Unequally Yoked

By | 4 Nov 2011
bad marriage photo

Recently, a Facebook friend and former fellow church member posted a question concerning interracial and interfaith marriages.

I responded with the fact God has no problem with interracial marriages (I have proven my personal commitment to that truth: I’m a Caucasian married to an Asian, a beautiful and godly Filipina), but God is absolutely against interfaith (Christian and non-Christian) marriages — even business partnerships, for that matter.

I based my statement on a passage from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, which reads as follows:

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 them and be separate,” says the Lord. “Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.”
2 Corinthians 6:14-17

Here is how the verse reads in the Amplified Version of the Bible. The Amplified includes all the nuances of meaning for a word in the original language (Greek, in this case) which can help us understand the verse better:

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers — do not make mismated alliances with them or come under a different yoke with them [inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light fellowship with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and Belial [the devil]? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement can there be between the temple of God and idols?

For we are the temple of the living God; even as God said, “I will dwell in and with and among them and will walk in and with and among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. So come out from among (unbelievers), and separate (sever) yourselves from them,” says the Lord, “and touch not [any] unclean thing; then I will receive you kindly and treat you with favor.”
2 Corinthians 6:14-17 AMP

Here’s the same passage in yet another translation:

Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up idols in God’s holy Temple?
But that is exactly what we are, each is a temple in whom God lives. God himself put it this way: “I’ll live in them, move in them; I’ll be their God and they’ll be My people. So leave the corruption and compromise; leave it for good,” says God. “Don’t link up with those who will pollute you. I want you all for Myself.”
2 Corinthians 6:14-17 MSG

What’s a Yoke?

Paul was addressing a primarily agrarian society who understood the concept of a yoke. A wooden yoke was a device that linked a pair of oxen to a plow or cart. The pair had to be matched in strength and stride or the plow/cart would become uncontrollable for the farmer. Why? Because the stronger one would constantly be pulling the plow/cart to the opposite side because the weaker ox could not keep up and/or pull his share of the load. The Corinthian church knew immediately what Paul was talking about in his analogy.

You Gotta Serve Somebody

There are two basic ways we commit to relationships with a bond where we are “yoked” with another person: marriage and business.

And what God is saying through Paul is this: no matter how sweet, nice, and wonderful a non-believer may seem to be on the surface, ultimately he or she is still in rebellion against the lordship of Jesus Christ and, therefore, remains a servant of the devil. We either serve Jesus or Satan and there is no middle ground. And “being religious” doesn’t count — some of the most heinous deeds ever perpetrated have been committed by religious people, the attacks on 9/11 being one low-hanging fruit on that extensive list.

Practical Outworkings

So, for example, let’s say a believer is in business with a non-believer as an equal partner. It’s time to divvy up the profits and the believer wants to tithe (give 10% of the profits to God) in obedience to His Word while the non-believing partner thinks this is a total waste of money. Or supposed the unbelieving partner wants to make a business decision that is unscrupulous or illegal and the believer wants to obey the law?

In marriage, you have all the same issues and a boatload more because marriage is both the most intimate of personal relationships and a business.

  • Do you cheat on your income taxes or not?
  • Do you commit adultery with your neighbor’s spouse or not?
  • Do you raise your children as Christians (see Proverbs 22:6) so they will go to heaven or as agnostics (or Buddhists, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, whatever) to accommodate your mate and have your children join him or her in hell?
  • Do you join with your partner in jihad/other violence inherent to their worldviews or not?
  • Do you tithe or not?
  • How do you pray together in agreement to overcome life’s obstacles, disappointments, and tragedies?
  • The Christian’s response to sin against him/her is to forgive, the non-Christian’s is typically revenge.
  • What if the non-Christian wants to wife-swap or have a so-called ‘open marriage,’ seeing nothing wrong with either?
  • The list goes on and on!

Finally, what about the Christians watching their beloved partners die unsaved and knowing they are now eternally living in torment in Hell, rather than awaiting them in Heaven.

What a heartbreaker!

This verse doesn’t apply to our employment by unbelievers because we can always quit if we are asked to do something illegal or ungodly. It doesn’t apply necessarily to friends. either, because we can always part company with them and make new ones should their behavior get too far out of line or they start influencing us to sin against God.

That’s not to say Christians don’t make unscrupulous business deals, refuse to tithe, cheat on their taxes or commit adultery because we are all subject to temptation. Tragically, some even succumb to those enticements. But the chances of that happening when Christ is actively the lord of the other person’s life are far, FAR lower. Why? Because that person is carrying the God the Holy Spirit inside them everywhere they go (that temple thing mentioned in the passage above) and you can be sure He is making their lives miserable with conviction the entire time they are giving in to such allures.

The Bottom Line

So here’s the bottom line: for a Christian to enter into a business partnership or marriage with an unbeliever is violating a clearly stated, unambiguous divine command and, therefore, is sin, period

Dating Unbelievers

All this is why I personally am adamantly against Christians even dating non-Christians. Why? Because dating is a precursor to romantic intimacy and romantic intimacy leads to marriage or the world’s corrupt counterfeit of it, living together.

Suppose the non-Christian convinces the Christian to indulge in sin through extra-marital sex (something which happens with depressing regularity these days, I might add) and a pregnancy results? Does the Christian compound the sin by living together with the non-Christian out of wedlock, compound the sin by marrying a non-believer against God’s will, or repent before God, leaving the relationship and potentially alienating the other parent, causing heartache to both parents AND the child for the remainder of their collective lives?

What a conundrum!

That whole set of issues could easily have been avoided had the dating relationship never existed in the first place.

Magical Thinking & Evangelistic Dating/Marriage

dating the devil red flags memeMany singles, especially women, think that they can get away with disobeying God in this area due to a common deception of the devil. They have this delusion that, once they have their unsaved significant other as a mate, they’ll get him or her saved and everything will be OK after the fact. Truth be told, this almost never works. If anything, the Christian member of the couple usually ends up backslidden him-/herself or so unhappy that divorce results.

The magical thinking aspect is the Christian typically is deluded into believing without a shred of evidence other than wishful thinking that he or she (usually she) is the exception to the rule.

So does all this mean an interfaith marriage cannot ever survive? No, history is filled with couples of this type and quite a few have succeeded, at least in the sense that they stayed married rather than divorcing.

But I’ve never found one marriage in the 50+ years I’ve been following Jesus where the Christian was truly happy with the relationship and wasn’t experiencing a significant degree of sadness over their partner’s refusal to come to Jesus for salvation. What it does mean is this is not-at-all an easy path to walk out in a world where there is already a 50%+ divorce rate (US stats), creating yet another major strike against that marriage succeeding. Two Christians dying to their flesh for the sake of the other presents quite enough of challenges without adding the issues arising from an interfaith marriage to the mix!

Ministerial Backlash

Let’s take a final look at this from an eternal perspective. Suppose the Christian member of the couple is called to serve the Lord in full-time ministry? No evangelical church or missionary organization will even consider ordaining such a person because:

  1. They leaders already know the marriage was in disobedience to God in the first place, and;
  2. Spiritually solid organizations recognize ministering for Jesus requires both members of the marriage to be in synch spiritually for that person’s ministry and marriage to survive and be effective.

So the called-to-the-ministry Christian can never accept that call for the duration of the marriage. And what of the lost and dying people that Christian was supposed to be reaching for Jesus? It is entirely likely some of those people will face an eternity in Hell because of that one Christian’s disobedience, reinforcing the concept that we never sin in a vacuum — someone else is ALWAYS hurt even if we never know they existed.


A fellow minister named summed up the whole issue quite nicely with the following:

Contrary to popular opinion, sin is not what you want to do but can’t; it is what you should not do because it will hurt you — and hurt you bad… God is not a policemen; He is a Father concerned about His children.

When a child picks up a snake and the father says, “Put that down right this minute!” the child thinks he’s losing a toy. The fact is, he is not losing a toy; he is losing a snake.
Steve Brown

I hope this has helped someone.

Thanks for reading!