What It Means to be Yoked Together with Unbelievers
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
You and I don’t do a lot of “yoking” these days. But in Paul’s day, his directive, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers,” was easily understood. For the Jewish Christians it had scriptural basis as in Deuteronomy 22:10. “Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.” And for the Gentile believers, yoking was commonplace, something they saw every day.
A yoke is a curved wooden bar that fits across the necks of two animals used to pull a plow or wagon. Picture the difference in size and species of an ox and a donkey. Such yoking would be unproductive and troublesome.
Paul uses the illustration to warn believers to avoid relationships with unbelievers whose thinking and behavior conflict with Christian doctrines and values.
In context, Paul was concerned with false teachers and prophets who had infiltrated the church. “For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:13) And in the following verse, the Apostle reveals that the devil is the source of the threat. “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”
Paul’s instruction has application for all our relationships. Don’t yoke yourself with someone who can sway you from the principles of godliness, righteousness, sound doctrine, and faithfulness to the Lord.
Paul explained the danger of unequally yoked relationships in 2 Corinthians 11:3.
I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by its tricks, so your minds may somehow be lured away from sincere and pure devotion to the Messiah.
Does this mean we’re to avoid relationships with unbelievers? No. In fact, associations with non-Christians are essential to carrying out the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:19-20) We can’t be salt and light in our world without interacting with people outside the faith. (Matthew 5:13-16)
And what about matrimony? How does 2 Corinthians apply to Christians marrying unbelievers? Although this verse doesn’t specifically address marriage, the teaching should be considered. Can you enter a marital relationship and hold solidly to your faith?
Love is so powerful it can strike us stupid. It causes us to ignore the warning signs of a relationship that will end in disaster. And yes, the feelings of love can cause us to abandon the principles of our faith.
Yoked relationships require compromise for survival. What are you willing to compromise? What aspects of your devotion to God are you willing to surrender for the sake of another? How long will it take for their non-Christian beliefs to season your thinking?
The point here is that we should protect ourselves against all relationships that might cause us to compromise our faith.
One of my favorite verses is Philippians 4:7. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It’s the last words of this verse I want you to think about. God “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Life involves many kinds of relationships. People come into and out of our lives with varying degree of influence. Ideologies and philosophies abound that distort and contradict the word of God. It is vitally important that our hearts and minds are guarded by God in Christ. That’s how we can refrain from becoming “yoked to unbelievers.”
Relationships with unbelievers are necessary for advancing the faith. My prayer for you today is that God will use you as salt and light, and that He will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
May the yoke you bare be that of Christ.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)
For more on this topic, check out this article: The Key to Better Relationships
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 4 (October – December) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.