“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14 KJV).
The apostle Paul wrote these words to the church at Corinth, a group of believers near and dear to his heart. People have interpreted this scripture in multiple ways, some more correct than others. One of those interpretations has a bearing on marriage, especially with regards to a Christian and a non-believer. The scripture itself is a reference to an Old Testament decree in Deuteronomy 22 that decrees the Jews were forbidden to yoke a donkey and an ox together because the weaker animal will work itself to death attempting to keep up with the stronger with no hope of escape.
This translates well to the concept of marriage where one partner is tied to the other for life. The example of why this is a vital decree is no more apparent that in the story of Mark Twain and his wife, Olivia L. Langdon. When they first married, Twain was a bitter antagonist of Christianity who often defamed it directly in his speech and indirectly in his writing. Despite his beliefs, at first, he consented to her pleas and participated in church activities and family prayer.
However, within a few years, he told his wife, “Livy, you may keep this up if you want but you must excuse me from it….I don’t believe in the Bible; it contradicts my reason. I can’t just sit here and listen to it, letting you believe that I regard it, as you do, ….as the word of God.” Over time, her exposure to his criticism and skepticism whittled away at her own beliefs. After a great deal of personal loss and trouble, Twain told his wife, “Livy, if it comforts you to lean on the Christian faith, do so.” Her sad reply was, “I can’t….I haven’t any.”
Langdon married Twain convinced that if she was pious enough and set the right example, her husband would eventually see the light and become a true Christian as she wished, yet the reverse is what actually occurred. The bond between husband and wife is an essential one over the course of a lifetime, and this is why Christians should be aware of the truth that God has a partner for them and that it is essential to listen to His heeding when choosing a spouse.
My own marriage stands as a testament to this fact. Had I had my way, I might have married a man I was madly in love with and who I left many friends and family members behind for. We still speak occasionally, and I will admit here and now that, as my first love, he will always sit on a special shelf in my heart. Nothing can or will ever change that. However, it was not God’s will for me to marry this man, however wonderful and sensitive he may be, and be yoked to him for life. God’s choice was Wayne, the man I am currently married to and have been for over eleven years.
Wayne and I met in 1997 when I began attending Valdosta State University, and very quickly, we became best friends. What I didn’t know was that he had been in love with me nearly from the beginning of our relationship and had something else in mind for us. However, when I told him I’d be moving to another town to be with the man I saw as my future, he didn’t protest. We had a heart-to-heart about it, a tearful one if memory serves, but he had the foresight to let me go and see the truth for myself. And in less than a year, as Christmas approached, I felt myself yearning for something familiar, something that felt like home, and I returned to my family and to Wayne (who by the way was more than happy to help me move back to Valdosta).
The man I left behind, as I said, is a wonderful man. He is kind and sensitive to a fault and often gives too much of himself to those he’s with. He is, without a doubt, truly good. However, being “good” does not make one a Christian, as so many professing Christians claim. The simple truth is this—to be a Christian means that one has a relationship with Jesus Christ, that he/she has accepted him as Savior after recognizing that he/she is dead in sin and relegated to hell without the blood of Christ for our salvation and justification before God.
Had I continued to persist in my own will and done things my own way, I likely would have married the good man in question and fallen away from my faith as Livy did. Praise God that the man to whom I am yoked is my equal in all ways–mentally, physically, and most importantly, spiritually. He shares my beliefs and strengthens them on a daily basis. When I am inclined to forget the teachings of the Bible, he reminds me, and when I am out of focus, he helps me see the truth again. I’d like to think that I do the same for him, and our attempts to edify each other have done nothing but pay dividends over the course of our marriage. We’ve been through many struggles and trials over the past five years, and while I don’t wish to repeat any of them, I know those were purifying trials that made our marriage stronger and helped us both to grow in our walk with the Lord. And that is something I wouldn’t change for the world.
Oh, and another piece of advice, marry someone with whom you can make beautiful music!