Being Unequally Yoked

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being-unequally-yokedIt is not unusual to hear the phrase “unequally yoked” in Christian circles, especially in regards to marriage and marriage prospects. It comes from a Bible passage found in 2 Corinthians 6:14. While the writer, Paul, is not specifically talking about marriage, the advice here and elsewhere in Scripture makes it clear that it is unwise for a Christian to join themselves with a non Christian.

Many of us can understand the complexities and discord that can arise with a husband and wife believe radically different, and perhaps even opposing, theologies and ideologies. It can strain their relationship. It is not uncommon for one spouse (usually the woman) to completely give up her own beliefs to submit to the beliefs of her husband. For example, a TLC program shared the story of a Methodist woman who gave up her religion entirely to convert to Islam so she could marry the man she deemed “her love”.

Differences in religious beliefs

In the courtship phase of a relationship when both are blinded by passion, these important religious differences are often overlooked or dismissed with the casual: “It does not matter if we believe different things, our love is stronger than mere differences!” But that is not true. Differences of this magnitude will inevitably cause problems later on. It could be devastating to one spouse’s beliefs, to the spiritual growth of future children, and even to the marriage itself.

The simple truth is this: a marriage not centered on Christ will be plagued by Satan through disharmony and conflict.

How can a husband and wife love each other to the fullest if they disagree on something so vital as their belief in God, Christ, and the Bible? The entire passage of 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 is very clear:

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

I am not saying that the non-believer will not, eventually, come to know Christ or that a Christian’s beliefs may mature and led him or her into a greater understanding of the Bible, “for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). And Romans 8:28 does say: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

But does this allow us to go marry whomever we chose, despite religious differences? The Bible is very clear that cross-religious marriages were not ideal. Throughout the Old Testament, there are examples of the Patriarchs seeking out fellow believers to marry, and we cannot forget the story of Solomon, a righteous man whose marriage to pagan wives led him astray from the Lord.

Differences within the same religion

However, I would like to propose that being “unequally yoked” does not just refer to a Christian marrying a non-Christian, but to a wide scope of differences within Christendom and even our own church. If a couple marries, and the husband and wife have different beliefs, this will sooner or later cause strife in their family.

One of the biggest problems is deciding which “belief” will the children be raised in. If a non-Catholic marries a devote Catholic, often he or she gives up every right to raise his or her children according to their own beliefs because the children must be raised Catholic. I heard of a Seventh-day Adventist woman whose husband was a devote Catholic, and she had no authority over raising their children. Their children were raised Catholic despite the mother’s beliefs.

Even closer to home: if one spouse is an Adventist and another is a Baptist, will the children worship on the Sabbath or Sunday? Will one spouse teach of death as sleep while the other says the deads’ spirits go straight to heaven or hell? Speaking of hell, will one spouse teach that sin will be annihilated forever and the other teach that the wicked are burning for all eternity?

Seemingly small theological differences begin to add up.

Differences in your relationship with Christ

Then there is also the difference in our personal relationships with Christ that can led to being unequally yoked in a marriage.

For example, if one spouse is very centered on Christ while the other is only going through the motions, this will led to discord in their family as well as give the children an inconsistent example. The husband and wife need to be united in all things, including worship, praying, and studying the Word of God together.

If one is not at the same level as the other in spiritual matters, then the one with more knowledge/experience needs to gently help his or her spouse. They definitely should not over-power them or berate them or humiliate them in front of the church family.

Let Christ lead

I believe that the Lord has an ideal match for everyone who should marry (but not all people should marry. See Matthew 19:12 and 1 Corinthians 7:32-40.). We need to let Christ lead us and be prayerfully watching for him or her.

But don’t worry or feel like your one and only chance has slipped you by so you need to settle. Do not allow ourselves to be entrapped in an unequally yoked marriage because you are afraid you missed your one and only opportunity. If you miss the first ideal match, I truly believe that God has a second ideal match and a third and a fourth waiting in the wings. Be patient!

In my opinion, the “love of your life” will not want to change you in any way, and they will not attempt to change your beliefs.

I am who I am, and the largest part of me and my life is my relationship with Christ. You cannot know me or love me without fully understanding that He in my center. My life evolves around Christ and His Word. I will not place myself into a relationship that threatens this precious bond with my Lord and Savior. Whomever I eventually marry (if the Lord wishes me to marry) will have to share my beliefs and be as convicted by them as I am. Like me, he will be willing to grow spiritually as he learns more from the Word of God.

Like a house built on sand will fall (Matthew 7:24-26), a marriage not built on Christ will fall, too.

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About Jacquelyn

Jacquelyn Van Sant lives in Chandler, Arizona, with her husband Bradley and their one-year-old son. She works as a web application developer for a large American university and is an active member of the Tempe SDA Church in Tempe, Arizona. In her free time, she enjoys singing, writing, drawing, and hiking. Jacquelyn wrote songs for Christian recording artist Jessica (Fisher) Cyiza's debut album New Life (2011).