November 15, 2010

Unequally Yoked

Yesterday my neighbor dropped by. We watched some football, shot the breeze, ordered some pizza, and just hung out. He's very aware that I'm a Christian (and even knows I'm a Pastor) and we've talked openly about our faith before. In fact, I would even say that we're pretty like-minded in what we believe. But there is one distinct area of life where I can't relate with him - and he knows this. And yesterday he began to talk openly with me about his struggle. With no prompting or prodding on my part, he began to share with me that his marriage is in serious trouble and that he has no idea what to do about it. There hasn't been any infidelity or unfaithfulness or adultery - no secret addictions or deceit going on. The very real and contentious war that is beginning to be waged has everything to do with two people who wanted to believe that "love" could (and would) overshadow and overpower their faith. And it's just not working out that way.

In 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, Paul says, "Don't team up with those who are unbelievers. (Do not be unequally yoked... ESV) How can goodness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the Devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?" Essentially Paul is sternly warning anyone who confesses to be a follower of Jesus Christ: "Do NOT partner with, date, fall in love with or marry someone who is not also a follower of Christ. Period!" My friend sat on my couch yesterday [football game rumbling on in the forefront] confessing to me, "Brian, I look back now and believe I see very clearly where I disobeyed and ignored God. I know He was warning me. But I kept telling Him, 'I can make this work!' I didn't understand. I didn't listen. And now...I'm suffering the consequences."

My friend's wife is a Seventh Day Adventist. Years ago the Christian Research Institute gave the Adventist a "clean bill of health" in regards to practice and theology. Not long after this the leader of CRI came out and said, "This is one of the worst mistakes we've ever made." On the surface, Seventh Day Adventists look very similar to Christians. They confess to worship and follow Christ and to believe the Bible. Where the fracture comes in and the distinct division takes place is that Sabbatarians strictly follow a Saturday-Sabbath law and believe that anyone who doesn't is lost. You won't hear this in a one-on-one conversation with an Adventist. But if you attend one of their services or listen to one of their "prophets or prophetesses", many times this belief will begin to rise to the surface. So when your spouse believes and practices that the Old Covenant Sabbath is still in effect and that as a family we will do nothing to dishonor that, and you begin to want your son to play soccer or basketball - even Upward Basketball, for that matter - it isn't going to work. Saturday is for church. Someone or something has to give. And my friend told me last night, "When something's got to give, it's always me."

I'm not writing this to give you a theological review or dissertation into the Seventh Day Adventist movement or ideology. But I hope you'll take some time to actually explore what they really believe and practice. (Learn more HERE.) Do not take ANYONE at face value. Especially any religious or spiritual organizations that adds to or takes anything away from the Word of God. Scripture is complete. It does not need the help of a new "prophet". Again, more on that another day. I feel burdened and compelled to warn you and encourage you that, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ and He has a partner planned for you to spend your life with, do NOT settle on any level. If someone's faith is not in the same things yours is, that is probably not going to change. Teenager or young adult: If you think you're going to date them, convert them, and change them, the kindest way I know how to say this is, you are playing the fool. You are being duped by your own ignorance and by the desires of your flesh, not the Spirit of God. It's time to wake up, get your mind right, and prayerfully weigh the decisions you are allowing your heart to make. There's a reason why Paul talks about the "renewing of your mind" and the Spirit of God transforming "the way you think". Your heart is misleading. Don't believe me? That's because right now you're wrapped up in the middle of this very battle, your flesh and emotions are waging war against the Spirit of God in your life, and pride won't let go. And your heart won't let go. 

I've been having this conversation for years. As a youth pastor, I don't know how many times I watched students allow themselves to get drawn into a relationship with someone thinking, "I'll bring them to church and show them how much I love Jesus and they'll eventually love Him too." I think in 20 years I've actually seen that happen twice. The other 187 times I saw broken hearts, wounded relationships and friendships, virginity and purity lost, and one more child of God become a statistic. Do NOT be unequally yoked! It won't work! "How can light live with darkness?" That's the main question here. 

I am praying for my friend. My heart is burdened and hurting for him. And I have no advice - nothing I can tell him to ease this. He chose this burden and this road. But I'm still praying, asking the Lord to do a miracle in the life of his spouse and show her that she is being deceived and manipulated. 

How can light live with darkness?
Dig Deeper:
Romans 14
Galatians 4:8-12
Matthew 12:1-14


Randy said...

Good words Brian. I plan to use it as a discussion starter w my teenager about dating and passed it to a friend with teen daughters.

Shane said...

So I started reading your blog as my friend Aubrie Wright lead me to your blog. I have a question about your latest post.

So what if I like a girl that I'm "equally yoked" with but we have different passions? I desire and feel god leading me to cross cultural missions in another country and she likes and feels lead to teach in the inner-city? The passions we share are for the Word of God, living out what we believe, and being a light in this world, plus numerous other similar good(what i believe are godly) passions.

Brian Mayfield said...

Great question. While I can't tell you what the Lord has planned for you, from my experience - if the Lord truly desires you & this girl to spend the rest of your lives together - I think He will begin to align your hearts in ALL areas. If you think about Paul's exhortation in 1 Corinthians 7:25-38, I think it would be more difficult to marry someone whose heart is on fire for other things than to not marry at all.
Praying the Lord will guide you in this!

Shane said...

Thanks for the timely response and a response with more scripture than your own words.

Meg said...

Good point, Pastor! One of our friend is experiencing the same, trying to draw his girlfriend closer to God for a long time now but to no avail.

I am glad that I'll be marrying someone of the same faith. I always encourage our young people not to engage in a relationship with unbelievers.

Though it is okay to be the light unto unbelievers 'cause it is the great commission.