What is to be unequally yoked? It is a biblical command for us not to be attached, bonded in a relationship to non-believers usually in the area of marriage or business.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 2 Cor 6:14.
In today’s non-agrarian society it is good to revisit the definition of yoke. What is a yoke? Putting it simply it’s a device to fasten two animals together and this device is in turn connected to a load for the purpose of making the animal pair pulling the load in tandem effectively.
In ancient times, this device is often called a yoke. Animals paired and secured in this manner is term as being yoked together.
In a good yoke team, the animals paired can pull more than twice the combined individual load bearing capability of each animal, thus achieving synergy. However, synergy will only be produced if the animals selected are compatible to each other in terms of height, strength, temperament and walking speed. If the farmer is not wise enough to select the correct animals, then both animals will end up producing lesser output as they become both a burden and a mutual torture to each other.
In 2 Cor 6:14, yoke is used as metaphor for marriage as it connote a husband-wife team bonded or yoked together for life to tackle life’s challenges. For a Christian to marry a non-believer, is a mismatched, incompatible or being unequally yoked. Even in OT there is already warning of avoiding being unequally yoked. Deut 22:10 “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.” (If one thinks otherwise, then ask: why should this be part of the mosaic law at a time when every farmer knew how to yoke animals together?)
As even matured Christians can fall in this area, we should learn how to avoid the pitfall in our spiritual journey in life.
In our interaction with the world, we interact with them at three levels:
1. Social level. This can range from just be a word of ‘hello’ to a neighbour to perhaps performing pro-bono social work to serve the community. This is the most superficial of human interaction and relationships formed are in the level of friendship.
2. Intellectual level. This is a next stage of deeper human interaction as it involves the logic and reasoning and this is a level where comradeships are formed.
3. Emotional level. This third and the deepest stage which involve the feelings, emotions and the will where deep human relationship bond are forged, e.g. husband and wife relationship.
These three levels are hierarchical as it normally arrives at the social (or bottom) level and as knowledge of a person deepens, it will progressively progress up the pyramid. Having understood the mechanism of human relationship building will help one to know where his/her position in a certain relationship. As we know that by the time a relationship reaches the emotional level, the bond is so deep and strong that no amount of counselling can separate the two parties. Thus, Christians should be wise and alert to constantly check our relationship with non-Christians to ensure things don’t get out of hand. This calls for great wisdom, as we have to constantly balance between isolation while engaging the world at the same time. Pray constantly for His wisdom as we navigate the world of human relationships daily.
In addition to the relationship awareness, Christians must also be on guard spiritually and they should:
1. Treat all biblical commands as mandates to execute rather than an option. So do not be selective in application of the biblical principles. Don’t ‘shop around’, pick and choose only those teachings that are deemed appealing.
2. When dealing with someone who professes to be a ‘Christian’, do not accept a compromised standard of what constitutes a ‘believer’, or accepting a minimum standard of spirituality of a partner. When looking for a potential life partner, some will just accept anyone who claims to be a ‘Christian’ or is ‘attending church’ when that person may still be an unbeliever or has back-slided.
In conclusion, we should be aware of our current level in any relationship to prevent any emotional entanglement. Pray for wisdom as we navigate the world daily engaging it but without getting entangled. Lastly, treat all biblical principles as mandates and do not accept a compromised standard of Christianity.
Brother Henry Yeo