Unequally Yoked


Growing up in church, there was always this discussion about the phrase, “Do not be unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Of course, it was wielded as an instruction not to date someone who wasn’t a Christian. And, actually, I’m not here to say anything different. It’s just – for me – I don’t do well with “don’t” statements that aren’t explained. Especially when I think there’s an explanation.

Let me start by saying that, of course you and I are called to be in relationships with people who aren’t followers of Jesus – people who don’t agree with the non-negotiables. So, let’s just make sure we’re not talking about being isolated from the world.

But this agricultural metaphor of yoking is the picture of two oxen or donkeys bound together in a wooden device called a yoke. It forces the animals to stay moving at the same pace and in the same direction. You can already see where I’m going with this, probably, but let me bring just a little bit more explanation.

This metaphor isn’t about whether we should or should not be in a particular relationship. Rather, it applies to the depth with which we should engage in that relationship.

Look at it this way. There are three types of relationships:

1. There are some relationships in which you are primarily a giver.
2. There are some relationships in which you are primarily a receiver.
3. There are some relationships of nearly mutual exchange.

There is a purpose for all three of these relationships in our lives. But our deepest relationships fall into the third category.
Thus, I think there’s one question to gauge the health of a deep and/or romantic relationship :

Is there a nearly mutual exchange of encouraging and challenging each other to be more like Jesus and to love the world as he does?

If we’re going to charge head-on into life with someone, this has to be at the center of it all. If not, we’ll do one of two things.

1. We’ll stand around kicking rocks. Not moving. Just waiting for the other person to start the journey.
2. We’ll run head-on into life without them, and our relationship will be destroyed.

God gives us freedom to be in whatever relationships we want with whomever we desire. This whole “unequally yoked” thing isn’t about making God happy with us. God’s love for us is unconditional and perfect. There’s nothing you and I can do – good or bad – to change that. This issue is all about the fulfillment and satisfaction you and I will experience in the long run as we engage in our relationships.

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