The Meaning of “Unequally Yoked”

This is an old post that I wrote back in November in the aftermath of my post on permarital sex for iMonk. Since I’m admittedly a bit starved for material to write about at the moment, I suppose this is as good a thing as any to talk about.

Here’s a thought inspired by something StuartB said in my premarital sex post. What is “unequally yoked” anyway? Assuming for the moment that it means what I was always taught that it means which is not to marry non-Christians, I wonder about how the evolution of society, specifically the creation of the numerous denominations and different ways of understanding the Bible has impacted how this concept should be examined. In my fundigelical education, it was said that this concept is meant to warn against marrying non-believers because of all of the assorted problems it could cause due to conflicting views, (Which typically meant, upon reading into it a little, that non-believers may not share the same political views as fundigelicals.) but with how many different views on Christianity have arisen, couldn’t these same issues arise among a Christian couple with differing theological views just as easily? For example, an SBC evangelical may have some pretty severe disagreements with an Eastern Orthodox or a liberal Episcopalian. They may both believe in God, but they may do so in vastly different ways that aren’t compatible with living a life together. On the other side of the coin, a post-evangelical may have more in common beliefs-wise with an agnostic than an SBC evangelical, so which of these potential relationships has a higher likelihood for problems? I’d say that it is probably the one with the SBCer and the post-evangelical, assuming the relationships are equal in other non-theological ways. In fact, one might say that they are so different as to be “unequally yoked.” I’m not entirely sure what to make of this thought and I may be starting out with the wrong premise to begin with anyway. Anyone else have anything to say about this?

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The Meaning of “Unequally Yoked”

6 thoughts on “The Meaning of “Unequally Yoked”

  1. There was a post the other day on imonk that spoke in part about us being defined as Christians based on our being directed in puspose toward Christ. I think that the unequally yoked passage is speaking about much the same, and I don’t think that it is limited just to marriage. If we are partnering, in any way, with unbelievers their whole lives and purposes are pointed toward something other than Christ, so using the yoke metaphor, we are like two ox that are yoked together but trying to go in different directions. Even if the person that we are joining together with is from a different tradition than our own, if they are truly a believer then they are pointed in the same direction as you are. Your walking together might be awkward at times, there might be a stagger in your joined pace, but you are both headed to the same place.

    That is at least a thought off the top of my head. I think that it helps us vision the unity that Christ prayed for in his ecclesia despite what we see as a very fractured picture.

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    1. If we are partnering, in any way, with unbelievers their whole lives and purposes are pointed toward something other than Christ,

      Pushback on that is to name how many people/couples that are believers whose “whole lives and purposes” are pointed towards Christ?

      Anyone? Anyone? Not seeing anyone.

      So I’ll ask the question: what does it mean, besides fancy rhetoric, to say someone’s “whole life and purpose” is pointed towards Christ?

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      1. I wouldn’t even go so far as to say that it is the believer that is doing the pointing. If we are in Christ, our whole life is pointed toward him, not by effort, but just in fact. It is not a matter that we are directed our actions toward Christ, but that God has chosen us as tools for his purposes.

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      2. Let me add that if you put two people together who know where they are supposed to be going they can serve to correct missteps in getting there. You don’t have that same effect when you have two people that are going to two different places.

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  2. Glad I clicked on the link, seeing as you quoted me, lol.

    Assuming for the moment that it means what I was always taught that it means which is not to marry non-Christians

    This is it’s standard meaning, but it has to go beyond that. I can walk into most churches and be unequally yoked with anyone there. I’m fundamentally opposed to how they do religion, how they raise their kids, what spiritual authorities they listen to, etc. Yet we are “equally yoked”, got that spiritual checkmark saying we are now “ok” to marry each other?

    Has to be more than that.

    Let’s step back for a second and ask a huge question: why do we assume God has any involvement at all in whom we marry?

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    1. The explanation I always heard from evangelicalism as to why we shouldn’t marry non-Christians was that God wants to help us avoid marital strife that could arise from differences in beliefs and to keep the children from falling away from the faith because of the influence of the non-Christian parent.

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