Unequally Yoked Isn't Just About Romance
Let’s start this article off with the Word.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? II Corinthians 6:14 NIV
Every time I’ve heard sermons featuring this scripture its always been in reference to our love life. Don’t date someone who isn’t Christian! Don’t fall for someone outside your faith!
While I 100% agree with that interpretation of the Word, I have to say there is more to this verse than just some advice on who to buy chocolates for on Valentine’s Day. But just to get that out of the way, let’s begin by discussing the romantic side of things.
What does it mean to be yoked with someone?
A quick Google search defines the term yoke as a device for joining together a pair of draft animals.
So, when Paul advises us not to be yoked together with unbelievers, it means do not be joined with them. Dating and marriage is obviously the most common way to be joined with someone; other than physical intimacy, we also experience an emotional bond with the person we love. But notice this verse does not specifically say, do not be yoked in marriage with unbelievers, it simply says do not be yoked together with unbelievers.
This means that marriage and dating is not the only way to be joined with someone; we can also get in over our heads with close friends, with co-workers, neighbors, even with unsaved family members. How many of us can name a friend—or two, or three—who are unbelievers?
And we probably tell ourselves, its ok, this person knows I’m Christian and respects my beliefs. As long as we’re enjoying ourselves, what’s the harm?
There is plenty of harm, my friend.
When I was in high school, nearly all of my friends were Christian, but as I got older my friends slowly drifted away from church. One of them became an atheist, denouncing her former Christian beliefs altogether. I remember the day she told me about it, and I remember thinking, well, so what—I’m still Christian, I don’t care what she believes as long as she doesn’t say anything rude or insulting about my faith.
For a few years we continued our friendship; I’ve known this young woman since I was ten-years-old, so it was not easy for me to find fault with her or to remove her from my life. But I remember one time as we were hanging out, another friend approached us and asked me a question;
You’re Christian and your best friend is an atheist. How does that work?
Before I could answer, my best friend spoke up and said; that doesn’t get in the way, she doesn’t let it get between us.
Until that very moment, I’d never thought much of my friend’s rejection of Christianity. We were young, many teens and young adults claim to be apart of belief systems and lifestyles just for the sake of attention—it’s a phase, is what I told myself. But when I heard those words leave my friend’s mouth, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck.
My relationship with Jesus Christ is precious to me, it is the foundation of my faith and therefore the very reason for my existence. Without Jesus I am nothing. So, to hear someone sum up my love for my Father as “that”, nearly infuriated me. To hear someone say my love for Christ doesn’t get in the way, made me feel like I’d been putting my faith on the backburner.
If being open and forthcoming about my love for the Lord was something that could get in the way in our friendship, then I didn’t want to be friends with that person anymore.
Christ comes first. I’d rather offend a mere human than offend or disregard the Lord Almighty, the one who spoke this world into existence. I’d rather please the Lord and cling to Him than forsake my faith to keep a friendship I don’t need.
When I first began separating myself from this friend of mine, I prayed the scripture from II Corinthians 6:14. I hadn’t realized I’d been unequally yoked for so long because I never thought of an unromantic friendship as a yoke—but it was. Until then, I never realized how much less I talked about Jesus, His blessings in my life, or even church activities when I was with my friend. I’d become accustomed to leaving my faith behind just to avoid confrontation or friction between us. That was something I didn’t like. I didn’t like having to hide the only part of me that mattered.
This happened years ago, but I still wonder how different things would have been if I had not let go of that friendship. This isn’t to say I totally abandoned my girlfriend; many times, I tried to invite her to church service and church functions, but she refused. Naturally, when she went away for college we simply drifted apart.
I do not regret the distance between us at all. As a Believer, I don’t have time to dedicate to people who are not interested in Christ. I’m not telling you that you cannot be friends with someone who is not a Believer, I’m telling you that you cannot be yoked with someone who is not a Believer. How much time are you dedicating to this unsaved person? Are you teaching them about the Lord? Are you inviting them to church? If they don’t serve Christ, then they are serving the devil—they are in active rebellion against God your Father. Would you really like to sacrifice time to them now?
The situation is obviously different if you are sharing the gospel with someone who truly wants the Word, but if you’ve known someone for five years now and they haven’t accepted any of your church invitations, I think its time to find some new friends to witness to. I have met many Christians who have great intentions when it comes to hanging out with unsaved people, or even dating unsaved people. We often tell ourselves that it is ok to maintain close relationships with these people because maybe dating an unsaved person will bring them to salvation. Maybe I can lead them to Christ! This is a wonderful and sweet idea, but please keep in mind; it is just an idea. In fact, the Word of God says the exact opposite on this matter. Take a look at I Corinthians 15:33 NIV:
Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
I find it very interesting that this scripture says, do not be misled—it actually implies that there are some Believers who have been misinformed and are confused about what is right and what is wrong, but the next part of that verse clears things up by plainly stating: Bad company corrupts good character. Meaning, get out of that relationship NOW. You might hope you can save your girlfriend or boyfriend. You might pray that your goodness as a Christian leads them to Christ, but—according to the Word—that is not likely. What is likely is that instead YOU will be pulled away from the Cross and join them in their corruption.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some who have had a positive influence on their boyfriend or girlfriend and have a wonderful testimony of salvation to share. But we don’t know the details of that relationship; we don’t know the spiritual battles that were fought, the prayers that were prayed, or if that relationship was ordained by God. Regardless, when it comes to my relationships, I’m going to do as the Word of God instructs and not be unequally yoked—I’m going to trust that God will bring me someone—friend, family, or spouse—who will not cause me to fall away or to compromise my faith.
Don’t take this article as a cry for you to abandon all of your friends and family—that’s not what I’m saying at all. I have unsaved friends and family, some of which I see every day. But I’m not yoked to them; I don’t allow these people to take up any more time of my day than necessary and I jump at every opportunity to witness to them. More than anything, there is a clear understanding that Christ comes first. I refuse to forsake, overlook, or compromise my faith for anyone—and if they’re a real friend, they wouldn’t want you to.