The Apostle Paul had something to say about being yoked. First of all in our modern-day we seldom see a yoke except perhaps in a museum. A yoke is an instrument usually made of wood but can also be made of other material that allows two animals, usually oxen, to be tied together for the purpose of working together to achieve a heavy task. For instance, we see the use of a team of oxen or a team of horses yoked together that pull a covered wagon or stage-coach. Because the load is heavy one animal alone can’t handle the work but two or four or even six animals that are yoked together can pull the load. Let’s take a look at what Paul says about being yoked.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, (New International Version of NIV).
For many years I was married to a man who is not the same race as I am and there was more than one occasion where I was subjected to this verse by well-meaning people who felt I should not have married outside of my own race. When we married we were both studying in a Bible college and so I believed him to be a Christian as I was. I do not believe that Paul is talking about race relationships in these verses. What he is talking about, though, is any relationship that causes you to be closely working with someone else who is not a believer in Jesus Christ. Any relationship that hinders you as a Christian from carrying out the will of God in your life, that keeps you so stirred up that you lose focus on Jesus, that pulls you away from the Lord…that is the kind of relationship we are to not enter into. Being yoked with the world will drag you back into the world and you will suffer greatly. This should make us evaluate every possible relationship, especially when dating and getting married. My marriage dissolved but it was not because of racial differences, rather it was for spiritual differences. I stayed faithful to God and he did not, it is that simple. While my prayer is always that he will repent and return to God, that is on his shoulders and not mine any longer. I saw first-hand what happens to a person who falls back into the habits of the world and this is not something I would wish upon anyone, not ever. For you who are thinking of getting married I encourage you to spend some time in prayer and take the time to make a wise decision about whom to marry. But I don’t want any of you reading this to think that this passage on being yoked is only to do with marriage. No, there are so many other areas of our lives that we must apply this wisdom to our lives. Business partners, colleges where we wish to study in preparation for our future, places of worship, places where we want to live…and so on and so on! Need more scriptural proof?
Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel’s guilt. Now honor the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.” The whole assembly responded with a loud voice: “You are right! We must do as you say. But there are many people here and it is the rainy season; so we cannot stand outside. Besides, this matter cannot be taken care of in a day or two, because we have sinned greatly in this thing. Let our officials act for the whole assembly. Then let everyone in our towns who has married a foreign woman come at a set time, along with the elders and judges of each town, until the fierce anger of our God in this matter is turned away from us.” Only Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah, supported by Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite, opposed this. So the exiles did as was proposed. Ezra the priest selected men who were family heads, one from each family division, and all of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to investigate the cases, and by the first day of the first month they finished dealing with all the men who had married foreign women. Ezra 10:10-17, (NIV).
They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods; they aroused the Lord’s anger by their wicked deeds, and a plague broke out among them. But Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was checked. This was credited to him as righteousness for endless generations to come. By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord, and trouble came to Moses because of them; for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips. They did not destroy the peoples as the Lord had commanded them, but they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs. They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to false gods. They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood. They defiled themselves by what they did; by their deeds they prostituted themselves. Therefore the Lord was angry with his people and abhorred his inheritance. He gave them into the hands of the nations, and their foes ruled over them. Their enemies oppressed them and subjected them to their power. Many times he delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in their sin. Yet he took note of their distress when he heard their cry; for their sake he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented. He caused all who held them captive to show them mercy. Save us, Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the Lord. Psalm 106:28-48, (NIV).
Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared. Proverbs 22:24-25, (NIV).
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, (NIV).
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. Ephesians 5:6-13, (NIV).
I find these scriptures to be very sobering because I can see just how serious God takes relationships. We must choose whether we will be yoked with the world and all of its so-called pleasures or whether we will be yoked with fellow believers who love God and Jesus as much or more than we do. It is a personal choice that every Christian must make. Will we fail sometimes and make some wrong choices in who we have as friends or where we gain our advice? Yes we will sometimes fail because we are not perfect people and we make mistakes but the pattern of our life must be one of watching and listening and learning and doing all that we can to love people in the world but not the things of the world. We are to point people to Jesus by the pattern they see in our life. We are to stay focused on Jesus and being yoked to another Christian will help us remain focused. So take courage dear Christian and walk with fellow believers as your yoke partner so that you go the places God wants to take you and not the places Satan wants you to go.