Blogging Through the Alphabet - Letter E
This week, Blogging Through the Alphabet is showcasing the Letter E. When contemplating Biblical words starting with the letter E, I kept coming back to the phrase "equally yoked." Twice in my lifetime, the verse in 2 Corinthians 6:14, "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" has had an significant impact upon my life.
The first time 2 Corinthians 6:14 impacted my life, I was 16 years old. My family had just moved from rural Pennsylvania to suburban New Jersey where my father had just taken his first pastorate. On my first day of school, I bravely wore a Christian t-shirt. As I entered English class, a young man named Calis looked at my t-shirt and boldly asked me what I thought the Bible meant about being unequally yoked. I felt a classroom full of eyes shift their gazes upon me. Calis was black, as were a majority of the students at my new school. I knew what he was truly asking. I knew I was being tested. I spoke more calmly than I felt; "It has nothing to do with race or the color of one's skin. What the Bible means by being unequally yoked is exactly as the verse states: believers or Christians are not to be yoked or married to non-believers. It really is that simple." Then, I promptly turned around to find a seat but not before catching the smile and slight head nod of approval from Calis.
The second time 2 Corinthians 6:14 impacted my life was even more significant. My family had been pastoring a church in the southern portion of Virginia for nearly a year. It wasn't my first time living below the Mason-Dixon line, the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland as well as the line often utilized to demarcate the North from the South during the Civil War. However, it was the first time I would come face to face with a Christian using God's word to justify racism. As I tried to reason with a member of our former church, quoting verse after verse about love, it became evident that neither of us was going to change our positions. My position: God wants us to be filled with love for all of His children and 2 Corinthians 6:14 is not referring to race or skin color but rather about one's belief system while the parishioner was adamant that 2 Corinthians 6:14 was evidence that Blacks and Whites should not even interact. Say what? I was completely blown away! I had not anticipated to face such blatant racism within the walls of our church. How could someone take God's Word and twist it to reflect hatred? To say I was flabbergasted would be an understatement. My surprise gave way to righteous indignation which then turned to deep sorrow. Sorrow that God's Word was being twisted and sadness that such hate would still exist especially within the heart of a believer.
It isn't merely my interpretation of 2 Corinthians 6:14 that being equally yoked isn't about race nor the color of one's skin. The Greek word utilized in this text of the Bible is Heterozugeo which translates to come under unequal or different yoke, to have fellowship with one who is not equal, the apostles were forbidding Christians from having sexual relations with idolaters. (Greek Lexicon) To understand this verse, one must understand the context under which it was written. The Corinthians had been hanging around with idolaters and they were being led astray from their faith. This is what Paul is admonishing them for in 2 Corinthians 6:14.
It is interesting to note that the exact verb form of "Do not be yoked with unbelievers" is not found anywhere else in the Bible. However, its adjective form is found in Leviticus 19:19, which confers that different types of animals should not be bred together, and Deuteronomy 22:10, which states that ploughing should not be performed with an oxen and a donkey. (Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament)
The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge explains that Christians or believers are Holy temples of the living God; therefore, they must flee temptation and the corruptive ways of the idolaters. Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary states that "It is wrong for believers to join with the wicked and profane" while Wesley's Explanatory Notes warns against any needless intimacy with unbelievers.
John Gill's Exposition of the Bible goes on to further expound that righteousness: principles of grace and holiness, cannot be merged with inequity. The two have opposite goals and opposite means to achieve their ends. Goodness and evil cannot co-exist in the same space. One will overcome the other. The same is true of light and darkness. For light drives away the darkness as God's truth is revealed.
To be equally yoked, means to be joined together with other like-minded Christians in fellowship, specifically to be married to one other believer in Christ, so that your faith may continue to grow and you will not be tempted to sin.