Thoughts on Being Unequally Yoked and Fellowshipping With Darkness

For most of my Christian life I have assumed that the command in 2 Corinthians 6:14, telling Christians not to be unequally yoked, referred only to dating and marriage. It was not until very recently that my eyes have been opened to the reality that this command goes beyond romantic relationships to include all relationships of an intimate nature. Here is the 2 Corinthians 6 passage in full context:

O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open. Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore; “Come out from among the and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:11-18, NKJV)

Taken at face value, this certainly sounds like a prohibition on any and all interactions with those who are unsaved, but obviously that cannot be the case. How could we fulfill the Great Commission if we eschew all relations with nonbelievers? This is where historical context is key, so I did some in-depth research on the subject.

The church in Corinth was started by Paul himself, therefore it is natural that he had a particular affection and concern for the Corinthians. At the time of the writing of the letters in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Corinth was a thriving trade city, rife with idolatry and sexual immorality. Unfortunately, much of these pagan ways were sneaking their way into the church and influencing how the Christians in Corinth worshipped God, as well as how they conducted their lives. In 2 Corinthians, Paul praises the church in Corinth for heeding his warnings in his earlier letters and repenting of their follies. He had heard some concerning reports, however, and wrote the letters contained in 2 Corinthians (most historians believe 2 Corinthians is a collection of more than one letter) for the purpose of addressing these worrisome things he had heard. One of the concerns he had was the intimate mingling of Christians with non-Christians. The Greek word used for the phrase “unequally yoked together” is heterozugeo, and appears just this once in the Bible. It’s actually a compound agricultural word that translates to: “to yoke up differently; to associate discordantly; unequally yoke together.” It paints a clear picture of yoking together two different animals, such as an ox with a donkey, for the purpose of plowing a field or pulling a wagon. This practice fundamentally does not work, and results in work that is poorly done or unable to be completed at all. Paul’s concern in this passage is that the Corinthian Christians were having all sorts of “yoked” relationships with pagans, from marriages to close business partnerships to intimate friendships. The problem with such relationships is the potential for the relationship to compromise the integrity and ministry of the believer. As we have all heard, it’s easier to drag someone down than it is to pull someone up. Also, when Christians have close relations with people whose values do not match the Bible, the natural response is often to turn a blind eye to the sin or to water down Biblical truth in order to keep from offending the nonbeliever. This is in direct disobedience to the command that we are to have no fellowship with darkness, but rather to seek it out and expose it (Ephesians 5:11). The commentary in my 1599 Geneva Bible offers the following insight:

“Now he [Paul] rebuked them boldly, for that they became fellows with infidels in outward idolatry, as though it were a thing indifferent.”

The real question here is what constitutes unequal yoking. It’s not spelled out in black and white terms, and whenever there’s grey area you will find divided opinions. I think we all can safely agree that our relationships are something we should routinely examine. This is not to say that we should have nothing to do with nonbelievers, but that we should tread carefully and utilize discernment. The first and foremost purpose of our friendships with nonbelievers should be to bring them to salvation. When the degree of closeness of our relationship with a nonbeliever begins to compromise our Christian walk or our outward ministry to the world, it’s time to step back and pray about it. I’ll close with the commentary of 2 Corinthians 6:14 found in my Archaeological Study Bible, as I believe it accurately sums up how the Holy Spirit has convicted me regarding friendships with nonbelievers:

“Paul pleaded with the Corinthians not to be ‘yoked together’ with unbelievers. He was referring to any kind of association that might significantly form an individual’s identity. Determining whether someone is ‘yoked together’ with another is a judgement call. The answer depends on the degree, significance, purpose and level of self-identification involved in one person’s relationship with another.” (Emphasis mine.)

Truths About Truth

Truth. Man, that’s a powerful word, isn’t it? Well, it should be powerful; however, we live in a world where truth has become so watered down and completely relative, that the word has really lost all its meaning. The part that has been plaguing me is that this desensitization to the truth has even trickled down into Christianity. When we have a question, should we not first look to the Bible and take it to prayer? Sadly, few Christians do that anymore. The first thing we do is consult our friends or do a quick Google search to find our answers, and as long as what we get meshes with our preconceived notions then we continue merrily along our way never realizing that we are often living a lie. The Bible, God’s instruction guide to mankind, should be lighting our path and not words from fellow men. When did this happen? When did we stop allowing the Holy Spirit and His Word to guide our decisions?

The other problem as I see it is that society as a whole has had too drastic an influence on our faith. All the world cares about is the here and now. Everyone wants what feels good and what doesn’t push anyone too far outside of his or her comfort zone. This has sadly become a popular theme in the church as well. When Christians are occasionally faced with biblical truth that defies what we have always been taught was acceptable by the world, our human defenses immediately go up and we close our ears. When backed into a corner of truth, we would rather get angry, become emotionally illogical, or flat out ignore God’s word than entertain even for a moment that perhaps we are in the wrong.

I’ve been prayerfully begging God for some time now that He would change my heart into His heart. It is my desire that He would do away with my erroneous instincts and human limitations. That prayer has resulted in some pretty huge changes in my life that have caused many others to assume that I have pretty much lost my mind. Well, I sure hope that’s the case, because that is precisely what I have been praying for! If losing my mind means gaining God’s, then you know what? I am all in!

The Bible tells us that we are not of this world (John 17:14-17), and that while we must for a time dwell in the world, we should not be guilty of becoming like the world. Christians, the time has come for us to set aside our presuppositions, traditions and worldliness, and look solely to the Bible as the guide for our lives. If you are faced with a truth that ruffles your feathers, I urge you to prayerfully consider that perhaps the Holy Spirit is convicting you about something you need to change. After all, confrontation of error or sin is rarely ever an enjoyable experience, but it is necessary for personal and spiritual growth. Look back in your life and ask yourself when you have grown the most: through times of comfort and ease, or through difficult and unpleasant circumstances? And when it was over and you were forever changed, did you ever regret what you went through?

In closing, there are four things I exhort you to remember:

1. We cannot allow our feelings or emotions to guide our choices. Feelings are exceedingly changeable and far too susceptible to whims and moods. The truth can never be changeable. He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered. (Proverbs 28:26); There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12); The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. (Jeremiah 17:9).

2. If we are participating in so-called Christian activities that are embraced by the saved and unsaved alike, perhaps we should take a step back and ask ourselves if these activities are truly of the Lord, or if we have fallen victim to the Great Deceiver. Remember that Satan rarely comes in the form of blatant evil; rather, he stealthily slips into our lives and takes on the form of things that make us feel warm and happy. Such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:13-14)

3. Lastly, and most importantly, let the Holy Spirit and God’s infallible Word be our guide, not the traditions of the world. It’s very likely that if you are doing the will of the Father, the unsaved world is not going to like you for it. There is even a chance that fellow “Christians” may mock and condemn you. Jesus himself faced persecution for speaking and living the truth and tells us that the same will be true for us. If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

4. When we ask God to make truth known to us, wisdom most certainly will be given. It may not be easy to face, but God will give us joy when we embrace the truth. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:2-5) Let us not forget that even Eve was deceived by Satan (Genesis 3:13), and she lived daily in the presence of the Lord! The devil is very, very good at his job, and he will deceive many, both inside and outside of the church. The great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:9)