Unequally Yoked

Straight Talk

The Question

What does equally yoked actually mean? I thought I had a grasp on this but somebody recently informed me that it does not mean to exactly match someone in mind, body and soul but to be complimentary to one another. Can you shed some light?

– MF from Jensen Beach, Florida

The Answer
Part 1: Yoked with an unbeliever
Part 2: Compatibility

Yoked with an unbeliever (Part 1)

I believe you are referring to a scriptural reference found in 2 Corinthians 6:14 in which Paul states: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (NKJV)

This passage is most often used in reference to choosing a marriage partner (a proper application) but it can also include other significant partnerships as well. Still, your question centers on wondering if God has matched you with a particular man you are dating (as indicated from further detail in the email). Let’s approach it from that angle alone.

The meaning of the scripture is given within the scripture and I always like it when that happens because then there little room for error. We are told not to be yoked “with unbelievers.” Very simply put within the context of marriage, a believer must not marry an unbeliever. Paul goes on to address why it is such a bad idea. It isn’t that God is a party pooper but that there is no real compatibility between the two and sometimes the consequences are dire.

I’m reminded of this all the time when I read my email. Here is a typical one: “I am a Christian married to a non-believer. He has a cocaine and alcohol addiction and does this away from home. Because of his mood swings and insecurity he throws me around a lot and hurt me pretty bad a few weeks ago. I love this man and pray for his salvation daily. I know this is a spiritual battle. This is my third marriage.”

While it’s possible to be in a bad marriage even with a spouse who is a believer, look at how monumental the odds against are when two people do not have baseline compatibility. I know many who dearly regret not following God’s law even when their chosen spouse was a good and kind person. Mainly, they usually feel profoundly lonely because they cannot share the deep places of their soul with one who is supposed to be their soul mate.

Compatibility (Part 2)

Regarding compatibility beyond the common bond of belief in Jesus Christ in picking a marriage partner scripture gives little information. Should you marry someone who has your same cultural heritage? Some believe that is a key to success. Some others subscribe to the “opposites attract” philosophy with the belief that each partner will fill in what the other one lacks. That sounds good too.

Honestly, there are both successes and failures for nearly every arrangement in marriage including “arranged marriages.” Scripture does not tell us how to decide who we will marry but it gives keys to successful marriage once the covenant is sealed. There are many admonitions on marriage conduct but most can probably be summed up in the great love passage in 1 Corinthians 13.

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Two people who are united in Christ and who share a commitment to love each other according to its true meaning of sacrifice and serving will stand the best chance of having their marriage last “until death do they part.” As you pray and make your decision about who to “yoke” with for a lifetime, keep that foremost in your mind.