Tension is a theme throughout the Bible that we must be ready to deal with. Different tensions arise all throughout Scripture—How do you balance the sovereignty of God with human freedom? How is God both one and three? How is Jesus both fully divine and fully human? These questions are ones that people much smarter than me have written on, so I will not tackle these tough topics today, but in our passage we have a similar tension that we need to address: How do you balance having relationships with non-believers so you can love them and share the gospel with them, while not being influenced by them in ungodly ways?
This is a tension that many people have struggled with. You want to reach your friends with the Gospel and see them come to Christ! You want to be obedient and fulfill the Great Commission! You want to be like the church in the book of Acts and be bold with sharing your faith! But then we have our passage today that is just as inspired by God, that says that we must also be cautious in our relationships with non-believers. What is the balance?
This passage is telling us to not be influenced or associated with the lawlessness of non-believers, specifically in the church. The ESV Study Bible defines unequally yoked as, “an image for being allied or identified wrongly with unbelievers.” We should be careful to distinguish those who are genuine believers and those who are not from the church. In regards to how this relates to the Great Commission, this does not mean that we should avoid loving them, but that there is a difference between loving people, building genuine relationships with them, desiring to see them come to know Jesus, and entering into a relationship that ends with us following them in their sin.
By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice