Triggers for Jewish Gentile Couples Part 2By: Tuvya Zaretsky
Patricia’s comment triggered an entirely different emotional response for Patricia. So, we were in a coffee shop when she said something about Joel, who is Jewish. “I’m not even sure I should be with him, because he’s an unbeliever,” she said. Patricia is a Gentile Christian. I was involved in their conversation because they invited my help as a cross-cultural translator.
Patricia was expressing uncertainty about moving ahead in her relationship with Joel. I asked her privately, what prompted that comment, “I’m not even sure I should be with him.” She explained that morning she’d read 2 Corinthians 6:14.
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (NASB 1995)
The words, “bound together,” are often translated “unequally yoked.” That phrase was Patricia’s emotional trigger. In that Bible passage, business relationships between Christians and non-Christians were at issue. See 2 Corinthians 6:11-7:4 for the context.
The writer referred to the Torah, in Deuteronomy 22:10 which says, “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” This proverb was written at the time when Israelites entered the Promised Land, about 1410 BC. They were warned by God to be separated from the Canaanites. The God of Israel commanded that Israelites should have no other Gods beside Him. Canaanites were idolaters. They rejected Adonai’s sovereignty over all creation. They totally rejected His glory. So, the Lord had given them over to darkness and depravity. Thus, the warning in Deuteronomy 22 was to preserve Israel as a people set apart for God’s choosen purpose. He did not want them to be infected by Canaanite unbelief.
This imagery of two unequally yoked animals illustrated disparity. Like two work beasts, misaligned for their intended purpose, Adonai warned
Israelites not to be bound together with the Canaanites or any aspect of their culture.
That picture of asymmetry is repeated for the Christians in Corinth. It was a raucous, scandalous, chaotic seaport on the Aegean. Jews and Gentiles made up the Corinthian congregation. Some in the congregation had tolerated common immoral practices, reflected in the community, like incest, fornication and drunkenness. Christians were being warned about the risked involved by their partnerships with a culture that was depraved and resistant, but not impervious, to the Gospel. Therefore, believers in God were called to be different, like the Israelites in the Promised Land. Christians were to pursue godly character as a statement to the Corinthian community.
Christian partners in mixed couples ought to take this warning seriously. For the sake of their own spiritual well-being and for clarity about the seriousness of faith. This language, not to be unequally bound with anyone who does not share your faith, was a call to be separated or different from any culture that was inconsistent with their Christian faith. Only in that way could those who believe be like a light shining in a dark place that needs the hope of forgiveness and salvation leading to eternal life.