Summary: One of the greatest words in the human language is the word “relationship.” Some relationships we have are wonderful and give us life, while others are harmful. Just as radiation exposure can be hazardous to your health, there are some relationships that
You may notice there is something strange about me today. I know I’m always a little strange, but look on the bright side—you get to see me at my best. I’m a pretty strange in the daytime, but as Frank Sinatra said, I’m even stranger in the night!
Okay, so you’ve noticed I’m wearing two different kinds of shoes today—it’s to demonstrate the main point of this message. I want you to see this truth with your own eyes. You might say I want you to see a shoe sermon. Wow, that’s almost a tongue twister! Let’s all try saying this three times: “She sees a shoe sermon.”
I’m wearing these mismatched shoes because the Bible warns about the danger of getting into relationships where we are spiritually mismatched with another person. The actual words are, “Don’t be yoked together with unbelievers.” Most of us can’t relate to a yoke, because it was an ancient farm instrument. But I think all of us can understand what it means to wear mismatched shoes. So, after looking at my two mismatched shoes for the next thirty minutes, if you still don’t get the point of this message ... then I guess the yoke’s on you.
One of the greatest words in the human language is the word “relationship.” We all are looking for help with our relationships, that’s one reason why Dr. Charles Lowery, who spoke here two weeks ago is in such demand. He’s a relationship coach. Some relationships we have are wonderful and give us life, while others are harmful. The title of this message is “radioactive relationships” to remind us that just as radiation exposure can be hazardous to your health, there are some relationships that can be hazardous to your spiritual health.
2 Corinthians 6:14- 7:1. “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 harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said [3 Old Testament quotations]: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ [Jeremiah 32:38] ‘Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.’ [Isaiah 52:11] ‘I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty.’ [2 Samuel 7:14] Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
Based upon these passages, I want to talk to you about two kinds of relationships. One is a dangerous relationship and the other is a dynamic relationship. First let me warn you about:
1. DESTRUCTIVE RELATIONSHIPS: LINKED TO UNBELIEVERS
Our text says plainly, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” A yoke was a wooden harness in which two animals would be linked together and forced to function as one. The background for this verse is found in Deuteronomy 22:10 where the Bible says, “Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.” There were several reasons for this prohibition. For instance, to the Jews, an ox was clean animal, but a donkey was unclean. An ox and a donkey have different natures. An ox is usually hard-working and cooperative, while a donkey was feisty and stubborn. Could you imagine how hard it would be to plow with an ox and a donkey? That’s the picture Paul uses, but since few of us live have ever yoked animals together, the metaphor may be lost on us. That’s why I’m wearing two mismatched shoes. Just as an ox and a donkey would be mismatched in a yoke, there are some radioactive relationships where Christians can be mismatched with unbelievers.
Ray Stedman wrote: “It is a cruel thing to yoke together two things of incompatible natures. There are certain associations that Christians have with unbelievers that constitute a yoke, and these associations are a certain cause for misery and shame in a Christian's life. We are to avoid them. They will hinder us, limit us, bind us and keep us from enjoying the fullness God has in mind for us. They are like trying to mix oil and water.” What does it mean to be “unequally yoked?” Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean.
(1) This DOESN’T mean: Separating yourself physically from the world
Through the years, some Christians have read the words, “Come out from among them and be separate” to mean they should completely retreat from the world. That’s why the monasteries were built in the Middle Ages. To thousands of people, Christianity meant taking some kind of vow and leaving the world to live in the solitude of a monastery.