“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” – 2 Corinthians 6:14
There is a direct reference in this scripture to a seemingly arbitrary command that God made for the children of Israel in their plowing of the earth to prepare it for the planting of seed for their crops. “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together” (Deuteronomy 22:10). There is a profound spiritual message in this prohibition: we cannot unite with those outside of the kingdom of God and be used by the Lord effectively as Christians. The yoke, an implement used to team up beasts for the work of plowing, would be uneven when placed on the neck of an ox and an ass walking side by side. These beasts are built differently, are of a different height, and are of unequal strength. They both can go under the yoke, but the yoke is suited to be placed on the necks of two beasts of a kind.
God would have His children to take heed that they do not belong side by side, neck and neck, shoulder to shoulder with the world. The man in Christ is a “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christians are not called to be hermits, withdrawing themselves from all social interaction and contact with those without Christ. In fact, Christians are to be witnesses for the Lord and to reach out with compassion in sharing the Gospel with the unsaved. The Christian man, however, must take care not to entangle himself with worldly, Christless relationships and alliances with the unsaved lest he be led away from the ways of the Lord. Jesus was the friend of sinners, and thank God for that! He was not, however, their partner in unrighteousness or their comrade. He reached out to them in mercy and grace but did not enter into fellowship with them while they remained in their sin. He called to them, “Come, follow me.” Our Saviour gives us the example of compassion toward the lost without compromising the sanctity of fellowship with the Father in righteousness.
This scripture is so often used to warn Christians against entering into courtship or marriage with the unsaved. Rightly so. One of the worst decisions a child of God could ever make is to view courtship and marriage as an endeavor to win a lady to Christ. Not only is this a direct violation of the command of God, but it will not work practically. A man will seek to please his wife, or seek to keep that lady pleased so that she will be his wife. We must not think that we will be immune from the influence of a person without God whom we have allowed to capture our heart and affections. However, this is not the only application. It reaches much further than to the woman by your side. Our friendships and partnerships fall under this heading as well.
What kind of friendships and relationships go to make up the yoke that you are wearing? Who is under it with you? God calls His sons to walk with Him in the light and to be separated from worldliness. We must not deceive ourselves: friendships influence us. Paul put it this way: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33). You and I never become so strong and holy that we will not be influenced by those to whom we choose to make ourselves close. Communications here speak of more than just words; they refer to commonalities and partnerships. They influence who we are, what we think, and what we do. The fabric of our lives is being woven with our time, our recreation, our interactions, and our relationships. Examine the fibers of your life. What do you see? Consider the content of the interactions that you last had with your close friend or friends. What were the topics of conversation? Were you placed in situations that brought you into direct temptation to sin or in which your testimony could be compromised? What do your close friends live to achieve? The question is not whether you are being influenced, but rather, who is influencing you?