We’ve all heard it quoted or referenced or applied in a context where a professing Christian desires to marry and/or live with an unbelieving person:
“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 the temple of idols?” II Cor. 6:14-16a
It is my belief that, while certainly not speaking explicitly about marriage here, we have indisputable inferences we can draw from these words of Scripture that apply directly to marriage. So, to the one who would dismiss such teaching as inapplicable to ‘their situation’ b/c marriage is not the stated subject of Paul’s prohibition, i would gently press them as to whether or not the principles shown do not at least have correlation of not direct significance. Sadly (and all too commonly) the idolatrous affections of the heart are the true authority in such a heart, and they are blinded from the true and good counsel of Scripture meant for their good and the glory of God.
Now, maybe this is common knowledge to those who have spent considerably more time in the Scriptures and in thinking on the subject of marriage, but i want in this post to suggest a new ‘go to’ set of verses on the subject of being unequally yoked or, at the very least, a ‘go to too’ set of verses along with II Cor. 6. And those verses are found in the book of Numbers.
…. yes, you read that right. Numbers.
In Numbers 25:1-3 the Scriptures say this: “While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the peoples to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.”
Notice the wording here used to describe this progression of behaviour: “yoked” When Israel begins to “whore” itself viz. join themselves (at least sexually and surely through marriage) with the daughters of Moab, they are drawn into/enticed into the idol worship of the Moabites, which ends in them both eating of the food sacrificed to their gods as well as bowing down to them!
Now, put this same story into 2012. Professing Christian A is drawn to unbelieving person B. Whether or not relationship is intended, it soon gets to that point. Once a sexual union has taken place (outside or even inside marriage), the bond created is formidable and carries with it much influential power. The important thing to notice here, even at this stage, is a point that is often missed i think: we are not here talking about someone who claims to follow God and someone who doesn’t. This is emphatically NOT the case. What we absolutely DO have is someone who claims to worship the God of the Bible and someone who worships another god(s), and that is key to understanding the issue. Whenever the professing Christian assumes a tabula rasa (blank slate) on the part of the unbelieving partner, they deceive themselves from the get go. So you are not simply joining yourself to someone who doesn’t believe what you do, you are joining yourself to someone who believes the opposite of what you believe! It should be also noted here, then, that sentimental/romantic notions of ‘relational evangelism’ must be discarded or at least re-considered. For if you see this person as a blank slate who may hopefully one day write your faith on their heart, you miss the simple fact that they already have much written there, and what can only be erased by the work of the Holy Spirit; not you!
And what must result inevitably (as it did for Israel) is that we begin to partake in the sacrifices to their gods and – eventually – bow down to them. Too much has already been said about idolatry to be naive about my meaning here: whether it be sex or sports or material possessions etc., what begins as a participation in their ‘sacrifice’ to those gods, eventually becomes bowing to them.
When we read on in the chapter, we see something out of a Rambo film, where Phineas (the grandson of Aaron) makes a ‘shish kabob’ of sorts out of one blatantly defiant Israelite and his Moabite wife. And what is God’s response? God says that Phineas has “turned back My wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with My jealousy amoung them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in My jealousy.” Num. 25:11
The implications are plain: if Christ is the Bridegroom and we whom He has purchased with His blood are His holy Bride, we provoke the jealous love of our God to join ourselves to any other, and so worship both them and their gods. May Christ’s Bride be faithful always to her Bridegroom, and may His ministers who preside over marriages, be “jealous with the jealousy” of our holy God amoung them.