Our very first Monday mailbag question comes by email from Josh and Nicole Sherrill:
What is your opinion of 2 Corinthians 6:14 where it is talking about being yoked to unbelievers? How are we to do this and fulfill the Great Commission?
The passage in question includes these words from Paul to the Corinthian Christians: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (ESV) First, I think it’s worth noting that in context Paul was talking in general about relationships of Christians with the world and not in particular about the marriage of believers and unbelievers. I think his admonition would apply to marriage also, but that’s certainly not the context here. The idea is not to be tied up with the world at all. So, to be consistent while taking this verse seriously, we should apply these ideas not only to marriage, but to many other relationships: all our natural family members, our business associates, employer-employee relationships, student-teacher dynamics and a host of other associations. I wonder how may Christians insisting that this passage prohibits Christians from marrying non-Christians would say it also prohibits spending time with non-believing family members and having business dealings with non-Christians? A passage that comes much closer to telling Christians not to marry unbelievers is 1 Cor. 7:39, which reads, “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord” (ESV). This passage is also open to interpretation, but the evidence for prohibiting marriages between Christian and non-Christians is stronger here than in the often-cited “unequally yoked” verse. So what is my position? In my estimation the evidence is strong enough that I think it best for Christians not to marry non-Christians, or even pursue a relationship that might lead to marriage. At the same time, I don’t think the New Testament evidence is quite strong enough to meet the criteria for an absolute prohibition on the practice. Second Corinthians 6:14 certainly doesn’t prohibit it. One thing that is clear–also from 1 Cor. 7–is that once a Christian is married to a non-believer, the Christian is obligated to stay married as long as the unbeliever wants to stay in the relationship. I serve as sports writer for the Manchester Times and preacher and elder for the Church of Christ at Fredonia. The ideas expressed here, however, are my own and do not necessarily reflect the official position of either the Times or the church. I welcome your questions or comments. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading.