Have you ever seen a yoke of oxen? Or any other pair of animals Yoked or harnessed together?
Their function is to pull together — to share the work of Pulling whatever it is they’re pulling (plow, cart, carriage, etc.). The frequent reference among Christians to being “equally yoked” in marriage ultimately refers to this imagery.
Equally Yoked in Marriage
Most of the time, we hear this mentioned in reference to marriage — sometimes well, sometimes badly.
I’ve heard this term used to advise against an inter-ethnic marriage. This is a biblically incorrect and highly offensive use of the concept. There is nothing “unequal” about people with different skin colors. Thankfully, this is also an uncommon usage.
More appropriately, it’s used to guard against marriage between believers and unbelievers. This is a correct use. But it’s also a somewhat narrower use than the biblical context might suggest. Let’s look a little closer.
“Do Not Be Unequally Yoked…”
The phrase is taken from 2 Corinthians 6:
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14)
It goes on to ask, “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.”)
So, yes, the primary contrast here is between those who believe and those who do not. What you might be surprised to find, though, is that marriage isn’t mentioned anywhere in the passage!
This seems, rather, to be a general exhortation to all of the church, and the solution is to “come out from among them and be separate.”
It is reasonable and good to apply this to marriage. What closer “yoking” is there than that which makes “one flesh” from two? But the author’s intent seems to be farther-reaching than only marriage.
Remember that team of animals?
If they’re attempting to pull in different directions, that’s going to cause a problem, right? They have to be moving together, in the same direction, in order to be effective as a team.
But believers and unbelievers are not pulling in the same direction; they’re pulling against each other. This is true in a marriage. It’s also true in other contexts.
We are still in the world — and we’re meant to be a light, so the intention here is clearly not to never work with unbelievers. When it comes to close relationships, though, and the joint pursuit of important goals, who are you teaming up with?
When you start a business, who are your business partners? Who are you partnering with to bring up your kids? Who do you look to as your primary sources of counsel?
Is your church congregation exercising biblical discipline so those who have demonstrated unfaithfulness are not helping “steer the ship” (to my metaphors)?
In short, are the people you count on to walk alongside you and help draw you forward in the work God has called you to, moving in a godly direction? If so, keep it up. You keep pulling in the right direction, too, and you will bear each other’s burdens, making both of your journeys easier. If not, you’re unequally yoked, and you will either find yourself in a perpetual battle or, worse, you’ll find yourself being drawn away.
Who’s sharing your yoke?
This post first appeared on Titus 2 Homemaker - Hope And Help For The Domestic, please read the originial post: here