outside of the faith. My goodness, as a pastor, I have seen far too many people’s faith deeply hurt by them attaching themselves to someone who does not share it. So often, a person’s walking out of the church for a season of life is tied to them developing a romantic attachment to someone who is not a part of the family of God. So, certainly, do not hear what I’m about to say as going against the classic teaching on this passage.
But I want to suggest that this passage is about more than dating. The passage is about developing tight connections to unbelievers in a variety of ways. It has to do with major business partnerships, deep friendships, strong admirations that develop devotion. After all, there is more than one way to yoke yourself together with another person. If yoking yourself together with a person has the ability to influence what you desire or how you think, you should be careful not to put on that type of yoke with someone whose life is valuing as ultimate things that you, as a Christian, cannot value as ultimate. If your life is given to Christ and his glory as number one, you will have a hard time living as a business partner with somebody whose top priority is increasing their own wealth, even for basically good reasons.
Now, let me expand even further. After all, in the past, I have had no problem applying unequally yoked to things beyond marriage. What I’m wondering about in this reading through this passage is the immediately prior context. Paul brings up the call not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers just after challenging the Corinthians about their affection for those who faithfully teach the word of God. The Corinthians seem to have grown disaffected toward Paul and those in his ministry who are bringing the faithful proclamation of God to the Corinthians. In the first letter, Paul also pointed out that there were divisions growing in the church as people followed this teacher or that one.
Why would Paul need to challenge the Corinthians not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers immediately after pointing out to them that their affection for faithful teachers of God has waned? Might it be that the more affection we give to the things of the world, the less affection we will have in our hearts for those who proclaim the word of God? Could it be that, as we grow more and more committed to things outside the church, our hearts have less and less room for loving the people of God, the teaching of God’s word, and the brothers and sisters in Christ who should be central in our affections?
I certainly do not wish to develop my own moralistic standard for you to have to follow here. But I would like for you to think for yourself about the things that can grab a person’s affections so as to lessen his or her affections for the things and the people of God. These things may or may not be evil things. But they can be a yoking of one’s heart with things that have nothing to do with the Lord and his ways. It might be a hobby, entertainment, or friendships. It might be a particular commitment to something political, to an activity for your kids, or to your favorite sports team. It could be scholastic, relaxing, or adventurous. It seems that, the more our hearts are committed to things that have nothing to do with God, the less our hearts have room to be committed to the things and the people of God.
So, without me spelling out what I think you are too committed to, especially when that commitment ties you together with those who do not love Jesus, let me ask you to examine your heart. Examine your time. Examine your budget. Examine your soul with true honesty. What is in your life that is keeping you from loving the people of God more? What is keeping you from loving the word of God and the worship of God more. Where have you voluntarily yoked yourself together with others who do not know the Lord? What was your original purpose? What is your purpose now? Is that purpose truly God-honoring?
Ask another way. Is your affection for the people of God dull? When you consider the people of God, do you just like people outside the church better? Is that a personality thing? Is there something wrong with the people of God? Is that a “you thing?” Might it be that your commitments to things that do not honor God have overridden your affection for eternal things?
Of course we are to love our neighbors and take the gospel to the nations. I’m not suggesting a monastic existence. However, if you are a maturing Christian, you can look at your life and see where your affection for the people of God needs to be widened. And you can, if you seek the Lord honestly, see where you may have yoked yourself too tightly to the world.