The Unequal Yoke
The differences between men and women are what make the world go around--and that's why certain differences in marriage are good, because opposites attract. However, it's when differences start to undermine the stability of the relationship that you start to see problems. One of these differences is being unequally yoked.
Some of you have maybe never heard that term before, and it makes you think of runny eggs or something. Paul used the term to speak of a variety of relationships, but I want to narrow it down to when a believer is married to an unbeliever, when a person is married legitimately, but single spiritually. Read 2 Corinthians 6:14: "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?"
In those days, a farmer would yoke two animals together to help them stay in sync and pull the plow. As long as the farmer chose the same animal, same weight, same temperament--no problem. But let's say he paired an ox and a Cocker Spaniel--that's an unequal yoke. Now imagine a believer married to an unbeliever: one loves God and seeks His will while the other doesn't share any of those yearnings.
If you're married to an unbeliever, you are in a spiritually vulnerable situation, caught, as it were, between two worlds: the worldly world of your spouse, and the kingdom of God. Now, I believe you can still have a solid, loving relationship, and the first step comes in not divorcing your spouse simply because they're an unbeliever. If they want to stay, then you stay; 1 Corinthians 7 says that the unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believer, meaning they have a better chance of coming to Christ because of you.
In 1 Peter 3, we see four further principles on how to manage such a relationship. First of all, if you're a wife, manage it with wise submission: "Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands" (v. 1). Now, this doesn't mean being submitted to the sinful desires of your husband, and it doesn't mean you're a doormat. You still maintain your beliefs and values, but you show submissiveness to your husband because you want to honor and please Christ.
Secondly, manage it with silent preaching: "That even if some do not obey the word, they [the unbelieving spouse], without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear" (vv. 1-2). "Without a word" doesn't mean that you don't say anything about the truth, but rather don't try to nag your spouse into the kingdom. Once you've shared the Word, your "chaste conduct" (v. 2)--your faithfulness to God and to your spouse--should take over.
The third way to manage an unequal relationship is by balanced beauty. In verses 3-4, Peter said, "Do not let your adornment be merely outward--arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel--rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God." Preachers have gone crazy over this verse, denouncing jewelry and makeup. But the point being made here is make sure you have a stunningly beautiful or handsome personality to go along with what's on the outside, because what's outward is temporary (see Proverbs 31:30). So, work on the inward heart.
The fourth and final way to manage an unequal partnership is found in verse 7: "Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life." It's all about mutual respect, consideration, and caring. "Weaker vessel" doesn't mean weaker intellectually or spiritually; it's simply speaking about the physical constitution--generally, the man is stronger than the woman. But the idea is to foster a mutual honor.
Now, there's no guarantee that if you follow A, B, and C, your unbelieving spouse is going to automatically turn to the Lord. But I want to encourage you: as much as you want your spouse saved, God wants them saved even more than that (see 2 Peter 3:9). If you're unequally yoked, I pray that the Lord will give you a special amount of strength and inward beauty so that your husband or wife would, of their own desire, come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior.
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