The Apostle Paul presents a series of contrasting situations for us to avoid
Paul writes to the church in Corinth. He warns them not to yoke themselves, that is, to pair themselves, with people who don’t believe. The image of a yoke applies to two animals paired together to pull a load. He tells them: ” be yoked with unbelievers.”
They need to be of equal strength, and they certainly need to move in the same direction if their efforts are to be effective.
This verse is often applied to marriage, for a person who follows Jesus to not marry someone who does not believe. While this may be a sound application, I don’t see it as absolute—nor does Paul (1 Corinthians 7:12-16).
I’ve seen this command to not be yoked with unbelievers misapplied by asserting, for example, that a Baptist can’t marry a Lutheran or a person of one race can’t marry someone of another race.
A secondary application relates to business, for a Christian businessperson to avoid forming partnerships with non-Christians. Again, there is wisdom in this as well, yet it is not unconditional either.
Look at some of the contrasts that follow the allusion of a mismatched yoke:
- Right living versus wrong living
- Light versus darkness
- Jesus versus those opposed to him
- A believer versus an unbeliever
- God versus idols
Instead of applying this passage to marriage or business, let’s focus on the final contrast of God versus idols. What if the primary intent of Paul’s writing to not be yoked with unbelievers is a warning to not yoke the God of the Bible with other religions?
Yoked with Unbelievers
This mixing of diverse spiritual practices is a popular trend these days. People take what they like about Christianity, stir in some Eastern religions or add a bit of Judaism or Islam, and season with some ideas of their own.
The result is a manmade religion, an idol of their own making. It’s being yoked with unbelievers. God is not pleased.
The Bible warns us not to place God and idols under the same yoke. Don’t mix God with anything else.
Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.