Do's and Don'ts of the Unequally Yoked

A recent edition of an online magazine I receive contained a question for John Macarthur having to do with being unequally yoked. The question in a nut shell was this: What does it mean to be unequally yoked and what type of a guideline should I have if it is okay for me to have a business partnership with a non-believer?

In 2 Corinthians 6:14, Paul says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers…” The issue here is linking up with an unbeliever, side by side, under the same yoke, pulling the same furrow, in the same direction, with the same goals and objectives. Now, that might mean a marriage or a partnership in a common business — if it is likely that the nature of your partnership will lead to compromising situations down the road when your worldviews collide.

There is no doubt whatsoever that being in any relationship with an unbeliever is stressful and difficult. The personal interactions may be hard to deal with on their face, and we also have to learn to respond graciously to the sinful attacks from the unbeliever.

It just seems easier to get out of a situation which feels impossible and miserable. Our job is to learn to live within the relationship in a way that is joyful and satisfying and most importantly gives glory to God. It is possible to be fulfilled and joyful in this life, even if you are married to an unbeliever. Life becomes about God in every sense and the unbeliever reaps the benefits of it.

We have to learn how to live with them. We are the aliens here; we are visitors in this land. The believer must learn how to live with this person again, sometimes under a whole new paradigm. The saved person must pray that they would be a godly influence and that their actions and attitudes would play a part in softening the heart of the unbeliever, that they might be used to bring them to full faith in Jesus Christ.

In a marriage situation I am assuming that the unbelieving spouse is not trying to make the believers life a living hell. Sadly, we get cases where the spouse intends to be mean and nasty. He or she is intentionally cruel and demeaning to the believer. They may have behaviors that involve going to bars, drunkenness, drug use, immorality and the deceit that goes along with these lifestyles. There have often been cases of acting as though the other person does not exist.

Unsaved coworkers or classmates may intentionally be cruel to the believer, subjecting them to gossip and malicious treatment and an unbearable working environment. How is the believer to react in such circumstances? After a period of time, there seems to be no ability to continue to bear up under the strain.

You cannot justifiably say that God does not want you to live like that. God is sovereign and He is allowing you to be in this situation. Before concluding that “God’s will” is that you get out I would seek wise counsel.

The answer to the questions of how do we live can only be found in the Bible. All other answers are subjective and based on our own thoughts, feelings and desires. They are humanistic and bend to our own selfish wants. I really hate to have to tell a woman that she can’t divorce her husband because he is ornery, or difficult. It doesn’t feel good to tell a teenage girl that she must still honor and act respectfully toward her unsaved family members who now treat her badly because she is a Christian. If I were to tell these women what I feel like telling them my counsel would be based only on my own desires not on His Word.

A few realistic expectations and suggestions for being in any relationship with unbelievers:

DO expect problems. Even two believers will tell you that there are problems in a relationship of any kind. Differing personalities, likes and dislikes outside of the spiritual realm will cause even the equally yoked to have problems. Much more so people that are on different spiritual planes.

DO be consistent in how you deal with those unbelieving people in your life. You want to preserve as much harmony as possible in your relationships.

DO be loyal- it is never good in any relationship to be disloyal. You cannot expect the unbeliever to want to come to Christ if you are worming around behind his or her back talking about how bad they are, criticizing them, and belittling them for their lack of faith. You cannot expect an unbeliever to act like anything other than an unbeliever.

DO be respectful toward him or her. Just because they don’t have a saving faith in Christ does not make them a devil worshipper in practice. They are still worthy of your respect. Even if they are not believers!

DO draw your security and strength from God. You will need all the strength and wisdom you can glean as you continue this relationship.

DO find mutual entertainment and recreation. There are many things that you can enjoy together outside of church. And while the believer may get very different things out of a nature walk than an unbeliever you can still participate together.

DO be prayerful- the greatest thing you can do for your unbelieving loved one is to pray for them. Pray that they will come to Christ, they will be won over by your godly behavior, by your example, and pray that God would be merciful to them.

DON’T- flaunt your spirituality. The last thing your marriage needs is you to be super Christian. You were once an unwashed sinner just like they are now. You have not arrived, you are nothing more than a sinner saved by grace. This is good advice when dealing with anyone not just an unsaved spouse.

DON’T- make everything a major issue. Not every situation requires a doctrinal dissertation. It is ok just to disagree but go along providing you are not being asked to sin.

DON’T play God or the Holy Spirit because you are not!