2 Corinthians 6:14-15 (NIV)
14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
What does Paul mean when he says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers”? What does it mean to be yoked together? A yoke is a tool that farmers use to keep two animals together (usually cows or oxen) so that they are walking in the same direction. Applied to relationships, when you yoke yourself with someone else, it means you are attaching yourself to that person in such a way that you are as close as two people can get, where one can’t move unless the other agrees. When you are yoked together with someone else, you’re putting your life into that person’s hands and to separate is usually painful.
If that’s the meaning of being yoked together, then obviously being yoked together includes serious dating relationships and marriage. Paul is basically saying, “Be careful who you attach yourself to” and more particularly, “Do not marry or get romantically involved with someone who is not a Christian.”
Why is that? What’s the big deal if a Christian is yoked together with a non-Christian? Here are some problems that will inevitably arise when a Christian dates or marries a non-Christian:
1. The relationship will be full of trouble.
If you as a Christian are yoked together with a non-Christian, you will have a lot of trouble making decisions together because your value systems will be very different. For example, here are some very practical issues you will need to answer together:
· When you get married, will you have a Christian wedding?
· Will you go to church every week as a couple? Will you take your kids to church every week?
· What faith and values will you teach your kids? Christian? Atheist? Agnostic? Or will you tell them just to figure it out for themselves?
· Will you pray as a family? And if so, to what god? What if the non-Christian follows another faith? What influence will that other faith have on your marriage and family? What if the non-Christian wants to take the kids to see a fortune teller, or to the Buddhist temple for a demonic cleansing?
· Will you tithe as a family?
· Is divorce an option?
· Will you be a family that believes in the Bible and teaches the Bible in your home? What will be your standard and guide for living be if not the Bible?
For a Christian couple, the answers to these questions are obvious and non-negotiable. Yet for a Christian and a non-Christian who are dating, none of these answers are obvious and everything becomes negotiable. It becomes a lot of trouble both for the Christian and the non-Christian to have to negotiate and fight about all of these issues.
2. The Christian will end up compromising their faith.
The biggest killer of Christians I have seen is unwise relationship choices. I’ve seen way too many Christians stop going to church, stop serving God or stop believing in Jesus soon after they dated, got engaged to or married a non-Christian. But it’s understandable why that happens: you’ve allowed someone who does not follow Jesus to become the biggest influencer in your life. When you allow a non-Christian to become your biggest influence, compromising your faith and life as a Christian is only a matter of time.
Now perhaps you have heard of a “success story” where a Christian dated or married a non-Christian, and that non-Christian eventually became a Christian. If you happen to know or be one of those success stories, thank God for the incredible grace and mercy He had on you, but remember that you are a rare case! In fact, for every miracle success story I've hear, I've heard of many more stories where the Christian becomes so tired of fighting the non-Christian and so tired of the inner struggle that the Christian stops going to church, stops serving in church, and one day they abandon their faith entirely. In most cases, the Christian would rather lose their faith than lose their marriage, so when the two are in conflict, it’s their faith that gets sacrificed.
So if you date or marry a non-Christian, at best you will be held back in your faith and your ability to serve God. At worst, you will be a dead, empty shell of what God intended you to be.
3. The relationship will lack the deepest form of intimacy.
As a Christian the deepest, most important part of you is your relationship with God through Jesus Christ. If as a Christian you date or marry someone who doesn’t share that most important part of your life, there will be a disconnect and a lack of intimacy at the deepest level of your relationship. As Paul says: “What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (v15).
If you can’t connect on the deepest level with the person you are dating or married to, how intimate can your relationship really be?
So what should you do if you are yoked to an unbeliever? If you are married, do not seek a divorce since you have already made a lifelong commitment to God and your spouse. Instead, pray that your spouse will come to know Jesus Christ personally.
If you are dating a non-Christian but aren't yet married, I would not go further ahead with the relationship until the other person comes to an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. To make that adjustment will be hard and painful, but it will be even more difficult and painful in the long run if you continue into marriage being yoked to a non-believer. By making the adjustment now, you save yourself the long term pain and trouble and you give God the room He needs to provide you with His best life partner.
God always knows what’s best for His people, especially in the area of relationships. May you trust God and honour Him in who you decide to yoke yourself to. In doing so, you and your partner will be far more blessed and far less troubled than if you did things your own way.