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Unequally Yoked

VIEWPOINT



What does this term even mean, and should it matter to Christians?

FACT



The Bible tells us in 2 Cor 6:14 not to be unequally yoked to unbelievers.


BLUE VIEWPOINT



We were warned about being Unequally Yoked in 2 Cor 6:14
14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

. What does this even mean? Google defines yoke this way:

yoke
yok/ noun: yoke; plural noun: yokes
1. a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull.

    synonyms: harness, collar, coupling
    "the horses were loosened from the yoke"
        a pair of animals coupled together with a yoke.
    plural noun: yoke
    "a yoke of oxen"

    archaic
        the amount of land that one pair of oxen could plow in a day.
        a frame fitting over the neck and shoulders of a person, used for carrying pails or baskets.
        used of something that is regarded as oppressive or burdensome.
        "the yoke of imperialism"

    synonyms: tyranny, oppression, domination, hegemony, enslavement, servitude, subjugation, subjection, bondage, thrall, bonds, chains, fetters, shackles

    "countries struggling under the yoke of imperialism"
        bond, tie, connection, link
    "the yoke of marriage"
        used of something that represents a bond between two parties.

2. something resembling or likened to a yoke, in particular.
        a part of a garment that fits over the shoulders and to which the main part of the garment is attached, typically in gathers or pleats.
        the crossbar at the head of a rudder, to whose ends ropes are fastened.
        a bar of soft iron between the poles of an electromagnet.
        (in ancient Rome) an arch of three spears under which a defeated army was made to march.

    North American
        a control lever in an aircraft.
verb: yoke; 3rd person present: yokes; past tense: yoked; past participle: yoked; gerund or present participle: yoking

1. put a yoke on (a pair of animals); couple or attach with or to a yoke.
    "a plow drawn by a camel and donkey yoked together"
        synonyms: harness, hitch, couple, tether, fasten, attach, join

    "a pair of oxen were yoked together"

    cause (two people or things) to be joined in a close relationship.
    "Hong Kong's dollar has been yoked to America's"

2. informal
    rob; mug.
    "two crackheads yoked this girl"

While the definition seems to go on forever, you get the distinct impression that it means either a thing or an action that connects two things together. In the case of people, it is a relationship of some kind. That relationship can be slavery to a master (Lev 26:13
13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.

), a bond to a savior (Matt 11:29
29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

), or binding in any way to an unbeliever (2 Cor 6:14
14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

). Now, where did this idea come from?

The concept of unequal yoking came from passages in the Old Testament like Deut 22:10
Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.

. The only explanations I can find for this passage do not come from the Bible, but do make sense. Patheos says this:

God commanded a law of mercy in the Old Testament about not yoking animals together that was not the same. God forbid this because it was inhumane to make different animals pull the same load because one would have to carry most of the weight. This is mentioned in several places in the Old Testament such as in Deuteronomy 22:10 which said "Not to work with beasts of different species, yoked together." For example, if you had a donkey on one side and an ox on the other, the ox would carry most of the weight and the fact that a donkey is more stubborn, they might try to veer to the right or to the left, or stop altogether and the ox might end up carrying the entire load plus drag the donkey along.

Applying this to a married couple with different spiritual outlooks, as Paul specified, you can see where the believer would wind up carrying the spiritual load and the unbeliever would only be a hindrance, maybe even a detriment. This can even apply to two people joined together in a business where one would treat his customers in a Christian manner, and the other might not. This is what Paul was trying to say in 2 Cor 6:14
14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

.

There is, however, a caveat to this passage. Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthians before the one above that said something different (1 Cor 7:12-16
12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

). Now, it was not contradicting his advice in the second letter, but describing a course of action that people could take if the yoke was already in place because neither of the couple knew of the restriction before they tied the knot. It could also be that two believers joined, but one later changed beliefs or became a non-believer, making it too late to not get married.

The only thing people of the time knew of God's desires about yoking was regarding beasts of different species (Deut 22:10
Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.

). However, 1 Cor 7:12-16
12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

says not to break the bond if it already exists, because the believer may save the unbeliever.

This is my hope, because when my wife and I were married, I was a confirmed atheist and she was a Catholic.


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