'Point of Reference' from Fred Price
Week of February 27 - March 6, 2011
DO NOT BE YOKED TOGETHER WITH UNBELIEVERS 2 Corinthians 6:14
To understand this admonition fully we should define what it means to be yoked. Webster defines it as the harnessing together of two individual creatures to fulfill a job. The yoke being a farming apparatus that fits over a pair of animals’ necks, combining their strength to accomplish a goal, creating a condition of control. The question being – Whose? He who puts the yoke in place, the two no longer choosing their separate ways but being directed – through the yoke – to a single purpose. The two now being united or bound to a common cause for a specific purpose.
A precondition for yoking animals is that they be physically and temperamentally compatible. Thus Deuteronomy 22:10, “Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.” The reasoning behind this injunction being self-evident, but Middle Eastern people often overstate the obvious to emphasize a deeper, “hidden” truth. Besides being unfair to the ox in it’s having to bear the bulk of the load as well as to the donkey which couldn’t hope to match it’s abilities, there may be a message here about mismatching people as well.
This scripture is typically used as a caution against young people of faith marrying unbelievers or becoming involved with those of marginal involvement in church. There’s a reason for that. Both Testaments deal extensively with the need for us to be separated from evil influences, but the Old Testament deals more specifically with the injunction against believers intermarrying with unbelievers or with those of other faiths. “Do not inter-marry with them… for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods (or none at all), and the Lord’s anger will burn against you…” Deuteronomy 7:3 But we don’t have “other gods” anymore, do we? How about careers, houses, cars, loved ones, comfort and entertainment; anything and anyone taking precedence over God in your life being an “idol”, a distraction from the one true God. We are not to expose ourselves on such a personal level to unbelief or conflict of interest – the danger being obvious! (Even if we do convince ourselves we can change them before they change us.) Scripture illustrating how what we often consider “innocent” exposure progresses in our lives, continuing to use interpersonal relationships as an example. “Be careful not to make a treaty (a pact of understanding and tolerance – if not outright cooperation) with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you (passive involvement) and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose (now active participation) some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.” Exodus 34:15
We are to be holy, not perfect but different; always striving to be better, more of what Christ would have us be – more like him. Those outside the faith may be good in many ways but cannot be holy outside a relationship with him who defines holiness. Disobedience merits God’s wrath. (Romans 2:8) “Therefore do not be partners with them.” Ephesians 5:3-7 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the well-spring of life.” Proverbs 4:23 And we do that by limiting our exposure to sin and it’s temptations, to the influence evil can and will exert on our lives if we routinely spend time in it’s presence. “For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14 (See also Matthew 5:14 and John 3:19)
Are we then to shun all unbelievers, having nothing to do with the unchurched? Where would our witness be? Do we refrain from any involvement in an unbeliever’s life? What worth would our lives have if not invested in influencing others for good? We must be involved – but not to the point of participation in a contrary lifestyle, nor can we merely enable others to continue in ungodly behavior. Paul, who declared, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22; also realized the danger of an overly intimate relationship with unbelievers and noted that, “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 At times we have no choice but to, “…come out from them and be separate,…” 2 Corinthians 6:17 Which does not exclude all relationships with unchurched people, but rather strongly cautions against intimate relationships with people who do not – and will not – heed the teachings of Christ and persistently engage in unchristian behavior. One or the other will dominate any relationship. Like the light and darkness of 2 Corinthians 6:14 – one always cancels out the other. They cannot co-exist!
Paul worked tirelessly among unbelievers, yet guarded himself from the destructive influence association with unresponsive people could have. For in response to our own sin natures, we often are tempted to wink at sin in others – to excuse it in those we are acquainted with – if not actively engage in it with them. Then there is the possibility that there are things you may better deal with after some growth and maturing occur – both in faith and age – that might be unadvisable and even dangerous now; we often desiring to “help” those people who are struggling with the same things we are but which we have no answer for.
Our needs, desires and goals may be similar to unbelievers but the way we go about accomplishing those goals and fulfilling those desires should be demonstrably different. For realistically, “What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” 2 Corinthians 6:15 Your vision of who you are and of the world about you should be enlightened by the word of God, enabling you to see the world as it really is and responding to its needs appropriately. Making Christ’s call to, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…” all the more reasonable, practical and profitable for the here-and-now as well as the here-after. Matthew 11:29
Fred Price - married (37 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six. Attends First Christian Church in Brazil, Indiana, having served as a Deacon and Discipleship Leader for youth. Fred is currently co-teacher of the College Age Sunday School Class. Factory worker with a heart for young people and the challenges they face today, thus his participation in his church and this column.
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