Summary: How do you know who you should marry? Parents, how do you know who’s right for your son or daughter? What is it that you should look for in a mate? I want to say right up front that there are a number of significant aspects that need to be considered b

What to Look For in a Mate

2 Corinthians 6:14-18, 7:1

Rev. Brian Bill


I love how kids respond to questions about marriage. When asked about the right age to get married, a six-year-old named Freddie said, “No age is good to get married at. You got to be a fool to get married.” When asked how you know who to marry, ten-year-old Kirsten said, “No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with.”

Does God decide it all beforehand? If so, how do we know who it is we’re supposed to marry? A young man was in love with two women and could not decide which one to marry. Finally he went to Pastor Dick who asked him to describe the two women. The man noted that one was a prolific poet and the other made mouth-watering pancakes. Pastor Dick responded with keen insight and said, “I see what the problem is. You can’t decide whether to marry for batter…or for verse.”

Last week we celebrated singleness from 1 Corinthians 7, by stating that to be single is good, it is a gift, and it can be used to bring glory to God. This morning, recognizing that not everyone has this gift, we’re going to camp in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians in order to gain some insight into what to look for in a marriage mate. Please turn in your copy of the Scriptures to 2 Corinthians 6. If you’re following along in the Bible we’ve provided, this text is found on page 819.

One married woman last week told me that I was fifty years too late with the sermon on singleness! Perhaps you feel the same about today’s topic because you’re already married. I still would ask you to pay close attention because you may have the opportunity to pass along some principles to those around you.

How do you know who you should marry? Parents, how do you know who’s right for your son or daughter? What is it that you should look for in a mate? I want to say right up front that there are a number of significant aspects that need to be considered but I believe that there is one that is far and away the most important. This one element is more essential than compatible background or age or education or emotional temperament or energy or interests or personality or intelligence or adaptability or ambition or autonomy or altruism or appearance or musical preferences or humor or 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. If you’re searching for a mate make sure there’s a spiritual match.

There’s certainly a mystery about all this, isn’t there? Proverbs 30:18-19 says: “There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden.” Science helps us with the first three but the intrigue of attraction and romance and compatibility still perplexes us. We might not know how all this works, but God certainly does. That’s why we need to take seriously what He says.

A Relational Restriction (6:14a)

I don’t know how Paul could have stated it more strongly than he does in 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” This is a prohibition that applies to the marriage relationship as well as to other situations. The tense of this verse means to “stop yoking yourself to unbelievers,” implying that this was something that was way too common in the Corinthian church. The idea is to not be “mismated” by yoking up with someone who is a “disbeliever.” The Message 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 in our kitchen area. 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 that two can 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 only yoke 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: “Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.” This wouldn’t work for at least two reasons:

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