Equally Yoked by Randy Rowley 12/25/08 ©


On a cold and bright morning on the first Saturday in January, nothing was moving on my lease near Georgetown – no birds, squirrels, or deer.  It was one of those mornings that makes you question why you hunt.  As I sat in my assigned stand, debating whether I was insane or stupid for staying put, I saw movement.  I expected to see cows, but to my surprise, it was two bucks, a little more than 100 yards away and moving slowly towards me.

One buck was a young, gnarly 6-pointer.  His companion was a classic 8-pointer.  He was no Muy Grande by any stretch, but seeing this was the last weekend of the season and I had a buck tag left, I immediately decided to take him.

They were coming at me head-on, so my only shot was a neck shot.  After a few seconds, they stopped.  I lined my crosshairs on the middle of the 8-pointer’s neck and squeezed the trigger of my Remington Model 700 BDL in .26-06.  The 120-grain Remington Core-Lokt pointed soft point hit him like a sledgehammer.  He dropped like a rock and expired quickly.

The 6-pointer ran about 150 yards and stopped to the right of my stand, around 50 yards away.  He then snorted at me for about three minutes while I completed my tag and didn’t vamoose until I started exiting the stand.

In Biblical times, Oxen were the primary plowing animals (they still are in some places).  They were usually harnessed together by a wooden yoke in a team of two.  They could pull twice as hard as a team than a single ox.  However, if a bigger or stronger ox were yoked with a smaller or weaker one for planting, the row would curve to the stronger ox’s side instead of making a straight row.  Early on, farmers learned that oxen they yoked together had to be equals, especially for planting.

So it is with relationships.  2 Corinthians 6:14-16a (NKJV) says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?  And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?”  “Belial” is another name for Satan, and “yoked” means partnered, joined, coupled, bonded, bound, or tied.

1 Corinthians 2:14 (HCSB) says, “But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.” Unbelievers can’t understand and discern the Holy Spirit’s teachings because he doesn’t dwell in them.  Unbelievers don’t know what agape love (selfless and without conditions) is, much less practice it, and are incapable of giving Godly counsel.  Some will do everything they can to cause Christians who are yoked with them to stumble and thus compromise their reputations.

Unbelievers are the enemies of God.  Jesus said in Matthew 12:30, “‘He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.’”  Unbelievers don’t have the same worldview as Christians.  They lie because their father, the devil, is the father of lies.  Jesus said to the Pharisees who challenged him in John 8:44, “‘You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.’”  (The Pharisees strictly observed the traditional and written law and claimed to be the holiest Jews.)

Rebellion (sin) is the nature of unbelievers.  They are slaves to sin, and their sin does not cause most of them any grief.  Those bothered by their sins are unsettled because the Holy Spirit is convicting them.

Christians who yoke themselves with unbelievers are destined for trouble and heartache.  How can a relationship between a Christian and an unbeliever last?  The Christian’s allegiance is to God, and our default is to resolve problems as God instructs.  The unbeliever’s commitment is to Satan, and they will try to fix predicaments as the world does.  You can’t get more opposed than that.

Many Christians choose to ignore Paul’s appeal and Jesus’ proclamations.  A young woman marries an unbelieving man because she’s in love and believes, “My love for him will change him.”  Yet two years later, she is in a living hell and sees divorce as her only way out.  A businessman goes into a partnership with a more experienced entrepreneur who’s an unbeliever.  After investing considerable money, he learns his new partner deliberately breaks the law.  He must then choose whether to continue the partnership and be an accessory to a crime or terminate it and lose his investment.

I have been a Christian since September 26, 1977.  The Lord made me a new creation.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  My old life was no more, and everything was new.  Before becoming a Christian, I didn’t have many friends, as I was shy.  After becoming a Christian, I shared the redemption of sin through Christ (witnessed) with both of my friends, one of whom had been my best friend for 11 years.  Both of them rejected Christ.  After a few days, I stopped hanging out with them.  It was easier than it sounds, as I soon became yoked with many new Christian friends.

It’s been many years since that decision and I remain not yoked to unbelievers, which remains as appealing to me as dining with cannibals!

We must be yoked with a spouse, business partners, mentors, and friends who are Christians.  For examples of who we should be yoked with, we can look at whom Paul was yoked with, including:

  • Paul and Barnabas were mission partners. They taught Christians at Antioch together for a year (see Acts 11:25-26).  They were set aside by the Holy Spirit for the first missionary journey (see Acts 13:1-2) and saw the Lord work mightily through them in converting and teaching hundreds of people and establishing many churches.
  • Timothy and Titus were two of Paul’s disciples.  He instructed them as a master teaches his students.  Certainly, he was fond of them, but it was primarily a mentor/mentee relationship.

Jesus said in his prayer to God in John 17:14, regarding his disciples, “‘I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.’”

Some Christians interpret that verse to mean we shouldn’t associate with people who belong to Satan.  However, that interpretation is inconsistent with Jesus’ ministry.  Mark 2:16-17 says, “When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

Nor is it consistent with Jesus’ Great Commission.  Matthew 28:18-20a says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’”

Although witnessing to total strangers sometimes was fruitful, many of the individual conversions found in the Bible resulted from a Christian establishing a relationship with an unbeliever first and then witnessing to them.  We probably won’t fulfill the Great Commission if we don’t associate with unbelievers.  We can associate with unbelievers and not be yoked with them.

If you’re yoked with an unbelieving spouse, you mustn’t divorce them unless they’re unfaithful (see Matthew 19:9), have abandoned the marriage (see 1 Corinthians 7), or are abusive (violated the ‘one flesh’ union; see Genesis 2:24).  Instead, you must witness to them and heed 1 Peter 3:1-2, which says, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”  Although Peter was speaking to wives, the same principle applies to husbands.

If you’re yoked with an unbelieving business partner, witness to them.  If they don’t accept the Lord, you must terminate the partnership or at least make it clear you’ll run the business on Biblical principles, including not doing anything illegal.

If you’re yoked with an unbelieving mentor, witness to them.  If they don’t accept the Lord, you must stop being their mentee or at least find an additional mentor who’s a mature Christian.

If you’re yoked with unbelieving friends, witness to them.  If they don’t accept the Lord, you must terminate the relationships or at least become friends with Christians.  If our only friends are unbelievers, who will we turn to when we’re between a rock and a hard place?

And if being yoked with someone leads you towards destruction, I urge you to be like that 6-pointer on that cold January day and flee the danger while you still can.


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