Summary: If you’re searching for a mate, make sure there’s a spiritual match.
One popular dating site makes this intriguing claim: “What happens when you apply scientific research to dating behavior? A whole lotta love! But this isn’t destiny, it’s deliberate.”
This site asks subscribers to answer 80 questions to determine “32 Compatibility Dimensions.” No doubt some of these are helpful but there is one dimension more essential than compatible background, age, education, emotional temperament, energy, interests, personality, intelligence, adaptability, ambition, autonomy, altruism, appearance, musical preferences, humor, how you squeeze a tube of toothpaste or whether you root for the Bears or the Packers (well, maybe not more important than that).
Far and away, the most important dimension is spiritual suitability.
Last weekend we celebrated singleness from 1 Corinthians 7 and learned because singleness is a gift, it is good and should be used for God’s glory. Today, we’re going to focus on a few verses from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians in order to gain some insight into what to look for in a marriage mate. Please listen as I read 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’ Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty. Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”
Here’s what we’re going to discover: If you’re searching for a mate, make sure there’s a spiritual match.
A Relational Restriction (6:14a)
I don’t know how Scripture could state it more strongly than it does in verse 14: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” This is a prohibition which applies to the marriage relationship as well as to other situations. Literally, we’re to “become not” yoked. The tense of this verse means to “stop yoking yourself to unbelievers,” implying this was something way too common in the Corinthian church.
The idea is not to be “mismated” or “mismatched” by yoking up with someone who is not saved. One paraphrase says it this way: “Don’t become partners with those who reject God.” The New American Standard reads: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.”
Let me demonstrate with this yoke that hangs over our fireplace. As you can see, because it’s made out of wood, it’s not very flexible. The idea is to put two animals together in order to increase the pulling power for a plow. The whole design of a yoke is for two to do more work than one can alone, or even two animals pulling two separate plows. In order to get the greatest productivity, a farmer would make sure to yoke only two similar animals together.
The results would be disastrous if two different kinds of animals were in the yoke – that’s a good way for the “yoke” to be on you! No doubt Paul had Deuteronomy 22:10 in mind when he wrote these words: “You must not plow with an ox and a donkey harnessed together.” This wouldn’t work for at least two reasons:
• They were different species. An ox was much bigger and stronger than a donkey. They were different in temperament and speed as well. Both would suffer in the yoke as the ox would try to pull the donkey and the donkey would struggle to keep up. One would be choked; the other pinched. This unequal yoking would cause pain and discomfort to both because they were at cross purposes. I’m told oxen can’t even stand the breath of donkeys and will pull away from them instead of going in the direction they’re supposed to go in.
• They were different spiritually. According to Old Testament law, the ox was considered clean while the donkey was unclean. The Jewish people were very careful about not mixing the clean and the unclean.
It’s really absurd to put two different animals in a yoke. Ray Stedman writes about an unusual experience he had when he was traveling in the Middle East, “I saw a farmer plowing his field with a camel and a donkey. It was almost ludicrous to watch. The camel was three times the height of the donkey, and its legs were three times as long. It was striding along at a rather slow pace for a camel, but the little donkey was running as fast as it could to keep up…it was cruel.”