Once, as I was struggling in a poor relationship, my mom reminded me of 2 Corinthians 6:14.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?2 Corinthians 6:14, ESV
The image of “unequally yoked” was somewhat foreign to me, having grown up in the suburbs. The basic idea, though, is that if a pair of oxen is not pulling with equal strength, they end up going in a wobbly circle or stopping altogether. I clearly do not know much about farming but this scripture still painted a poignant image—one that I took to heart and that encouraged me through a painful breakup.
Now, years later, the same analogy is a source of deep delight. As my husband and I work together in ministry and life, I am increasingly thankful to be bound to a man who equals my strength and, in many ways, exceeds it. Where I am weak, he is strong and where he is weak, I am strong. We balance each other and push forward in unity, intent on plowing, planting, and harvesting. (Did I take this analogy too far yet?)
As I reflect, I realize that, although there is deep wisdom in avoiding “unequally yoked” relationships, these are far rarer than we would expect. Who we choose to spend our lives with says a great deal about our own spiritual state. That my husband would marry me is the greatest compliment I could ever receive, for he is disciplined, intentional, temperate, honest, and remarkably mature. I am told that I share these qualities, but if I had married someone lacking in them, I would not be unequally yoked but, instead, equally yoked in immaturity. If a professing believer weds someone who does not share this profession—whether in word or deed—then that person is likely revealing their actual spiritual state. Most relationships do not begin as unequally yoked. Instead, they become so through the spiritual growth of one member alone, the gradual unveiling of hidden abuse, or the falling away of one member. At the start of relationships and marriages, however, we can generally assume equality.
I am writing this first of all out of thankfulness for my husband. I am grateful and convicted that he would choose me as his bride. I am grateful because it means that the fruit of the Spirit are apparent in my life, but I am convicted because I see the numerous ways in which I must to grow if we are to continue as equally yoked. We must grow together if we are to plow onward together.
I also write this as a word of warning. If you, Reader, are entering into a relationship—whether dating or marriage—I pray that you will examine your life and that of your potential partner. If you choose to proceed in this relationship, there is the assumption of equality—whether in maturity or immaturity, belief or non-belief. Who you chose to spend your life with is perhaps the clearest revelation of your character and values. Choose Christ first. Allow him to remake you in his likeness and trust him to provide a partner “suitable” for his purposes in your life (Genesis 2:18).
There is hope, however, if you find yourself unequally yoked or someone dear to you is in such a situation. After all, our entire faith is founded on an unequal, undeserved marriage; Jesus Christ himself has taken us as his bride, the Church. Our perfectly righteous Savior has bound himself to us for our salvation and sanctification, giving himself so that we can in turn be given to him as a spotless bride.