2Co 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship does righteousness have with lawlessness? And what partnership does light have with darkness?
Hmmmm…this is an interesting verse from the Epistles to the Corinthians. The usual interpretation of this verse is that Christians should not have romantic relationship with a non-Christian.
About two summers ago I attended a summer Bible class on the Pauline correspondence. We were discussing the Corinthian letters verse by verse. And when we got to this verse, I cannot help but ask the teacher what is meant by this verse. As expected, the answer I got was that no Christians should be romantically involved with non-Christians (no atheist boyfriend or girlfriend, if we really think about it). I agreed, but then I asked a question that popped in my head. Who are the Christians?
How many times have I heard pastors used the term “non-Christian” to law abiding, good natured, kind and wonderful human beings who has the misfortunes of not belonging in the same church as the pastor’s. And this, unfortunately, gets me confused about love, about sharing the gospel, about many things, about the Holy Spirit. I had this weird experience: My college best friend is a not a member of my church and when I introduced him to one of our pastors as a member of another church (not an evangelical), he gave me a look as if telling me that my best friend is Satan. Again, I kept asking myself, who are the “real” Christians?
To confine the message of the verse to having romantic relationship with non-Christians is erroneous. First, the apostle Paul was telling the Corinthians to do not meddle with the pagans and the infidels. There was a clear distinction of who are the pagans and who the Christians are theologically and morally speaking in the Biblical times (there were few Christians then and the survival of the sect, maybe, was also on Paul’s mind). So, Paul was telling the Christians not to be yoked with them i.e. do not have anything to do with them! It was not a warning about romantic love alone; it was also a directive about not participating in the pagan’s affairs, in their celebrations, in their games, in their worship, in their promiscuity, in their trade and dealings. It was a call to live apart, to be apart from the profane world, to be a testimony!
The worship of pagan gods was the norm during Paul’s days. In fact when Paul was in the Aeropagus (Acts 17:22-23), the Greeks were worshiping a multitude of gods, and to make sure that they were not displeasing gods that they have not identified, they even had an altar for the unknown god. In times of polytheism and philosophies, how were the Christians identified? They were different! They worship one God. They were known for their charity and for the way they care for their brethrens. In fact they were so different that they were persecuted. The Thessalonians (Acts 17:6) even called them “the people who turned the world upside down!”
Now, I am thinking... why I am talking about it…here’s the reason:
I had this experience of dealing with a youth who have a romantic relationship with a “non-Christian.” I could not open the Bible. I could not open my mouth to rebuke the youth. It’s not because I don’t believe in church discipline, but it’s because I believe in love. Some may say that its lust, some may say that its love, some say many things as if they knew a lot about the person, but to tell the truth no one could tell what is in the youth’s heart. So, I did what was prudent, I tried to be understanding.
Anyway, I played my role as a pastor and told the youth about the difficulty of getting romantically involved at such an early age. I did not use this verse (2Co 6:14) as a justification for I know that if I used this verse, it would mean that all of the people in the church are technically guilty of “being yoked with non-believers.” For I see them dealing, cooperating, and participating with-"non Christians" daily. Maybe the best way to deal with “unauthorized” romantic relationships is to appeal to love, to understand the youth, to not smashing them on the head with the Bible but to try to show them the spirit of what the Bible is saying. I could not bear the thought of me being doctrinally correct but losing the youth and the other potential soul to be won. Another thing is, I believe being a Christian has nothing to do with church affiliations because even if you belong to a doctrinally and a legally true church but living a life that is an abomination to God…hmmmm….I wonder if that person could even be called a Christian. There’s an interesting little book “The Practice of the Presence of God” that I have read. It’s a collection of conversation and letters written by a monk and a monastery cook called Brother Lawrence. Here’s what he said:
“I engaged in a religious life only for the love of God, and I have endeavored to act only for Him; whatever becomes of me, whether I be lost or saved, I will always continue to act purely for the love of God. I shall have this good at least, that till death I shall have done all that is in me to love Him.”
Wow, this is from a cook who was converted at eighteen when he saw a leafless tree standing against the snow. No fancy theology, no doctrines, just plain love for God.
He has a wonderful prayer too:
“Lord of all pots and pans and things…
Make me a saint by getting meals
And washing up the plates”
Anyway…who are he Christians and up to now I am wondering if belonging to a church makes you a "Christian."
"Do not be yoked..." with unbelievers may also mean do not be yoked with the people in your church...
Just a thought.