People partner together to get more things done faster. Partnerships create a synergy that compounds the ability of an individual. Partnering in business brings productivity, unity of purpose, efficiency, and other benefits.
Becoming partners takes on a whole new meaning when we must create a place of productivity. It requires commitments on both sides of the equation for a partnership to work. They are often brought about with contracts to make sure that each partner does his or her part.
Paul considers Christian partnerships when he talks about the holiness principle of being unequally yoked with unbelievers. How far does this principle go? Is it required of Christians all the time, so that there can be no partnerships with unbelievers?
Let’s consider the idea of being unequally as it pertains to holiness. Is it talking about business relationships? Why does this principle even exist? The whole point of the principle is holiness before the Lord.
In 2 Corinthians 6:14, Paul introduces the holiness principle of not being unequally yoked with unbelievers. You often hear this phrase in reference to dating and marriage. But it is much larger than that.
A yoke refers to a piece of farming equipment, a wooden or leather binding, put over the necks of two oxen. As they plowed the fields or did other farm work, a yoke kept one ox from pulling ahead of the other. It ensured that the oxen would work as one unit.
If they didn’t work together, one ox would get tired before the other. As it pulled ahead, the other ox would linger behind, slowing it down. So the yoke kept both of them working at peak proficiency to achieve the goal.
This is the same way Paul speaks of being unequally yoked with unbelievers. The problem is that Christians have different values, worldview, and goals (2 Corinthians 6:15-16). They have a set of standards different than those of unbelievers. Unbelievers have a different approach to everything they do.
Because these values will be incompatible with one another, they will make the work more difficult. From the very beginning, the goals of Christians and unbelievers are different. They will approach the work with different standards.
When you think about it, it’s a wonder anything can get done in this scenario. This is one of the reasons Paul gave us the principle of being unequally yoked. But there’s a deeper reason. God calls us to live holy lives. That requires us not to get involved with unbelievers in unholy goals.
If what an unbeliever wants to accomplish goes against God’s will and plan, we must not get involved. Getting involved is the same as giving up the path to holiness and following roads we gave up when we followed Christ.
Partnering with Believers
Partnerships with believers are the opposite of being unequally yoked, and they are encouraged throughout Scripture. Everyone from Peter to Paul to missionaries today enjoys partnerships with other Christians with the same goal and values.
We raise money for missions so the Word of God and the good news of Christ’s kingdom can spread across the world. Where we may not be able to go ourselves, we can send missionaries and finance and pray for their endeavors.
We can work together as Christians because we share the same values. We work with the same godly principles, expecting the high standards of God to be followed in our work. Whatever we put our hands to, having partners allows us to accomplish those goals more proficiently and efficiently.
We partner in everything as brothers and sisters in Christ. We partner in worshiping and serving God, praying for one another, agreeing in prayer, trusting in faith for God’s promises and miracles, working toward his kingdom on earth, and a host of other enterprises.
Christians may not always get along because of personality issues, but our values must be the same. This makes it easier in most circumstances to do business and work for the Lord. What one person can do, partnerships can accomplish beyond that person’s wildest dreams.
The world offers persecution and troubles. It’s not that unbelievers can’t work with Christians. But it is easier to work with those who share the same worldview and values. Not only this, but the Scriptures are centered on holiness.
It’s much harder to achieve holiness when you work with unbelievers. In our society today, Christians work among nonbelievers regularly. This is more the norm then the exception. We must not misunderstand what “world” means in the Bible.
When the Bible refers to the world in many circumstances, it speaks of the evil world system. We are in the world but not of it. We are called to come out from among them and separate ourselves from sinfulness.
If you have a partnership with an unbeliever, you must agree on the terms of the partnership before you enter it. This is where contracts come into play. They do not only outline the work ethic but also the values and goals of the individuals involved in it.
If you are involved in a partnership with an unbeliever, make sure you are able to influence the unbeliever. Just working alongside of them, they will see your values and work ethic. But there will be misunderstandings and differences along the way.
Your first goal in your partnerships is to glorify God with your purpose, goals, values, and work ethic. You must live a holy life before the Lord as you achieve your goals and whatever partnership you are involved with.
Partnering with Unbelievers
Does this principle of being unequally yield with unbelievers mean we can have no partnerships with anyone who doesn’t serve Christ? Not necessarily. As I said above, if you can agree to the terms of the partnership without giving up holiness in Christ, a partnership is possible.
But it requires a contract so the terms can be agreed upon before the work begins. It is hard to avoid working with or for unbelievers in our world today. Sometimes even partnerships with other Christians are not fruitful.
Christians must be sure they will not help unholy endeavors before they enter a partnership with an unbeliever. When unbelievers become the influencers of Christians, there is a problem.
You never know if the values agreed upon will be maintained throughout the partnership. It’s not that you can’t trust unbelievers. But the values and worldviews are so different it is bound to happen. And when it does, the Christian may be the one hurt by the partnership.
God doesn’t want these kinds of conditions for his children. This is why the principle of being unequally yoked with unbelievers is in Scripture. At the very least it serves as a warning for Christians to enter into such partnerships.
Paul focuses on Christians as the temples of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:16). The Holy Spirit and habits Christians and having unequally yoked partnerships disagrees with the Spirit’s goal of making us more like Christ (Romans 8:29).
God’s goal in making his dwelling place among us is to make us holy so he can be with us in heaven physically forever. Throughout Scripture, the constant refrain of, “I will be their God and they will be my people” is God’s ultimate goal for us. Partnering with believers can challenge that goal.
Bad company corrupts good judgment (1 Corinthians 15:33). When we are around unbelievers more than believers, I have found that unbelievers tend to influence Christians. We pick up their habits, language, outlook on life, attitude, and so on. We must be careful to avoid taking on the behaviors and beliefs of unbelievers.
Partnering in Marriage
The principle of being unequally yoked with unbelievers is often applied to dating and marriage. It is best applied in dating before marriage. This is where we discover whether or not we are compatible with the other person.
In the search for compatibility we discover whether or not the other person is a Christian with Christian values and beliefs. Without that foundation, we will find our marriage a rocky road. Everything from values, how you will deal with money, raising children, handling challenges in life, communicating, and every other issue, comes up in a close bond of marriage.
This is why the principle is so important before marriage. You will save yourself much heartache when you make sure values are compatible. Jesus must be the center of your marriage if it will succeed.
The host of divorces we see inside and outside of the church testify to the fact that people do not commit to Christian values in the dating process. They get married without truly knowing their partner. Then surprises crop up in the marriage that may be irreversible.
We must be careful in our dating process to find out everything we can, and understand our dating partner before we consider the permanent bond of marriage. Marriage is intimate, and the things we don’t learn during our dating show up in our marriage.
God wants the very best marriage for you. There will always be challenges in marriage, but they can be minimized by making sure you are equally yoked with your partner. If your partner has a problem with you making sure these values align, they are not “the one.” And if you are uncomfortable as a single, you will be uncomfortable when you are married.
The principle of not being unequally yoked with unbelievers is not meant to be harsh, something we impose as isolationists upon unbelievers. It is at the least a warning for us to be careful which partnerships we choose to join.
But it also explains what happens if we do join in these partnerships. When things come crashing down, we look back at this principle and realize God’s wisdom in it. I am not counseling you can never be part of a partnership with an unbeliever.
I am only explaining the principle so you understand the aspects of such partnerships before you enter them. They may be hard to get out of if you run into problems. God is looking out for you. Leave a comment and talk about how you understand the principle of not being unequally yoked with unbelievers.