Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?2 Corinthians 6:14 RSV
Mismated is literally a term that means
unequally yoked. A yoke is a wooden frame or bar with loops at either end, fitted around the necks of two animals, which tied them together and forced them to function as one. That is what Paul speaks of here. He is thinking of Deuteronomy 22, where the Law says,
Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together (Deuteronomy 22:10). That may seem strange to us, but God was concerned that the Israelites not tie together two animals of a different nature.
I have never seen an ox and an ass yoked together, though once when I was traveling in the Middle East I saw a farmer plowing his field with a camel and a donkey. It was almost ludicrous to watch. The camel was three times the height of the donkey, and its legs were three times as long. It was striding along at a rather slow pace for a camel, but the little donkey was running as fast as it could to keep up. The farmer kept beating the donkey all the time, trying to get it to keep up. It was cruel.
The Law reflects that it is cruel to yoke together two things of incompatible natures. This is what Paul has in mind here. What he is saying is there are certain associations that Christians have with unbelievers that constitute a yoke, and these associations are a cause for misery and shame in a Christian's life. We are to avoid them. They will hinder us, limit us, bind us, and keep us from enjoying the fullness God has in mind for us. They are like trying to mix oil and water. It is impossible. You can see this by the illustrations he uses.
The great unanswered question is,
What is a yoke? Is a business partnership a yoke? Is a union membership a yoke? Is marriage a yoke? Is a date with a non-Christian a yoke? Not all associations are yokes, but yokes have two characteristics by which we can always identify them. The first one is that a yoke is not easily broken. It is a kind of permanent relationship. When you yoke two animals together they are bound together; they do not have any choice. Uncomfortable as it may be, they must do things together.
The second mark of a yoke is that it constrains someone; it does not permit independent action. There is something that forces you to comply with what the other one wants to do, whether you like it or not. Any kind of relationship that does not permit a believer to follow his or her Lord in all things is a yoke. Even a friendship can be a yoke. If it is the kind of possessive friendship in which you feel you cannot do what God wants you to do because you will offend your friend, then that is a yoke, and it must be broken.
Thank You that You love me and want to see me wholesome and complete, free and confident and able to function as I was intended. Grant to me that I will glory in the fact that I am the temple of the living God and that You dwell in me.
Are we free from all men, yet servants of all? Do any of our relationships inhibit our freedom to love and obey God with all our heart, soul, and mind?